As the world searches for solutions on climate change, Canada cheers inaction

Canada’s reputation and global standing on climate change took another blow today, as the United Nations conference on climate change continues in Warsaw amid daunting new evidence and urgency. The Head of Delegation from the Philippines, a nation virtually flattened by perhaps the most powerful storm ever to make landfall in recorded history, gives a heart rending plea for action on climate change, refraining from eating until there is sign of progress. The World Meteorological Organization backed him up, warning that Typhoon Haiyan is a “climate wake-up call”. A new report from the International Energy Agency (of which Canada is a member) says that in order to avoid a temperature rise of up to 6°C by 2100 they encourage a boost in support for renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as the phase out of fossil fuel subsidies which reached a massive $544 billion in 2012.

(c) WWF

Amid all this increased urgency, as delegates search for ways to increase action and ambition, what is Canada’s response? A plan on how they will close the gap on Canada’s existing commitment? Long-awaited regulations on oil and gas emissions? New funding to help developing countries cope with impacts? Cutting subsidies to oil and gas?
No. A statement cheering Australia’s decision to decrease ambition and roll back action on climate change. The object of their applause? The Australian government’s intent to repeal that nation’s carbon tax, even though most economists admit carbon pricing is one of the most effective and efficient tools to cutting emissions. Even though in BC, the provincial economy has outpaced Canada’s economy since the introduction of a similar tax.
Even more astounding, Canada’s statement points proudly to Canada’s record in cutting emissions, when the government’s own analysis shows they will miss their 2020 emissions reduction target by 50 per cent.
This represents a new low: not only is Canada dragging our heels on taking domestic action, we’re now using a meeting designed to come up with solutions as a platform to congratulate and cheer inaction and roll backs on climate change. Talk about leading with your chin.
All this, just as Alberta Premier Alison Redford returns from yet another trip to Washington to promote the Keystone XL pipeline, where she and Prime Minister Harper have been pitching Canada’s strong record on environment and climate change. TransCanada, the company behind the proposed pipeline, must be wincing, just like many other Canadian businesses hoping to access global markets for their goods and services.
More importantly, it should make anyone wince who cares about climate change, and who cares about Canada’s historic role helping solve global crises. There is still time left for a positive outcome to the conference. For that to happen, it looks increasingly like it will have to come in spite of Canada’s role, not because of it. That’s a shame.