Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 30, 2006
Greenhouse gases need action not words
The reduction of greenhouse gases by the world's industrial nations is an urgent issue. But a sense of urgency is the main thing missing from the federal government's climate change policy announced earlier this month.
Since Canada signed the Kyoto Accord in 1998, there has been one round of expensive consultations after another as to how the country was going to implement the accord. Having signed a solemn, even if flawed, agreement with firm targets to meet, Canada has for eight years failed to take meaningful steps that would enable it to live up to its promise.
Canada pledged to reduce its greenhouse gases emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2012. Instead, those emissions are now 27 per cent greater than in 1990 and are still growing.
With a new government in place, one might expect a new direction. Instead, there is more stalling. The next three years will be taken up with . . . consultations. The only (slightly) firm target is that by the year 2050, carbon emissions will be reduced by between 45 to 65 per cent from 2003 levels.
Governments are often accused of acting only in ways that will look good come the next election. So perhaps we should applaud the government for setting a long-term target, even if (again) it has given little indication of how that target will be met.
But long-term goals are attainable only if there are benchmarks along the way by which one can judge progress. The federal government has failed to set such benchmarks and has even said it will not impose caps on emissions before 2020.
There is a lack of political accountability here. It is unlikely the Conservatives will maintain uninterrupted political power until 2020, let alone until 2050. About the only thing the government will allow itself to be held accountable for over the next several years is whether it holds more consultations.
The government could fairly argue that industry has to be given time to prepare itself for stricter standards. Such a necessity, however, has not stopped Norway from taking action. Or California.
Canada, despite its international commitment, will not go even as far as California in controlling automobile emissions. Ideas for reducing greenhouse gases abound as does the technology for implementing those ideas. What is lacking is the political will.
Here arises another key question: Why is the will lacking? Why do governments persist in trying to appear green while stalling indefinitely all action that would deal with the problem?
The answer can only be that while the government wants to keep up appearances for voters, it is mainly interested in pleasing those corporate and other interests that want to continue using the atmosphere as a free garbage can.
But dumping emissions into the atmosphere is not free. It has current and long-term costs for the people of this planet. The quality of the air we breathe and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affects people's health and it affects the climate. Climate change could have (and may already have had) devastating consequences for the economies of nations and peoples' livelihood.
The Catholic Church maintains that responsibility for the environment "extends not only to present needs, but also to those of the future." We believe that "The climate is a good that must be protected." And we maintain, " An economy respectful of the environment will not have the maximization of profits as its only objective" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nos. 467, 470).
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an urgent issue. We expect our governments to treat this issue with far greater urgency than it has so far been given.
- Glen Argan
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.