The Reformed Senate of Canada. The Difference it can make!

In 2010 the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources released an interim report that acknowledged “climate change is real and happening now”. The Committee scheduled numerous sessions to receive expert testimony that identified the potential risks created by climate change. The Committee also heard evidence from denialists who disputed that these risks were real.

Two years later the Committee’s Final report said nothing about climate change. A brief introduction explained that the subject was not part of the Committee’s mandate!!

Why this surprising about face?

Two reasons:  possibly the Committee decided that it  lacked sufficient expertise to decide conflicts between testimony of science witnesses. So, the Committee Chairman found a way to duck the issue.

Secondly:  Committee members respected the wishes of the party that appointed them. The majority Conservative Senators were against giving prominence to a sensitive issue, as the Conservative Federal Government had done very little to reduce GHG emissions.  Climate change was a hot potato!

Now the same Committee – with different membership – is again tackling the issue of climate change.  Its recent interim report (2016)  on electricity contains many comments on risks that were identified in the 2010 interim report.

A big difference is that now there are independent (unaffiliated) senators as Committee members who

  • are almost as numerous as the Conservatives,
  • are more numerous than the Liberals, and
  • will not let party affiliation determine the subjects covered by the Final Report.

There is one issue that could demonstrate just how independent these unaffiliated Senators could be!

One of the mandates of the Committee is to:

“identify areas of concern and make any necessary recommendations to the federal government that will help achieve greenhouse gas emission targets in a manner that is sustainable, affordable, efficient, equitable and achievable. “

 Canada’s Intended nationally determined contributions (INDC’s) to the reduction of world GHG emissions were set by the Conservative Federal Government, and submitted to COP 21. Environmentalists immediately criticized these INDC’s as inadequate for a country like Canada that has high per capita emissions.  Although it has referred to this INDC as “a floor”, the Liberal Government has not revised the INDC targets.

Activist environmental organizations could quickly and easily review the scope of this INDC issue. A report by a Senate Committee Recommending an appropriate increase in the INDC to more effective levels could demonstrate Canada’s international leadership.

And – if it comes to pass thanks to the independent Senators, they will have done us a great service.

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