By Ian Bruce, Climate Change Specialist

The UN climate change summit in Mexico wraps up today. Although world leaders were far from reaching an ambitious, fair and binding deal, they did make some progress on issues like financing solutions from rich nations to those countries most at risk. Overcoming this barrier would move the world towards an effective response to climate change if world leaders are able to show resolve at next year's summit in South Africa.

But what was really troubling for our country was our federal government's behaviour at the negotiations. It is rare to see such a level of immaturity and, frankly, laziness from a developed country when it comes to being part of an international dialogue on solutions to the greatest threat facing our planet.

Our Environment Minister, John Baird, arrived at the UN climate change summit without a plan for Canada to play a constructive role by reducing global warming emissions.

He did, however, bring with him some fingers to point the blame. Not long after setting foot in Mexico, Minister Baird chastised China for not doing enough to counter global warming emissions. He retorted: "If it's two steps forward in Canada but eight steps back in China, that doesn't deliver the goods in the fight against climate change, that doesn't deliver the goods for the environment, it doesn't deliver the goods for the world."

Really? The Conservative government has promised three times in the past five years to put in place a plan to reduce Canada's global warming emissions, yet none of the proposed plans, even the proposal developed in 2007 by John Baird himself during his first tenure as Canada's Environment Minister, have ever seen the light of day.

Last year, China became the global leader in investment in clean energy solutions and allocated nearly 38 per cent of the country's budget to green infrastructure, including wind power and public transit. Canada allocated a mere eight per cent of its budget towards solutions.

Although Minister Baird is correct that China must do more, as must all countries, he failed to note that Canada emits six times more global warming pollution per person than China. To have any credibility or moral authority to point blame, it might have made sense for the minister to arrive in Mexico with at least a plan to reduce Canada's emissions.

The Canadian government claims it will follow the U.S.'s approach to climate change. But that really doesn't add up either, as the U.S. is on track to outspend Canada 18 times more per person on clean energy solutions.

Thankfully, state and provincial leaders are filling some of the void left by the federal governments. In California, citizens recently voted to keep their clean energy economy strong by squashing efforts by two oil companies to dismantle the state's Global Warming Solutions Act. Since 2005, green jobs in California have grown 10 times faster than the state average and now employ half a million people. Leaders in provinces like Ontario, B.C., Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba have also started to realize the opportunities of being part of the solution and investing in a clean, rather than dirty, energy future.

Canadians deserve more than empty rhetoric, broken promises and finger-pointing when it comes to our country's response to the serious threat of climate change.

December 10, 2010

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Jan 07, 2011
4:06 AM

Dear “Learn Spanish Software Reviews”. The paradigm shift is happening and is inevitable due to peak oil and economic meltdown — we’re just not aware of it. My wife and I and our friends have been moving toward sustainable living for some time now. I thought there should be some kind of group formed to push this agenda in communities. Turns out there’s tons and it’s a growing world-wide movement. Just google “transition towns”, “permaculture”, “relocalization” and it will warm your heart and bring a tear to your eye..

Dec 24, 2010
9:55 AM

Hi PlanetIntelligence (James?). Even with smart grid and CST you’ll either need to pair with fossils or come up with some sort of storage medium.

No mention of human impact. Is it okay to make people sick, drive down their property values, divide whole communities, have neighbours fighting neighbours? Don’t be quoting Dr Arlene King’s propaganda. I personally know 4 families that cannot live in their houses here in Ripley.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to see more smaller wind generators that don’t impact on your neighbours?

Environmental degradation itself is a symptom of economic depravation. Our global economic systems are growth dependent yet we live on a finite planet. If the subsidies going towards all forms of production were instead spent on conservation we’d only need a fraction of the power we now produce. The only purpose industrial wind turbines serve is so people can feel good about the energy they waste and end up wasting even more. Energy efficiency is not the same as conservation. Instead, in our current economic climate, it makes more sense to continue to waste energy and come up with new ways of generating and wasting it (growth). Energy conservation is bad for the economy (zero or negative growth). At some point growth dependency on a finite planet will no longer work. We might be there already.

Dec 14, 2010
3:10 PM

How will the paradigm shift in how we use and produce energy happen? Oil and gas is big business in Canada. Lobbyists from those oil and gas companies play a big part in shaping policy in Canada and the United States. Really all over the world.

As long as there is big money to be made and lining of politicians pockets, either directly or indirectly, by these oil companies I am afraid I don’t see things changing until we reach a critical point.

Unfortunately, will it be too late to change when we reach that point?

Dec 13, 2010
6:09 PM

Keith, you’re right to a point but if we invest in smartgrid technology as well as CST (concetrated Solar thermal) technologies, that will negate much of the need for alternatives or storage. Smartgrid and Wind go hand in hand… it’s always windy somewhere. EGS (enhanced geothermal systems) offer our greatest clean energy alternative. Once drilling technologies become a bit more advanced, countless sites become viable for producing virtually limitless clean energy. As for bats and birds with wind turbines, the current statistic records that the average household cat kills as many birds in a year as does any wind turbine. I love birds and all wildlife for that matter but if given the choice, I’ll choose clean energy over a few hundred birds per year. At least they won’t die in a toxic goop in the tarsands.

Dec 13, 2010
4:47 AM

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” – attributed to Honest Abe Lincoln.

We’ve been had. Hoodwinked. Duped. Conned. Fooled. The wool over my eyes is starting to itch. The ONLY way we can reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the potential devastating effects of global warming and climate change is by leaving fossil fuels right where we found them: buried underground or deep in our oceans.

Harnessing wind energy could help us achieve that goal, but ONLY if the energy produced is somehow stored so it can be used when needed; such as in a battery bank. That is not happening.

Without storing the energy produced by wind we are actually making matters worse. We are actually INCREASING our dependency on fossil fuels. That sounds pretty stupid when you first hear it, but when you look at how the electricity grid works it becomes crystal clear. Wind turbines need to be paired with fossil turbines to make it work. Supply has to match demand or the grid collapses. Only fossil fits the bill. The more wind turbines that get erected the more fossil generation we need. The hope is that “one day” we’ll solve the storage issue. Problem is, if we don’t, we’re stuck with fossil generation because of wind energy. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.

We’re sacrificing the lives of thousands of bats and birds for nothing, not to mention the human impact they are having.

This is wrong.

Check this out:

Robert F Kennedy Jr. – Solar Thermal and Utility Scale Wind are Gas Plants

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