How could it be worse than we thought?

Elizabeth May
Reflections on the Harper Government "Clean Air Act" In an underwhelming announcement, after months of hype, we finally read the legislative amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The amendments do create one useful new thing, the potential to set National Air Quality Objectives -- someday. But other than that, there is nothing but delay on smog and abdication of responsibility on addressing the global climate crisis. It is a series of mostly unnecessary amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), not a plan. No references to renewable energy because there is no plan nor are actions outlined. No targets either. The earliest we'll see regulations for air pollution or fuel economy in cars is between 2010-2015. The consultations starting this year will allegedly lead to targets. The only hard target for GHG is to reduce 45-65% below 2003 levels by 2050. NOTE THAT KEY ELEMENT: below 2003 levels! So even Ignatieff's target of 50% below 1990 levels by 2050, which I have criticized as far too weak, is substantially better than what was announced today. Of course that did not stop Jason Kenney, parliamentary secretary to the PM, from comparing his government's upper end of 65% with Ignatieff's of 50% and claiming the Conservative target was tougher, without once mentioning that the Harper government has moved the base year to 2003, when emissions were 25% higher than they were in 1990. Compare the Harper plan with California's target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. That is the right target. No mention of Kyoto anywhere. On top of that, the Harper government will have arguably weakened CEPA... Former Environment Minister Stephane Dion had taken the first step by getting GHG listed under CEPA (in the toxic substances section) enabling speedy regulation. Harper has removed GHG from that strong and usable section and potentially imperilled the constitutionality of the Act. In addition, the "Purpose" section of the Clean Air portion of the act, section 5.1, does NOT mention any purpose related to climate change or GHG. It could leave a future government with so flawed an Act that amendments would be required BEFORE anyone could regulate GHG. The far worse outcome would be a successful constitutional challenge creating a bad precedent based on a (deliberately?) poorly structured Act to rule out future federal action as unconstitutional. If I was not the Green Party leader, if I had not been so busy today running from interview to interview, I don't know how I could have avoided the overwhelming sense of grief that made me want to go somewhere quiet and weep. The Canadian movement to avert a global climate catastrophe just lost years -- no decades -- of work. The climate crisis is not just another political issue. It is a moral imperative. And we are running out of time.