Who’s to blame for Canada’s Kyoto impasse?

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.

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Randal Leavitt
16 years ago

If the consequences of the green proposals were as benign as you state (e.g. wear a sweater) I could blithely ignore them. But the future they want to drag us into is horrific – extensive wealth loss that will deny us any ability to survive on our hotter planet, shorter lives with more illness, and perpetual tribal war over vanishing resources. All this with the greens running the new inquisition that will hunt down anyone who dares to practice science. It is bleak. I really hope we don’t go there.

Steve Aplin
16 years ago

Thanks Randal, I also hope we don’t go there. I don’t think we will though. There’s too much economic self interest standing in the way of some of the really extreme policy suggestions. I listened to Buzz Hargrove give a radio interview yesterday in which he pointed up the danger to the auto industry posed by some of these suggestions. I hope he pushes the Big Three to make more hybrids.

16 years ago

you two are so funny! the “green proposals” are not nearly as jejune as wear a sweater… it ain’t the 1970’s anymore (nor are they sinister.. thats stupid) the whole green push is to be efficient (since when is that a bad thing?) i am sure you would never want to spend money on something some treehumping eco freak wrote, but thats too bad, if you saw the new Canadian home energy handbook from CarbonBusters you can see down to the watt how to save $17K over the next 5 years by being efficient. If even half of canadians were educated (and perhaps slighly incentivised thorugh tax rebates..) and actually did this, i mean had the same (or better) quality of life and just weren’t stupidly wasting their energy through bad design and inefficiencies, we could shut down coal plants without even noticing. Do you know about power vampires? If every canadian put their power vampires on power bars and shut them when not in use (ooooooh! how taxing!) thats one full coal plant. really is this the same prognostication? not at all….. its time to get ones head out of the sand. stop politicising this and making it partisan, its not, its a little bigger than that and you know it

Steve Aplin
16 years ago

Thanks for your comment Lee. You are right: of course people shouldn’t just needlessly waste energy. However, equating poor building design with excessive electricity use is a bit off the mark. Not many people in Ontario heat their homes with electricity. Most use oil or natural gas. So improving the thermal efficiencies of buildings will reduce emissions, but not because of reduced electricity use.