Canada Adrift

30 November 2010

Let’s say you’re a tar sands loving North American government with a bit of a carbon dependency problem. You need a clever way to get away with doing nothing on climate change, and you notice that your neighbor to the south won’t have an easy time getting a cap-and-trade bill through its Congress.
For Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, the solution surely seemed obvious: announce that you just can’t lift a finger to deal with climate change unless the U.S. moves first. As they say in Canada: problem solved, eh?
Not quite, as it turns out. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency moving to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new industrial facilities starting in 2011, Harper’s plan of outsourcing climate policy to the U.S. meant that Canada would have to do the same.  That’s bad news for the tar sands (oil bearing deposits in central Canada), where plans for a massive expansion just don’t line up with pesky limits on their emissions.
Enter John Baird, Canada’s brand new – er, not so new – environment minister. (Veteran observers will remember him as the last minister in Bali to oppose the science-based target range of 25-40% below 1990 in 2020.)
Confronted about lining up with the neighbors to Canada’s south, Baird had some choice words: the US proposal is ‘patchwork’ and ‘very, very preliminary stuff’, covering ‘a small, tiny percentage of new plants’. Yes, that would be in contrast to Canada’s comprehensive proposal of doing nothing whatsoever for any percentage of its new plants.
And this isn’t the first time that Canada’s policy – 100% harmonized, as long as the US doesn’t do anything – has reared its ugly head. Internal emails from the Department of Foreign Affairs released yesterday show Canadian diplomats hard at work to ‘kill’ a 2007 US clean fuels policy. They enlisted allies at Exxon and other oil companies in the battle to, as they so lyrically put it, ‘keep the oil a-flowing’.  And when one official from Environment Canada pointed out that curbing tar sands emissions is a good thing, her comment was dismissed as ‘simply nutty’. Is it a coincidence that this sorry little episode took place the last time John Baird was environment minister?
Anyway, adding it up, it’s clear that Canada’s three-bagger of Fossils from the first day of the Cancun talks is the most appropriate way to welcome John Baird and the government he represents back to the negotiating table.  Oh, Canada – how could you!

Support CAN

Help us build power in the climate movement by contributing a one-time or recurring donation that will go to supporting our global work as well as various activities and campaigns in communities in different regions.

Donate to CAN

Stay informed

Subscribe to receive monthly updates on the latest on the climate movement including the content from across the network, upcoming climate change events, news articles and opinion pieces on climate, straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter