Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserves praise and criticism for his handling of the issue of climate change since winning power in 2006.
Ironically, the praise he deserves is for refusing to take a so-called “leadership” role on global warming, for which he is constantly attacked by the Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Greens.
The criticism he deserves is for not doing something that would make them even angrier.
That is, denouncing — as prime minister — the Kyoto accord and everything it has spawned as terrible public policy, which is unfairly punitive to a big, cold, northern, oil-exporting, sparsely populated country like Canada.
Let’s start by giving Harper credit where it’s due, since he’s the only political leader who makes any sense on this issue.
To understand why, think of the economic chaos we’d be in today had Harper caved in to Liberal demands in 2006 that he implement the Kyoto deal they signed in 1998, ratified in 2002, and then ignored until they lost power.
This meant Harper inherited a fiasco in which we were 30% over our Kyoto emission target when he took office.
It also meant he had just two years to start lowering Canada’s carbon dioxide emissions to an average of 6% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
Many people wrongly interpret this as meaning Harper had until 2012 to lower emissions to the prescribed Kyoto level, but that’s not what the deal signed by Jean Chretien — who must have been inhaling greenhouse gas at the time — said.
Requiring Canada to lower emissions to an average of 6% below 1990 levels annually between 2008 and 2012, meant that for every year that target wasn’t achieved starting in 2008, even larger emission cuts would have been necessary in subsequent years to make up the difference by 2012.
Complying with this, which the Liberals committed us to but never implemented, would have meant a ruinous, government-imposed economic slowdown on the country, starting in 2006, which, combined with the 2008 global recession, would have devastated our economy.