As delegates from around the globe converge on Montreal for the UN conference on climate change this week, it's hard not to be pessimistic about our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Take a look at the feds' record. It's not a pretty picture.
Automakers get free ride
Reducing car dependency doesn't seem to be a priority of the feds, who have rebuffed demands of activists to follow California's lead and impose regulations on the industry. Cars and trucks account for one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. Still, carmakers have stubbornly refused to boost the fuel efficiency of their vehicles voluntarily, demanding more subsidies instead.
Big industry digs bigger eco hole
The feds have abandoned the polluter pays principle. In fact, large industrial polluters, which account for half of all greenhouse gases, have actually had their targets reduced by half of what we committed to under Kyoto in 2002. The added hitch is that there are no timelines for the targets. We've promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels, but already emissions from manufacturing have grown by 24 per cent since 90.
Retro thinking on retrofits
In Denmark, all homes must undergo an energy audit at the time of sale, which has encouraged homeowners to boost energy efficiency. Here, the feds are waiting for the construction industry to voluntarily change its building practices . A major stumbling block to greater greenhouse gas reductions are the provinces, which have power over building codes but have yet to agree to tighter energy standards when it comes to heating, lighting, cooling and appliances.
Blowing hot air, missing the tide
Any government that talks about producing "cleaner fossil fuels" yet subsidizes the nuke and oil and gas industries to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year can't be serious about reducing greenhouse gases. What's needed, say eco activists, is a massive reprioritizing of our renewable energy strategy. We're missing the boat, too, on our ample ocean tidal and wave energy potential, an emerging tech that's five to 10 years behind wind and that the UK is already turning to as a future source of clean power.
Can't see forest for the trees
Indeed, the feds want "credits" for the fact that forests mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and to apply those "credits" to areas where we're not meeting our greenhouse goals. The feds want us to forget four decades of massive clear-cutting. But nowhere in the feds' plan are there disincentives to deforestation or programs to cut emissions that result from logging.
A coming storm, but no plan
Climate change is here. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are 30 per cent higher than at any time in the planet's history. Already we're seeing more forest fires, severe droughts, floods, ice storms and smog days in summer. We're spending millions preparing for a terrorist attack, yet we have no action plan to deal with severe weather events that will cause more devastation.