Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Canada - World Leader Follower

Even though a recent poll conducted for The Globe and Mail found that 56% of Canadians want Canada to commit to a new international climate agreement, the Harper government has announced that we will be withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, and will not be entering into any new agreement until at least 2020. Apparently, the 40% of Canadians that voted for Harper represent a majority that the other 60% of us simply can't compete with.

Before confirming that we would be reneging on Kyoto, our Environment Minister, Peter Kent, stated that we would sign another agreement if large carbon emitters such as China, India, and the US also made commitments to reduce their emissions. China called our bluff, and promised to begin reducing its emissions in 2020, so long as the countries that were originally part of Kyoto continued to be so.

Now, I understand that to really battle climate change, the largest polluters need to reduce their emissions. Contrary to what Harper and his cronies believe, however, that doesn't excuse Canada from being a responsible steward of the planet and setting an example for larger emitters. How can a country as rich as Canada expect poorer countries like China and India to take action that we're not willing to take ourselves? Per capita, Canadians produce more emissions than almost any other country. Per person, we produce over 3 times the emissions that China produces, and 14 times the emissions that India produces. It is inevitable that emissions produced in these countries will increase as people in these countries struggle to improve their standard of living.

The developed nations of the world have set the standard of living that the underdeveloped and developing nations are now trying to reach. We cannot condemn anyone for wanting to live as cushy a life as we live here. We have no more right to our comfortable way of life than anybody else. That's not the message our government is sending, though. Harper might as well say, "In order for Canadians to be able to continue living in relative luxury, the underdeveloped and developing world needs to continue to wallow in poverty."

Over half of us want our government to take real steps towards reducing our emissions, even if it costs us more for some goods and services. Our government doesn't give a damn what we want, though. We failed to meet our Kyoto targets, and actually increased our emissions, rather than reducing them. We have no excuse for that. Sweden met their Kyoto target and increased their GDP by 40% at the same time, proving that growing the economy and protecting the environment can and do go hand in hand. The UK surpassed their Kyoto target of an 8% reduction in emissions and actually reduced their emissions by 20%.

The Harper government can make all the excuses it wants. It can blame China, the economy, Trudeau, whatever...the truth is Harper has no intention of taking any more action on climate change than he is forced to. This is a man who gave the Minister of Science and Technology job to a man who doesn't even believe in evolution. Ideology trumps science in Harper's office, the same way that 40% trumps 60%.