Canada’s uncertain climate future

By Chantaie Allick

"View from Polar Ice Rim - Svalbard, Norway." Photo Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten. Used under Creative Commons license.

As the United Nations climate talks approach, environmental activists are expressing concern about Canada’s lack of action on climate change.

“We certainly don’t think the government is doing anything near enough,” said Hannah McKinnon of Climate Action Network Canada. “It’s not adhering to its Kyoto protocol commitment and it’s the only country that actually signed the protocol that’s not doing that.”

In February the NDP introduced Bill C-311 to push the government to “assume its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.” But many activists say the bill has little chance of passing before the Dec. 10 climate change summit in Copenhagen.

McKinnon, who plans to attend the UN summit, said the government is not representing Canadian public opinion.

“That’s kind of what we see our job as being. Building up this idea that it’s going to be problematic politically if this government chooses not to do anything,” McKinnon said.

A recent survey released by Hoggan & Associates, a Vancouver-based public relations firm, suggests that three quarters of the Canadian public is concerned with Canada’s lack of effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A July 2009 World Wildlife Foundation report ranked Canada as the worst industrialized country on climate change among the G8.

As a representative of a network of organizations, McKinnon said it would be hard to say that all network members believe in C-311 unequivocally. But for now, she thinks the bill is the best bet in the push for legislation to take action on climate change.

John Bennett, executive director of the Sierra Club Canada, is more pessimistic about the bill. He does not think it will change government behaviour in Copenhagen.

“There is no indication that the government is concerned with Canada’s reputation.” Bennett said.

The purpose of C-311 is to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations as set out in the Kyoto Protocol, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

Meanwhile, the government’s climate change website says it “is committed to reducing Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020 and by 60 to 70 per cent by 2050.”

Guyanne L. Desforges, clerk of the standing committee on environment and sustainable development, said the current review is part of a democratic process to make sure the right bill is passed. She believes it will be tabled again before the Dec. 10 deadline.

Environment Canada was unavailable to respond to requests for comments.

The committee will continue the review process of Bill C-311 Tuesday and Wednesday in the House of Commons.

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