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Australia and Canada's Climate Bromance: Competing for the lowest rank on climate action

Today the 2015 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) was released, once again shining a spotlight on Canada’s appalling record on climate. The index is used to compare the emissions, efficiency, renewable energy development and climate policies of the 58 countries who are “responsible for more than 90 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions.” For the last two years, Canada has claimed the bottom ranking spot on the Performance Index for OECD member countries, making them consistently one of the greatest climate villains on an international scale. This year, although Canada has not budged, their primary competitor for that prized bottom rank, Australia, has outdone them. Both Canada and Australia continue to be major emitters, heavily investing in further expanding fossil fuel industries; Canada, the tar sands, and Australia, coal.

Highlights of the CCPI

The bottom four overall are Canada, Kazakhstan, Canada’s best friend Australia and finally and unsurprisingly, with the worst score of all, Saudi Arabia. Canada and Australia seem to be in good company with the petrostates of the world. Canada remains in the bottom rank for G8 and OECD countries, and it is worth noting that in the past five years, Canada has always placed in the bottom three overall out of 58 countries ranked. New Zealand, the US and China also all remain relatively unmoving in the lower third of poor performers.

Some good news has emerged in this year’s Climate Change Performance Index, particularly in regards to renewable energy development. Out of the 58 countries, 51 are listed showing a positive trend in the development of renewables, with the majority of these having double-digit growth rates. Belgium soars to the top in this category with a growth of 88 per cent over the last five years. Sweden has also taken major strides in this regard. Overall, the annual mean development of renewable energy has steadily increased by about 15 per cent each year. While energy consumption continues to rise, CO2 emissions have risen at a slower pace, indicating that the global energy system is “increasingly independent from fossil fuels.”

Of the countries rated, Denmark achieved the highest ranking position offered for the third time in a row (still only fourth, as it was determined that no country deserved the first, second, and third spots), followed by Sweden and the UK. Denmark remains in the lead regarding climate policy initiatives, followed by Morocco and Norway. Australia, Canada and Turkey come in last. 

Canada on the World Stage

Let’s take a minute to unpack what this year’s report is really saying about Canada. Perhaps most pertinent at this time is Canada’s dead-last ranking when it comes to their contributions to international climate policy, given the ongoing climate change negotiations happening in Lima. The reason for this is because Canada simply hasn’t made any contributions. In fact, Canada has consistently blocked progress from other states. As negotiations unfold in Lima, it is looking more and more like any proposal Canada does bring forward will focus strictly on reductions to coal emissions, which make up only 11 per cent of the country's overall emissions, and will completely neglect the need to tackle oil and gas expansion, including the tar sands.

According to a recent report by Oil Change International: "...as a result of the growth in the exploitation of tar sands, Canada’s oil production increased by 53 per cent between 2000 and 2013, reaching nearly four million barrels per day." This same report states that subsidies for fossil fuel exploration in Canada are $928 million, although this figure may be low because estimates for several subsidies are not available.

Canada vs. Australia: The Ultimate Bromance

Now let’s get serious. It would seem that Canada and Australia, in their competition for the bottom spot on the CCPI rankings, have formed the ultimate bromance, or at least their Heads of State, Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott, have. [Photographic evidence available here.]

Their bromance is undeniable, and is continuing to contribute to the deadlock on international climate change progress. Harper has been quoted applauding Abbott’s efforts to gut Australia’s carbon tax, saying, "You’ve used this international platform to encourage our counterparts in the major economies and beyond to boost economic growth, to lower taxes when possible and to eliminate harmful ones, most notably the job-killing carbon tax”. In this same speech, Harper went on to say, “it’s not that we don’t seek to deal with climate change. We seek to deal with it in a way to protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth… No country is going to undertake actions on climate change, no matter what they say, that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country. And we are just a little more frank about that, but that is the approach that everyone has." It goes without saying that Mr. Abbott couldn’t agree more.

To make matters worse, at the September United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, both Abbott and Harper were among world leaders not to show up. They sent ministers in their place, who also arrived empty-handed when it came to commitments to action on climate change. And they’ve both sent representatives to COP20 in Lima with the same empty-handed proposals. While Canada, at least, made a $300 million commitment to the Green Climate Fund, Australia refuses to commit any financial support to it. It’s clear these two Heads of State are having a friendly competition to out climate-bully one another.

While the winner of this bromance battle is yet to be determined, it is clear that Canada and Australia are both losers on the world stage.

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