Thursday, April 26, 2007

Kyoto Protocol : Hypocrisy Thy Name is Liberal

Liberals all talk on climate change

The truth, as the old adage says, hurts. This being said, the current Kyoto debate in Canada should send the Liberal party scurrying for a helmet.

The Liberals have certainly found Kyoto to be a politically productive issue. Despite their recent branding of a Conservative party election war room as a “fear factory”, the Liberals recently released a new ad clearly aimed at provoking terror amongst Canadians, on the issue of climate change (the terrified-looking baby is a nice – but hypocritical – touch).

Yet, when one looks closer at the Liberal party stance on Kyoto, one finds layers upon layers of hypocrisy, threatening to undermine what was a very tender policy point to begin with.

The Liberals point with pride toward the December 2005 United Nations Climate Change Conference, wherein Stephan Dion brought 182 countries to agreement on further commitments to fight climate change.

For Dion, that’s pretty much where the story ends. Previously, on November 29, 2005, Paul Martin’s Liberal government – in which Stephan Dion served as minister of the environment – lost a confidence vote in the house of commons. Dion’s success at the Montreal conference was little more than an empty triumph of a dying government.

Equally unfortunately for Dion – and the Liberals – that isn’t where the story begins, either.

Under the Liberal government of Jean Chretien, Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol in 2002. Canada committed to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012 (interestingly, Chretien chose the 6% figure merely to one-up the American commitment of 5%). Yet, by 2004, greenhouse gas emissions had continued to rise until they were 27% above 1990 levels.

Under Stephan Dion, greenhouse gas emissions only continued to rise. This undoubtedly paints a less-than-flattering image of Stephan Dion: the man who could bring 182 countries together to agree to fight climate change, but who himself did nothing to actually do so.

Another revealing point is that posed by Liberal Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty (brother of Liberal party environmental critic David McGuinty).

McGuinty had previously promised to deactivate all of Ontario’s coal-fired power plants by 2007. McGuinty has extended this deadline to 2014 – two years after the deadlines laid out in the Kyoto protocol. Had McGuinty lived up to his original promise, Ontario would be 50-80 closer to its Kyoto targets.

This from the premier who accused the federal government of letting the Alberta oil industry “off easy”.

McGuinty – who, just to reiterate, supports Kyoto – has also demanded that Ontario’s car manufacturers be given favorable treatment. “we will not abide is any effort on the part of the national government to unduly impose greenhouse-gas emission reductions on the province of Ontario at the expense of our auto sector," McGuinty said.

McGuinty was, at the time, responding to Conservative musings about imposing emissions standards on Canadian car manufacturers similar to those in effect in California. According to a graph released by Environment Canada in 2004, transportation-related emissions accounted for 19% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. The oil, gas and coal industries accounted for 20%.

In other words, McGuinty – a Kyoto supporter – was in favor of regulating an industry that produces 20% of Canada’s greenhouse gases, but not in favor of regulating cars – producers of 19% of Canada’s greenhouse gases.

Unfortunately for McGuinty, it’s all too similar to Quebec supporting Kyoto while it stands to profit from its hydroelectric resources (GHG free), while less fortunate provinces struggle to meet their share of Canada’s Kyoto targets.

If Canada is to meet its Kyoto targets, Ontarians – who support Kyoto – will have to make sacrifices as surely as Albertans will.

At the end of the day, however, it seems some Liberals have forgotten the purpose of the Kyoto protocol. On CTV’s Canada AM, David McGuinty (just to reiterate, Dalton’s brother), complained, “We as a country signed onto Kyoto and one of the mechanisms in the Kyoto Treaty is to allow our emitters to trade credits internationally between countries to help reduce the cost, per tonne, of greenhouse gases. This government has ruled that out."

Apparently, according to McGuinty, the Kyoto protocol was never about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To McGuinty, Kyoto was about forcing industry to send their money to other countries in order to meet the government’s diplomatic obligations.

The Liberal party stance on Kyoto is nothing short of hypocrticial. While the Conservative government may need to work well outside the Kyoto deadlines in order to meet Canada’s obligations, it is Liberal inaction that has forced them to do so.

Which ultimately leaves Stephan Dion and the flying McGuinty brothers facing an unpleasant revelation: the truth hurts.

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