“We don’t go along to get along”! Those were the words used by Canada’s Prime Minister to explain why Canada took the bold step of withdrawing from the Kyoto Treaty on Climate Change.
Canada took a calculated risk in departing from the policy of “nice guy” diplomacy practiced ever since the United Nations was founded after the Second World War. Some Canadians appreciated the frankness of his statement, which contrasted with their sense that diplomatic language and conduct are inherently insincere.
Would the new approach negatively affect Canada’s position in world trade? Or was Canada important enough, particularly in the field of energy, that other countries would still respect our wishes in the formulation of their foreign policy? If the latter, our world reputation would not seriously suffer.
4RG attended a Panel sponsored by the Walter Gordon Foundation at which the speakers were Scott Vaughan, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment, and David Manning, the representative of the Alberta Government in Washington.
One remark by Scott Vaughan deserves attention. He referred to his conversations with officials from other Governments. They expressed puzzlement why Canada is playing such a negative role in climate change. Both speakers acknowledged that Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto had contributed to an opinion in U. S. Political and government circles that Canada lacked sufficient concern over environmental issues.
Germans also seem negative about Canada’s stance on the environment. The Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres stopped cooperating with an Alberta Government research project examining toxicity problems connected to tar sands operations. The Director of this Centre explained that continued association with the Alberta Government would compromise the Centre’s reputation for objectivity. The Director went so far as to say:
“It’s a clear signal that Canada’s energy and climate policy is not accepted by the international community, especially Germany.”
4RG has commented on the negative reactions to Canadian environmental policy by citizens of other countries. Now Canada will have to contend with negative reactions at the state level. If this negativity becomes the prevailing opinion we will no longer be the “nice guys” that we once were.
(4RG’s contribution to Earth Day!)