Climate crime and duplicity

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For the Harper government global warming is a business opportunity not an urgent issue of mutual survival.

Canada has adopted a Junior Chamber of Commerce approach to the UN environmental talks on climate change in Bali. In separate acceptance speeches on Monday in Oslo, Noble Peace Prizes recipients Al Gore, and R. K. Pachauri, Chairman, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change referred to climate change as a global emergency. In Bali, the Canadian delegation includes representatives of two companies from Minister of Environment Baird's riding, along to peddle environmental products at a Canadian sponsored trade show, while opposition parties, provincial governments, and NGO environmentalists were left off the delegation.

For the Harper government, global warming is a business opportunity, not an urgent issue of mutual survival to be addressed on behalf of all Canadians in front of the world community.The UN Bali meetings were convened to set out the next steps in reducing green house gas emissions. Governments are addressing important questions: what is the agenda following on from the Kyoto accord, how can progress be sped up, and what agreements are needed from states to meet targets for climate change reduction?

The Canadian government has distinguished itself by its duplicity. UN agreements have specified reductions from the 1990 levels of emissions. Canada is proposing to reduce emissions from the 2006 levels, ignoring commitments made, but not met, by the previous government. No international treaty process can function if every time a change of government occurs, the new ministers get to rewrite their treaty commitments. But Canada, a founding member of the UN, has now adopted this position. Under international law this makes our country an international climate change criminal.

Monday, Minister Baird announced $86 million in funds to aid Canadian communities affected by global warming, and pretended this was a part of Canadaâe(TM)s commitment to do something about climate change. In fact the Conservative minister announced a program, which had previously been canceled by the Harper government (when Baird was Treasury Board Minister, so he slashed it himself), and that had nothing to do with reducing or eliminating green house gas emissions, which is what the conference is about.

Canadian duplicity was even singled out by Yvo de Boer, the Head of the UN Environment Programme, who said that Canada has announced it has no intention of meeting its Kyoto commitments, but has also laid out that it expects developing countries to make binding commitments to meet new targets.

The low point was when the Conservatives wrapped themselves in the Canadian flag in order to back off on making commitments to reduce major emissions in Canada. Upon arrival in Bali, where it is accompanied by energy giant Encana, Minister Baird proclaimed that, for Canada, undertaking commitments on reduction of industrial emissions without getting similar commitments from the U.S., would be the equivalent of adopting a policy of unilateral disarmament, given that the U.S. is Canada's most important competitor on world markets.

In fact, it is the Canadian government that refuses to arm itself to deal with global warming. Getting hard caps on major emitters is what stopping global warming is all about. An international agreement to do just that will increase the sovereignty of its signators, putting pressure on companies worldwide, irrespective of nationality, as well as laggard governments.

Blaming the U.S. and China, for their own inaction, all the Harper government has done is to ignore the potential leverage over world public opinion a successful UN climate change conference will have.World public opinion is the important superpower on the issue of climate change. If Canada wants the U.S. and others to agree to meet emission reduction targets, it must first accept its own international commitments.

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