Wednesday, October 04, 2006

On backroom deals

Mitchell Anderson reminds us why the federal Libs have been strangely absent from the debate over the Cons' apparent intention to do as little as possible about greenhouse gas emissions originating from the oil industry:
The Environment Commissioner warned last week that the federal government must do "something drastic" to begin to deal meaningfully with climate change. But don't count on anything more than hot air when Harper releases his long awaited "Made in Canada" climate policy sometime this month.

The reason dates back to a deal quietly penned between Ottawa and Canadian oil industry in 2002 that essentially killed any chance Canada had to meet our obligations under Kyoto agreement.

It seems that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was concerned that the newly ratified accord to limit emissions of greenhouse gases would limit their profitability. Apparently, Ottawa was only too happy to accommodate.

Calling these documents a "deal" is a bit of a misnomer, since the Canadian public got essentially nothing in return. Incredibly, this sellout was almost completely ignored by the mainstream press.

Among other things, Ottawa committed to the fossil fuel sector that they would "set emission intensity targets for the oil and gas sector at no more than 15 per cent below the projected business-as-usual levels for 2010."

"Large final emitters" like the oil sector account for fully 50 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. In order to comply with Kyoto, the rest of the Canadian economy -- namely you and me -- would have to cut our emissions by more than 40 per cent.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has cheerfully increased their emissions by 47 per cent since 1990, and they are set to double again in the next decade.
Of course, it's now clear that the Libs' plan at the time was never on track to reach Canada's Kyoto commitments - meaning that the lack of action was across the board, not only with respect to industrial emitters. But then, Canadians in general didn't demand or receive a signed agreement as to how much (or how little) the federal government would do to regulate emissions.

As Anderson notes, there's little reason to think the Cons will demand more from their own supporters than the Libs were willing to from industrial polluters generally. Which means that this deal is one of the few signed by the Libs that the Cons may actually follow, and that another change in government is a prerequisite to any real action toward dealing with emissions.

Anderson may be wrong in suggesting that Canada's doesn't have any realistic means of meeting its Kyoto obligations. But the chances of reaching the goal are diminishing by the day thanks in large part to the Libs' choices. And Canadians will have every reason to doubt any claim of environmental commitment by a party which was so willing to sign away any effective action.

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