Produce more, pollute more


Last week Stephen Harper announced that his government’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be “intensity-based.” The new strategy is intended as an alternative to the Kyoto protocol, which was originally ratified by Canada, but abandoned when the Conservative government came to power in January.

The new “intensity-based” strategy will require industries to reduce emission levels relative to their economic output. So, if you produce more, you can pollute more. This stands in contrast to Kyoto’s call for an absolute reduction in emission levels.

Under the new strategy Canada’s overall emission levels could potentially increase, as long as its economic output also increases. And considering that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers forecasts that crude-oil production in Canada will double between 2005 and 2020, this appears to be a likely scenario.

When the Conservative government abandoned Kyoto, Harper said they were developing a “Made in Canada” solution to combat climate change. The fact of the matter is that the crisis of global warming is a problem, and therefore requires global co-operation. By pulling out of Kyoto, Harper took a huge step backwards with regards to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

No one would ever suggest that the Kyoto protocol is perfect, or capable of providing a cure-all solution to climate change in its current state. But it’s certainly a healthy start.

Kyoto’s voluntary objectives, as well as the absence of the world’s two biggest polluters—the United States and China—certainly limit its effectiveness, but Canada’s involvement could have shown some global leadership by encouraging other countries to rise to the challenge. Canada’s abandonment of the protocol only makes it easier for other countries to do the same.

An obvious problem with the “intensity-based” approach is that it’s softest on the biggest polluters. The more a company produces, the more it’s allowed to pollute.

This is especially distressing not only because large corporations are usually the largest polluters, but also because, as profit-driven entities, businesses should demand the most stringent regulations.

It may be possible to appeal to an individual’s moral conscience, but large corporations are less likely to voluntarily reduce their emissions at the expense of their bottom lines.

What this ultimately means, then, is that because businesses will not be expected to do their part in combating climate change, the onus is upon individuals to be more environmentally conscientious in their daily lives.

Buying locally and reducing the amount of energy you regularly use are two easy ways to do your part. Yesterday’s farmer’s market in the JDUC provided students with a convenient opportunity to do the former. Hopefully we’ll see it again soon.

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