…environmental economics and the implications of environmental policy

Hopenhagen or Copenhagen? Either way, Canada is going to suffer the consequence of its past inaction.

with 31 comments

Post from Seton Stiebert in Copenhagen….

I’ve just arrived with a train load of protesters to bear witness to the crazy zoo that will be COP15. My journey comes via Germany where I’ve spent the last week travelling around and thinking about what COP15 means for Canada. Not surprisingly, Canada is already in the lead for the number of fossil awards and I’ve been heckled by Europeans trying to understand why we’ve gone rogue. They just don’t get it, how does a country with all our pristine wilderness, natural beauty, wealth and resources thumb our noses to the international community and completely disregard the threat of climate change?

I was worried that the truth was insidious. That collectively Canadians were climate deniers and we just don’t believe that our activities release large quantities of GHG emissions that will have catastrophic consequences. While, there may be some truth to this reflected by the fact that our emissions have increased by 26% since 1990 rather than decreased by 6%, I don’t think it’s the main reason. Neither do I give more than passing credence to the view that we have special or arduous circumstances as an energy exporter.

I’m wondering if it comes down to the way we do business and our inability in Canada to consider anything but short term investments and paybacks? First our political system seems to have descended into a hopeless divisive politic that is concerned only with short-term interests. There doesn’t seem to be any ability for parties to work constructively together on long-term solutions for climate change, as demonstrated by six failed climate change policies. From my perspective, our federal parties would rather put a hole in our life raft then agree on rowing together to save our skins. Unfortunately the provinces, cities and citizens of Canada aren’t the ones who are best equipped to deal with climate change, so Canadians are going to have to demand that our federal government start to take a long term and multi-party perspective on climate change. But it is not just politics it’s also economics. Comparing Canada to Europe, you realize that Canadian businesses and citizens only accept very short paybacks when we build infrastructure. Perhaps, it is because Europe has many more centuries of experience with development, but you can’t help but get the feeling that they are willing to spend more for something that will pay off in the long-term. So they build houses that last longer, and they put solar panels on the roof and windmills in the fields even though it might take 20 years to make back the investment.

What Canada will discover in Copenhagen is that a lot of nations have tired of our short-term perspective. While Obama brings hope for a new direction and has started to hire the right crew to turn around the giant supertanker America, Harper will have a hard time pretending that we’re also ready for a transformation and an even harder time hanging on to Obama’s coat tails. This is because his feet are stuck in the oil sands, without a workable plan to reduce emission and little support from other political corners. While our government may match American commitments we can be assured that like in the past there is no functional plan to deliver on these promises. Because what they surely know and what Canadians ought to know is that no one is interested in rewarding us for doing nothing and that we are far enough behind in climate action that catching up won’t be easy or cheap.

While thumbing our noses at Kyoto was reprehensible, thumbing our noses at future commitments will have consequences. Other parties to the conference will surely favor penalties, tariffs and taxes to ensure a global level playing field where Canada is already far behind.

Written by Dave Sawyer

December 14th, 2009 at 8:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

31 Responses to 'Hopenhagen or Copenhagen? Either way, Canada is going to suffer the consequence of its past inaction.'

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