Friday, January 07, 2011

Making environmental history

Harper, speaking yesterday at one of his government's $278 million in spending announcement gigs, made a surprising statement:
"This government has taken more concrete measures for the environment than any other federal government in history," he said.
Talk about setting the bar high! Surely this isn't the Conservatives environmental position these days, is it? Or did he just get carried away in the moment there? Emily Dee noted a few days ago that a similar statement appeared in Julian Fantino's electoral campaign material:
Canada now has tough new regulations against toxic chemicals and one of the most aggressive plans on earth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
If it is the intention of the Conservatives to run with that stance, they're going to have a hard time finding support for it.

Here is an excerpt from a November 24th Pembina Institute briefing on Canada's environmental position, going into the Cancun climate change meetings, which provides a reasonable overview of Canada's efforts on the environmental file in recent years:
At recent UN negotiating sessions, the Government of Canada has been on the receiving end of sustained criticism from other countries, UN officials, and scientists. Canada was last year’s “winner” of the “Fossil of the Year” prize, awarded by environmental organizations to the country voted least constructive at the talks. Assessing Canada’s performance in Copenhagen, the Globe and Mail’s editorial writers concluded: “among developed countries, it stood alone in its apparent apathy.”

Unfortunately, there are few signs that the Government of Canada will change course in Cancun. In late January 2010, Canada became the only government to weaken its 2020 target in the wake of Copenhagen, moving it from 20 per cent below the 2006 level to 17 per cent below the 2005 level — or, to use the internationally-accepted baseline of 1990 emissions, from 3 per cent below the 1990 level to about 2 per cent above it. While both targets fall far short of a fair share of the global emissions trajectory needed to stay below 2°C, further weakening Canada’s target was a clear step in the wrong direction.

Canada’s new target is the same as the 2020 target put forward by the United States, and Canada’s submission actually reserves the right to change Canada’s target to match whatever “final economy-wide emissions target” the United States adopts in “enacted legislation.” For now, the United States has not enacted legislation, which leaves the status of Canada’s target an open question.

And that’s not the only basis for concern about whether Canada will “stand behind” its 2020 target. Of course, other countries will remember Canada’s history of walking away from its Kyoto Protocol target. But there’s also the federal government’s insistence that it will not implement climate policies unless the U.S. federal government does so first.

The result of this policy is that Canada has not published any kind of domestic plan to reach its target.
Coming out of the Cancun negotiations and the agreement reached there, questions remain about Canada's ongoing efforts both domestically and internationally. Most significantly, there is still no plan in sight to demonstrate how Canada will reach those 2020 GHG target reductions.

Mr. Harper is going to have a tough time selling that line, above, but they'll likely try.