Many of the arguments the government employed in favour of sending war planes to northern Iraq also apply to the necessity of acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: climate change is a growing threat to global peace and security; only through international cooperation will the emergency be brought under control; Canada would be an freeloader if it failed to do its part in the global effort.
But since taking office, the Harper government has ignored these compelling reasons for fighting climate change. Time and again, it has buried its head in the sand.
This lack of action was underscored again this week when Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development issued a report documenting the federal government’s lamentable record. Among the findings are that the government did in fact draft regulations for emissions in the oil and gas sector that were initially promised in 2006, but has never made them public or to implemented them. While Environment Canada has taken steps to monitor the impact of oilsands exploitation on air, water and biodiversity, plans for continuing this crucial work after 2015 are unclear. Rules for conducting environmental assessments are applied haphazardly. The ground rules for public input in environmental-assessment processes are onerous and viewed as a barrier by many participants.
An audit of Environment Canada found regulations to cut emissions have been delayed, best practices have not been followed, the department is not evaluating the effectiveness of regulations in place, there is a lack of coordination with the provinces and there is no plan for meeting reduction targets. As a result, Canada will miss its emissions reductions targets for 2020, agreed to at Copenhagen in 2009.
Add to this the Conservative government’s track record of villainizing environmental activists, cutting departments and agencies that safeguard Canada’s natural resources and curtailing the right of federal scientists to speak to journalists — the latter transgression decried in a separate study this week by Simon Fraser University and Evidence for Democracy.
It is noteworthy that the federal environment commissioner is not an environmental group or think tank ideologically opposed to the Conservatives and their drive to exploit Canada’s oil riches. Julie Gelfand is a federally appointed watchdog who has a background in the mining industry, conservation and government. This is criticism from an insider — a knowledgeable one.
...The Harper government has shown it views environmental regulation as a threat to its ambitions to transform Canada into a global energy superpower.
...Harper spoke in the House of Commons this week about Canada losing credibility on the international stage if it failed to contribute to the mission against IS. If only he would apply his own logic to the fight against climate change, Canada and Canadians would be much better off.