Toronto Star, October 6, 2008
by Mike Buckthought
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s campaign has received worldwide media attention following the admission he copied a speech by former Australian prime minister John Howard. If only he would copy the speeches and policies of leaders around the world who are committed to taking action on climate change.
Canadians would be pleasantly surprised if he copied a speech by David Cameron, leader of Britain’s opposition Conservative party. Harper would say, “Since becoming leader of the Conservative party I have sought to push the environment up to the top of the political agenda.”
Echoing a speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he would follow the advice of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Harper would say, “The report of the IPCC has once again made it crystal clear: climate change is man-made and is accelerating. The impact will be dramatic, unless we take resolute action.”
Merkel talked about the consequences of inaction: “Studies have shown that unchecked climate change is likely to result in at least a 5 per cent reduction and possibly even a 20 per cent reduction in global GDP. Effective action to protect the climate would cost a good deal less.”
During a speech in Tokyo, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden said, “I firmly believe that pricing mechanisms are needed to promote a sustainable society. Setting an appropriate carbon price is essential for the transition to sustainable energy use. This is something that is applied both at EU level, through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, and nationally through Sweden’s own carbon tax.”
Putting a price on carbon is an effective way to encourage the transition to a sustainable economy. Countries such as Sweden and Denmark are leading the way. Sweden introduced a carbon tax in 1991 and its economy is thriving. In Denmark, thousands of jobs have been created, with many people working to manufacture wind turbines.
Canada’s manufacturing sector is well placed to make the transition, but we need economic incentives. Our political leaders must learn that climate-friendly policies protect the environment and our economy.
The recent debate on climate change has focused on the inconvenience of a carbon tax. What is missing is the sense of what is at stake — the devastating consequences of inaction.
But if we take action now, there is hope. The international community can come together to solve environmental problems. We can learn from the success of the Montreal Protocol. The ozone layer was threatened, because of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons produced by humans. Because the international community committed to taking unified action, the ozone layer is now recovering.
We are electing the government that will represent Canada in the upcoming international negotiations in Copenhagen. Will it show leadership when delegations from around the world come together to stop the climate crisis?
Our government has claimed it is showing leadership, but in reality, Canada is a laggard compared to other countries. Canada is ranked number 53 out of a list of 56 countries according to Germanwatch’s index, which measures the effectiveness of climate change policy. Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are now 29 per cent above Canada’s Kyoto target.
If Harper copied a speech by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, he would take immediate action to terminate Canada’s abysmal record on climate change. He would say, “The rich nations and the poor nations have different responsibilities, but one responsibility we all have — and that is action. Action, action, action.”
Canada’s next government must show leadership, by committing to firm reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. For the sake of future generations, we must take immediate action.
Mike Buckthought is Sierra Club Canada’s National Climate Change Campaigner.
Published in the Toronto Star, October 6, 2008.
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