Canada is big and cold, but it can also meet its Kyoto commitments
by Crystel Hajjar
Canada’s climate change policies have gone from bad to worse.
Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol but never implemented a program to reach its commitments.
The government has been stalling action on climate change domestically and actively blocking consensus on the international front. The government shamefully responds that Canada requires a break because it is “big and cold”, and requires more energy than most countries to connect communities and heat homes.
The reality is that Canada’s climate or economic situation isn’t unique and doesn’t differ greatly from other northern “big, cold countries”. Canada’s difference is in its politics and the way its government has been handling domestic issues. Countries such as Germany, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have made significant improvements reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and meeting their Kyoto commitments.
Canada’s investment in fossil fuels is increasingly growing, while many other countries are actively moving beyond this destructive industry into more renewable energy sources. Even worse, the Canadian government is lobbying on behalf of the tar sands expansion rather than the desires and demands of its citizens. In the UN Climate Negotiations, Canada has epically failed to meet its original Kyoto targets and is playing an obstructive role in the consensus-based process of the negotiations. In other international relations, Canada has been actively lobbying in Europe to continue the sale of tar sands fuel, despite the clear message from Europeans and Canadians alike that this fuel is not wanted.
The tar sands development is on of the most destructive mining industry in the country and has been expanding at a fast rate. It is expected to double its GHG emissions to add up to 12% of Canada’s total emissions, by 2020.
There are many geographically similar countries that have reached their Kyoto commitments and are ready to move to further targets now that 2012 is around the corner. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has lowered its emissions reduction targets to 17% below 2005 emissions levels. This means that Canada’s emissions will be 3% higher than its 1990 levels, by 2020. The government does not even have a solid to plan to reach those weak targets.
Recently, major budget cuts budget have been made to the scientific research at Environment Canada, especially among climate scientists. Furthermore, scientists are restricted from freely discussing the findings of their research with the media.
All of this is happening while countries like Germany are world leaders in renewable energy and are undergoing a major shift away from fossil fuels and towards greener sources of energy.
For example, Denmark’s energy and electricity consumption has fallen to match their energy consumption in 1980s despite the rise in the total population and the increased demand for the use of electricity. Not only has the government encouraged the development of renewable energy infrastructure, the citizens of the country have adopted lower-impact lifestyles, including the use of simple behaviours and technologies to save energy and reduce waste.
Grocery store packaging was cut down overnight by the simple act of people leaving superfluous packaging at the checkout counter, creating a trickle-up effect that ended in manufacturers reducing the packaging on their products. Further, things like district heating, white roof shingles, waste water heat recovery, and smart appliances are common in large, cold European countries with low per-capita emissions.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is possible. Unlike what is constantly claimed by our governments, it will not destroy our economy and cripple our development. In fact, it is a necessity for an economy which will prosper in perpetuity. It is absolutely crucial that Canada, along with all other nations, reduce their emissions if we wanted to ensure a viable environment for future generations. It is about time for the government to assess the real costs of climate change and recognize that investments in clean energy are investments in a clean, safe future for Canadians.