On June 25, 2013, US President Barack Obama delivered a speech that will reverbate around the world and directly impact their neighbors to the north. Several years ago Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to match US climate change targets and align the two nations’ climate policy. Now that President Obama has launched an ambitious strategy to combat climate change, Harper will be hard pressed to make good on his promise.
Obama has made it clear that under his leadership the US will substantially reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Much of American emissions (40%) come from coal plants which is why these facilities are the primary focus of the President’s plan. In Canada coal generated emissions are only 10 per cent of the nation’s emissions. However, the President’s climate strategy will directly impact Canada’s GHG intensive fossil fuel industry and tarsands oil in particular.
Fossil fuels are the largest source of emissions in Canada. Oil and natural gas
(including extraction, pipelining and refining) account for 25 percent of
country’s GHGs and environment Canada anticipates that number will increase to
28 percent by 2020.
Obama’s new national climate change mitigation strategy will put pressure on
Canada to reduce their emissions. The President’s new climate strategy conflicts with the aspiration of Canada’s ruling Conservatives who are seeking to expand the nation’s role as a dirty energy super-power. Harper’s federal Conservatives have worked tenaciously to support the expansion of Canada’s oil
and gas and the tar sands in particular. While it has helped to buoy the
Canadian economy, the Harper government must now reckon with the fact they have
tied Canada’s future to a dirty, dangerous and destructive industry.
The American government is changing the way it does business and this will have implications for nations like Canada who have failed to assume responsibility for the emissions they produce.
The President made it clear that he will not tolerate inaction. “I don’t have
much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don’t have
time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. Sticking your head in the sand
might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming
storm. And ultimately, we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a
country on where we go from here.”
As the President enacts regulations and policies to reduce US GHG emissions, Canada’s federal government will be pressured to curtail their expansion of dirty energy.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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