Tuesday, April 19, 2011

GHG Election Tracker - Conservative Party Platform

In our continuing efforts to deconstruct the party platforms and understand the impacts on Canada's GHG strategy, today we look at the Conservative party platform.

With the incredible resources that the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) could bring to bear and their experience in government for the past 5 years, I would have expected more than 4 bullet points on climate change. But indeed, that is all they give us in the 67 page platform document.

Let's parse out the Conservative offering in the context of my 5 key climate change policy areas for evaluating party platforms.

The Conservatives trumpet the alignment of Canadian climate-change targets with those of the Obama Administration. CPC goal is a 17-percent reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.

The trickery in this target is that in 2005 Canada’s emissions were one of the highest levels ever at 734 megatonnes. By contrast the Liberals have chosen a baseline year at 1990 when our emissions were at 592 megatonnes. So the 17% reduction of 734 megatonnes does not even lower the CPC’s target to meet the Liberals’ baseline of 592. Let me say that again, the Conservative’s emission reduction target is higher than the Liberals' emission reduction baseline.

Regulations and Incentives
There is no mention of a plan for a price on carbon. In fact Environment Minister, Peter Kent confirmed under direct questioning that the CPC does not support a price on carbon.

There is a brief mention of “targeted and common-sense regulation of industries by sector” in a recent news release about the retro-fit program, but there is no mention of that industry regulation in their platform document.

Energy Sources and Efficiency
Energy efficiency is supported through the extension by one year of the ecoEnergy Retrofit-Homes program.

The platform also offers "additional support for research and development in clean energy and energy efficiency". But there are no details to the program, dollars, or timelines.

Within the platform text there is an ambiguous declaration that they will support any clean energy programs that are in the national interest. They claim that their support for the Churchill Falls hydro project will be a foundation of their emission reduction strategy. Problem is, the Churchill Falls hydro project will flood thousands of hectares of land and result in massive amounts of methane emissions from the rotting, flooded vegetation. Methane has a global warming potential that is 23 times stronger that carbon dioxide and will cause the ghg emissions of the project to exceed any offsets they could achieve by displacing fossil fuels.

Climate Change Research and Funding
There is no mention of any research into climate change adaptation or climate change modeling or mapping.

International Policy
The Conservative platform’s international policy on climate change is tied entirely to harmonization with the US, with little explanation beyond that statement. Considering the excellent report recently released by the arms-length National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy and the foundation that could have provided for a well-rounded policy statement, the lack of detail is baffling.

There is no mention of intentions regarding our participation as a global citizen in the United Nations negotiations. The document does laud past participation in the Copenhagen Accord, the backroom deal that was struck during the international climate change meetings in Copenhagen 2 years ago. It has since been supplanted by the Cancun Agreements that were negotiated openly and enjoyed broad support from the international delegations at the meetings in Cancun.

It is baffling and somewhat worrying that the CPC would point to a 2 year old accord instead of the active and ongoing process to negotiate global agreement on combating dangerous climate change.

The entire document is written in brochure format with very little detail or vision. It appears entirely piecemeal and reads like an exercise in cut and paste with lots of bullets and boxes. There is no evidence of commitment to combating climate change, just a couple of off-hand references to dubious claims of past performance. References to climate change are vague and even misleading in some parts, as the analysis by the 5 policy areas above indicates.

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