Canada’s climate change strategy sucks. Actually, if you ask environmental watchdog and commissioner of the environment Julie Gelfand, Canada’s climate change strategy doesn’t exist. This is shocking news—in the same way that it’s shocking when you ignore a cavity for five years and then learn that you need a root canal. Anyway, as 2020 approaches and Canada scrambles to sell tar, the questions on Canadian minds ought to be, “how did we get here?” and “how do we fix this?”
The soon-to-be-missed emissions reduction targets blossomed out of the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference in the same way that a turd blossoms out of a…whatever. Post-Copenhagen, the Canadian government threw up emissions projections reductions for various sectors of the economy with the confused determination of a tactical chunder. The Environment Minister at the time, an ineffectual and annoying combination of John Baird and Jim Prentice, channeled Oprah: “You get a cut! You get a cut! Everyone except the oil and gas sector gets a cut!” Things looked great. The future held promise.
Canada’s emissions reduction plan was a lot like a weight loss goal, but with one key exception. Whereas a morbidly obese person stands on a scale marked with weight loss goals, eager to lose the belly fat so that the scale will become visible, Canada stood on the scale with a sworn goal not to lose any belly fat. We didn’t care if we couldn’t see the scale because our belly—the oil and gas sector—was sacred. We’d make up for its growth by trimming down our ankles, our wrists, and our necks: all the narrowest parts of the human body. Without checking any of the math (what math?), we knew it would work.
Now, according to the Gelfand’s most recent report, we know that it isn’t working. We know that it won’t work. We know that, as a result of the zero actions taken to control its emissions, the oil and gas sector will be Canada’s largest emitter by 2020. We know that the reductions we made in the electricity sector, the only major sector forecast to shrink between 2005 and 2020, will not be enough to cover for the growth in all the other sectors. Canada will have beautiful, thin ankles. They will crack under the weight of our belly. There’s a simple reason why.
Gelfand reports, “Canada does not have an overall plan that maps out how Canada will achieve this target.” That sounds like a pretty basic requirement for any long-term goal. Without a plan, the goal-setter is just making stuff up because it sounds nice. Even if we refused to target the oil and gas sector, there was no way we were going to reduce emissions without a plan. Lo and behold, the transportation sector is projected to grow between 2012 and 2020. It was one of the sectors we targeted for reduction.
As a result, Canada continues to contribute to global climate change. We continue to cause more problems than we solve in this field. It’s unfortunate because it’s so easily avoidable. Our government could have reduced emissions if it had created and followed a plan. Our government could have reduced more emissions if it had included the oil and gas sector in that plan. Yet, as it stands, climate inaction is one of our government’s favourite pastimes. This government is determined to twiddle its thumbs until the problem becomes unsolvable, at which point, presumably, it will be safe to throw its hands up in the air and accept defeat. Alas, the Canadian people must prioritize climate action. We can see our belly. We have known for a long time what the problem is. It might be uncomfortable, but only we can trim the fat.