Canada’s Green Plan – A Drop in the Tar Sands?

From a general perspective, Canadians are beginning to question their carbon footprint and embrace the principles of recycling. While much progress remains to be done, the level of awareness is slowly rising.   Today’s parents are thinking about the world that their children will inherit: the good, the bad and the ugly.

While the above noted paradigm shift is to be lauded, are these efforts dwarfed by the pollution generated by industrial polluters such as the petroleum sector?  When we consider that the Federal Clean Air Act (tabled 2 years ago) was critiqued for being too weak and not aggressive enough, will the new Federal Green Plan (Turning the Corner) rise to the challenge and be the catalyst for true change?   Consider the following report from the Sierra Club:  By 2015, tar sands GHG emissions are expected to rise to between 57 and 97 MT–which would make it the single largest contributor to GHG emissions growth in Canada. This would also virtually guarantee that Canada would fail to achieve its Kyoto Protocol targets. Is Green Plan’s targeted 20% reduction in GHG by 2020 sufficient?  If not, our recycling efforts are simply the equivalent of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Our Governments have a challenging task: maintain our wealth while protecting our environmental and economic future.  In addition to the latter they must also work on changing our consumption habits which are deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. Understanding that individual efforts are required, have we truly dealt with the elephant in the room?  Can true change occur?  I have to hope so if not the future of mankind will be bleak.  We will be become the frog immersed in progressively boiling water. When the water reaches boiling point, it will be too late.


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2 comments on “Canada’s Green Plan – A Drop in the Tar Sands?
  1. jeremy says:

    With the lower oil price, i was under the impression the oil sands wouldn’t be as attractive a proposition as they once were …

  2. cookj111 says:

    First – I would like to point out that the Canadian Federal Clean Air Act was just a desperate plan for the minority government to appease the Canadian public. In 2006 the pro-business right-wing Conservative minority government (most of the Cabinet ministers including the Prime Minister were from oil rich Alberta province) had failed to include the environment as one of the federal government’s top priorities and paid a hefty political price. There was public outcry for the government to do something real about the state of the environment (a subject that apparently Canadians hold dear to their hearts – who knew?). To mitigate the situation and to quiet their critics the Environment Minister at the time Rona Ambrose (who was a very junior MP that given a very big portfolio that was way over her head) rushed to table this Federal Clean Air Act. It was voted down in Parliament not because there was no will to do something about the state of the air in Canada but because it was a redundant piece of legislation. Canada already has the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) which already gave the Environment Minister (the same Minister that table the proposed CAA) the powers to regulate industry, consumer products and transportation – the same sources that were proposed in the Clean Air Act. The entire thing was a dog and poney show. The Conservative Government had no real plan to really push it through.

    Once the CAA was quashed – the new plan came to be in 2007 called Turning the Corner or TTC as we insiders at Environment Canada call it. It was the new flavour of the month promising climate change and air pollution regulations that would provide real health and environmental benefits to Canada. Fierce opposition from industry basically stopped the TTC plan in its tracks. Industry and provinces banned together to propose an alternative plan to TTC – one that hurt less their balance sheets and that they felt was more realistic. The Government agreed to consider this new proposed approach and has been waiting ever since – sitting on their hands and meanwhile doing nothing about air pollution and GHG emissions in Canada. Almost three years has passed and the new proposal called the Comprehensive Air Management System was presented to Minister Prentice (the current Canadian Environment Minister, who is also from rich oil-loving Alberta, who came from the Industry Canada department prior to taking over EC – and who is still the chair of the Mackenzie Gas Project – a massive upstream oil and gas and pipelines project by a conglomerate of oil companies looking to drill for oil in the Artic0. Lets just say that I’m not holding my breath to see any action on climate change or air pollution anytime soon from this government. Perhaps the rumours of election calls in the Fall of 2010 will bring new hope to the issue.

    So to answer the question “Is Canada doing enough to fight climate change and air pollution?” the answer plainly is “no” since we have yet to do anything substantial. Just a lot of talk – or a lot of hot air.

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