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Monbiot: 'The real villain is Canada'

On the eve of the Copenhagen conference, climate activist George Monbiot is damning Canada as "the real villain" determined to sabotage serious efforts to combat global warming.

Writing in the Guardian, Monbiot said:

When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world's peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country's government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee's tea party.

So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I've broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.

Monbiot cites the development of the tar sands as the reason for this problem, and warns that "In Copenhagen, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks."

Timber firms were licensed to log the old-growth forest in Clayaquot Sound; fishing companies were permitted to destroy the Grand Banks: in both cases these get-rich-quick schemes impoverished Canada and its reputation.

But this is much worse, as it affects the whole world. The government's scheming at the climate talks is doing for its national image what whaling has done for Japan.

Meanwhile, the Environment Canada web page on climate change doesn't even mention the tar sands:

The Government of Canada is committed to reducing Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020 and by 60 to 70 per cent by 2050.

We are also committed to:

•the goal of having 90 percent of Canada's electricity provided by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal or wind power by 2020;

•introducing tough new regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the automotive sector;

•continuing to advance the Clean Energy Dialogue with the U.S. Administration;

•investing more than $2 billion through our Economic Action Plan to protect the environment, especially through technological transformation, while stimulating our economy; and

•playing an active and constructive role at the UN climate change talks leading up to the Copenhagen conference in December.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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