Monday, February 12, 2007

More reasons for action

Susan Riley points out both the lack of any good reason for Canada's past inaction on greenhouse gas emissions, and one added consequence of failing to make meaningful progress now:
Fact is, we are already legally bound to meet our Kyoto commitment, which is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012 -- in other words, by about 30 per cent. Former prime minister Jean Chretien ratified the accord in 2002; Russia signed on in 2005, pushing the treaty over a crucial threshold and giving it legal force.

It was originally signed in 1997; it was first seriously contemplated in 1982. The Kyoto accord and its targets should be not be a surprise to anyone, nor should the details be a matter for debate. We have dithered so long we may not get to our target in time for the end of the first period, 2008-2012. (Not at this rate, for sure.) That just means a tougher climb in the second post-2012 phase, since the accord penalizes countries that don't meet their goals by adding 30 per cent to their second-term targets. It works the way library fines used to: the longer you delay, the steeper the debt...

It is tempting to tune out this noise (over Kyoto) and focus on what we can do as individuals, or what we can force our politicians to do, to lower emissions. But the strength of Kyoto, too, is that it is a compromise, hard-won in a divided and distracted world. It isn't perfect; it hasn't been very effective so far. But it's what we have.

So stop bickering and tell us what it will take to get close, at least, to those daunting targets.
The fact that a lack of reductions now will only lead to more stringent standards in the next phase of Kyoto should offer yet another strong reason to make a serious push now, rather than buying into either the Libs' or Cons' reasons to try to push the issue down the road. (Though of course given the Cons' distaste for international agreements, it's unlikely that they'd want to bother trying to meet the next phase's targets either.)

While Riley is right to be concerned about both the Libs' and Cons' take to date, at least one of those parties will have to put the environment ahead of politics for any real progress to be made in this Parliament. And hopefully more attention to the good reasons for acting - and the costs of not doing so - will help push toward the needed action, rather than facilitating more of the current partisan volleying.

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