In 2007 the Conservative Government took climate change very seriously. In June 7 of that year, Prime Minister Harper told a Berlin audience that he regarded climate change as “perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today”. Yet a mere two years later the Canadian Government did not consider that responding to a threat of this magnitude required extraordinary efforts.
Previously Canada had accepted a reduction target under The Kyoto Convention to help keep global warming below a level necessary to avoid serious consequences to the planetary environment. In 2009 the Conservatives ditched this target and announced that instead Canada would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from the level of 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, a less onerous commitment.
At the Conference in Durban last year the Minister of the Environment, Peter Kent, stated that Canada would withdraw from the Kyoto Convention at the end of this year. By doing so Canada would be abandoning the only international weapon to fight climate change. Kent justified the decision by pointing out the shortcomings of the Convention.
In his recent statements, Kent seems to recognize the extent of the future menace presented by Climate Change. Recently he stated: “Droughts, floods, the diminishing ice cap, ozone opening and closing over the poles — you don’t have to convince me that climate change is a very real and present danger and I think that we need to address it.”
What is Canada doing to meet this “very real and present danger”? Within Canada this means infrastructure to help Northern Communities built on increasing unstable permafrost, and early warning systems so communities can be told of the risk of extreme weather. Until the Minister fleshes out these vague words, our internal efforts to mitigate the risks of climate change are not much more than token.
On the international level, Kent explained that Canada will be addressing climate change by “bringing the rest of the world on board to do something about it.” It is Canada and other states that must be brought “on board”, and not the European Union, which has met its Kyoto target. This statement must be Kent’s code for participating in negotiations to reach a new international accord by 2015 that would replace the Kyoto Convention.
Our expectations that Canada will play a useful role at Doha are low. Let’s hope that we are being unduly pessimistic.