“Business as Usual”

The Senate Committee on Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment delivered its Final Report today. Any assessment of the Final Report  should start with “Attention Canada:! Preparing for our Energy Future”, an Interim Report released by the Committee in 2010.  The Interim Report  stated:

“The message is clear: there is urgent need for a national discussion on energy. Canada requires a comprehensive Canadian Sustainable Energy Strategy now.”

We have not seen any indications of a comprehensive Canadian Sustainable Energy Strategy. Since 2010 the Federal Government has increased its efforts to secure export markets for Canadian fossil fuels, and lessened the burden of administrative review procedures for significant energy projects, such as pipelines.

So now that we have the Final Report , where do we stand?

The Interim Report did not pull any punches. It  recognized that climate change was a key issue.

“ Human activity, mainly through the combustion of fossil fuels, has increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which impacts the global climate. There is a strong scientific consensus, based on years of research, that climate change is real and happening now.

After a certain threshold of global climate warming there are fears that climate change cannot be controlled. There is a high risk that extreme and irreversible climatic and weather events will cause unprecedented social and economic hardship.

As energy consumption accounts for 84 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, managing energy demand and finding new ways to curb emissions is central to managing climate change. The report identifies several new ways: carbon pricing, improvements to a sustainable supply of existing and emerging sources of energy and more effective conservation.

Addressing climate change also presents significant economic opportunities for countries that encourage efficiency and sustainability in their economies. Fossil fuels will continue to dominate the global energy mix, but through conservation, technological growth and investment, the world can ease the transition to a lower carbon energy future. “

The title of the Final Report is “Now or Never”.  Ironically the Final Report never links climate change with energy strategy.  The excuse of this failure appears in the Foreword to the Final Report:

“The committee heard evidence about climate change and the need for all Canadians to work together to curtail the polluting emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into our precious and sensitive atmosphere and environment. However, this was not a study on climate change and global warming and our principal focus remained throughout on Canada’s energy future.”

A few details reveal the incredible divergence between these two reports. After the Foreword in  the Final Report, the words “Climate Change” appear only twice more and once in the table of references. Far from being a key issue, climate change is not an issue at all!  How different from the Interim Report where these words appear 34 times.

“Sustainable” appears 57 times in the Interim Report, including the cover, but appears only 8 times in the longer Final Report!

Another sleight-of-hand in the Final Report: it refers to the debate over “the level of urgency to curb GHG emissions” and “the most cost effective way to do so. ”  So the Report is inviting another “debate” for decades to come, just as the “debate” over the fact of global warming has continued for the past three decades.  In the meantime we can discuss urgency and cost effectiveness.  (Don’t worry about this summer’s record temperatures, extreme drought and floods:  they will be part of the debate!)

The Final Report might be a coffin nail in efforts to raise public awareness of the seriousness of climate change.  That result would please the Federal Government.

ForourGrandchildren and other environmental organizations won’t let Climate Change be buried by this Report.

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2 thoughts on ““Business as Usual”

  1. The Senate Report confirms what has been the Harper government’s constant refrain: we must have short-term gain by selling off increasing amounts of our poisoning fossil fuel resources and give only lip service to the environment. Our grandchildren will inherit the devastation which we can already see around the world as a result of climate change.
    Our descendents will ask what our Senators and Members of Parliament did in the Climate Crisis when the evidence was so convincing that drastic action is called for. The answer is “we failed”.

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