In Canada, The Liberal's Big Kyoto Problem

The Golden Rule in politics is never promise something you can't deliver. In 1997 Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol and committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12, yet emissions today are now more than 30% above the target. Last week, it was claimed by Eddie Goldenberg, a former party policy advisor, that at the time, Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretian committed the country to Kyoto fully expecting to fall short of the targets. Here's how the Globe and Mail reported the comments:

"I am not sure that Canadian public opinion -- which was overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying Kyoto in the abstract -- was then immediately ready for some of the concrete implementation measures that governments would have to take to address the issue of climate change," Mr. Goldenberg said. "Nor was the government itself even ready at the time with what had to be done. The Kyoto targets were extremely ambitious and it was very possible that short-term deadlines would at the end of the day have to be extended."

However, as Goldenberg told the Canadian Press news agency, he believes that signing Kyoto galvanized public opinion around the problem, despite the failure to meet short term deadlines in the accord. This catalytic function, according to Goldenberg, was by far the most important outcome of Kyoto.

Yet now, Conservatives are publicizing the Kyoto failure as a way to undermine the Liberal party's long standing lead in the polls on the issue of the environment, and in combination with other poll indicators, it looks like Conservative control of government might be locked in for the foreseeable future.

Last week, as the Globe and Mail reported, a survey by The Strategic Counsel "paints a grim picture for the Liberals." The Conservatives register at 34 per cent among voters, up three points from January, with the Liberals at 29 per cent. A Decima Research poll shows the parties neck and neck, but suggests Liberal fortunes in Ontario are falling. Here's how the Globe in an editorial, contextualizes the decreasing Liberal fortunes on the environment:

On the environment...the Liberals cling to only the narrowest of leads -- three points ahead of the Tories. This remarkably poor showing is a result of two factors: the Tories' 11th-hour conversion on global warming and emergence as eco-warriors, and the Liberals' foolish support for MP Pablo Rodriguez's Bill C-288, which binds the government to the Kyoto Protocol no matter the short-term economic cost and no matter that it emphasizes the Liberals' own failure to have done more earlier.

All of this is rather ironic, of course, since the Conservative party has come into power as Western populists, relishing in the money and influence afforded by Alberta's burgeoning oil and gas industry, all the while using the framing of "economic burden" to oppose major cap and trade policies. They've also been accused of "greenwashing, " offering several watered-down environmental proposals that provide tax incentives for energy conservation.

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Well ... there's more posturing and political spinning going on than you can shake a stick at.

The previous Liberal government wasn't as irresponsible as today's Conservative government would have you believe; and at the moment the Liberals are doing little more than trying to trap the government in an awkward position.

Same thing on the security discussion, in my opinion. Two key issues being sacrificed to political posturing, fear-mongering, and pre-election positioning.

A plague on both their houses, I say ...

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 01 Mar 2007 #permalink

Are you sure it's a failure? In the U.S., could any campaign break through the Iraq War? I'm not sure the IPCC should be blamed entirely.