“Naming and Shaming” is what’s at risk in Obama’s newly thought up international climate change agreement, though despite the cleverly rhyming consequence, this voluntary pledge has about as much political gravity as a soggy carrot.
Unfortunately, this is the state of current environmental legislation. Even with the appraised Copenhagen Accord committed to signature by the U.S., Canada, and a slew of other global powers in 2009, Canada remains nowhere near close to cutting the agreed 17% of 2005 carbon emissions by 2020 while the U.S. is set to meet it’s target. An opinion survey released by a think tank earlier this year highlighted that 77% of Canadians are concerned about climate change and 84% want Ottawa to show international leadership. Yet, Stephen Harper continues to grossly exploit the Alberta oil sands while the U.S. transitions away from coal and toward cleaner-burning natural gas, as well as wind, hydro, and solar power. But is a, “Not cool, dude. Really not cool.” courtesy of Obama enough to pivot Canada’s environmental downward trajectory? Some U.S. climate activists have voiced disappointment in the new plan, fairly claiming, “A global agreement based on embarrassment or political expediency seems much riskier than one based on science and legally binding language.”
It’s nice that some people still think even a legally binding environmental treaty would have an affect on a country’s carbon emissions, but know what? I’m in a good mood today. Let’s humour this idea for moment.
So why is Obama presenting this this weightless political pledge as apposed to hammering out a magical, international environmental treaty? By doing so, he hopes to sidestep the congress and senate he knows would never ratify such an agreement. Obama can expect criticism from Republican law makers who have previously accused him of abusing his executive authority by pushing through congressional approval on major policies. One certain Alaskan reality TV personality even went as far to call for his impeachment. While Obama’s bypassing of his country’s legal bodies can be viewed as undemocratic, can you really blame the guy, though? In 2007, Republican senators blocked ratification of a United Nations treaty on equal rights for the disabled, making me believe the party is just made up of Emperor Palpatine, The Joker, Nurse Ratchet, and the shark from Jaws.
This Obama’s thought-up political agreement would oblige countries to enact domestic climate change policies based on a voluntarily pledged level of emission cuts, as well as requiring countries to channel money to poorer countries to help them adapt for climate change. If countries do not meet their pledge, they might then be legally obligate to report their progress to meetings held to identify said failing countries. Of course, this agreement is about as legally binding as the iTunes Terms and Services agreement. The fine print of the agreement likely reads. “Like, we can’t force you to show up, or anything, but it would be a real pain-in-the-ass if you didn’t, you know what I mean?”
David Biette, director of the Canada Institute at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Center, says, “Coming in the context of the continuing and oversized war over the Keystone XL pipeline, this new Obama climate plan looks tricky for Canada. Whether we have the (emission reduction) targets is irrelevant. The fact is U.S. emissions have gone down for a variety of reasons and it looks like Canada’s emissions will go up. Canada is already at an inflection point on energy, but there just aren’t enough details yet to know how this plan is going to affect it.”
The announcement of this treaty does come dangerously close to our upcoming federal election where Harper seeks another chance in office. He will either have to renege on the Copenhagen accord or find a way to adjust his climate change agenda to win over the environmentally concerned 77% of Canadians while staying off of Obama’s wall of shame. Unfortunately for harper, after ten years in office it’s going to be pretty hard to turn his image around, unlike Justin Trudeau who just had to get a new hair cut, though it looks so god damn good no matter how it’s styled.