Clearing the Air!
Her comments about the polarization and silo mentality that characterizes much of the debate over climate change were unusually frank and honest. It is rare for a Minister of the Crown to be so forthcoming, and on that point alone the Minister deserves credit.
She noted that taking office without preconceived notions but with a willingness to question our ability as a country to lead this challenging debate did not prepare her for the controversy that resulted from the public admission that Canada would not reach its Kyoto targets – a reality that many other countries have yet to admit publicly.
As she noted in her comments the climate change debate has become so polarized by scepticism and political ideology that countries are afraid to even suggest they may not meet their targets - that somehow if we admit some things are not working while others are somehow means we are abandoning Kyoto and therefore opposed to action on climate change.
Canada is not abandoning Kyoto, nor is it proposing to do nothing about the issue of climate change. That point is clear, but often overlooked. Canadians care deeply about their environment, noted the Minister, and she committed personally to work from the ground up with individual Canadians, the provinces and territories and industry to find solutions that work for Canada.
“Every order of government, every individual, every business, every organization has a role to play in improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she noted, and that sense of inclusiveness extends to the international plane as well.
She notes correctly that the next phase of Kyoto hinges on developed and developing countries taking on commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Countries like China, Brazil and India are emerging economic superpowers that should take on emission reduction targets equally as stringent as those that developed countries – including Canada - are being asked to achieve.
In recent meetings in Bonn on the future of Kyoto, Canada proposed that developing countries consider taking on voluntary targets, a suggestion that was met with controversy because many developing countries are firm about not being subjected to targets.
In typically Canadian fashion we also put forward a compromise proposal that future approaches to new targets for developed countries should reflect a country’s specific national circumstances – such as the nature of a country’s economy and energy sources. This would provide the flexibility for countries such as Canada to remain involved in Kyoto.
Finding a compromise internationally does not mean that Canada has turned its back on the original intent of Kyoto. It means – again as the Minister notes - recognizing that challenges have emerged with respect to our ability to meet our Kyoto commitments and that we have to face these challenges head on to be able to move forward in a realistic and constructive manner.
This is not a partisan issue. The simple truth is that Kyoto is but one of many tools Canada can use to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have a great deal to do at home and abroad to overcome the challenges of climate change, and demonizing our trading partners such as the United States for its policies in this regard is not a particularly helpful or constructive approach.
We have far too much to do at home to put our own house in order. We need clear and decisive leadership on policies and programs to promote energy efficiency; to develop new clean technologies that can be deployed in all our major economic sectors; to mobilize the energy of companies large and small to change the way they go about the business of the environment; and to engage the commitments of individual Canadians to help make a difference.
Simply put, we need to get on with the job!
The Minister cleared the air with respect to her perceptions of what needed to be done. It is now time for us all to work together to clean the air.