Click on the audio player to hear my interview with Shannon Walsh, director of H2Oil - the first feature length documentary on the Alberta tar sands
“Canada now threatens the well-being of the world.” With this line in his article last week, George Monbiot certainly had tongues wagging across our fair country. His point? Essentially, he feels that Canada is not the friendly, peace-keeping nation that many of its citizens like to think it is. In fact, Canada’s government has become so obstructionist on international efforts to combat climate change that it is almost single-handedly preventing other nations from striking a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. Not only did the current and previous Canadian governments fail to even try to meet its emissions reductions commitments at Kyoto, the governing Conservatives have indicated that they have no intention of being sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. What message does this send to other countries currently negotiating new targets in Copenhagen? Set any target you like because, as Canada has shown so aptly, if you don’t meet it, there are no consequences.
But as the lead climate negotiator of the G77 group of developing countries points out in this recent article from The Guardian, the Kyoto Protocol (which Canada ratified in Parliament) is a legally binding document. “Here they are bound. It’s law!” says Bernarditas de Castro Muller. “Why do they now want to kill Kyoto? A new agreement means we will have to go through ratification all over again. How long will that take? What if you do not ratify? What are we left with? If you throw this away…? Every word in it means something important because it binds us to legal obligations.”
So why would Canada act in such a cavalier manner? Shannon Walsh might have some idea. She is the director of the new film H2Oil and in my interview with her for CKUT radio, she has a strong suspicion that all this obfuscation and delay on the part of the Canadian government might have something to do with the rapidly expanding Alberta tar sands.
They may well be the most destructive industrial project on earth but they are also the source of enormous profits, huge tax revenue and many jobs. Tar sands production may consume almost incomprehensible amounts of water and energy; their toxic waste tailing ponds may well be so big they can be seen from space; and the local indigenous populations may indeed be experiencing inexplicably high cancer rates. But the development and frenetic growth of the tar sands continues unabated, at a rate of expansion over the last decade that has almost single-handedly ensured that Canada had no chance of meeting its legally-binding Kyoto obligations.