Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Climate Primer for Americans Looking to Canada

Americans looking to emigrate to Canada need to understand that the great white north is not much better on the climate front. Canadians who support climate and environmental issues understand what it feels like to be governed by an anti-science federal government with a fossil fuel agenda. Canadians empathize with those who feel trapped by the alt-right political takeover of the US, however, Canadians have only very recently emerged from a decade of fossil fuel powered Conservative rule.

The concern felt by many Americans have caused some to look at moving to Canada. In fact so many Americans were seeking asylum in Canada that it crashed a website belonging to a Montreal law firm specializing in immigration. It is easy to understand why so many Americans are looking to flee their home country now that a climate denying racist demagogue will be installed as president of the United States on January 20th.

Here is a primer for those Americans. Between 2006 and 2015 the conservative leadership of Stephen Harper and his Conservative government added massively to Canada's greenhouse gas emissions through their support of the fossil fuels and the tar sands in particular. Harper's obsession with fossil fuels was very much like the kind of dirty energy leadership promised by president-elect Trump.

During their reign the Conservatives have given the fossil fuel industry unprecedented access to policy making. This translated into legislation that has expanded dirty energy exploitation, gutted environmental oversight, killed environmental dissent, muzzled climate scientists. They have even used Canada's intelligence services to spy on peaceful environmental groups. During the time they were in power they withdrew from the Kyoto protocol and UN efforts to combat desertification. Further Canada's emissions reduction pledges were a ruse and simply not achievable under Harper.  Simply put, the environmental inaction of the Harper government has taken an economic toll on Canada.

In 2015 Canadians elected a Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau. The Liberals came to power with a green agenda, and they quickly made it clear that this was not just campaign rhetoric. Shortly after the election the Liberals reversed the previous government's resistance to the climate talks and  assumed a leadership role at the historic COP21 meeting in Paris.

Canadians are also fortunate to have one of the greatest environmentalists on Earth at the helm of the Blue Dot movement, a campaign to protect make clean air, water and soil.

Recently the federal government announced a national carbon plan, however, at almost the same time they approved a $36-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in British Columbia. The Pacific Northwest LNG export terminal will be one of the largest sources of carbon pollution in the country effectively canceling out the benefits of the newly announced national carbon pricing plan. To make matters worse Canada gives $3.3bn subsidies to fossil fuel producers each year. As reported by the Guardian, a study by four major Canadian environmental groups the carbon pricing scheme will be undermined by federal and provincial subsidies.

Canada has nothing to brag about when it comes to our political choices. We suffered under Stephen Harper's conservative government for a decade. During this time, our elected government became an advocate for the fossil fuel industry and a powerful opponent to environmental protections and climate action.

This begs the question as to whether people are capable of making informed decisions at the ballot box. The electorate seems to function based on a grotesquely facile desire for change. The point being that a sock puppet could have won in the US as long as they represented change.

Progressive Americans should not leave the US because if they do, their climate and environment focused leadership leaves with them. So the best advice that progressive Canadians can give to progressive Americans is to stay put and lets work together on both sides of the border to keep fighting the good fight.

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