Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kyoto Daze Part I: Canadian Policy & Politics

Welcome to my hamfisted (but multi-part!) series on climate change. This "Kyoto Daze" series was inspired by two current-events: The United Nations Climate Change Conference (28 Nov- 9 Dec, in beautiful Montréal), and the looming Federal election. In Part I, I'll make a quick survey of Canada's current level of environmental stewardship. As with the rest of my 'series,' this summary will be incomplete; I welcome any & all additions, admonitions, and feedback.

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
As you're no doubt aware, Federal Environment Minister Stéphane Dion is presiding over the Montréal UN Climate Change Conference. For all the Liberal party's faults in this portfolio (and I'll definitely get to those!), Dion has been an incredibly active and Min. Environment: pushing-back against American proposals to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and, now, trying to bring the behemoth-to-the-south into some kind of agreement on climate change. From today's TorStar:
On Monday, Dion called climate change "the single most important environmental issue facing the world." Agreement is crucial, he said. "At the end of the conference we'll see the outcome. I don't underestimate the differences of view." And he described himself as a bridge-builder who could bring the opposing sides together. [...] Observers said U.S. delegates were using procedural moves to stall the talks. Making matters worse, other countries — including Italy, Portugal and Finland — that also oppose mandatory targets are hiding behind the United States, letting it take the heat but making prospects for a deal more bleak, said Bill Hare, climate policy director with Greenpeace International. [...] Dion has suggested here, in careful diplomatic language, that the solution might be a two-track system. [...] There is lots of good will but still a lot of work to be accomplished, an aide to Dion said in the midst of his long day of talks yesterday.
Dion is indeed gaining an international reputation as grand-mediator. From the Nov 27 New York Times:
Mr. Dion, a mild-mannered man who wears a windmill pin on his lapel, has been credited by many environmentalists for his diplomatic skills with China, India and the Bush administration. He has pushed for international efforts to increase innovation like hydrogen fuel cells and methods for capturing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, before it is emitted from smokestacks. "What Canada will attempt to do is reach a rapprochement," he said.
Even Elizabeth May (Sierra Club of Canada) has taken a shine to Dion, of late. So much so that she fumed about the timing of the election call:
"It's unfortunate. I sort of feel like saying "a plague on all their houses for allowing this to happen," said Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada, who noted that three of the four major political parties endorse Kyoto. "Allowing an election to happen now only serves the ends of people who don't want to see progress made under the Kyoto Protocol, so you have to say it's unfortunate that we've come to this." She said that Mr. Dion is "irreplaceable" because of the work he's done on the international scene, meeting with the heads of delegations and preparing the groundwork for the conference. "It is an extremely important point that the domestic political situation in Canada should not intrude on the success of global negotiations of unparalleled importance," she said.
This is consistent with an earlier SCC news release issued by Elizabeth May, just before the government fell:
"It is hard to imagine how the conference will make progress in the immediate chaos of an election campaign,” said Ms. May. "There is no time to lose in broadening the Kyoto commitments to more nations. We are not worried about the timing of an election, but for this one issue. Do not bring down the government until December 8th. It is hard to have respect for any of the parties when they play political games with our children's future," she added.
SCC's recent comments are particularly interesting when you consider their 2004 Election report card. The Liberal Party only ranked 3rd in their evaluation of the National Parties, with a "B" grade: (1) New Democratic Party A+, (2) Bloc Quebecois A; Green Party A, (3) Liberal Party B, and (4) Conservative Party D-
You can read the full 2004 SCC Report Card here (including comments and responses from most of the parties). Naturally Harper's 2004 plan received the most stinging rebuke. Here's an excerpt from the summary (on how the other 3 parties differed):
The Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party Platforms are clearly the strongest. In terms of climate change, the language of the Bloc Quebecois platform is the most forceful of any party platform, including the Green platform. The policy prescriptions to meet Kyoto are quite similar. The NDP, the Bloc and the Greens all propose an emissions trading system for carbon dioxide within a cap. The NDP and the Bloc both favour regulating fuel economy standards for automobiles. The Liberal plan calls for the same level of improvement, but relies on voluntary methods.[...] the strongest set of environmental promises come from the New Democratic Party. The Bloc Quebecois lost points for its support for the asbestos industry and for reluctance to complete the national park system and protect endangered species due to jurisdictional concerns. The Liberals picked up points for strong commitments to completing the national park system, but provided status quo answers on support for the nuclear industry, biotechnology, and asbestos.
So what's happened since the 2004 election? Did the minority government deliver and put their money where their mouth was? Sorta...almost...ok, not really. This is what was promised in the April amendments to the budget (the Lib/NDP deal):
$1 billion over half a decade – will go into a Clean Fund [...Under the Liberal-NDP deal, the budget will include another $900 million for the environment, with one more cent of the federal gas tax going to public transit. The money will go to buying emission reductions from Canadians, industry and projects in other countries involving Canadian companies.]
[...] $225 million to expand the EnerGuide retrofit incentive program for houses. Ottawa said the money, which will flow over five years, would bump the total number of retrofits across the country to 500,000 homes by 2010. The federal government has also reserved $200 million to stimulate the use of wind power to generate electricity. About $300 million will go to the Green Municipal Fund, which is run by the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. The fund supports projects such as deep water-cooling systems for commercial buildings, and more efficient water and sewage treatment facilities.
Here's the really bad news: Canada's emissions have increased...a lot! What happened? From the G&M:
Canada has vowed to cut its emissions by 6 per cent from its 1990 level over the period from 2008 to 2012, but its emissions by the end of 2003 were up 24 per cent. Federal Environment Minister Stéphane Dion attributes Canada's rise partly to robust economic growth. The economy has grown by 43 per cent since 1990. Canada is also being saddled with emissions from the booming energy industry, which is exporting record amounts of oil and gas to the United States.
Yeah, what about that oily elephant in the room, the 'Berta oil sands? Or those deals with refiniries? Don't think those have gone unnoticed in international circles. Again, here's the NY Times' Clifford Krauss:
The oil production from oil sands - a far higher emitter of pollution than conventional oil production - is estimated to triple from the current one million barrels a day by 2015 and sextuple by 2030. Canada's target has been made all the more difficult to reach by government arrangements with oil refineries and other large industries to reduce their annual emission cuts to 36 million metric tons from the 55 million metric tons first planned.
So, what do you think? Will the "E" word be a big issue, this federal election? It's definitely crept up the priority-list, if last night's CBC Environics poll is any indication. Of course, we're bound to be exposed to a lot of hot-air in the days ahead. Next up: Kyoto Daze Part II: Car & Driver.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's surprising to hear this good news about S. Dion--thanks for the update and hope.

11/30/2005 9:57 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home