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Canadians shouldn’t be smug about America’s Paris accord retreat

Donald Trump has been slammed for withdrawing America from the Paris climate agreement. But Canada’s not doing much better.


 
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement has been met with understandable disdain from Canadians. And confronted by the increasingly divergent world views of the U.S. Republican and Democratic parties, many Canadians appear to be readily embracing the latter.

That divergence is on stark display when comparing the two U.S. parties’ positions on the Paris Agreement and domestic climate policy. The Trump administration’s “America First” mantra contrasts with Barack Obama’s commitment to multilateralism; Trump invariably depicts China as a threat and takes it as given that any costs to the U.S. stemming from the Paris Agreement are “unfair,” while the Obama administration sought to partner with China, reaching a bilateral accord that laid the foundation for the global Paris Agreement. Trump rejects not only the need to reduce U.S. emissions, but also any U.S. responsibility to assist the developing countries already paying a disproportionate price for historical U.S. emissions, refusing to pay the $3 billion Obama committed to the Global Climate Fund.

Trump’s Rose Garden address reaffirmed these differences. He offered a nostalgic vision of a mid-20th century economy predicated on paper, cement and steel manufacturing. He reiterated his “love” of coal, an industry in inexorable decline due to abundant U.S. natural gas, not climate policy, a sharp contrast to the vision of the Obama administration—and a number of American business leaders—who have offered a vision of U.S. competitiveness driven by clean energy innovation.

Having embraced both climate science and multilateralism, most Canadians are appalled by Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. We are relieved that our elected leaders have joined other countries in reiterating our commitment to the Paris Agreement. But lest we feel too smug, the competing economic visions evident in the U.S. are also present, if less visible, within the Canadian polity.

Canada committed under the Paris Agreement to reducing our emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The federal government has promised a national carbon price, among other laudable policies. However, we do not yet have a plan to meet our 2030 target. The shortfall in reductions just happens to match anticipated emissions growth from the tar sands. In fact, the oil industry is the only industrial sector from which emissions are expected to continue growing to 2030.

In Paris, Canada joined other countries in committing to do our part to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. On Thursday, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna offered reassurances that “Canada will continue to take a leadership role to tackle climate change at home and abroad.” Yet rather than transitioning away from fossil fuels, we are committed to expanding our oil production.

Is Canada’s doubling down on our fossil-fuel economy really so different from Trump’s nostalgic championing of U.S. coal?

One critical difference is that the United States burns its own coal, oil, and gas, while Canada exports most of the fossil fuels we produce. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions thus appear on other countries’ ledgers. This has allowed Canadians to overlook the ways we contribute to and prosper from global climate change.

It also has allowed Canadian politicians of all stripes to pretend that we can have it all. How many times have we all heard that “the environment and economy go hand in hand?” While that is true in theory, it does not follow that every economy is consistent with a sustainable environment. Investment in new infrastructure, expected to increase Canada’s fossil fuel exports for decades to come, is not consistent with the transition necessary to limit climate change to 2 degrees Celsius. Viewed in that light, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement that we need to expand fossil-fuel production in order to pay for Canada’s emissions reductions makes no sense.

Although less visible in the Canadian context than the U.S., the choice between dependence on fossil fuel development and investment in a clean energy transition is no less real. And today’s policy decisions by our own governments loom just as large for Canada’s economic future.

Kathryn Harrison is a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia.


 

Canadians shouldn’t be smug about America’s Paris accord retreat

  1. But we can DO something have Zoolander give those Dictators Billions like he did before to fight climate Change or we all Doomed !!

  2. Sorry but none of the countries that are pointing the finger at Trump are any better. Germany’s emissions have risen and they are building multiple coal power plants, Don’t let me get into the fiasco that is China. Look at the list of countries that want hand outs and look at their countries records and what they actually have done with aid given to them. Most are corrupt and the people in need never receive the aid. The same people that would receive the aid from Paris are the same one’s that got rich off of foreign aid for other causes. Are people so naive to think that these same countries out to grab up the 100 billion dollars a year won’t just smile and say thank you and do nothing like they’ve done so far in the past? While working on lowering pollution levels is good and should be worked towards by each country the charity should not be included.

  3. Trump didn’t do all of this because he did or didn’t believe in climate change, he only did it for one reason, and one only, to poke the DNC in the eye as much as he can, after all Trump is the POTUS, he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants(not saying its right or wrong), but the more the Dems poke back at Trump, especially with this Comey case, Trump will roller coast over anything or everything that the Dems ever put in place while Obama was in power..Trump may be a twitter twit, but he(Trump) certainly knows how to get under the skin of the liberals in the US lately, dear i say people like Bill Maher and Kathy Griffith, Trump got these two shook up that bad, he is even causing them to kind of go off script this last week, so someones skin is getting penetrated. I think the media and left should leave Trump alone, let him dig his own hole and bury himself, but the ratings are too high news networks to not, and the advertisers of MSM and Comedy are making a fortune in the US, while the people of the country sit back and watch their country fall into the Abyss.

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