Canada’s Climate Legacy: Global Pariah & Master of Illusion
Since our dramatic finish at last year’s UN Climate Conference in Durban, we’ve seen several reports desperately warning of the severe consequences and missed opportunities of Canada’s inaction on climate change from organizations such as the International Energy Agency, the World Bank and the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy. In the midst of this year’s UN Climate Conference in Doha (COP18), the Canadian delegation’s actions continue to shape our tattered reputation.
On paper, Canada has a number of climate goals. As a signatory to the Cancun Agreements and the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, the Harper government endorsed the scientifically agreed 2 °C tipping point as our global warming limit, and with it committed to reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 17% (from 2005 levels) by 2020. Despite being the only country that has weakened (rather than strengthened) its emissions reductions commitment in Copenhagen, this weak commitment did not translate into anything close to sufficient action on the ground and we’re still megatons away from our target. Even though Canada is not the only country that is not doing enough on climate change, we are certainly among the worst: this year’s Climate Change Performance Index ranks Canada 58th out of the 61 largest emitters of global warming pollution. With only Kazakhstan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia trailing behind, this makes us the worst developed country on the list.
The world is noticing that the current Canadian government is failing climate action on multiple fronts – the only country in the world to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, Canada is failing to renew commitments to financially support the weakest countries on Earth to adapt to climate change (a problem they did nothing to cause) and, at home, axing all federal support for clean energy and energy efficiency (more on the ways in which Canada is failing the world on climate action). Meanwhile at COP18, Canadian ‘fossil awards’ are piling up. For capping financial support (rather than emissions), to being diagnosed with the world’s worst case of ‘climate amnesia’, you can check out the list of well deserved awards here.
Prior to his departure for Doha, Environment Minister Peter Kent said, “climate change is a real and present danger“, however he decided to show up empty-handed. In his speech at the Doha Climate Change Conference this morning he recycled GHG reduction measures announced in the months preceding this conference in an attempt to present Canada’s climate progress. These measures are a fine example of “greenwashing” by trying to manipulate popular opinion by painting an environmentally friendly facade on an overall insufficient approach to climate policy.
Most notably, he boasted about new federal coal regulations, the latest element of the Harper government’s “sector-by-sector approach” to reduce harmful GHG emissions. What he failed to mention is that these regulations don’t actually apply to all existing coal fired generation until 2062, leaving some of Canada’s largest emitters to continue to pollute for another 50 years! Sorry Environment Canada, but we certainly don’t consider this enough to classify our country as a ‘world leader in clean energy generation’, as touted in your recent press release.
Second, Kent blatantly misrepresented Canada as being “half-way” to our Copenhagen target of 17% below 2005 emission levels. In reality,projections by Environment Canada predict that Canada’s 2020 emissions will be 720 Mt – only 20 Mt lower than 2005 which only represents about 15% of the 133 Mt total reductions needed… Hardly justifying any talk of “halfway there”, especially given that no credible plans are in place to close that massive gap. This attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community is outright offensive.