Friday, October 16, 2015

Why the World's Eyes Will Be on Canada on October 19th

Next week's general election will decide whether we can restore the Rule of Law and a functional democracy to Canada. Both hinge on driving Stephen Harper out of office. Yet that's just scratching the surface of what it means to Canada and to the world to rid our country of this thug.

In the latest Foreign Policy, Jeff Dembicki writes that freeing Canada from Harper's yoke is just as critical to the world as it is to Canadians.

For years, Canada and Australia have been the climate villains the world has loved to hate. They’ve been the ones giggling in the corner at each year’s round of climate talks, trashing renewable energy, boasting about their reserves of coal and oil sands, and giving the diplomatic middle finger to serious emissions cuts. This summer a panel led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan argued, “Australia and Canada appear to have withdrawn entirely from constructive international engagement on climate.” A story on the website Road to Paris by the journalist Leigh Phillips was even blunter: “They are what could be called the Bad Boys of climate change.”

Australia's prime ministerial coal scuttle, Tony Abbott, is gone, deposed by his own caucus, yet Harper remains a real threat to the 'make it or break it' climate summit in Paris this December

....though climate change has not loomed large in the election, if Harper’s Conservatives lose their ability to govern, the country would likely find itself with a profoundly different climate policy — and one that could potentially influence how world powers choose to negotiate and implement a post-2020 global climate change agreement at the COP21 summit in Paris this December.

“My feeling is there’s been a bit of a sigh of relief from the international community, at least in climate circles,” said Erwin Jackson, deputy CEO of the Climate Institute, an Australia-based think tank.

...By no means will Australia and Canada be setting the agenda at this year’s big climate talks — that’s for major powers like the United States, China, and the European Union. But as fossil fuel-producing middle powers, Canada and Australia have a significant role to play, argues Jackson, who has over 20 years of experience working on climate policy. “It’s in the ideas space that they’re really important,” he said.

Many developing countries are convinced that the only way they can become affluent is by burning fossil fuels. Although India recently promised to get 40 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030, coal-fired power capacity is growing by 9.4 percent each year. And the country’s power minister, Piyush Goyal, claimed that “development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate changes many years in the future,” when asked in 2014 about India’s appetite for fossil fuels. Similarly, China has promised to cap its carbon emissions by 2030 while at the same time consuming more coal than the rest of the world combined.

But if Canada and Australia can prove to the world at Paris that they’re now willing and able to work with the global community to reduce their emissions to safe levels, while at the same time making coal and oil sands a less important contributor to their GDPs, Jackson argued, “that will give confidence to other resource-based economies in the developing world that they can do the same.”

The timing for such a scenario is perfect. They world is now adding more renewable energy capacity (143 gigawatts in 2013) than oil, coal, and gas combined (141 gigawatts the same year). Over half the world’s coal reserves aren’t profitable to extract at today’s prices, Moody’s Investors Service has estimated. And in 2014 the global economy grew while emissions stayed flat, the first time it has done so in 40 years, according to the International Energy Agency. The goal in Paris is to negotiate an international climate treaty capable of accelerating all this momentum. “[It’s about] sending a signal to investors that we’re all on one train and it’s heading in one direction,” Jackson said. “So you need to realign your investment decisions on that basis.”

Canada has not been sending that signal under Harper, who has been in power since 2006. The country may miss its 2020 climate target by 20 percent, a result primarily of increased oil and gas production, an Environment Canada report submitted to the U.N. this spring suggested. Canada’s fossil fuel-dominated energy sector is worth more to the national economy — it’s about 10 percent of GDP — than retail, construction, agriculture, and the public sector combined. A new government in Ottawa wouldn’t have much time to change the country’s course, but a sincere and dedicated effort to do so might communicate a powerful message to the international community.

Simply getting rid of Harper won't be enough. The next prime minister, be it Mulcair or Trudeau, needs to get Canadians to re-think our petro-statehood. We have to change course on high-carbon fossil fuels. Right now both opposition leaders, while lacking Harper's hydrocarbon malevolence, back bitumen extraction, transportation and export. It's going to take immense courage and vision to change that and we won't know until well after the votes are counted if either man has that strength or conviction. All we know for sure is that one man, the current prime minister, plainly doesn't.

“Harper and Abbott tapped into people’s very real fears of losing their jobs,” Phillips, who writes about European affairs and climate for outlets like Nature and theGuardian, said in an interview.

Those fears are an impediment to action, especially for efforts to negotiate a binding climate treaty among the world’s 196 nations. All it takes is a few loud dissenters to slow down the entire process. That’s the role performed by coal-dependent Poland within the European Union. Internationally, developing countries like India have made legitimate claims that their economic growth isn’t possible without burning fossil fuels. What incentive do they have to reduce their dependence on coal, gas, and oil if “bad boys” such as Canada and Australia refuse to do the same? “Those divisions are the big blocks toward achieving an international consensus,” said Phillips.


Anonymous said...

Does this come from an Australian paper, magazine etc?

The Mound of Sound said...

No, if you follow the first link, the one referenced to "Foreign Policy" you'll find it's from an American source.