Blame Canada is a four part series revealing how Canada has become a wealthy, fossil-fuelled energy superpower and an international climate pariah. Part 1 reveals Canada's emergence as a Petrostate, part 2 outlines Canada's climate crimes, and part 3 shows how energy 'wealth' contributes to the nation's poverty.
Canada's opposition to anything that might help developing countries is “mind-boggling” a delegate from Mali told me during a UN conference to slow the widespread extinction of species. “Canadians are known to protect the environment, I cannot understand why they are pushing policies that are clearly unsustainable," he said.
Only a few days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper told delegates that losing wildlife was an urgent and alarming issue. Then as nearly 190 nations made plans to take action, Canadian delegates blocked those plans with legal and technical manoeuvres.
“Do Canadians know what their government is doing here? You must tell them.”
That was in 2008. Since then at environmental or development gatherings around the world I've been asked dozens of times “what has happened to Canada?” And it's not just me.
Blame Canada is a four part series revealing how Canada has become a fossil-fuelled energy superpower that's going to wreck its future and the global climate. For Part 2, click here.
What's happened to Canada? To the dismay of many a country with an international reputation for relatively progressive environmental policies (at least compared to the United States) is rushing headlong to dig up all the oil, gas, and coal it can. The country’s leaders can scarcely muster the effort to pretend to want to limit climate-heating carbon emissions. And the Canadian business establishment and media have largely gone along with the program. Put it all together, and you have a country that has become a full-blown “petrostate.”
People are starting to notice. Last December at the UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, Canada beat out tough contenders like Saudi Arabia to be elected "Colossal Fossil" by environmental organizations from around the planet. Canada had the dishonor of being the most uncooperative country out of 193 nations at the climate summit. It was the sixth year in a row that international environmental groups gave Canada their 'highest' award for its persistent efforts to block any agreement on reducing carbon emissions.
What's happened to Canada is that it has experienced a steady takeover by the fossil fuel industry. Canada's is now the world's fifth largest crude oil producer and the biggest supplier of oil to the US. Canada is also the third largest producer of natural gas and one of the top ten miners of coal. This enormous boom in fossil fuel production has been underway since the late 1990s. Like Saudi Arabia, fossil energy is by far Canada's biggest export and has become the dominant economic and political focus.
As the Obama administration revisits its decision on whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, DeSmog Canada decided to take a look at how the project became a cause célèbre.
We asked ourselves: Of all the environmental causes to fight, what was it that mobilized Hollywood celebrities, renowned scientists, environmental activists and a handful of Texans to face jail time protesting a proposed pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast?
What’s more: How did a decision on the project - which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper once brushed off as a “no-brainer” - get sidelined by the U.S. government ahead of a crucial 2012 presidential election?
In fact, if the Obama administration decides to reject TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, the Harper government will need to face facts: Its own environmental policies and PR tactics will be largely to blame.
By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington. This post originally appeared in the Science Matters blog on the DSF website.
When the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded in 2010, killing 11 people and spewing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, it cost more than $40 billion to mop up the mess. In Canada, an oil company would only be liable for only $30 million, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the rest.
That’s just one of a litany of flaws Canada’s environment commissioner identified with the government’s approach to environmental protection. According to environment and sustainable development commissioner Scott Vaughan, who released a final series of audits before stepping down, the federal government’s failure to protect the environment is putting Canadians’ health and economy at risk.
Vaughan says the government has no real plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is not even on track to meet its own modest targets (already watered down from the widely accepted emission-levels baseline of 1990 to 2005). It is unprepared for tanker accidents and oil spills in coastal waters. It lacks regulations governing toxic chemicals used by the oil industry.
He noted the federal government does not even require the oil and gas industry to disclose chemicals it uses in fracking, which means there is no way to assess the risks. And despite the fact that Canada has committed to protecting 20 per cent of its oceans by 2020, we have less than one per cent protected now and are not likely to meet our goal within this century.
“If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver.
And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.
“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”