Monday, December 7, 2009

Canadian Conservatives Dirty Priorities

COP15 convenes today in Copenhagen yet many are suspicious about the Canadian government's sincerity on climate change management. Despite the Conservatives politically motivated adoption of absolute emission targets, cap-and-trade and if need be regulation, they are likely to continue protecting dirty industries from the effects of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian industry sectors that the Conservatives will try to protect include petrochemicals, plastics, paper, iron, steel, aluminum, and other non-ferrous metals. These sectors shipped roughly $48 billion of goods to the US in 2008.

The Canadian Environment Minister went to Washington to speak out against proposed tariffs against polluters and domestic subsidies that accelerate the adoption of greener processes and provide a financial advantage over foreign rivals.

A Conference Board of Canada report warned against the "adverse affects" of US climate-change policy on Canadian industry. The Conference Board report also said, "Canada could be hit hard if its national greenhouse-gas control system is seen to be less demanding than the U.S. program," Canadian industries engaging in trade with the US may be subject to increased costs associated with emissions permits if Canada's climate-change policies are lacking.

Although far from a leadership role on the environment, the ruling Conservatives have accepted the need to harmonize with the US on climate change policy. However, it is expected that the Conservatives will continue to protect dirty Canadian industries.

Ahead of COP15, the Conservatives have proposed a 3% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020, or a 20% reduction below 2006 levels by 2020. The lack of ambitious emissions targets are an international disgrace earning the ire of environmentalists world wide.

Contrary to the conservative view of the green economy, Canada can reduce emissions and become more competitive. Governments that protect short term profits and ignore long term sustainability will be held to account.

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