Canada’s Proposal for Global Warming Actions Needs Lots of Work

As a part of our effort to track progress towards countries commitments (see our new website From Copenhagen Accord to Climate Action), we’ll be inviting guest posts from key individuals and organizations in the particular country.  This is a guest post by Gillian McEachern, Program Manager for Energy and Climate at Environmental Defence in Canada.  NRDC works with Environmental Defence and other Canadian organizations on a number of environmental issues in Canada (see here for more detail).


Yesterday Canada officially handed over decision-making responsibility for tackling global warming to Washington. The Harper government’s submission to the UN set Canada’s target at "17% (below 2005), to be aligned with the final economy-wide emissions target of the United States in enacted legislation."

This is nothing new – for years, Canada hid behind US inaction during Bush’s reign. But, this time around, it’s likely to backfire. First, the new target makes Canada unique among developed countries: we are the only one to date that has signed up with the UN for an INCREASE over 1990 levels. This puts us behind the U.S., Japan, Australia, the European Union and Russia – our trading partners and competitors in the growing clean energy economy.

Second, Harper is betting that the U.S. won’t pass climate legislation, giving Canada a further excuse to do nothing. The last thing the Canadian government wants is to actually need to do something real on climate change for fear it would impact the massive expansion planned for the tar sands, the country’s fastest growing source of emissions. But, the Obama administration has shown that it’s serious about tackling this issue, and when the U.S. passes legislation dealing with climate, Canada will be caught with its pants down.

Third, despite all of the rhetoric from Canadian politicians, we really aren’t doing what the U.S. is. The U.S. has legislation under development. Canada has none. The U.S. has invested 14 times more per person in renewable energy and energy efficiency than Canada. Instead, Canada has cut funding for renewable energy and pumped it into the tar sands. Canada has no plan to actually reach a target and is relying on the leadership of a few provinces like Quebec and Ontario to do the heavy lifting while emissions from the tar sands triple over the next decade.