Jens Wieting: Canadians must force provincial governments into action on global warming

From June 6 to 17, governments are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the second round of the UN talks on global warming, preparing for the coming major conference in Durban, South Africa, at the end of this year. By confirming that it will reject a new Kyoto Protocol, the Canadian government once more joined the small group of countries that are undermining efforts to develop a meaningful international framework to tackle global warming in the little time that is left before the existing Kyoto protocol ends in 2012.

As pointed out in a 2010 Nature article, Canada is the “only country that both weakened its ambitions in the course of the negotiations, and effectively argued for an increase of 2020 emission allowances above its current Kyoto Protocol target: 3% above instead of 6% below 1990 levels.” With a Conservative majority in Ottawa, it is as sure as rising temperatures that global warming activists will give the Canadian government another four consecutive “fossil of the year” awards at international climate conferences.

Scientists are telling us that pledges to reduce emissions since the Copenhagen summit are insufficient and will lead to catastrophic warming of more than three degrees. This will likely lead to further warming because of forest die-off, methane release from permafrost, and other responses of the Earth system that will continue to kick in as we pass certain warming thresholds.

Meanwhile, annual global emissions are rising. According to the International Energy Agency, 2010 saw a new record of 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuels, 1.6 Gt more than 2009. More extreme weather events and their consequences are hitting various parts of the world, with record setting tornadoes, floods, droughts and fires in various parts of North America and drought in Europe. 2010 saw unprecedented flooding in Pakistan and Australia, as well as another extreme drought in the Amazon.

Despite the ongoing gridlock caused by Canada and a few other obstructive nations, other countries lead the way, both in terms of delivering emission reductions, and setting new, relatively ambitious targets to reduce emissions further. For example, while Canada’s emissions rose by 25 percent between 1990 and 2005—the biggest percentage increase among G8 countries—the United Kingdom has reduced its carbon emissions by close to 20 percent since 1990. Last month, the U.K. set a new target of a 50 percent reduction by 2025.

In the United States, the member states of the Western Climate Initiative and many major cities are stepping up to the plate to fill, to a certain extent, the gap left by the federal government’s refusal to tackle global warming. Similarly, in Canada the provincial and territorial level is now, by default, the logical place to set the right targets and take action to reduce emissions.

Within the North American context, British Columbia has, until recently, been considered a leader on global warming policy. However, the latest scientific findings show that even B.C.’s once lauded emission reduction target does not set standards required to avoid dangerous global warming.

Unfortunately, in her recent open letter to British Columbians , B.C. premier Christy Clark only reconfirmed that the province will follow the path that has been laid out for the carbon tax until 2012, and continue to develop policies to meet the legislated targets to reduce our carbon emissions 33 percent by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2007.

The confirmation of previously announced policy decisions by the B.C. government is simply not enough. New information about the scope of the climate crisis requires adjustments and enhancements of B.C.’s global warming policy.

Global warming threatens life on the planet as we know it. Indeed, the future of B.C. families and a healthy economy depend on our ability to protect the environment and mitigate climate change.

British Columbia, with its abundant natural resources in a vast province with a relatively small population, has both a unique opportunity and a global responsibility to reduce emissions effectively and in a way that can serve as a model for other jurisdictions.

The latest provincial greenhouse gas emissions data shows that B.C.’s emissions are still on the rise, despite the stated goal to reduce emissions. The official provincial account also fails to report the significant emissions from burning fossil fuels extracted in B.C. and exported to other jurisdictions, as well as the carbon loss caused by degradation of our provincial forests, mainly from logging.

