Kyoto discord among greens Rating: NNNNN
When a plan represents significant progress after nearly 20 years of inaction, but leaves the biggest polluters with an excuse for inaction, how does the environmental movement recognize elements of progress without excusing the cushioning of polluters?
The recent revisions to the government's Kyoto plan present an important example of this problem.
Still, there is much to celebrate in the document.
The federal Cabinet reconfirmed that achieving Kyoto targets is possible (even though the pro-oil and -gas federal department tasked with developing the Kyoto plan, Natural Resources Canada, had tried to torpedo the efforts).
Cabinet committed to reaching those targets, now set at a 270-megatonne carbon reduction by 2010.
The plan rejects any funding of nuclear reactors to fight climate change, and includes $250 million for a partnership fund to engage provinces that have thus far been let off the hook in carbon reduction. It's from this fund that Ontario will find cash to shut down its coal plants and build an east-west grid to buy Manitoba hydro power.
The commitment of car-makers to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to a level equivalent to California's vehicle emission standard is a significant victory. Even though it is voluntary, it is a huge push on U.S. regulators to follow Canada's lead and shift the whole North American car market to cleaner vehicles.
As well, there are significant funds for green municipal infrastructure through the redirected gas tax money labelled the "new deal for cities and communities." It comes to $7 billion over the next 10 years. Although some of these funds could be used for highways for rural communities, the language for large urban centres is heavily focused on "environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure."
The new Kyoto plan - with its goal of a 270-megatonne reduction in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions - is a challenging target. A bull's eye may not be possible without the additional steps suggested in the 2005 budget. We will need rebates to encourage the purchase of energy-efficient cars and appliances. We will need to retune the plan going forward, and to force the biggest polluters to do their share.
However, warts and all, there is no way one can credibly deny that the new plan represents progress. Now the question is, how much of this progress will survive the political manoeuvres in Ottawa?