Literally one day after the global warming negotiations ended in Durban, South Africa the government of Canada formally notified the world that they were withdrawing from the global warming pollution targets they had taken on under the Kyoto Protocol.  Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent must have signed the formal withdrawal document sitting on the plane home from the negotiations in South Africa that made important progress on efforts to address global warming.  [My flight left Sunday early afternoon and arrived first thing Monday morning, so unless he left before the end of the meeting he would have had a similar timing to his flight.]  Sadly this was expected as we’ve seen regular signs that the current federal government of Canada isn’t serious about addressing global warming.  This is another sign that they are like the Bush Administration in its effort to not address global warming.  After all, this is the country bringing the world the dirtiest oil on the planet and rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, just like President Bush.

Back in 2002, Canada formally ratified the Kyoto Protocol and committed internationally to reduce its emissions to six percent below 1990 levels for the period 2008-2012.  They went against the tide of the Bush Administration that had just officially “rejected the Kyoto Protocol”.  The Bush Administration was also effectively saying it had no interest in addressing global warming as they later released a “target” which called for U.S. emissions to dangerously continue to increase and then miraculously peak and decline.  The Bush Administration was effectively undercutting domestic and international efforts to address global warming at every turn. 

Now the Harper Administration in Canada has further solidified its position as “just like the Bush Administration” on global warming.  That isn’t a title that anyone should seek out.  Here are some telling signs [feel free to post more similarities in the comment section].

  1. Rejects the Kyoto Protocol.  The Bush Administration rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.  The Canadian government ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, but nine years later, and just before they were supposed to have met their legal targets, they formally notified the U.N. that they are withdrawing from this treaty.  Yes President Bush never even promised to meet the targets under the Kyoto Protocol and Canada at least ratified it at first.  But the outcome is the same – both rejected the Kyoto Protocol.
  2. Brings the world the dirtiest oil on the planet.  Canada has unleashed on the world the dirtiest oil on the planet in the form of tar sands.  This oil emits three times as much global warming pollution as conventional oil.  The Bush Administration was also a big fan of Canadian tar sands.  The Bush-Cheney Energy Task Force supported the continued development of Canadian tar sands.  And the first Keystone pipeline – Keystone Phase 1 which brought tar sands to the Midwest – was approved by the Bush Administration.
  3. Claims to act on global warming, while its pollution skyrockets.  Since 1990, Canada’s global warming pollution has increased by over 23 percent and is projected to continue to skyrocket driven by the expansion of tar sands (see figure).  Of course, instead of reneging on its targets under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada had choices in order to comply with its legal obligations.  It could have taken real steps to reduce pollution at home, especially focused on tackling the expansion of tar sands.  Or it could have used the mechanisms available in the Kyoto Protocol that allow a country to invest in emissions reductions in other countries and still meet their target.  Canada chose neither route, so claims that it would have had to pay large amounts of money if it stayed in the Kyoto Protocol miss the point that it had cheaper approaches available.  The Bush Administration…well it didn’t even pretend to try.
  4. Lobbies against other countries or regions taking action to address global warming.  The Harper Administration has been extremely active in lobbying the U.S. to not stop the Keystone XL project that would bring tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast for export.  The Canadian government has also been active in trying to stop California and the Northeast states from adopting a low carbon fuel standard (so not tar sands) that would require emissions reductions in the transportation fuel sold in their jurisdictions.  And in Europe, Canada has been hard at work trying to stop a similar program.  The Bush Administration followed a similar tactic as it tried to undercut California’s law to reduce carbon pollution from new cars and trucks.

Don’t be like the Bush and Harper Administrations.  When President Obama came into office he stated: “My presidency will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change…”  The “old chapter” that he was turning the page on was the chapter led by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney.  That was a chapter marked by an Administration doing everything in its power to push for oil and coal expansion at every turn.  And that was an Administration that was trying to undercut domestic and international efforts to address global warming.

The U.S. and other countries should make a clear choice – don’t be like President Bush and Premier Harper.  President Obama should reject Keystone XL once and for all and stop feeding into Premier Harper’s efforts to undercut action on global warming.  And countries like Australia, Japan, and Russia shouldn’t join Canada in rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. 

Those simple steps would be a great holiday present to the world.  Don’t be like Bush!