Canada declines to set ambitious climate change target

Stephen Harper is moaning over the costs of reducing Canada’s GHG emissions to match post- 2020 targets that the US has accepted! Unfortunately the costs of further reducing our emissions are higher than costs in the US. Much of the additional costs are the consequence of our government’s delay in tackling GHG emissions.

Our Government has known about the problem of increasing costs of mitigation for years.  Its failure, its breach of promises to regulate the fossil fuel industry, its neglect of targets adopted at Copenhagen; all have added to these costs.

Until recently, our Government defended its policies on climate change on the basis that we had  to align our actions with the US.   Now we either bite the bullet and accept the extra costs of harmonizing our actions with the US or drop this defence.   Canada has to come up with a different reason for its shortcomings.

The UN has stressed the need for countries to increase their ambition in setting targets for the next round of GHG reductions. A spokesperson for the Leona Aglukaqq, our Minister of the Environment, stated that targets for Paris COP 21 should be based on each country’s “unique national circumstances”.

Canada’s unique circumstance?  Our Western economy depends on the fossil fuel industry, which is now experiencing financial pressures caused by a sharp fall in oil prices.   Prime Minister Harper said at the end of last year that in these circumstances it would be crazy to regulate the industry.  The tar sands – our fastest growing source of emissions – are untouchable.

What’s the way out of the following dilemma?  Prime Minister Harper agreed to a 2020 reduction target for Canada at Copenhagen.   Canada is not going to come close to this target.  What should Canada’s target for the next round be?

Our Government’s probable way out: set the next target to a lower level which Canada has a chance of achieving.  This lack of ambition is consistent with Canada’s past non-performance in meeting targets.

Russia can argue that its targets are also based on its unique national circumstances. So it won’t be doing anything significant over the next fifteen years.  Much like Canada.


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