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Election 2019

Quit Chastising Brazil, Canada. You’re a Climate Killer, Too

Some want global intervention against ‘rogue’ climate states. That may not end so well for us.

Mitchell Anderson 30 Aug

Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer based in Vancouver and a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

This week, former Liberal cabinet ministers Allan Rock and Lloyd Axworthy wrote an op-ed calling for international intervention to save the Amazon rainforest, now in flames due largely to the reckless policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

The two both ask and answer their own question in the Globe and Mail piece.

“Is it acceptable that a single government can unilaterally adopt environmental policies that put millions at risk?” they write. “It is urgent that the international community find ways to influence rogue states whose irresponsible policies accelerate global warming and undermine the collective effort to address the existential threat posed by climate change.”

It’s a comfortably sanctimonious argument, especially from inside the glass house of Canadian climate policy.

Admittedly Bolsonaro is an ogre whose popularity among Brazilians has plummeted since he was elected last year.

But Axworthy and Rock should be careful what they wish for — if the world really was empowered to intervene when rogue states ignore the climate crisis, would we get off easily?

Canada was recently ranked last of the G7 economies in terms of meaningful climate action — tied with the U.S. under Donald Trump. Of all the G20 countries, Canadians produce the most greenhouse gases per capita.

While the Justin Trudeau government touted its pledge of $15 million to fight Amazon wildfires on behalf of the planet, this represents only 0.5 per cent of the $3.3 billion in taxpayer subsidies that Canada shovels at the fossil fuel sector each year.

Didn’t Trudeau promise to end such climate-killing giveaways? The last election seemed so long ago, but voters will soon have another chance to judge his sincerity, or lack thereof.

Local Canadian governance is even more of a climate embarrassment. Ontario Premier Doug Ford just announced the province will appeal its legal loss challenging the constitutionality of federal carbon pricing to the Supreme Court of Canada. The government is well on the way to spending all of the $30 million earmarked for this effort. The provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are likewise entwined in the same expensive and useless political theatre, tying up scarce court resources in the process.

And $30 million is also the price tag of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s so-called “war room” dedicated to hectoring the many critics of the oil sands and its massive climate footprint.

Will this spin doctoring do anything to staunch the loss of oil sands jobs? No, because the companies, acknowledging the collapsing demand for the world’s most expensive oil, have told their shareholders they’re committed to an ever-tighter embrace of job shedding automation.

Bitumen extraction now employs only 0.1 per cent of the Canadian workforce — fewer people than green energy — produces 11 per cent of national carbon emissions and some years results in less provincial revenue than booze and gambling.

Canada remains on track to miss yet another international climate commitment. Under the Paris Agreement we pledged to cut emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Instead, they are likely to exceed that target by about 40 per cent.

While the Liberals have shockingly little climate progress to show, the political alternative is even worse. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who may well become an accidental prime minister due to the ineptitude of Justin Trudeau, has a climate plan so vague it will result in even more inaction.

Smaller parties that are serious about the issue remained sidelined by our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system. (Didn’t Trudeau promise to fix that too?)

The Green Party is giddy it may elect six members of Parliament while drawing over 10 per cent of progressive voters. The NDP likewise has a solid climate platform but could lose every seat in Quebec. Why? Because its leader has a dark complexion and wears a turban in a province where two-thirds of voters support the provincial ban on religious symbols worn by public servants.

There always seems something more politically pressing than saving the planet — carbon tax theatre in Ontario, Ottawa-bashing in Alberta, outright racism in Quebec. Elsewhere in the world, Bolsonaro insults the attractiveness of the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron and demands an apology before accepting international aid to fight Amazonian fires originating from his policies. Trump claims that windmills cause cancer.

Meanwhile the Amazon burns and Greenland loses 55 billion tons of ice in five days. Nothing to see here, keep moving along.

They say that all politics is local, but our problems are increasingly global. The jarring disconnect between so-called world leaders and what is happening the real world is almost comical.

Bolsonaro, Ford and Trump are egged on by their entourage of political bean counters (or the voices in their heads) pontificating on tactical advantage over their opponents, as if that was the most important thing.

Politics continues to utterly fail in meeting the existential threat of a destabilized climate. Our exploding human agency leaves us philosophically unprepared for the present, let alone the future.

For all the Liberal party posturing on the eve of a federal election, Canada remains one of the worst global climate offenders. Blaming others in an effort to distract voters from your own inaction is the opposite of leadership.  [Tyee]

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