Thursday, September 10, 2009

Canada: Five years, three elections, and still no climate policy

With the distinct possibility of yet another Canadian election this fall and news the Conservative government, after several years in power, is just now working on a climate policy, and a policy that would "favour" the oil sands (more on this tomorrow), it's interesting a look at a column I wrote five years and three elections ago. Or was it four elections? I'm losing count.

The following is the opening of my June 2, 2004 op-ed in the Globe and Mail:

The real issues at election time are often the ones our political leaders work hardest to hide. There is no greater skeleton in the electoral closet than climate change and the Kyoto Protocol.

The Martin government seems to wish climate change would just go away. Facing a disgruntled electorate, the government fears even mentioning climate change could turn some voters toward the anti-Kyoto Conservatives. At the same time, the Conservatives also wish to avoid the issue for fear of alienating any pro-environment Liberals angry with the Martin government. As a result, only the NDP and the Green Party have dared utter the word "Kyoto."

The disappearance of prominent environmental issues at election time is hardly a new phenomenon. In the battle for votes, everyone longs to appear green, but will not advocate any policy that might be perceived, correctly or not, as damaging to the voter's wallet.

This election in particular has fallen prey to the opportunistic notion that scoring a favourable headline in the morning paper on the issue of the day is more important than presenting an integrated vision for the country. The result is fragmented political platforms in which environmental issues are the big losers.

The high price of gasoline provides a perfect opportunity to promote the need for higher automotive fuel efficiency, more funding for public transit, and reduced smog in our cities. These are issues of interest to all Canadians; dealing with them would help reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, the debate focuses entirely on which party can deliver lower gas prices.

The problem for the Liberals and the Conservatives is that climate change is one environmental issue that will not go away.

Still true after all these years? This was the conclusion:

Canada is responsible for a small fraction of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and cannot stop climate change alone. But a serious Canadian effort to meet the Kyoto commitment and promote future climate policy could provide much-needed international leadership and restore this country's green reputation - which has been sullied by the passivity of the previous decade.

Will Canada become a leader in preventing dangerous climate change, in promoting new energy technologies, higher fuel efficiency, improved urban infrastructure and sustainable international development? Those are the issues that should inspire an election.

1 comment:

Realtor from Toronto said...

Our reputation of being a green country has been destroyed because of the tar sands. And of course the lack of activities in the process of preventing the climate change. But I believe that was caused party by this crisis. It set the priorities to other levels and suddenly our planet wasn't the main focus in Canada. But I believe the climate change prevention will soon continue and we will take many steps to solve this occurring problem.

Take care, Elli