Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Awaiting a Canadian response to Obama's climate speech

For about a decade, the explanation for a lack of coherent Canadian climate policy was the lack of a coherent American climate policy. How could our federal government move forward with actions like regulations, carbon pricing, renewable portfolio standards, international agreements or adaptation plans without our largest trading partner and BFF? 

This argument was literally encoded in Canadian policy by the current government (see page 15):

Given the degree of economic integration with the U.S., we are aligning our climate change approach with that of the U.S. as appropriate, to maximize progress on reducing emissions while maintaining economic competitiveness

Now the U.S has a plan. No, it is not perfect, but it is far more advanced than any plan proposed by any sitting President or Prime Minister.

The ball is in our court. Time for Canada, time for Canadians, to define "as appropriate".


1 comment:

kf said...

I believe Canadian policy on climate change has more to it than a mere association with its largest trading partner, regardless of the literature. One might have to consider the tactics of the Harper government and the Canadian economy to fully understand the long term goals of this country. A future which does not seem very green.
Currently Canada is trying to recover from a rather large increase in debt that occurred over the 70's - 90's. Which is on the rise as of late (for reference This is actually the primary goal of the Harper government arguably, (for reference: It only takes a couple of lines of reading to realize our government is committed to eliminating the deficit and creating a flourishing economy, which seems reasonable.
Why does all this matter? Well let’s take a look at what compromises Canada's GDP. I found this website summarized it very nicely ( ). The top three industries are arguably very dependable on lenient environmental policy:
A. Real Estate – Our ability as a country to build sustainable buildings and developments is incredibly important. Having such a diverse climate here in Canada, our buildings are susceptible to energy loss through HVAC which can become extremely wasteful over a buildings life cycle. As well, the constant urbanization that is going on in Canada, can lead to hydrologic alternation. An example of this recently happened in Toronto, impervious surface leads to a higher chance of large flows. Toronto’s out of date ‘combined sewer/storm water system’ was not capable of handling the high flows, thus overflowing contaminated sewage into the streets and harbour. If Toronto’s development (which is rapid), consisted of more permeable surface area, maybe such catastrophes could be evaded. This is something that could be regulated in green policy.
B. Manufacturing – This speaks for itself; the manufacturing industry is reliant on lenient green policies in order to produce goods and services for a cheaper competitive price (i.e. being allowed to spew GHG for no penalty).
C. Mining, quarrying and gas/oil extraction – This industry has nearly the same excuse as the manufacturing industry. A good example of this is the Alberta oil sands, an incredibly large reserve of oil, which the extraction of, has generally been pinpointed as non-environmentally friendly. Ironically enough, Canada struggles to sell this oil due to its unregulated extraction in the oil sands. Thus a scenario where green policy may benefit Canadian economy.
This is essentially a recipe for disaster, the essence of a prosperous Canadian economy is reliant on our ability to spew emissions, consume cheap, GHG emitting, energy sources, and commit other heinous unsustainable crimes. On top of this, I don’t believe our Canadian society is terribly concerned with climate change, which is for one simple reason, population density. According to ( , Canadians get to share one square mile with 9 other people (this is an incredibly large amount of land on a global scale). If we plow over a couple of square miles for development, or pour thousands of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, who cares, we’re such a large country the effect is minimal. This is obviously a miserable mindset but it’s most likely a major role in our government’s incentive to implicate green policy as well as our societies concern on whether or not they do.
It is also worthwhile pointing out that our policy makers are social-scientists and economists, not engineers or scientists. It’s hard to reason with people who only see votes and dollar bills.
In short, it is true that the “they do it so why can’t we” excuse has exhausted itself with the new American climate control policies. However due to the nature of the Canadian economy I feel as if we should be braced for yet another excuse.