It is good to set goals. They give a sense of direction, a sense of purpose and provide something to strive for.
More often than not, however, when Canada has set goals surrounding environmental benchmarks, we have come up short.
It was back in December 2011 when Canada formally withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, after it was realized our country was simply too far behind in meeting its emissions targets. When it came into force in 2005, Canada agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels during a period which was to span 2008-2010. In 2011, it was estimated Canada’s emissions were more than 30 per cent above that target.
Certainly, Canada was not, and is not, the only culprit. Countries across the globe have collectively dropped the ball, for a variety of reasons, as greenhouse-gas emissions continue to be an issue worldwide.
Earlier last week, however, the G7 leaders’ summit put Canada, and many other nations, on notice — sort of.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel fought for an iron-clad goal of a low-carbon economy by 2050. A full-blown, no-carbon economy was agreed upon instead, but not until 2100.
Germany, for its part, says it will continue down a path of transforming its energy sectors by 2050, and invited other nations to come along for the ride. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted this country’s energy sector will have to transform itself to lower emissions long term, and he added industries are not going to shut down as a result, but focus will turn towards creating lower-carbon-emitting sources of energy.
However, it was also reported by The Canadian Press that Canada and Japan worked to water down the statement, and persisted as the two countries who did not want any type of targets on emission reductions up for discussion.
A vague agreement certainly favours countries who are suspicious of targets such as those which Germany is promoting, as that nation aims to build some steam for this December’s United Nations climate change conference in France. A global agreement on climate issues is the goal for France, a goal which has been elusive for decades.
But all the agreements in the world count for little when governments themselves, and those who elect them, choose to ignore the issue, or make excuses as to why action is simply not warranted.
It has long been argued, for example, drastic reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions will be of great harm to the economy. We continue to ship goods vast distances, continue to rely heavily on offshore manufacturing facilities and continue to stand by as many nations scoff at greenhouse-gas emissions targets.
It is easy to bow to pressure, throw up your hands and admit the task is simply too difficult, or that it might upset too many at the top of the economic food chain.
It will take courage and resolve from world leaders, and those who elect them, to flip the script and come up with a climate-change model, and an updated economic model, which will ensure one day, emission targets are actually met.
As we have witnessed many times over, with the World Trade Organization for example, which coincidentally has in some cases increased the difficulty level for nations seeking to meet emissions targets, getting world leaders to agree on anything is an arduous task. The clock is ticking, however.
Grand gestures like agreeing to operate a no-carbon economy are great on the surface, but, in the end, it is a goal very, very few of those currently living on Earth will live to see.