Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Dead Last in the G8 and fighting to preserve the status quo

Canada's role in the great public policy challenge of our era? Fighting against efforts to protect our fragile eco-system on behalf of big oil.

London Canada and Japan were blocking a possible deal on climate change at the Copenhagen summit, Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Adviser, warned yesterday.

Speaking at the World Conference of Science Journalists, Sir David said that the two countries had stepped into the breach left by the Bush Administration, which had strongly resisted cutting CO2 emissions.

“Copenhagen is faltering at the moment,” said Sir David. “The Americans are now fully engaged. But several countries are blocking the process.”

Governments previously were able to hide behind the US’s intransigence on climate change, he said, but the pro-climate policies being launched by the Obama administration means this is no longer possible. “The time has come for people to reveal their cards,” he told delegates.

Gordon Brown has said he will be pushing for an agreement at Copenhagen in December which pegs global warming to 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, a widely agreed target among climate scientists. He has committed to cut emissions in the UK by 80 per cent, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.

Canada’s position is widely believed to be driven by its powerful industry lobby, which is keen to exploit oil reserves in the country’s tar sands. “These people are very outspoken, aggressive lobbyists,” said Dr Robert Falkner, a specialist in international relations at the London School of Economics. “They are gung-ho about rising oil prices and want to exploit that.”

The low profile of science in the Canadian and Japanese governments — both countries have recently scrapped the role of chief scientist — is also contributing to their stances, according to Sir David.

There's a role on the public stage to be proud of: stepping up to the plate to represent the Bush approach now that he's gone.

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