Peace and Environment News — Insider, July–August 2012
by Mike Buckthought
Canada’s Endangered Environmental Laws
The House of Commons recently passed the omnibus budget bill (Bill C-38) after a marathon voting session. Bill C-38 will weaken Canada’s environmental legislation, paving the way for pipelines and pollution. According to Environment Minister Peter Kent, “approximately 4,000–5,000 EAs (environmental assessments) are conducted by federal authorities every year.” Kent says under the new legislation, most of these projects “would no longer require a federal EA.” On June 4, thousands of Canadians joined the Black Out, Speak Out online protest to speak out against legislation that threatens the environment. Over 500 organizations blacked out their websites. All of the country’s opposition parties participated in the online protest. (Postmedia News, June 15, 2012; Ecojustice, June 4, 2012 www.ecojustice.ca; Black Out Speak Out www.blackoutspeakout.ca)
Cutting Environmental Research
The Harper government has cut funding for the world’s leading freshwater research centre. In an open letter, scientists urge the government to reconsider its decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a unique research facility. Since 1968, scientists have conducted groundbreaking research examining the effects of lake acidification, eutrophication, climate change and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The omnibus budget bill cut the centre’s $2-million annual funding. “I think the real problem is we have a bunch of people running science in this country who don’t even know what science is,” says David Schindler, a world-renowned scientist. If no alternative funding can be found, the centre will close by March 2013. (Globe and Mail, June 1–15, 2012)
Record Investments in Renewable Energy
Global investment in sustainable energy reached a record US$257 billion in 2011, despite the world economic crisis. Investment in green energy has surged: last year’s total was six times the 2004 figure. While Canada focuses on the tar sands, many countries are transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Global investment in solar energy has soared, with large increases recorded for the United Kingdom, Greece, Australia, France, Italy, Spain and Japan. Last year, the leading countries were China and the United States. Both countries invested over US$50 billion in renewable energy. Canada’s investment in renewable energy dropped eight per cent, reaching US$5 billion — about a sixth of Italy’s total. (The Guardian, June 11, 2012; Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012, June 11, 2012 http://fs-unep-centre.org)
Canada Drops Peacekeeping
United Nations peacekeeping missions help people around the world make the transition from conflict to peace. There are currently over 99,000 UN peacekeepers on four continents. There has been a dramatic decline in Canada’s support for peacekeeping. In the early 1990s, Canada was the world’s leading contributor of peacekeepers. According to the UN’s April 2012 report, only 33 Canadian military personnel and 130 police officers are serving in peacekeeping missions. Fifty-two countries are contributing more peacekeepers than Canada. Although Canada no longer plays a prominent role in international peacekeeping efforts, Canadians continue to express strong support for peace. According to a 2010 Nanos poll conducted for the Globe and Mail, Canadians rank peacekeeping as the top priority for Canada’s military. Only one in five Canadians want the country to send soldiers to war. (Globe and Mail, June 8, 2012; United Nations Peacekeeping www.un.org/en/peacekeeping)
Former Australian PM Criticizes Canada
In comments published by the Ottawa Citizen, a former Australian prime minister criticizes Canada for failing to uphold an international treaty that bans cluster munitions. “Canada used to be in the forefront internationally in leading the world in good directions,” says Malcolm Fraser. “It is a pity the current Canadian Government, in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.” Canada signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but proposed legislation would allow Canadian soldiers to help military forces of other countries use the banned weapons. “These weapons are outlawed because of their indiscriminate nature and devastating consequences for civilians,” says Laura Cheeseman, Director of the international Cluster Munition Coalition. “In its current form, this legislation leaves open the possibility of Canadian Forces personnel using cluster bombs.” (Ottawa Citizen, June 3, 2012; Mines Action Canada, May 30, 2012 www.minesactioncanada.org)
Mike Buckthought is a writer based in Ottawa.
Published in the Peace and Environment News Insider, Volume 27, Number 3, July–August 2012, page 6.