Federal Election Reshapes Climate Policy Landscape

Let’s examine how this may reshape Canada’s climate policies. On the surface, the election did not change much: Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who took office in 2006, will stay in power for another four years. But underneath the surface, a seismic shift has taken place, altering Canada’s climate change policy directions.

For the first time in 23 years, the Conservative will run a majority government. Harper had been running a minority government over the past five years, requiring him to form coalitions to get things done. Not any more. Bryan Walsh from Time magazine thinks that the oil and gas friendly Conservative will likely favour industry friendly policies at the expense of the progress towards a greener economy. “Like his ideological counterpart George W. Bush, Harper doesn’t seem to have much interest in dealing with climate change or energy, aside from the oil and gas that has helped Canada thrive recently. His position was in stark opposition to the opposition NDP, which offered more support for clean energy and—importantly—was ready to offer a carbon cap-and-trade program.” Carbon pricing is not likely to happen any time soon in Canada.

Jay Parmar, Principal Consultant at HRCarbon, thinks Canada will continue to fall behind in the ‘Sustainable Economy’ race. “In a highly intensive carbon based economy, Canada faces the risk of the world moving on towards a more sustainable and greener future without us at the table.”

But it is not all bad. Taking over Liberal in the role of Opposition is the NDP, who has proven to be a stronger green party on its own than the Liberals ever were. And for the first time in history the Green Party, who has the strongest environmental policies by far, has won their first seat in the parliament. This position will give the Green Party a distinctive opportunity to focus attention on the cause of climate action.

Party leader Elizabeth May will present the voice for the environment, in contrast to other parties who have played political lip service to environmental issues ever since the Liberal party ratified the Kyoto protocol in late 2003, says Felix von Geyer of The Guardian.

George Hoberg, a professor of energy policy at the University of British Columbia, thinks this voice of commitment will need public support to “put pressure on Stephen Harper to deliver cost-effective policies that have a realistic prospect of achieving their near term target of a 17% reduction in greenhouse gases below 2005 levels by 2020.”

Mr. Harper’s actions on climate change and clean energy to date have been inadequate relative to the need and the opportunity, says Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute. To become a leader in the fast-growing clean energy economy, Canada must implement much stronger policies than the Conservative government has introduced so far or proposed in its campaign platform.

So it’s a setback with a green lining. As a final note, Walsh thinks that while Harper’s Conservatives may have a majority in Parliament, they won less than 40% of the vote by number, which means that public opinion on climate and the environment may be significantly more divided than the results suggest. What is your view on Canada’s climate change policies? What direction do you think Canada should take? Share your views below.

Original article: Carbon49.com

Derek Wong is a Toronto based sustainability consultant. He holds an Engineering degree from University of Melbourne and is one of the first CSA certified greenhouse gas professionals. See more posts like this at Carbon49.com.