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October 22, 2009

Harper's Canada last on climate change

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

Dr. Mohamed ElmasryIn the 2009 World Wildlife Fund climate change report card Harper’s Canada shamefully was ranked last.

The G8 Climate Scorecards 2009 evaluates the progress each country has made since 1990, the current status of emissions, and intended policies. Each country is ranked according to performance and trends in areas like:

• development of greenhouse gas emissions;

• distance to Kyoto targets;

• share of renewable energies; and

• efficiency of climate policy.

Canada ranked dead last among the G8.

In 2008, the U.S. ranked last, but it has moved up because the new Obama administration has shown a positive attitude towards climate policies, and plans new legislative initiatives. “There has been more action in the U.S. in the last four months than in the last three decades, a trend that will hopefully continue,’’ the report said.

The full ranking from best to worst is: Germany, U.K., France, Italy, Japan, Russia, U.S., and Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a mouthpiece for Big Oil since his first minority government was elected in 2005, and his government has not even implemented a plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions, already among the highest per capita in the world.

Mr. Harper is from Alberta, home of the tar sands, and emissions from operations related upgrading are about five times higher than conventional oil production.

"Nowhere else on Earth do fewer people steward more resources, yet Canada now stands dead last amongst the G8 nations in protecting our shared home from the threat of dangerous climate change," said Keith Steward, director of WWF-Canada’s climate change campaign.

The report cited Canada’s very high emission rates per capita compared to other industrialized countries, the fact that emissions are increasing, energy-intensive non-conventional oil development (tar sands) is expanding, the lack of significant policy improvements since last year, and a refusal to comply with Kyoto targets.

Mr. Harper claims that Canada's Kyoto target is unachievable, and if pursued would result in economic disaster, but the case of Germany suggests otherwise. Not only did it come out on top of the WWF ranking, but its economy did not suffer and it successfully promoted new renewable energy sources.

Even though Germany, the United Kingdom and France met their Kyoto targets, the report said it will not be enough to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius, necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

“While there might be a bailout possibility for the financial system, no amounts of money will save the planet once climate change crosses the danger threshold,’’ wrote WWF head James Leape in the foreword to the report.

To achieve this goal, industrialized countries must, by 2020, reduce their emissions by 25 to 40 per cent over 1990 levels. The Harper government’s target actually allows for an increase.

“Canada's future lies in creating green jobs on a living planet, not in becoming the energy sweatshop for the world,” said Stewart.

Dr Mohamed Elmasry is Professor Emeritus of Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo. He can be reached at

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