Saturday, October 24, 2009

Three Perspectives on the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Environment Minister Jim Prentice is going out of his way this week to lower expectations for the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December.

Citing Canada's "faster-growing population and energy-intensive industrial structure", Prentice is continuing to insist that Canada should not be held to the same standards as, say, Japan or the E.U. when it comes to emission targets. Moreover, he is presenting something of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum regarding Canada's plan, or lack thereof:

... Ottawa will not release its detailed climate-change plan, including its proposed emissions caps on large emitters such as oil sands and power plants, until there is more clarity on how the United States intends to proceed in global climate-change talks in Copenhagen in December, and on what an international treaty would look like, the minister added.

“Copenhagen is a very significant factor in how matters will be approached continentally, and how matters will be approached domestically,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Environment Minister Stephane Dion is also weighing in on Canada's situation going into Copenhagen. He acknowledges Canada's dependence on U.S. policy, but while Prentice sees looming U.S. environmental legislation as an impediment, Dion sees it as an incentive for us to catch up with the rest of the world.

Canada fears that environmental protection might serve as vehicle for U.S. trade protectionism. But at the same time, Canada’s interest in protecting trade with the U.S. is becoming a tangible incentive to curb GHG emissions. And Canada has a lot to do to reduce its carbon footprint.

Three years away from the 2012 Kyoto deadline, Canada’s emissions are well above target. Canada has no effective carbon regulations yet. The government’s announced target is to reduce emissions by 20% from 2006 levels by 2020 – the equivalent of a 3% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. As weak as this target is, the government failed to present a credible plan to reach it. Every independent expert says that the government’s plan is much too weak to reach its own target.

Per capita, Canada’s new green energy investments will be six times less than those in Obama’s first budget – 14 times less for renewable energy. The Conservative government’s focus is on such controversial and potentially problematic policies as carbon capture and storage (CCS) for oil sands and subsidies for foodstuff-based bio-fuels.

As the day approaches for the Copenhagen Conference, I'm looking forward to hearing another perspective on the proceedings: that of youth delegate Ashley Bigda.

I've had the pleasure of working with Ashley a couple of times now as a volunteer at Liberal Party events here in Halton, so I was tremendously excited to learn that she had been selected by the International Federation of Liberal Youth to travel to Copenhagen to attend the Conference as their delegate. She's agreed to send me dispatches for my blog(s), so come December we'll have the benefit of her first hand reports.

Something tells me she's going to be a breath of fresh air.

(cross-posted from Canada's World)

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