Climate-change bill's defeat in Senate draws outrage

MIKE YOUDS / Kamloops Daily News
November 18, 2010 01:00 AM

Opposition parties and environmental groups reacted with alarm Wednesday over the surprise defeat by Tory senators of long-awaited climate change legislation.

Defeat of the Climate Change Accountability Act in the Senate shows unbelievable hypocrisy on the part of the Harper government, local NDP candidate Michael Crawford said Wednesday.

"Nasty," Crawford said. "It's the height of hypocrisy for the prime minister who has spent much of his life attacking an unelected Senate. It just shows how far this man will go to get his way."

Yet Tory MP Cathy McLeod maintained that carbon reduction targets included in the act were not achievable.

"Bill C-311 had targets more in line with Kyoto, so we always had concerns about it," McLeod said. "We have signed onto Copenhagen and we're moving onto the next step in Cancun," she added, referring to UN global warming talks in Mexico starting Nov. 29.

Sen. Nancy Greene Raine is on a West Coast survey of lighthouses and was not present in the Senate for the vote.

Critics say Canada is headed into those talks empty-handed as a result of the bill's defeat, compounding the embarrassment over Canada's handling of last year's Copenhagen talks.

"We don't know so much through our own media, but Canada is lagging far behind what other countries are doing," Crawford said. "In some ways we're the laughing stock of the world."

The bill had spent the last year or so bouncing between the House of Commons and its environment committee.

The Commons passed the bill in May and it went to the Senate for final approval.

The legislation calls for greenhouse gases to be cut 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

That's more stringent than the Harper government's goal of a 17 per cent emissions cut from 2005 levels by 2020, which is in line with the Obama administration's targets in the United States.

The Conservatives have hitched their policy on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to that of the Obama administration in Washington, arguing a continental approach is required given the two countries' tight trading relationship.

But a Republican rout in the U.S. midterm elections held earlier this month all but dashed any hope of American movement on the file for the next two years.

McLeod suggested the public may not be aware that government is moving ahead on the issue.

"People wonder if anything is happening and I think some big things are happening," McLeod said, citing reductions in tailpipe emissions last year. Transportation represents 23 per cent of Canada's carbon footprint, she noted.

"There are measures our government is taking that have not received profile."

She also pointed to the creation of new national parks as a factor in buffering carbon emissions. The northern boreal forest is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world.

"We are trying to balance what we can capably achieve," she said. "I've always believed technology is going to be a huge part of reducing carbon."

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