Sunday, December 20, 2009


So what did Canada get from our little trip to Copenhagen? Well, our PM made it clear that when it comes to photo opportunities, he's your guy--witness all the shots with various heads of state on his carbon-intensive journey pre-Copenhagen. But when it comes to facing up to the results of his beliefs and actions, he's really not so ready to get in front of a camera (well, to be fair, with the exception of his trip to China where only the sight of him crawling would really satisfy the Chinese leadership. But I think back to a year ago when Harper wouldn't face parliament after a major miscalculation either. Not really good at owning up to mistakes, our PM.). So poor old Jim Prentiss was trotted out to deliver 9 paragraphs of irrelevancy.
But Canada did get what our government wanted; nothing really changed. A vague commitment to reduce our emissions by 20% from 2006 levels (non-binding and unenforceable) and a promise to contribute to an international fund (dollars that are likely to come out of our current Foreign Affairs budget anyway).
But in terms of real change? Well, all we're going to get is more of the same. Enbridge is trying to build a pipeline across northern BC to haul bitumen (our vaunted "heavy oil") from Fort MacMurray to a tanker terminal at Prince Rupert. The Dogwood Initiative is working hard to keep that from happening, and is experiencing some success. But the extraction at the oil sands is still set to expand without any controls or limitations.
Which is one of the reasons Harper was willing to eat shit in China; China doesn't care what people do in their own country, as long as they fulfil their contractual obligations. So war criminal, genocidal lunatic, or environmental criminal, none of it matters as long as the resources keep flowing. And the US has pointed out that it does have some reservations about Alberta's bitumen extraction process. Several states are now refusing to accept oil from the tar sands, and President Obama announced on his arrival in Copenhagen that the EPA was going to be able to regulate CO² emissions. So Canada is facing growing restrictions on its ability to export dirty oil to the US.
As an aside, the move to declare CO² a pollutant and regulate it through the EPA is an important step for the US. Recent studies have indicated that the introduction of pollution controls in the US in the 1970s was important to the US remaining an economic powerhouse through the rest of the century. By forcing industries to clean up their act, the US government forced production efficiencies on those industries, making them much more competitive. This despite the extra imposed costs. It seems obvious that the same reasoning and results would apply to restrictions on CO².
So our PM, having no intention of imposing restrictions of any type on Alberta's bitumen production (he is, after all, the son of an oil executive, and beholding to oil companies), has realized that its necessary to find new markets that will not put restrictions on methods of production. Enter China.
China indicated at Copenhagen that while they are willing to agree to CO² reductions, they really have no interest in international verification procedures. Regretfully, NASA failed the launch of a satellite capable of doing that monitoring; currently the satellite rests on the bottom of the ocean near the Antarctic ice shelf. So until the US comes up with another 230 million dollars, international monitoring of CO² emissions is nothing but a dream.
But despite their dislike of international monitoring, China bids fair to become the renewable/green energy powerhouse of the 21st century. With the ability to totally ignore local opposition, China has begun building large wind and solar installations to supplement their coal and oil power producing infrastructure. In Canada, we've lost that opportunity with the Harper government's decision to spend infrastructure funds on partisan projects. Instead of taking the opportunity to help Canada into the 21st century, Harper decided instead to continue to believe that its the 1950s, and spend on old school projects. And unless there's someone presenting an oversized Conservative-logo'd novelty cheque, good luck on finding out where our billions of dollars are being spent. The Bush regime perfected the art of spending the country into impotence as a technique of hobbling future governments. Harper does it by cutting taxes (yes, we've gone from an inherited 13 billion surplus back to deficit spending--mostly down to Harper's cutting of the GST and other taxes)(as an aside, I'm actually in favour of taxes like the GST/HST; being strictly consumption-based and applying across the board, they tend to act to discourage spending and encourage saving).
So post-Copenhagen, we're really no further along to where we need to be. No international binding agreement on CO² reduction. The sea levels continue to rise, the poles continue to melt, the death of billions over the next 50-100 years still looms, and future of human life on Earth still hangs in the balance.

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