Oh Canada… you’re embarrassing us

Well, embarrassing me anyways (can’t speak for everyone on this!)

I’m not really a political person but have to say that I’m disappointed with our gov’t right now in Bali at the UN Climate Change Conference.

The Conservative government’s message is unclear and, well, pathetic.

Baird (Canada’s environment minister) on Wednesday:

“All major emitters must be on board,” John Baird said during a speech in Toronto. “We will not tackle this problem of global warming and climate change unless we get everyone on board, everyone with an oar in the water and everyone rowing together.”

Their main concern is that fast emerging countries like China and India aren’t required to do the same. But, at the conference, China has surprised everyone by deciding to get on board while Canada, US and Japan are jumping ship? Great strategy Canada.

Another main concern – economic growth is just as valuable as the environment and we shouldn’t eclipse one for the other. Hmmm… I’ve never really understood this position. The two are inextricably linked and if you think otherwise, you’ve been reading too many economics textbooks.

PRODUCTION of goods = CONSUMPTION of natural resources

CONSUMPTION of goods = PRODUCTION of waste (environmental degradation)

Every aspect of this ‘equation’ has a dollar figure attached, so if the government really wants to look at the “economics” of moving forward with climate change policies then they should at least take a full-costing approach.

Wonder why China is now on board? (Well, time will tell what they actually do…) The World Bank just came out with a report entitled : Cost of Pollution in China: Economic Estimates of Physical Damages

Interesting finds…

the study finds that the health costs of air and water pollution in China amount to about 4.3 percent of its GDP. By adding the non-health impacts of pollution, which are estimated to be about 1.5 percent of GDP, the total cost of air and water pollution in China is about 5.8 percent of GDP.

I agree, we shouldn’t really sign something that we know we’ll never commit to in the end. But what effort are they really putting in? They keep on pouring money into non-renewable sources and then wonder why our emissions went up. Even economists don’t like subsidies (The Economist’s environment and technology correspondent has a great book on this). And to that extent, even oil and gas companies are starting to change their tune about climate change. Most notably, BP :

The following year (1998), BP announced a target for 2010: that greenhouse gas emissions from our own operations would be 10 per cent lower than emissions in 1990 – a tougher target than those set for many industrialised countries by the Kyoto summit in 1997. BP achieved its target at the end of 2001, 9 years ahead of schedule.

I think those countries that push for change will be the ones with the stronger economy in the end. It’s a classic business strategy. Strive for more, achieve more.

Canada, by trying to protect the precious economy, you’re actually hurting it. Smarten up.

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3 thoughts on “Oh Canada… you’re embarrassing us

  1. Jay Godse says:

    There are two contentious issues here. The first one is freeloading. If “good” nations take measures to save the environment, then everybody benefits, good and bad alike. That means that the “bad” nations get a free ride. Canadian industry (the folks who will actually foot the bill) rightly thinks that this is unfair. China getting on board is a good start, but India has to get on too. There are a billion of them after all…

    The second issue is the balance sheet, and the economic viability of implementing environmental measures. Although the global balance sheet is as you say; e.g. production has environmental consequences which cost everybody, this equation does not appear the same on the balance sheets of any one individual, corporation, or government department. Until that happens, nobody has a measurable incentive to change.

    It would be an interesting exercise to come up with a scheme that solves both problems. i.e. a great B-school project.

    Cheers, Jay

  2. […] from last post – Canada & Kyoto On my last post about Canada’s stance on Kyoto and Climate Change, Jay made some pretty good points. So […]

  3. […] January 11, 2008 · No Comments Ok, I’m shocked, appalled and once again embarassed… […]

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