America Needs to Butt Out of Our Climate Change Policy

02 Mar, 2013

“As for myself, my course is clear. A British subject I was born — a British subject I will die. With my utmost effort, with my latest breath, will I oppose the veiled treason which attempts by sordid means and mercenary proffers to lure our people from their allegiance.”

Sir John A. Macdonald said that on the eve of the 1891 election. It was an enunciation of his stance on free trade with the United States, and he didn’t mince words about it.

The notion of an excessively cozy Canada-US relationship has always evoked the politically passionate to use the word “treason”. It was the accusation hoisted on Sir Wilfrid Laurier as he worked towards a tariff reduction agreement with the United States. When John Turner told Brian Mulroney that he “sold us out” he was implicitly accusing Mulroney of a certain sort of treason.

The perceived threat of American imperialism hangs ever present like a sword of Damocles in the minds of many Canadians. We bristle easily at the thought of American intervention into our sovereign affairs. Mostly these imperial perceptions have been misplaced. Yet from time to time our southern neighbours summon the spectre of diminished sovereignty by putting their political fingers where they don’t belong.

Lo and behold, the Obama White House is now holding Canada to ransom over the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. This impressive industrial project promises to enhance prospects for the Canadian energy sector by facilitating the easier transfer of our oil to American markets. The American market is ravenous for Canadian oil: we are the primary supplier of oil and other energy products to the world’s largest economy. Keystone represents an opportunity to only enhance that commercial advantage.

Yet instead of embracing a project which will provide jobs to thousands of Americans in a weak economy, the President is subtly demanding Canada do more to address climate change before he approves the pipeline. At least, this is the message that US Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson delivered: that Canadian progress on climate change would affect the President’s decision. To which every single person in this country should be collectively screaming: how dare you?

What gives any American president the right to lecture us on climate change? Obama is at the helm of one of the world’s worst polluters. Canada is lightyears ahead of the USA in addressing contemporary environmental challenges. Our regulatory laws are some of the strongest in the world.

In 2007 Alberta mandated that all large private sector industrial facilities reduce their GHG emissions by at least 12%. This led to 6.5 million tonnes of actual GHG emission reductions in 2008, which the Alberta governments notes is the equivalent of pulling over a million cars off of the road.

Alberta has invested $2-billion into carbon capture and storage technologies, the cutting edge of new science aimed at reducing GHG emissions. Thanks to a $15 per barrel fee levied on oil companies, the province created a clean energy technology fund for new research into sustainable petroleum extraction. That fund represents a $312 million investment into new Canadian technologies. A separate $2 per barrel fee is used to finance the Albertan Environmental Protection Security Fund used to reclaim land which has been scarred by oil sands development. Another $25 million has gone to Carbon Management Canada, which pursues new technologies and policy changes to address GHG emissions in the energy industry.

Since 2007 Alberta has offset 32 million tonnes of emissions, a tangible change for the better. Can American really say the same? The United States can hardly stand proud behind its approach to environmental regulation (remember the BP oil spill?). They can hardly claim to be a leader in reducing GHG emissions.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a champion behind the scenes in favour of the pipeline. Her State Department recommended its approval to the President. If one of the top figures of the Democratic Party can see the importance of this project, why can’t the Party’s de facto leader?

Canada passes the environmental sniff test. Obama’s America does not. Instead of pushing his agenda on our country, perhaps the President should look in his own backyard. Perhaps he should carefully consider the wisdom of supporting a jobs program for thousands of Americans in the aftermath of America’s worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.

I’m not too worried about American imperialism encroaching upon my home country. But Obama’s insistence on meddling in our domestic affairs is making it harder not too worry.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Bull & Bear.
This article was originally published by the National Citizens Coalition.
Photo courtesy of CBC News

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