Our first Lima blog suggested that there could be progress at the COP20 Conference. Our optimism was encouraged by the statement that Canada would contribute $265 million (US) to the Green Climate Fund. This positive sign has been off-set by recent negative changes in our climate policy.
Previously the Canadian policy, repeated at every COP Conference, was to regulate emissions sector-by-sector. The oil and gas industry sector, which includes the tar sands, are the largest source of Canada’s GHG emissions. The Government first announced its intention to regulate this industry in 2007.
There was always a caveat. As Prime Minister Harper has often repeated, Canada would only move when the US is ready to regulate its oil industry.
When will that happen? Right now the US is addressing its largest source of emissions: coal-fired electrical generating plants. Given the resistance of the industry and the control of the Houses of Congress by the Republican Party that opposes these regulations, years will pass before the US phases out these plants.
Only then will the US move to curb emissions from its oil industry. And while the US engages in domestic political disputes the Canadian tar sands has a free pass to emit.
What about Harper’s undertakings at Copenhagen to reduce Canada’s emissions by 17% below 2005 emissions by 2020? Prime Minister Harper says that in today’s financial conditions it would be crazy to regulate the industry. No matter that the result will be that Canada again falls well short of its promises, just as happened with our Kyoto commitments.
Our Minister of the Environment addressed the Conference at Lima. She said nothing about any indefinite delay in introducing regulations to reduce tar sands emissions.
Her best line was that Canada was moving to get international agreement to limit HFCs used in refrigeration. Essentially the Minister was recycling a claim first made by her predecessor Peter Kent at Doha.
This Greenhouse gas is perhaps one per cent of Canada’s total emissions. Yet it is the only positive claim that our country can make. Our remaining climate policies are in limbo or so old they are ancient.
P.S. The image associated with this blog came to us from the Canadian Youth Delgation at Lima – Kelsey, Brenna, Megan, Aleah, Alex, Bronwen and Katie. They have provided first class commentary and, along with Christian Holz, have kept 4RG in the picture as the Conference Progressed.