Discord in Denmark: As the US Debates Climate Legislation, Canada Stalls for Time and Plays Follow the Leader

By Beyer, Jeff | Alternatives Journal, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Discord in Denmark: As the US Debates Climate Legislation, Canada Stalls for Time and Plays Follow the Leader


Beyer, Jeff, Alternatives Journal


ENVIRONMENT Minister Jim Prentice insists that Canada must march to America's climate drum, but the rest of the world is singing a different tune. Throughout the year, Prentice insisted that his ministry would "ensure that all of our domestic climate change policies are clearly enunciated to the Canadian public by the time we get to Copenhagen." On November 2, however, he conceded that greenhouse gas regulations would not be announced before December's international climate change conference.

Rather than focus on greenhouse gases, which would seek to limit the main warming culprits like carbon dioxide and methane, Prentice is changing tack by focusing on clean-air regulations that would deal with air pollution, such as particulate matter, acid rain-causing chemicals and volatile organic compounds.

In concentrating on clean-air legislation, the government has re-engaged with a group of environment and health representatives, who submitted a draft proposal to the federal government in February called the Comprehensive Air Management System (CAMS). Although it was supposed to be an alternative to Turning the Corner, the government's 2007 climate change plan, the CAMS draft contains no reference to greenhouse gases.

The federal government's change of focus can largely be attributed to its unwillingness to advance Canadian climate legislation in the absence of American rules. Under draft US legislation, "border adjustments" (or carbon tariffs) could be slapped on imports from countries with less stringent, and therefore less costly, climate regulations in order to protect American firms against unfair competition. The government is nervous about exposing domestic industries to border adjustments should Canada's legislation end up being too weak, and is conversely reluctant to unfairly penalize domestic industry with legislation that's too stringent. Canada will therefore wait until US rules are passed in order to harmonize with them.

Our focus, then, shifts south of the border. A few significant developments transpired recently leading to a regulatory horse race between the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Courts, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The US EPA released its mandatory reporting rule in late September, which will force about 13,000 entities representing 85 per cent of total US emissions to report what they pump into the atmosphere annually. …

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