Archive for May, 2010

Interview with Stéphane Dion

Click the audio player to hear my interview with Stéphane Dion from the 2010 Millenium Summit in Montreal.

Stéphane Dion is a Canadian member of Parliament for the riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville in Montreal. He was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2006 to 2008. Dion resigned as Liberal leader after the 2008 election where the party suffered its second worst result ever. Dion is a former professor who served as a cabinet minister under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

I caught up with Mr. Dion at the 2010 Millenium Summit, an annual event in Montreal that brings together representatives of government, NGOs and academia to discuss progress on the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). The 8 MDGs range from cutting the spread of extreme poverty in half and halting the spread of HIV Aids  and providing universal primary education by 2015. These goals were agreed upon in 2000 through the UN Millenium Declaration, which committed nations to a new global partnership. Progress on the MDGs has been slow to date.

This year’s Summit focused on the theme of development and climate change. During his time as leader of the Liberal Party and Minister of the Environment, Stéphane Dion became well known for his efforts to champion the cause of climate change. His Green Shift proposal in the 2008 federal election campaign would have marked a signal shift in ongoing efforts to internalize the price of carbon emissions in Canada – something that economists from across the political spectrum say is necessary to reign in greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Dion was defeated in the election and the current Conservative government has since done nothing to reduce Canada’s runaway emissions or to implement any form of carbon pricing policy .

Canadian government to change environmental assessment rules

Click on the audio player to hear my report for Groundwire (National Campus and Community Radio Association) on new changes being proposed to environmental assessment rules in Canada.

The federal Conservative government is planning to change the rules that govern the environmental assessments of federal projects. These new rules, introduced in this year’s federal Budget, will now give the federal Minister of the Environment more power to minimize reviews of projects, thereby dramatically reducing the environmental review of any project that is funded by the federal government.

The new rules will gut the environmental review process and would never have been approved had the government not included the changes as part of the Budget Bill. Federal opposition parties oppose the changes but in order to stop them from being implemented, they would have to defeat the entire Budget Bill, thereby bringing down the government and forcing an election – something the Conservatives are betting (correctly) they would never do.

I spoke with John Bennett, the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada and William Amos, a staff lawyer with EcoJustice.

Categories: Conservation, Politics Tags:

The Battle for the Atmosphere

Just published – check out my new article in the latest edition of Briarpatch magazine (May/June 2010). Entitled ‘The Battle for the Atmosphere‘, the article analyzes the highly obstructionist stance of the current Canadian government in international climate change negotiations.

Some in the developing South have accused the position adopted by countries such as Canada as being tantamount to neo-colonialism. I take a closer look at this accusation by considering what would constitute an equitable distribution of the world’s remaining carbon budget. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, scientists say there is a limited amount of atmospheric space available for global carbon emissions.  How can the global South (which comprises 80% of the world’s population) realize their development aspirations within the world’s limited remaining carbon budget if developed countries such as Canada are unwilling to make deep emissions cuts?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

North American media have for the most part utterly failed to recognize the ethical dimensions of climate change, and consequently most Canadians see little problem with judging our government’s climate change policies solely on the basis of our national economic interest. Today, the only proven routes out of poverty still involve an expanded use of energy and, consequently, a seemingly inevitable increase in fossil fuel use and carbon emissions – unless more expensive alternative energies can rapidly be deployed.

Poverty alleviation and equitable forms of development are possible within the world’s small remaining carbon budget with existing clean energy technologies. But this will only become a reality if rich nations like Canada are willing to accept their historical responsibilities by implementing stringent domestic reductions that will free up atmospheric space for the rest of the world, and by paying developing countries to leapfrog fossil fuels and make the transition directly to cleaner energy.


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