The Hill Times
The federal Conservative government acknowledges the science of climate change, promises to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2020, and new Environment Minister Peter Kent promises new GHG emissions rules for heavy trucks, and regulations for carbon-fired electrical power generating stations. But the newly-minted environment minister, presumably in the job to protect the environment, also told media last week that Canada’s tar sands are ethically superior to petroleum produced by such countries as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran, and is promising to clean up the reputation of the oil sands. This is a troubling start. But it’s also not surprising considering the government’s track record on fighting climate change. The government could take a leadership role on the environment. It isn’t.
Making the media rounds, Mr. Kent told CBC’s Power & Politics that the oil sands have received a “bad rap,” and that the monitoring technologies have “improved incredibly.” He said, “there’s a great deal of exaggeration of exactly how much the oil sands contribute to, for example, greenhouse gas emissions domestically or internationally. The total, greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands production are a small percentage of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.”
Mr. Kent told The Globe and Mail that Canada needs to remind the U.S. government that our country’s oil sands petroleum “is the product of a natural resource whose revenues don’t go to fund terrorism.”
Mr. Kent also said Canada would be watching U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming plans to bring in tougher new industrial emission rules under the U.S. Environmental Protection Association, but that Canada will release its own GHG emission standards for petroleum refineries.
Environmental Defence’s Rick Smith said he has never seen “a more miserable, virulently anti-green first day on the job for any environment minister, ever.” He told The Hill Times the environment minister is supposed to defend the environment, be the champion of green. “That’s what he should be doing rather than, as his first act, going out of his way to serve notice that he’ll be a lapdog of industry. Let the industry minister be the champion of industry. It’s the most pathetic first day on the job I’ve ever witnessed and I haven’t even got into the nonsensical content of his arguments, and his quotes, themselves.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told CTV’s Power Play last week that she believes no Cabinet minister will be doing anything on the environment without Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s approval and that so far all previous environment ministers, including Jim Prentice, John Baird, and Rona Ambrose, have performed “abysmally” on fighting climate change.
“When the U.S. does nothing, we’re happy to say we’re waiting for the U.S.,” Ms. May said. “When Barack Obama begins to do things on climate [change] they will have to find a different excuse in Harper’s PMO because it doesn’t seem we’re committed to doing anything on the climate change issue.”
Canada could be doing so much more. It could be investing and encouraging the commercialization of green technologies and renewable energy, but it continues to wait and see what the U.S. will do to fight climate change and, in the meantime, underperforms. Mr. Kent, unfortunately, is indicating that he will continue to help lead Canada’s underperformance on the environment.