Thursday, December 3, 2009

Canada and Copenhagen

As you probably know, the UN Climate Change Conference begins next week, and you probably already know that it has been greeted with a pretty strong air of skepticism, especially because there is so much money changing hands to prevent any kind of meaningful action against climate change. What you probably don't know, unless you are a high level news consumer, is that Canada-- by that I mean the Canadian government, which is a minority government run by the conservatives-- is actively working to sabotage international measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Most people have a fairly to strongly positive view of Canada (here, unlike my other references, I am not talking about the Conservative government), and in many ways that is justified. But this positive view of Canada has masked all that the current government has done to prevent meaningful environmental protections in the name of 'jobs' (which means Harper's friends' jobs at the top of the corporate ladder).* The Copenhagen summit has brought forth some negative press, which means people are starting to notice how Canada's support of the tar sands is the wrong way toward the future. Instead of leading the effort in green technology, the conservative government seems to think turning the country into a petro-state with a single export economy is a great idea.

George Monbiot has summarized Canada's actions in his article "The Most Urgent Threat to World Peace is...Canada." Why the title? There have been several reports that global catastrophe in the 21st century will be driven by climate change. Canada has already ignored its obligations to the Kyoto treaty, but it gets worse. As Monbiot writes,
After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations from striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007 it single-handedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country which had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.
I don't often associate Canada with Saudi Arabia, because the latter certainly isn't a good neighbor. In fact, Canada's old friends aren't so sure they like who the big C has been hanging out with. At the recent Commonwealth summit (I swear, I am not used to this British empire talk) a proposal was introduced to exclude Canada from the Commonwealth.
In the past, the Commonwealth has suspended Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa for electoral or human rights reasons. Now, The World Development Movement, the Polaris Institute in Canada and Greenpeace have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies, the Guardian reports. [...]

"If the Commonwealth is serious about holding its members to account, then threatening the lives of millions of people in developing countries should lead to the suspension of Canada's membership immediately," says Saleemul Huq, a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change according to the newspaper.

Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are among the world's highest, and the country will not meet the cut required under the Kyoto protocol: by 2007 its emissions were 34% above its reduction target.
As an American I must drive my Canadian friends crazy because I continue to insist that the Conservatives are working hard on demolishing all the things that make Canada a decent place to live. The environment is one of these things. But if I sound too critical, let's take an op-ed from the Globe and Mail, no Marxist smarty-pants paper. Here's Jeffrey Simpson, who concludes,
The world has sized up the Harperites, studied their policies, noted the Prime Minister's lack of commitment, observed the government's exit ramps and is awaiting another shabby Canadian performance marked by spin at home and lack of substance abroad.
For those of you who take Monbiot or myself to be too strident, Simpson acknowledges that other countries haven't taken climate change and carbon reduction seriously either, but he doesn't allow that to get in the way of the hypocrisy of Harper's team. The difference between the US, China, Brazil and Harper's government, is that the Canadian public can confront or change the latter.

The lone footnote:

*Let's be fair though: petrodollars are so strong that the Liberals would pocket, rather than counter, such a currency.

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