Feds need to hit reset button

By John Bennett

A few weeks ago, the US Ambassador to Canada hinted that Canada would need to clean up its environmental act if it wanted to see the Keystone XL Pipeline approved. The ambassador was then followed by newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry, who left a similar impression at a news conference. Of course, all this came on the heels of very strong statements on climate change by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address.

Greenwash Action Plan

Predictably, this set off a hastily arranged PR campaign. The federal and Alberta governments immediately made travel plans and headed south, all the while pronouncing the ‘green-ness’ of Canada and the ‘amazing’ environmental achievements happening in Alberta. Then came the re-re-announcement of a 2012 re-announcement of improved fuel economy regulations for trucks and heavy vehicles. With a straight face our government ministers told Washington: "Canada is Greener than the U.S." – which of course, is completely untrue.

Open Window

These are interesting times indeed. As a result of a single report on the Keystone XL pipeline, in only a few days the climate (pardon the pun) in Washington and Ottawa has changed dramatically and the media have started asking tough questions. A window has opened and it has ignited some optimism among environmental groups. We have a real opportunity to make progress on climate change for the first time in seven years – that is, if we don’t mess it up.

Unfortunately, our climate campaign has been on the defense for the better part of the last decade. So our first inclination is attack and scream to Washington that Alberta and the federal government are lying -- greenwashing -- and point out the fact they’re actually environmental pariahs (killing Kyoto, devastating omnibus bills, attacks on science and scientists, etc.). Instead, we have an excellent opportunity to point out what Canada needs to do to be green again (and help Canada get back its ‘street-cred’ within the internationally community).

Note to PMO: Reset, Please

It’s not easy being green… but it’s not rocket science either. All we need is federal leadership! Below is a short checklist of what Canada needs to do to be green again:

  1. Re-engage in the Kyoto Protocol and commit to reaching Canada’s 1997 emission reduction target by 2020 (6% below 1990 levels);
  2. Cap industrial greenhouse emissions and put a price on carbon;
  3. Halt expansion of the Tar Sands and clean up existing tailings ponds;
  4. Redirect existing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry to energy efficiency, public transit, renewable energy and conservation; and
  5. Repeal Omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45.

It’s not too late to do the green thing. Even if it isn’t easy!

So what are we waiting for?

John Bennett, Executive Director
Sierra Club Canada
412-1 Nicholas Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
John on Twitter / Bennett Blog

RELATED: Ottawa pitches the Tar Sands as ‘green’, Globe and Mail, March 6, 2013


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