The challenge of global warming requires us to adjust provincial global warming policy in a way that British Columbians expect and deserve. To make a meaningful contribution to the fight against global warming, B.C. must:

Ӣ Adjust provincial emission reduction targets by choosing the internationally agreed-to baseline year 1990 (instead of 2007);

Ӣ Use provincial influence at the federal level to support an extension of the Kyoto Protocol with appropriate reduction targets to stay below two degrees of warming;

Ӣ Expand and adjust the carbon tax to achieve effective and fair results and use revenues to accelerate action to tackle global warming;

”¢ Expedite the introduction of an ambitious cap and trade system within the Western Climate Initiative, dovetailing with B.C.’s carbon tax;

Ӣ Support carefully planned renewable energy projects and energy conservation programs;

”¢ Phase out subsidies for fossil fuel industries and count emissions caused by fossil fuels extracted in B.C. as part of B.C.’s annual carbon emissions tally;

”¢ Support the existing moratorium on oil tanker traffic in B.C.’s inner waters and oppose pipelines conveying oil products to and from the B.C. coast;

Ӣ Develop new regulations and incentives for increased marine and terrestrial conservation to protect natural carbon sinks and allow species a better chance to adapt to a changing climate.

As other countries have demonstrated, an ambitious global warming policy creates green jobs, reduces energy bills in the long term and tackles other forms of pollution. British Columbia has taken some initial steps but has yet to demonstrate that we can make real progress in slashing emissions, as other jurisdictions have already done.

British Columbia might see an election as early as this fall and only those political parties that develop the most sound policies on global warming, without gambling with the planet and our children, should be considered fit for government.

Jens Wieting is the forest campaigner for Sierra Club B.C.




Jun 16, 2011 at 8:03pm

People often ask me "what will happen at the end of 2012 when Canada has not met its Kyoto targets?" Putting aside the debate about environmental impacts for a moment, aside from transferring the unmet commitment plus a 30% penalty to the next phase of Kyoto (which appears unlikely to exist), I see no legal consequences of completely ignoring our Kyoto Protocol targets.

What do you think the consequences will be, both in Canada and abroad? The current Canadian government does not appear to take this seriously at all. At the same time, they are not moving to withdraw from Kyoto, which, according to Article 27 they can, if they do so before the end of 2011.

So, Canada is going to stay in the Protocol while breaking its most important clauses. Will there really be no significant consequences? Many Conservatives seem to feel the whole issue will just go away.


Tom Harris
Executive Director
International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)

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Joeh edwards

Jun 16, 2011 at 10:03pm

Nonsense. Another command and control article by those who feell they need to control others through junk science.


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Meme Mine

Jun 17, 2011 at 2:21am

Call it what you want but climate change is about control. Control as in taxing the air to make the weather colder.

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Oily Tom

Jun 17, 2011 at 9:14am

Ah, yes, here come the deluded and desperate deniers, led by point man Tom Harris and his fossil fuel spin organization masquerading as a "science coalition." But at least we can understand Mr. Harris and his changing positions. He gets paid to shill. What's the excuse for the others who reject overwhelming direct evidence and mountains of scientific research to promote their loony conspiracy theories?

Here's more on Mr. Harris:

Here's what the real scientists say about the silly denier arguments:

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Jun 17, 2011 at 10:29am

OT, nothing desperate or deluded about the people who question the logic of CAGW. In fact, it's you, Jens and your ilk that are continually ramping up the rhetoric to overcome the weakness in your position. Computer models that don't compute, no direct connection between increases in CO2 and the rate of global warming, no rational accounting for the impact of water vapour, cloud cover, solar activity or oceanic oscillations. The hoax is over, we're not buying it.

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Jun 17, 2011 at 11:37am

It's really pretty simple really. No need for silly green taxes and other minor measures that are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Canada's energy ministers get together and commit to a purchase of 30 to start new AECL ACR-1000 nukes with 8 nukes required just to green up the Tar Sands and 15 to replace coal at a rough cost of $40B followed by orders for 130 more as factory production gets in full swing.

Canada's GHG emission's gone within 10 years with an enormous saving to the taxpayer. Almost overnight we end unemployment, the global warming/peak oil menace, save the lives of thousands of Canadians every year from coal/gas air pollution and create the greatest construction boom in history.

To do this, Canada needs 150 new AECL ACR-1000 nukes to end fossil fuel use in Canada . The mass produced nukes are so much cheaper than the fossil fuels they replace, that the payback period on the replacement is less than three years - a 40% rate of return of investment.

