Canada: Should countries like Ontario be worried about global warming?

Tommy Sheppard

The government says Ontario does have laws on the books that help protect the environment and that measures can be taken to “ensure the protection of people and the environment”.

However, it can be argued that Liberal government protection laws and policies are not nearly adequate to deal with the ongoing threat of global warming and the need to reduce both emissions and industry.

Terry Abel of Vueling Canada, which is a Boeing 777 that flies people from London to Toronto, on its journey from London to Burlington for the spring and summer, says very little climate change legislation has passed through the Ontario legislature and his company, like many in the airline industry, has to deal with the same issues. “We’ve already done a pretty good job reducing the CO2 emissions of our engines,” says Mr Abel, referring to the retrofitting of the airplanes he flies on. “We have achieved an acceptable level of emissions already, but we’d like to take it to the next level.”

The head of the Canadian Alliance of Conservation Groups points out that the Government is in the midst of a five-year review of its environmental laws. “There’s not a lot going on yet at the federal level and they’re trying to get ahead of the issue so people aren’t losing faith that the system will work,” says Terry Rapley, head of the Alliance.

Leaders of the Alliance and their Green Party colleague are writing to the governments in Ontario and Alberta to push the governments in the provinces to appoint an independent expert body to bring about some type of global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that can be verified by a third party. Rapley says it would cost about $1,000 to have the same level of environmental legislation and safeguards in place in all the provinces, but that it is possible to bring about change.

The Leader of the Green Party in Ontario, Mike Schreiner, points out that after billions of dollars are spent in electricity, natural gas and the oilsands, we are still meeting our greenhouse gas emission requirements. “We have the technology to go up to 50% renewable sources of energy,” he says.

What has not changed is the fact that the Conservative government in Alberta has refused to put a price on carbon and that Western Canada is probably the furthest behind when it comes to environmental protection.

Last week, the Progressive Conservative government was forced to cede its position on an immediate moratorium on oil and gas pipelines in Northern Ontario. It was done over the Opposition of grassroots hunters and fishermen. The government’s own backbenchers oppose moving forward on the Northern Gateway pipeline project, as does Canadian oil and gas companies.

Conservative MPs have already announced a motion in Parliament to introduce a bill that would regulate the oil and gas industry and develop regulations that would govern oil and gas pipelines. “It is absurd that over a decade after passage of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Kyoto Protocol, we still do not have strong rules in place to regulate our oil and gas sector’s contribution to global climate change,” said Conservative MP Randy Hoback, sponsor of the bill.

The environmentalists continue to push for an independent body. “We can set an example to other jurisdictions,” says Rapley, who is pushing for a task force to look at the environment and climate change. “We can lead the way if we want to.”

Samples of Future Data

Ms Rapley added that there are other global issues being dealt with by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “The IUCN has the Science at Risk report out right now. About 45,000 marine and marine protected areas have been formed, but there has been no progress in having these protected areas mapped and recorded,” she said. “We need to understand how and where these areas are protected and the impacts.”

Both Abel and Schreiner said there are initiatives that the governments of Canada, United States and Great Britain have done in recent years that could be applied to Canada and Ontario.

“I think there are things that the federal government has done and other countries have done. We’re not doing as much as we can. I can’t say we have the best environmental leadership in the world,” says Schreiner. “We can be a leader and we haven’t done that, so we have to do something about it.”

The full version of this piece is available here.

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