Sunday, December 02, 2007

Declining investment

I'm surprised that this hasn't received more notice when Kyoto and Bali have both been receiving ample attention. But as NDP MP Nathan Cullen pointed out in Thursday's Question Period, the "strategy" of both the Libs and the Cons since Canada ratified Kyoto seems to have been a miserable failure.

Here's what Cullen had to say about investment in emission reductions by Canadian industry:
Statistics Canada reports that spending by industry on capital investments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions actually dropped by 35%. Oil and gas slashed its investments by 46%, while the power industry cut its investments by 96%. The government ensures that Canada will fall further and further behind.
Now, it's worth noting that the numbers in question are from 2002-2004 - meaning that they pre-date the Cons' stay in power. But it's not hard to draw a link between factors which likely led to the decline, and ones the Cons are seeking to entrench as a long-term policy.

Remember that in 2002 Canada actually ratified Kyoto, signalling an apparent commitment to international reduction targets, with a concurrent intention to require substantial emission reductions from industry. And it only makes sense that Canadian businesses would have sought to get the jump on their likely obligations when there was some prospect that the required reductions would actually be enforced.

After 2002, however, the Libs chose not to take their own government's commitment seriously. By 2004, Canadian industry seems to have figured out that the Libs weren't going to actually put any teeth behind the targets - and naturally reduced its investment accordingly.

At the same time, though, it seems clear that the earlier commitment to an internationally-enforceable target did serve to drive investment in emission reductions. And the Cons' current stance of holding out for the lowest common denominator can only send an equally strong signal in the opposite direction: when Canada's government is looking to avoid any real commitment to emission reductions, there's no reason for industry to bother investing in reductions of its own.

It remains to be seen whether the current cycle of neglect can be reversed. But it appears plain that with Canadian industry plainly taking its cues from the federal government, neither Lib-style dithering nor the Cons' state of denial is going to lead to any progress in the fight against climate change.

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