Harper’s Copenhagen fantasy

To the Conservatives, the Copenhagen target is a dream, and they’d really prefer you not ruin it with hard questions


Emissions“Just close your eyes, dream but don’t ruin it by asking any hard questions.” Those words, spoken by Prime Minister Harper, were not addressing Canada’s Copenhagen target and what measures might be imposed to meet it, but they might well have been.  For, you see, Canada has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020—a target that Environment Canada and anyone else who has taken a serious look at it will tell you we will not meet. Everyone, that is, except the Conservative government. To them, the Copenhagen target is a dream, and they’d really prefer you not ruin that dream with hard questions—questions like, “When might we see regulations for the oil and gas sector first promised in 2006?” Or, “Oil and gas regulations are unlikely to generate sufficient reductions to meet the target, so what’s next?” Or even the most basic, “Is the government still committed to the Copenhagen target?” Those, it seems, are off-limits and don’t deserve an answer.

In his B.C. speech, Prime Minister Harper chastised the Liberals for an attitude of, “If you want something from the government, whatever you want, they’re going to tell you you can have it. Don’t worry about how it’s going to be paid for.”  Well, Prime Minister, recent analysis from Simon Fraser University’s Mark Jaccard showed that we’ve waited so long to enact any policies that what once could have been accomplished with policies equivalent to a $100/tonne price on carbon would now take policies at least twice as stringent. Perhaps Mark Jaccard is simply a liberal elite? Perhaps the Prime Minister would prefer the analysis completed for the now-defunct National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (headed by former chief of staff to the late Jim Flaherty, David McLaughlin)—analysis requested in a reference by Minister Peter Kent—which said basically the same thing. Unless you want to force companies and individuals to do a lot of costly things, either through providing them with financial incentives, by imposing financial penalties, or through regulatory actions, you are just not going to get close to meeting Canada’s target. Perhaps, Prime Minister, it is better if we don’t worry about how it’s going to be accomplished and simply assume that the government will take care of it? One might also ask why our government committed to a target which would have required some of the most stringent policies imposed anywhere in the world, but we best not. We wouldn’t want to interrupt the dream.

Perhaps, to borrow from another of the government’s favoured talking points, the Prime Minister believes that the targets will simply meet themselves? Unfortunately for us, that’s largely what’s happening south of the border. President Obama has taken some significant steps on climate change, but other factors have led to much larger reductions in emissions. Most notably, the shale gas revolution, along with tighter regulations on air pollution, have made it uneconomic to build new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and seen the shutdown of significant coal-fired generating capacity. In their most recent report to the United Nations, the United States stated that it “plans to meet its commitment to cut GHGs in the range of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and make additional progress toward forging a robust international response to this global challenge.” Canada, on the other hand, seemed to feel that others would take care of the problem, and stated that, “in light of strong economic growth (meeting our Copenhagen commitments) could be challenging.” What was the federal government doing to address this challenge? According to our submission to the United Nations, “the Government of Canada is working with provinces to reduce emissions from the oil and gas sectors while ensuring Canadian companies remain competitive.”

Basically, if it happens it happens, but we’ve got other priorities.  Now, do you have any other questions?



Filed under:

Harper’s Copenhagen fantasy

  1. In his B.C. speech, Prime Minister Harper chastised the Liberals for an attitude of, “If you want something from the government, whatever you want, they’re going to tell you you can have it. Don’t worry about how it’s going to be paid for.”

    Touche…but who are you and what have you done with Andrew Leach? This reads more like a snappy, snarky bit of sarkiness from Coyne or maybe Wells than anything else. Along with SG’s little dig about the PM being around long enough to perhaps constitute a bit of elitism himself by now, it’s been a good day for small c economists pushing back against the Harper spin machine. All fair comment nonetheless.
    What really seems to have happened here is a Liberal President has caught a break, due to technological innovation as much as anything else, on a file that’s important to him, coincidental with it him now being in the final legacy stretch of his Presidency.
    This has exposed the utter bankruptcy of the Harper strategy to hide in the shadow of US competitive market conditions. The Emperor has no clothes.He never did. But we long suspected that, didn’t we Mr L? Had Harper pointed out that Canada already produced a significant share of it’s power from renewable hydro from the get go[ what is it 60%] and therefore we never did have the room or the obligation to improve, as did the coal dependent US , he might now have a straw to cling to as to why he’s been so slow to regulate the profitable Canadian oil and gas sector. But that would be to admit the Liberals own slow and feeble attempts to rein in AB had a political rationale to it. But no, he needed a cudgel to beat Dion over the head with. Bad bad Liberals did nothing for 13 years! As has always been the case, with this PM in particular, political expediency trumps good forward looking policy, always, Amen!

  2. Harp has had a lot of fantasies….not one thing he promised has happened.

    Not to mention a lot of other things are FUBAR

    It’ll take years to sort this mess out.

  3. Those of a certain vintage will remember a 70s TV commercial about doing preventative maintenance. The closing line was “You can pay me now….or pay me [much more] later.” I couldn’t remember the product, but youtube reveals it was for Fram Oil Filters.

    My analogy for the impact of delaying action on Copenhagen (previously used wrt Kyoto on andrewcoyne’s website before it was highjacked) is the overweight bride/groom who vows to lose 100 lbs. before their wedding day one year hence. Two pounds a week isn’t particularly onerous – just cut back on the snacks and desserts. But wait until three weeks before the big day, and you’ll be spending time at Lulu’s fat farm, abattoir and liposuction emporium.

    Part of this government inertia for inaction is a result of overly rosy forecasts for investment and production from our resource sector. What are we up to now? $650 billion in investment required? 5x production by 2030? All at risk due to some, any, action to put a price on carbon, however minor. These numbers need to be constantly challenged and deflated where applicable.

    Good for pointing out the hypocrisy of the Harper gov’ts actions. Was their a chapter in his hockey book about ragging the puck? Even that strategy can’t go on forever.

  4. Harper will be long gone by 2020 to a or multiple board positions on oil & gas corporations….he could care less if the targets are not met then.

    • That’s it in a nutshell. this way Canada (meaning Harper) can’t be accused of dodging environmental obligations since they agreed to target, but when the deadline arrives Harper will be sitting pretty somewhere else. It’ll be someone else’s mess to deal with.

  5. Glo-Bull Warming is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in human history.

    The adherents to this “theory” are nothing but useful idiots living in a land of lollipops, fairy tales and unicorns.

        • Lenny and Squiggy:

          Laverne called. She wants her sweater with the “L” back. Shirley put on some weight, but says hello.

          • Sure Pee Wee………………………………………roll eyes

        • Heh.
          I didn’t realize Forbes was a platform for conspiracy kooks.

          • It isn’t…………………but you are a kook.

          • Right, Bob.
            There’s nothing kooky about believing that countless scientists, scientific bodies, publications, governments, the UN, academic institutions, etc., are engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to commit fraud.

        • http://www.desmogblog.com/peter-ferrara

          listen Billy Boobs, it you don’t want to be thought as a kook yourself, then find a better source than a fully paid up RW shill for the Heartland Institute and the Koch mafia. Any so called purported private sector IPCC equivalent panel that has someone like Fred Singer as one of its lead authors is a standing joke. Amateur!

          • What are you talking about?
            Fred Singer is the brave fellow who defied the anti-smoking conspiracy and finally revealed to the world how safe cigarette smoke is!

Sign in to comment.