Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reaction to the Baird plan

The dilly dallying on the part of the Harper on the envirnment continues. After trying again and again to put forward a plan that Canadians can accept, they still can't get it right. That must be some powerful influence the fossil fuel industry has on that government.


Keith Stewart of World Wildlife Fund Canada said there are flexibility mechanisms built into Kyoto that would allow Canada to meet the protocol, but the government is walking away from them.

"I don't think another decade of delay is anything that Canadians want, and I think the government's on the wrong side of the science and they are going to be on the wrong side of history."

John Bennett of ClimateForChange, a new Canadian environmental group, said the plan doesn't go far enough to deal with global warming.

"We were told this was their green plan, but what do we get? A few vague numbers, no hard targets … I am really shocked. I thought this plan would be tougher than this.

"They're not trying to deal with climate change."

Although the government has said the new target would reduce emissions by 20 per cent below current levels by 2020, environmentalists have also said that these targets fall short of the post-Kyoto efforts that would be expected from a developed country, in order to establish an effective international agreement to stop catastrophic effects of climate change.

Based on studies by European governments, the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation have estimated Canada must go well beyond the Conservative government’s targets in order to prevent global temperature increases of more than two degrees celsius, a level that scientists have identified as a dangerous tipping point.

Julia Langer of the World Wildlife Fund disputed how the government calculated its targets, by not using Kyoto's baseline of 1990 levels.

"They way they have put it -- 20 per cent reduction by 2020 - they're counting according to a baseline that nobody uses," she told CTV Newsnet.

If you calculate that based on the internationally recognized baseline, we're still going to be above 1990 levels in 2020. That's nowhere near our Kyoto target."

She also added that asking industry for an 18 per cent reduction in emission by 2010 is also misleading.

"That's an emission intensity figure. So in other words, they're going to ask industry to reduce their intensity -- not their emissions - of how fast they pollute. So they'll slow that down, and it will be business as usual."
And, the most devastating critique of the plan, from Elizabeth May of the Green Party:

It’s official: Canada has turned its back on the world

Statement by Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Today, Environment Minister John Baird has made it official. Any remaining doubt has been removed. Canada is officially abandoning any attempt to reach its legally binding targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Canada, therefore, will be in violation of international law and will stand as the only nation, of more than 160 countries around the world that have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, to have reneged on its commitments.

This is not “Canada turning the corner”, as Mr. Baird described it. This is Canada turning its back on the world.

The new target announced by Mr. Baird is a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions against today’s levels by 2020. Thus Mr. Baird has set a course that will take Canada to 11% above our Kyoto target by 2020. We will be unable to reach our mandated Kyoto target until well into the 2020s. In contrast, the EU has adopted a target of 20% reductions below 1990 levels by 2020. The similarity of the numbers and the alarming variation of base year appear to be designed to confuse Canadians about the nature of the Harper-Baird plan. It is a plan for increased climate risk.

In fact, the changed base year makes Mr. Baird’s announced target even weaker than that announced by his predecessor, Rona Ambrose, last fall. She announced 45-65% reductions below 2003 levels by 2050. Mr. Baird has changed the base year to 2006, when emissions were higher.

Furthermore, he is jeopardizing Canada's interests. If, as the Minister claims, Canada remains committed to the "Kyoto process" (but not the legally binding targets), then, at a minimum, we should strive to get as close as possible to our targets to avoid penalties under the agreement. For every tonne of emissions missed in the first commitment period, 2008-2012, there is a 30% added cut for every tonne in the next period, post-2012. Any responsible government would recognize the risk, economically and to our international reputation, of deliberately ignoring the target.

The overriding concern is that the Harper government has no intention of remaining within the Kyoto process and, if still in power in 2008, it will formally commence withdrawal (2008 being the first year within the agreement in which formal withdrawal is allowed). This would avoid the penalties and put Canada in the pariah corner, at the same time as the world expects the US to join the process.

The small improvements from the government's previous positions are in the area of trading. Mr. Baird has accepted some form of domestic carbon trading, but not international. He has also confirmed that Canada will participate in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under Kyoto. Minister Ambrose contradicted herself a number of times on the government’s attitude to the CDM and then launched a full scale attack on CDM using false information. Mr. Baird has done the right thing in allowing for CDM measures to be pursued.

But with the wrong target in place, it makes little difference.

Read the Baird speech