This report will be cross posted in examiner.com.
Environment Minister Jim Prentice gave a speech on Outcomes of Copenhagen Conference in Calgary yesterday in front of hundreds of business executives and students from the School of Public Policy and Haskayne School of Business (both schools based in University of Calgary).
Prentice stated Canada has the “ultimate goal of becoming a Clean Energy Super Power“. Listening to Prentice’s speech, Canada may be the first self-proclaimed-future “Clean Energy Super Power” that is close to abdicating her environmental policies and simply contend with letting the decision makers at Washington D.C. to do what they see best for U.S. and we will dutifully follow what the US government mandates. How can this be the case?
Well, quoting from Prentice’s prepared text (emphasis added, link to posted speech at EC),
“We’ve adjusted our previous target to ensure that it matches exactly with those just inscribed by the United States. We have consistently said from the outset that we must harmonize our climate change strategy with that of our greatest trade partner because of the degree of economic integration between our two countries.
[...] Our determination to harmonize our climate change policy with that of the United States also extends beyond greenhouse gas emission targets: we need to proceed even further in aligning our regulations.“
Sure, for business and investment reasons, it makes sense to pay attention to what the United States government is doing when crafting Canadian policies. But abdicating Canada’s sovereign power to decide environment policies, and simply “harmonize” and “align” with United States policies? This is unfortunately too short-sighted.
Following Prentice’s logic, since China is the largest trading partner for many countries in Asia, shall those smaller nations simply “harmonize” and “align” with the heavily polluting China? Of course not! To think otherwise would be ludicrous. And now, what was the reason why Canada should follow United States again?
Again, what the Canadian government has announced in the speech yesterday was something not often seen in sovereign country the size (economic and population) of Canada. Even small countries like Maldives has her own climate change initiative to raise global awareness and not simply letting her largest trading partner to decide her economic and environmental fate.
This reporter has no doubt in the ingenuity and abilities of Canadian scientists and engineers in coming up some innovative solutions and products to help the environment. But for the government of Canada and Minister Prentice to claim “Clean Energy Superpower” as an objective, Canada has to do some leading first. And “harmonizing” and “aligning” are not leading but simply passive following.
With recent events in the American political scenes and their changing political priorities, how can Prentice and the Canadian government be sure that whatever the Americans have decided won’t be changed later or be overtaken by newer and more urging priorities?
It is also interesting to note that in a speech delivered in Calgary, Alberta, Prentice has chosen to single out Quebec and criticized her policy (emphasis added),
“One of the most glaring examples of the folly of attempting to go it alone in an integrated North American economy is the new, and unique, vehicle regulations introduced by Quebec. These ensure that consumers will basically have to leave that province to buy their vehicles, to avoid levies of up to five thousand dollars, because seventy-five percent of the latest car and truck models don’t conform to the new rules.”
Montreal Gazette in “Prentice raps Quebec on emissions – Federal minister decries strict limits” has the following to say (emphasis added),
“Like the state of California, Quebec has adopted tough environmental standards, calling for a 30-per-cent reduction in vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions by 2016.
Quebec and California are members of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), composed of seven states and four provinces [K-note, the three other provinces in WCI are: British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario]. They hope to press their respective federal governments to take a tougher stance on climate change.”
and to further refute Prentice’s critique,
“Provincial Environment Minister Line Beauchamp was not available for comment, but a Quebec government official noted that automakers have until 2016 to conform – and because it is an average, they just have to sell more small cars to comply.”
Globe and Mail is saying in its editorial “A case not being made” (emphasis added),
“Unfortunately, Mr. Prentice dilutes these reasonable messages. An attack on Quebec’s new auto standards in the very same speech is the same kind of unhelpful talk that adds to Canada’s image as a climate laggard. In the absence of federal guidance, some provinces – in particular, Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba – are working with each other and with groups of U.S. states on policies that will achieve meaningful reductions. Mr. Prentice calls for continued expansion of the oil sands, but has used a justifiable deference to alignment with U.S. policy as a reason for doing nothing. Without a framework that makes the need for emissions reductions apparent, the oil patch also feels content to do little.
Finally, the federal government touts Canada as a “Clean Energy Super Power,” but its main fund for getting wind energy projects off the ground is out of cash. (Again, provincial leadership has been stronger, with Ontario gaining a large wind-turbine manufacturing and generation presence in a recently announced deal with Samsung).”
Here is a quote from Calgary Herald “Environment minister calls for oilsands cleanup“,
Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice urged the energy sector and Alberta government Monday to clean up the oilsands — and Canada’s environmental reputation — but said Ottawa will wait for the U.S. before adopting new climate change measures.
[...] It would be “utterly pointless” for Canada to pursue its own climate change targets without American participation, he argued, because it would simply erect trade barriers and leave domestic companies at a competitive disadvantage.
It is disheartening to see Canada giving up our sovereign rights and power to decide our climate change strategy. Minister Prentince, when will Canada start to be a leader again?
Note: To give you a sense of the event yesterday, here is a video clip of the post-speech Q&As with Edward Greenspon, former G&M editor-in-chief, asking Prentice some questions he has and audiences posted, including “When might there be an election?“
More report from Calgary Herald “Environment minister calls for oilsands cleanup“.
Feb 4, 2010 Update: From CBC “Charest: Prentice bowing to U.S. on climate change“,
Quebec Premier Jean Charest accused the federal government on Wednesday of having few ideas to fight climate change beyond kowtowing to the United States.
“The only federal plan is to align with the United States,” Charest said in the latest round of sniping between Quebec and Ottawa over the environment.
“However, I never in my life thought that aligning our policies with the United States was good enough for Canada.”
Postscript: Last month, comedian Rick Mercer had a funny sketch about Transport Canada and calling it “A division of the US Department of Homeland Security“. If the trend under the current government continues, Rick may be able to turn Environment Canada into another comedy sketch.