A messenger Canada would rather ignore

October 14, 2009

If there’s one person the Canadian government would perhaps rather not hear from right now, it’s Tim Flannery, the vocal Australian climate change campaigner. Canada, which over the last 20 years or so has largely preferred to let economic development trump environmental concerns,  is trying to keep a low profile in the run-up to the Copenhagen meeting in December charged with producing a successor to the Kyoto accord.  Canada’s Conservative government — following the lead of former U.S. President George W. Bush – walked away from Kyoto on the grounds that it would damage the economy. Canada has made an enormous amount of money shipping oil to the United States, much of it from the tar sands in the western province of Alberta. Developing those sands burns up a huge amount of carbon and Canadian emissions are rising steadily, so it’s no coincidence that Canada says it is for action on climate change while allowing responsible economic development.  Environment Minister Jim Prentice told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Wednesday that Canada would bring “a reasonable constructive approach” to Copenhagen.  This is a message which wins few friends among environmentalists.

Flannery rolled into town on Wednesday and loudly announced that Ottawa’s role in the talks leading up to Copenhagen so far had been very unhelpful. “We desperately need Canada to play a much more positive role in the coming months . . . the Canadian government is largely isolated in its stand vis-a-vis the Copenhagen agreements. It would be tragic, I think, to see a country like this standing in the way of agreement,” he told reporters.

If the truth be told, Canada is not doing much of anything on the environment right now, in part because of last year’s U.S. presidential election and the victory of Barack Obama, who vowed tough action on climate change.  Ottawa had promised to introduce rules to cut emissions starting in 2010 but those are on hold until Washington decides what approach it will take on climate change. The same goes for Canadian plans to set up a carbon trading market: let’s wait for Obama.  While this is understandable — there’s little point taking the time and trouble to craft a green policy only to see it wrecked because your main trading partner decided to go off in a different direction — it only adds to the impression of inertia.

Canada needs to get its domestic policies in order. It’s concerning to see the Canadian government say it will follow the U.S. lead in terms of carbon trading and so forth,” said Flannery. “But then we enter a period of a lull where there is very little activity to follow that up . . . time is exceedingly short for Canada — with its very different economy and very different approach to this problem — to be able to follow the lead of the U.S. in any meaningful way.

The Conservatives’  main power base in is Alberta, home to most of the tar sands projects, so the party has to tread carefully when it comes to cutting emissions. Ottawa would rather talk about carbon capture and on Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Canadian and Alberta governments would invest C$779 million ($756 million) in one such project.

This development also pleased Flannery, who described the news as excellent. “That is exactly the sort of leadership that’s required of the Canadian government in future,” he said.

((A worker rides his bike near Syncrude’s expansion mine, which remains shut after residents complained of odors coming from the site, north of Fort McMurray, Alberta May 24, 2006  Stringer photo))

7 comments

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Shame on you Canada! / Stephen Harper. You have transformed my pride into shame over this fiasco. It’s all about greed.

Shame on you for believing the myth.

Global warming is related to Sun activity.
How naive are you to think we can predict the Sun activities when we cannot even predict next years weather.

Hooray Canada – not being sucked in by the myth.

Posted by various animal | Report as abusive

Canada is a country run by special interests.Action on the environment is far from impossible if the special interests decide to focus on it.Money talks, but in Canada…. special interests rule.All that is required is for a unified political campaign by environmental groups.

Posted by Toney Tigger | Report as abusive

Special interests run the world, not just Canada. Right now Canada’s economy relies heavily on carbon-heavy industry. If the technology was there to avoid the repercussions, this would be a non issue. Since it isnt, Canada is trying to find the middle ground while still letting its economy grow.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

“Global warming is related to Sun activity.
How naive are you to think we can predict the Sun activities when we cannot even predict next years weather.

Hooray Canada – not being sucked in by the myth”

NONONO you have it all wrong, Global warming is a result of flautance from the giant elephant that the world was place on by god. Hot air raises and that is why there is an increase in Earths temp.

Posted by eron | Report as abusive

Global warming is 100% myth. Lets solve the things we can solve, like fresh water for developing countries and stop massive overfishing that is killing the oceans. We solve those, we can worry about abstract problems later.

Posted by marrapz | Report as abusive

Regardless of whether ot not global warming is a myth; pollutants caused by any and all industrial ventures are harmful to the earth. We should continue to develop alternatives to the current methods of productiom so that there is cleaner air and water and a healthier planet.

Posted by Geoff | Report as abusive