Canada's Copenhagen Backslide

Canada's international reputation goes into flat-out tailspin with leaked plans to give up on emissions reductions commitments

Pembina Institute's Matthew Bramley

Pembina Institutes Matthew Bramley
  • Pembina Institute's Matthew Bramley

After getting called out by the Yes Men mega-pranksters, it seemed Canada had hit rock bottom in Copenhagen. Not so.

Late yesterday afternoon CBC got its publicly funded paws on a draft presentation by Environment Minister Jim Prentice. “It proposes regulations for greenhouse gas emissions for the oil and gas and heavy mining industries,” Matthew Bramley, the Pembina Institute’s climate change program director, tells me from Copenhagen.

He says the proposed regulations would cut Canada’s planned greenhouse gas reductions to about a third of what is now required. Those earlier requirements were themselves much too weak to meet our Kyoto commitments. “We conclude that the reductions needed in the rest of the economy are so steep that it’s implausible that we’ll meet our targets.”

By targets he means the weak targets Canada released in its 2008 Turning the Corner plan of 2008, not our actual commitments under Kyoto, which we weren’t likely to meet anyway.

Bramley’s Pembina Institute jointly released a statement a few hours ago, and held a press conference minutes ago, with the Climate Action Network and Équiterre. He hasn’t yet heard any response from other nations to Canada’s latest backslide. “But if I was a negotiator for another country I would view this as negotiating in bad faith,” he says.

The press conference was followed with a "lie for a lie" demonstration by the Canadian Youth Delegation, in which CYD members lay on the floor with signs decrying Canada's ongoing climate failure. "Young people are further disappointed in the lack of transparency, or genuine participation of the Conservative government in Copenhagen," says a CYD press release today. "These leaked documents show that the Canadian government is lying to Canadians about our climate targets, and lying to the international community about our willingness to negotiate."

Bramley holds hope that Canada will do the right thing by week’s end, due to unprecedented pressure from the 5,000 journalists in Copenhagen and the 100 heads of state arriving in the next couple days. “Usually it’s just environment ministers but with this level of scrutiny and political clout the political price for failure will be very high.”

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