Harper: Embarrassing and Defeatist

I remember the exact moment when I no longer thought Mel Lastman’s antics and gaffs were funny. On April 24th, 2003 he appeared on CNN during the SARS crisis and infamously criticized the World Health Organization, saying “They don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t know who this group is. I’ve never heard of them before.” Suddenly, with the whole world watching, having a leader so out of touch with reality was profoundly embarrassing.

Today at the United Nations, Stephen Harper, who is now violating both international and domestic law, continued to embarrass Canada in front of the world. Jim Johnston unpacks one of his more perplexing statements:

As I listened to the report on CBC of the Prime Minister’s speech on climate change, I heard a reference to his belief that market forces will lead to technological innovation which will eventually lead to solving the climate crisis.

What market forces is he talking about? The market forces I see operating are that people and corporations will buy the cheapest power available, irrespective of CO2, GHG or the impact of depleted uranium. The enlightened few may pay more for clean energy, but the market force is predominantly “fueled” by price. These same market forces drive manufacturing and assembly operations to the countries with the lowest labour cost, irrespective of worker conditions and human rights.

Market forces can be used to advantage through tax shifting, cap and trade mechanisms and well designed programs, such as R&D funding for alternative energy development and commercialization. The Prime Minister is missing the point that without these measures, the market will continue to do exactly what it has always done, consuming the unvalued portions of our habitat – particularly clean air and fresh, clean water.

Economic fundamentals say that the price point drives both the supply curve and the demand curve. Without changing the price points, market mechanisms will not solve the problems that face us today. In fact, the market mechanisms based on “free” air, “free” water, “free” ecosystem and “free” garbage disposal are what got us into trouble in the first place.

I also came across this post by Lord Kitchener’s Own which contains some very helpful highlights from a David Suzuki Foundation report [pdf] outlining how much further along other countries are in doing the “impossible” and implementing Kyoto. There’s a long list, and, well…

To me, Iceland is the most shocking indictment of Canada’s failure. Under Kyoto, Iceland was actually permitted to INCREASE their emissions to 10% above their 1990 emissions, while Canada committed to a reduction to 6% below our 1990 emissions. Since then, Iceland has reduced their emissions to 2% below their 1990 levels, while Canada’s emissions have increased to more than 30% above 1990 levels. So, Iceland’s target was 10% ABOVE 1990, ours was 6% BELOW 1990, and Iceland is currently WAY closer to hitting OUR target, than we are to hitting theirs!!!

And no, their economy hasn’t even been destroyed. I’m as surprised as you are.

2 thoughts on “Harper: Embarrassing and Defeatist

  1. Harper is correct eventually market forces, technical and social innovation will correct the excess and inefficient energy consumption in Canada. Eventually after he leaves office. His government is effectively standing in the way. Kyoto is an incentive based measure of increased energy efficiency. Our competitiveness will increasing suffer in comparison with the more energy efficient Asian world. We can see the ability to compete decreasing, why wait until we are uncompetitive.

    Unfortunately technical and social innovation takes time to effect energy efficiency. And if you believe that we eventually need to increase our energy efficiency to compete with the more energy efficient world, then why delay. By delaying Harper is only increasing the shock the economy will suffer because of the time delay.

  2. What absolutely floors me is Harper’s suggestion that we LEAD on Climate Change by suggesting a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, the U.K. commited to a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050 way back in March.

    Meanwhile, in Britain, opposition parties said of the 60% reduction by 2050 “We may well need to aim more towards about 80%, but it’s a good first start and the framework is broadly right” and some called the 60% reduction “dangerously unambitious”. Even the British Tories called upon the legislation to be strengthened with YEARLY targets rather than a simple cummulative 60% reduction!

    So, a centrist British government is getting pressure from the left, AND the right to do better than their current legislation, which is ALREADY 10% ahead of Harper’s plan! This is our Prime Minister’s “leadership”???

    How exactly are we supposed to “lead” from the back of the line???

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