It has been about a month since the Federal Government announced their “Made in Canada” Clean Air Act. This long awaited environmental plan received nothing but criticism from the 3 opposition parties, forcing a sit-down between Prime Minister Harper and NDP leader Jack Layton. The two agreed to send the bill to committee. Many environmental experts have criticized the bill as not being Kyoto; this, however, is the main reason why there had to be another plan. It is a well known fact that the commitments set out in the Kyoto accord – to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012 – would never have been doable. Even many Liberals are starting to admit that their party made little progress on the environment issue,
“I think our party has got into a mess on the environment. As a practical matter of politics, nobody knows what (Kyoto) is or what it
commits us to.” – Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Party leadership candidate.
Greenhouse gas emissions went way up under Liberal rule; even the Environment Commissioner condemned it. The Kyoto accord would have resulted in a system of global transfer payments, which would have given developing countries free money with no strings attached. Canada among many nations would have had no choice but to purchase carbon credits.
The Kyoto accord would do irreparable damage to the economic structure of Canada. Companies would leave for a nation where it is cheaper to produce without the added cost of compliance. Canada could also never have expected large sums of foreign investment due to the expense that would be imposed by the accord, and those companies that did continue to operate in Canada would have had to cut many jobs in order to make up for the expense. Also with the highly polluting process used to extract oil from the Alberta tar sands, it would be impossible for Canada to reach the goal set out in the accord.
Despite the politics being played by the opposition parties, Canada’s new government has moved forward on the environment issue and has produced a plan that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45%-65% by 2050. Some say that this is too long. It appears quite reasonable, though, considering how long it has taken to develop these problems. It was determined that it will take until 2050 to reach the levels of emissions we want, though there will still be significant headway made along the way. The Canadian Government has given a practical deadline. This plan looks forward for our children, in hopes that they will continue to do the same for theirs.
Unlike the Kyoto accord, which would have cut this country off at the knees, the Clean Air Act takes a reasonable approach that is not only obtainable but is something both Canadians and the corporations that run the economy can be happy with. The Act gives the country until 2010 to get ready for the regulations that will be placed upon the big producers of harmful emissions. This four year period is not only needed for the economy but will help in getting production of the oil in Alberta off the ground so that Canada can continue to benefit from the income it produces and help keep fuel prices low throughout the country.
The Clean Air Act did not receive a warm welcome from the opposition parties and it became obvious that a vote would be an end to the government’s efforts. It is unfortunate that they cannot see that while meeting Kyoto is impossible, the Clean Air Act has set a reasonable goal for our country. In the end, the moral is that we all should take a good hard look at the facts before we jump on the “bash Stephen Harper” bandwagon.