Friday, April 07, 2006

Why Harper is wrong on Kyoto

The big news on the front page of today’s Globe and Mail is that the Tories "will neither kill nor live up to Kyoto."

Wow. Stephen Harper sure loves to have his cake and eat it too (no, I’m not referring to his expanding waistline). It seems a bit disingenuous to remain in the Kyoto Protocol but not meet its targets.

If Stephen Harper refuses to live up to Kyoto, he’s basically killing it. It’s like starving someone to death rather than shooting him in the head.

To his credit, Harper appears somewhat serious about reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Or at least he appears more serious than Paul Martin did. Even though the Liberals signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, they did absolutely nothing about it. In fact, our emissions actually increased while the Liberals were in power.

One of the stupidest programs created by the Liberal government was the One Tonne Challenge, which unfairly placed the burden of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the shoulders of individual Canadians.

This program was a failure from the outset. First of all, no one understood it. No one knew what the challenge was about, why it was important or what a tonne was. Second of all, climate change is just not an issue of national importance to most Canadians.

It would have been more useful to create a program that actually targeted those responsible for creating the majority of the emissions (ie. mandatory vehicle fuel efficiency standards or emission caps on large industrial polluters).

So Harper was right to cancel the One Tonne Challenge.

But he’s wrong to stay in Kyoto and not meet its targets. Climate change is a global issue and the Kyoto Protocol is the only global agreement we have to address this challenge. It took a decade just to create the Protocol and it would take another decade to create something new.

Drafting a new agreement would mean another 10 years before we actually start doing something. Until then, our emissions will keep rising, which will only make it that much harder to cut them.

Kyoto is far from perfect. It’s not nearly ambitious enough to slow the effects of climate change. Canada only has to reduce its emissions six per cent below 1990 levels. This won’t make a damn bit of difference. But it’s a good first step. At the very least it will get us going in the right direction. And the last thing we need right now is more talk and no action.

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