A bad day to be Canadian (again)

I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but last week Canada was roasted at the Commonwealth meeting in Trinidad and Tobago. Actually, there is even talk of suspending us from the Commonwealth entirely because our approach to climate change negotiations has been so destructive.

If all that sounds a bit strange to you, check out George Monbiot's most recent column over at the Guardian. He's put together a depressingly accurate summary of why we've lost our reputation as "Canada the Good."

The official Canadian position is that we are a small player, with little power and that we've got to wait for the US to act before we can design our own policies. As Monbiot's article sums up, the truth is that we are actually a very important player - at least diplomatically. Far from waiting to follow someone else's lead, we've been working hard to under cut climate negotiations since 2006. The full article is here and I've re-posted a few excerpts after the jump. [There also a CBC TV report along similar lines.]

"Here I am, [in Toronto this past weekend ] watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush."

"In 2006 the new Canadian government announced it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%."

"It is now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won't accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren't worth the paper they're written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void."

"After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country that had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world's 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th."

"In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada's obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth."

"In Copenhagen next week, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks. The rest of the world must do everything in its power to stop it. But such is the fragile nature of climate agreements that one rich nation – especially a member of the G8, the Commonwealth and the Kyoto group of industrialised countries – could scupper the treaty. Canada now threatens the wellbeing of the world."


2 Responses to "A bad day to be Canadian (again)"

Canada Guy said... 1 December 2009 at 13:14

Canada is the climate change bad guy. We have ignored our Kyoto commitments, have poor emissions targets for Copenhagen, and we are actively trying to disrupt climate meetings. But we still have a chance to change and lead.


Alex Aylett said... 1 December 2009 at 14:04

Cheers Canada Guy,
I agree that there is a lot that we can do - although I'm not optimistic about us being a world leader for Federal policy any time soon. We are just too behind. But I don't see any reason why we couldn't follow the good examples of other countries (and some Canadian provinces and cities).

The oil sands aside, federal policy supporting expanded public transportation, rail expansion, energy efficient buildings (& retrofits) and renewable energy could all have a huge impact.

These are all also things that we could be doing right now -- no need to wait for the US or Copenhagen. I'm going to be putting more on this up soon.


This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

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