Monday, June 30, 2008

It isn't easy for Harpie to be green

This Lawrence Martin column today, "The Tory dilemma: a blue government in a green era," puts its finger on the problem for the Harper Conservatives in terms of the "green" issue. In an era when it's become the issue of the day, pervading so many others, how can Harper stand back and let the Liberals get way out in front on it?
National security? It's a green issue - petro-rich authoritarian regimes feeding off our oil addiction. Economic security? Wacko energy prices, born of that same addiction to black instead of green, invite recessionary peril. Survival of the planet? It's all about green. The great industrial challenge of our era? Emissions-free green energy.
Martin suggests Harper won't let Dion be the one dominating the national debate, which would explain his vulgar but otherwise unsubstantial response thus far as just a prelude to a big move:
Don't be surprised, Tory sources are saying, if Mr. Harper changes tack in the fall and moves off his halting approach to the green tide with dramatic new measures of his own.
Could those sources be referring to this preview of an announcement to come out of the upcoming G8 summit?
The Group of Eight wealthy nations are looking at investing more than $10 billion a year to support new technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), a Japanese daily reported on Sunday.
A draft statement on economic issue is being considered for release at the July 7-9 summit of G8 leaders in Hokkaido, northern Japan, the business daily Nikkei said.
The G8 countries plan to fund research to develop CCS projects, which bury emissions from power plants, as a measure to help meet a global target to halve greenhouse gases by 2050, Nikkei said.
Remember that Harper's new chair of the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy is a carbon capture guy (see biographical notes in appointment notice), although that didn't help TransAlta's emissions to decrease while he was a Veep there. This appointment may be evidence of Harper's new direction.

There is also talk of yet another goal being set on cutting global greenhouse gas emissions - but note this rupture:
The draft of the G8 economic statement points to the importance of imposing a long-term goal for cutting global emissions.

But, because Japan and Europe differ with the United States over long-term numerical targets, a final decision on the question may be left to the G8 leaders when they meet at Toyako, the daily said.
If Harper is serious about making bold moves, and this G8 summit may be where he seeks to break out, he'll have to break with the U.S. That would be a first given his track record to date in providing cover for the American do nothing policy.

And if he is going to make "dramatic new measures" part of the new green Harper iteration to be rolled out in the fall in time for an election, doesn't that suggest that even Harper realizes that the me-first premiers are wrong on the issue?

The bigger question down the road will be whether Canadians will buy a green Harper...particularly when he only puts on that shade when his political survival depends on it.