The federal government has pulled the plug on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding that was supposed to help Ontario phase out its high-polluting, coal-fired power plants while it concentrates on its "made-in-Canada" approach to fighting emissions that cause climate change...
Ontario officials say that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wrote on Wednesday to Dwight Duncan, his provincial counterpart, informing him that at least $538-million the previous Liberal government pledged to help defray the costs of the province's actions to fight global warming were off the table...
The coal phase-out is the largest effort in Canada to reduce greenhouse gases, and when it is complete in 2009, would reduce emissions by up to 30 million tonnes, or the same amount as taking seven million cars off the road, according to Ontario estimates.
If there is anything that is "made in Canada", it's Ontario's coal-fired power plants. What will the government learn with its new direction that we don't already know? Answer, the new plan will be short on cash and long on platitudes. This money was essential to free Ontario from its dependence on these power plants.
Particularly troubling, this government seems determined to join the inadequate Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate strategy to lower emissions. Getting to know the AP6 strategy:
The Partnership is to be governed by a non-legally binding Charter with membership terminable upon written notice 90 days prior to the anticipated termination.
Participation in the Partnership is voluntary, and funds, personnel and other resources are to be provided at the discretion of the Partners themselves...
"the purposes of the Partnership are consistent with the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other relevant international instruments, and are intended to complement but not replace the Kyoto Protocol."
So, how are the discussions going so far:
A meeting of member countries of the AP6 in Sydney, Australia, in January 2006, culminated in the decision to encourage voluntary targets promised by industrialists rather than injunctions imposed on them by the group. The commitment of members to rising economic growth, as well as fossil-fuel-based development patterns, make their obligations towards a cleaner environment somewhat suspect.
Australia is involved too:
global emissions will in fact increase by 100 per cent by 2050 under the Partnership plan, when climate scientists are calling for emissions to halve.
A 100 per cent increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, as allowed under the new Partnership plan, would lock the world into a four-degree rise in average global surface temperatures...
"In my whole business career, I have never seen a more misleading public statement as that made by Prime Minister John Howard today," said WWF-Australia CEO Greg Bourne.
"If the statements made today become a reality, this will lock us in to a four-degree rise in global average temperatures, when two-degrees is considered extremely dangerous," he said.
"There couldn't be anything more irresponsible than to knowingly embark on a path towards massive increases in emissions and runaway global warming."
It is painfully clear that our government will proceed with a plan that puts the emphasis on the private sector to formulate solutions. The notion that incentives alone, without binding requirements, can be effective is pure flawed conservatism. The idea pre-supposes that companies have an interest beyond profit, which they clearly don't. Without strict regulation, massive infusions of government monetary assistance, any talk of reduced emissions is simply counter-intuitive. This AP6 charade to look relevant, has no binding targets, is completely "voluntary" and places all responsiblity on the largely amoral multi-nationals of the world.
This government will take its cues from industry on how to proceed, in effect asking the fox in the henhouse to leave the chickens alone. Regulation and oversee are critical componets of any future plans, their absence reveals complete and utter failure. The decision to hold back the money for Ontario's coal plants should serve as a clear signal that this government will fall short on funding and be long on pretty phrases. This direction isn't "made in Canada", it's "made in Canada's boardrooms" and that is a dangerous proposition indeed.