Coping with climate change

Canada should set the bar for other countries with responsible climate change policy

More than 8,000 people will attend the UN Climate Change Conference from Dec. 7 to 18.
More than 8,000 people will attend the UN Climate Change Conference from Dec. 7 to 18.
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Matthew Lombardi
Matthew Lombardi

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen runs from Dec. 7 to 18, but we’re already beginning to hear the excuse parade from assorted world leaders skeptical that anything substantive will emerge from the meeting.

Since the last UN climate conference in Kyoto in 1997, climate change has evolved from a social and environmental issue into one universally recognized as having massive global security implications due to its impact on food supplies and drought caused by global warming.

So where does Canada stand on this crucial issue that combines social, environmental and security policy?

Nowhere, to be exact.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks Canada shouldn’t enact meaningful legislation on climate change until a global deal has been reached—specifically, not until the United States acts first. Mr. Harper’s government has essentially ignored the issue of climate change—as per the Prime Minister’s preference—while paying it lip service by hiding behind the implicit notion that Canada doesn’t matter on the world stage. By saying Canada must wait for bigger players such as the United States to take the lead on climate change, Mr. Harper demonstrates a tactically brilliant, morally bankrupt, kindergarten-inspired climate change strategy that has shielded his inaction from public outcry. But Canadians shouldn’t buy what the Prime Minister is selling, even though it’s a very convenient excuse.

Canada has historically been a global leader on many of the most important issues facing humanity and has often set an example for the United States to follow.

All of Europe is probably grateful Canada didn’t sit around waiting for the United States to act in deciding to fight alongside the Allies in the Second World War. Canada invented the very idea of international peacekeeping in the 1950s, further demonstrating our country’s ability to punch above our weight on the world stage. More recently, Canada helped to pioneer the international human security doctrine Responsibility to Protect, which is the world’s best hope for a collective response to combat genocide wherever it occurs. On the social policy home front, Canada is light years ahead of the United States in terms of health care for our citizens.

Our health care may not be perfect, but we have achieved a situation whereby every citizen who is sick can get care regardless of personal wealth. The United States lags far behind in trying to establish this ideal. Canada has served as a beacon of light for the United States on socially progressive issues such as gay rights. Canada has also campaigned finance regulations and lobbying restrictions that make our democracy much less grateful to private interests than America’s.

In all of these fundamentally important respects, both internationally and domestically, Canada has historically led the United States by our example.

According to the UN’s latest Human Development Index, an annual global survey that measures key indicators such as life expectancy, literacy, per capita GDP and school enrollment, Canada has the fourth-best quality of life in the world. Perhaps Mr. Harper is unaware he’s in charge of such a formidable democratic state, one that’s expected to show leadership on crucial global issues such as climate change.

We know what needs to be done. The climate change hippies need to stop vilifying people who drink water out of plastic bottles.

The climate change skeptics must stop their inanely

irresponsible quest to sterilize the Copen-dragon.

Canada’s government has the domestic responsibility to show these two sides the light with a responsible climate change policy that balances social and economic concerns and a moral imperative to position ourselves as climate leaders by setting the bar for other countries to follow.

Mr. Harper, we’re waiting.

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