Canada’s environment minister, John Baird, said yesterday that implementing the Kyoto Treaty in its current form will harm the economy. The opposition and green lobby insist that Canada implement the treaty anyway, in the name of living up to our international commitments.
This is Baird’s way of telling the green lobbyists—who have had a decade to put forth a climate change implementation plan that doesn’t amount to economic penance—that they’re becoming irrelevant in the debate. These lobbyists captured the Liberals, who during the Chrétien and Martin years dithered on Kyoto implementation for exactly the same reason Baird scoffs at the Treaty today: because the greens’ policy advice is geared more to punishing emitters than actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Conservatives are gambling that (1) Canadians’ affection for Kyoto is not as strong as the opposition and greens want us to think, and (2) the plan they release next week will position them as more serious and practical about climate change than the opposition.
Is it a smart gamble? The first part, heralded by Baird’s dustup with Liberal senators yesterday, hasn’t produced too much of a storm in the media. So unless next week’s green plan is a complete fiasco, it looks like the answer is yes: it’s a smart gamble.
The greens essentially have themselves to blame for this. They’ve been the most vocal advocates of Canada’s involvement in Kyoto. And they’ve achieved impressive success: both in getting climate change front and centre on the public agenda, and in framing it as a zero-sum economy-versus-environment issue. But the success comes at the price of damage to their credibility. They’ve had a decade to produce a workable alternative to the status quo, and their prognostications are the same today as they were in 1997—stop driving, stop using electricity, put on a sweater, and turn down the thermostat.