Kyoto scuffling continues, as if it mattered

I cannot, on this Saturday morning, find online the report the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy reportedly released yesterday saying the federal Conservatives are thisclose to lying about cutting Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions drastically over the next 20 to 50 years.

Apparently it came out late Friday, with the government using a technique journalists call “taking out the trash.”

The NRTEE isn’t displaying it. Environment Canada, the relevant ministry, doesn’t seem to have it. There’s no news release about it. The Globe and Mail quotes from the report, but Googling a distinctive passage turns up no original.

All of which means that I’m still in the dark about whether the report says anything significant or not. Consider the opening paragraphs of the Toronto Star‘s story:

The federal government’s latest climate change plan is badly flawed and won’t help Canada to hit its international climate change targets, its own advisory group says.

All nine programs in the plan, unveiled last month after Parliament passed a law that ordered the government to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, won’t do the job, the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy said yesterday.

“With respect to the realization of Canada’s Kyoto commitments, we conclude that the plan … will likely not allow Canada to meet those commitments,” the report states.

But then, it wasn’t supposed to. The targets described in the Tory climate-change plan (a 20-per-cent cut below 2006 emissions levels by 2020) were different from the Kyoto Accord’s targets (six per cent below 1990 levels by 2008, in essence).

Put more simply, the Tories’ stated target is to reduce Canada’s emissions to about 600 megatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020, while the Kyoto target is 500 megatonnes by 2008. They’re very different objectives.
Meeting the Kyoto targets — which begin to apply three months from now — became impossible without massive economic damage sometime around the year 2000, thanks to Liberal governments’ inaction, and now are simply impossible no matter how much dislocation we were willing to accept. There’s no time anymore for adaptation and research and technology deployment. We’d just have to send the army to shut down big factories, and the troops probably wouldn’t do it.

How about this quote, from the Globe‘s version:

Environmentalist Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada, said the report should force the government to change its message on climate change.

“It is a scathing review of all the measures that the government has put forward under its plan,” she said. “After two years, they can no longer blame the Liberals for inaction, because here’s their own plan, and it’s not going to work.”

Not going to work to do what? Meet Kyoto targets? No surprise, and to keep beating the Tories with that stick means that you inhabit a fairyworld where it’s unreasonable for the Conservatives to do the impossible.

But if the Tories’ plan isn’t going to work even on its own terms … Well, then you have something.

To look at the Conservatives’ plan, as it was released back in April, I was and am skeptical of it even on its own terms. The major problem is that there’s no discipline mechanism in the plan: if the country is missing the milestones along the way in a plan that extends conceptually to 2050, there’s no punishment, no system for tightening up the control regime. Emissions credits cost what they cost, which is not much, and if emitters are content to pay for them, the emitters can keep emitting. End of plan. It struck me that it was as though I’d said my target was to be a millionaire by 2020, and I was going to achieve that by saving $20 a month.

But the NRTEE report, as described in the press, actually seems more optimistic. The Globe:

The report’s focus is limited under the law to Conservative measures in place for the 2008-2012 period. It supports the government’s stand that while the Kyoto targets will not be met, emissions will start to go down in 2010.

Gary Keller, a spokesman for Environment Minister John Baird, said that is the more important finding. He said the report does not give a full picture of the Conservative plan because it is limited to the Kyoto dates.

… and that limitation is thanks to the Liberals and their MP Pablo Rodriguez, who wrote the bill forcing the NRTEE to report on the government’s climate-change plan as though we lived in the fairyworld where the Kyoto targets are achievable.

If I can find the blasted report itself, I’ll take this up again.

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One response to “Kyoto scuffling continues, as if it mattered

  1. Not going to work “to do what” is a great question, though I think the answer has to be “avert the worst of climate change, or as much of it as possible.” Even if the report found that the Conservative plan would meet Conservative goals, that doesn’t mean the goals are sound in the first place, which should be the main point.

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