As we convert to nukes, NG electricity and heating applications would immediately convert to nuclear electricity. The freed up gas would be available to make CNG, methanol, DME (propane), and synfuel transportation fuels as we transition to nuclear produced synfuels and electric vehicles.

Check out Shell's Pearl experience with its $35 a barrel first of kind natural gas to liquids plant in Qatar a plant built out west could make diesel out of natural gas at $25 a barrel.

We could rim the border with an additional massive employment boosting 2500 mass produced ACR-1000 reactors and make $trillions selling the inefficient and regulatory crippled US nuke power at premium rates, making publicly owned AECL, the world leader in nuclear power, and generating a massive high paying job producing Canadian industry. It would make the auto sector look tiny.

The only thing in the way is Big Oil which not only owns our politicians but the Big Green as well.

Big Oil funded Big Green movement's silly love affair with sunbeams and warm breezes and pathological hatred of nukes kills millions every year by deferring the nuclear solution to GHG and air pollution and by leading us inevitably to that civilization ending peak oil/climate crisis will kill billions more.

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Big Jay

Jun 17, 2011 at 3:58pm

Hey Seth,
Did you hear about the Fukushima reactor in Japan? The one now called the "the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind"? Where a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station - an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan - is now likely uninhabitable"? The one that spewed particles of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopesin into the air that can get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and eventually can cause cancer, are now being found in air filters in cars in the greater Seattle area?
Maybe we need another solution.

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Big Jay

Jun 17, 2011 at 4:08pm

Conservatives' refusal to acknowledge the very real threat of climate change, has more to do with its implications rather than skepticism of scientific facts. It is far more simple to deny science, than to accept that one's worldview is wrong. Climate change poses a direct threat to the spread of free markets, the maintenance of national sovereignty, and the continued abolition of governmental regulations, all key components of the conservative agenda. For a conservative whose entire identity is defined by faith in the economics of capitalism and free markets, acceptance of climate change poses a danger to their sense of self, and will be avoided at all costs. Therefore, attempts to persuade this portion of the country with science and logic is a lost cause.

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Jun 17, 2011 at 7:05pm

Sorry Jay you are having so much trouble with basic science. Most global warming deniers are like that so you have lotsa company.

All of the long term environment damage at Fukusima was from the massive chemical/refinery fire that burned for weeks spewing deadly forever chemicals now polluting BC's air. Hundreds were killed by this and other natural gas and dam disasters in the area. I understand that Greenie Deniers love hydro and gas.

The long term radiation (6 month or so) no go zone is now confined to the reactor itself. The much worse failed Soviet nuclear weapons experiment at Chernobyl now is teeming with wildlife and even new settlers almost right up to the sarcophagus itself.

I always get a kick out of the Denier movement with the junk science bringing up problems 1950's design Model T reactor that was damaged by corruption caused technical problems and hurt nobody. Crippled by the same corrupt practices, the event caused no damage to seventies designed reactors just down the beach.

The entire quake tsunami disaster would have been a non event to a modern nuke

Like all Deniers I notice you refuse to address the certain deaths of millions every year you delay the fossil to nuclear conversion and the certain death of billions when your delay tactics lead us over a civilization ending global warming/peak oil crisis.


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Big Jay

Jun 18, 2011 at 12:08am

seth, i denied no climate change science in my post - just skepticism that nukes is the solution. and i am not the only skeptic - new nuclear plants cannot raise a penny of private capital - because they have no business case - so they must be 100-percent subsidized. meanwhile nuclear power’s renewable competitors (wind, solar) are becoming inexorably cheaper. in fact, nuclear power reduces and retards climate protection by saving less carbon per dollar—and much more slowly—than the superior low- and no-carbon competitors that are soundly beating it in the global marketplace. after 60 years of immense subsidies and devoted effort, nuclear power has proven to be uneconomic and unnecessary - and of course very dangerous.

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