Posted by: jmtoriel | October 24, 2006

Elizabeth May’s take on Ms. Ambrose’s “Green Plan”

The lack of understanding on the issue of Climate Change/Global Warming was clearly apparent in last week’s release of the Canadian government’s Green Plan. So, the Green Party of Canada’s leader gives us a reality check:

“Reality Check: Ambrose versus the facts”

Environment Minister’s testimony contains eight major mistakes:
one every seven minutes.

The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment, addressed the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on Thursday, October 5, 2006 on the merits of her government’s expected plan to address air pollution and global climate change.

Unfortunately, Minister Ambrose’s statements reveal frequent confusion, misinterpretation, and total disregard for the facts and critical elements of Kyoto and Climate issues. To prepare for her expected announcement on Thursday, October 18, 2006, the Green Party is issuing the following Reality Check.

Ambrose claim 1:

”I would like to thank the environment commissioner for her report. Our government accepts all of her recommendations.”

Reality Check:

The Commissioner’s report called for the Government to continue progress to meet Kyoto targets:

”Canadians should be able to expect their federal government to stay the course until lasting solutions are found.” (p. 15)

Minister Ambrose’s testimony clearly stated a refusal to meet those targets.

Ambrose claim 2:

”I said very clearly at that time that it is impossible for Canada to reach its Kyoto targets. As the environment commissioner stated, we need new targets. This does not mean an abandonment of Kyoto. In fact, Canada works very closely within the Kyoto process and the Kyoto Protocol with our international partners to move forward, to look beyond what the next stage of Kyoto will be beyond 2012.”

And in response to Bloq Environment Critic Bernard Bigras, Minister Ambrose said:

”What I will say is that our government has never stated we would abandon Kyoto and has never stated we will not participate in the Kyoto Protocol process. What we have stated is that we need new targets.”

Reality Check:

The Commissioner’s report did not call for new targets. It is not clear from the Commissioner’s testimony at the Environment Committee that Mme Gelinas intended to suggest a different finding than anything stated in her official report. The reality is that the targets are Canada’s legally binding commitment.

It is false to claim that the Harper government has not abandoned Kyoto. A decision to ignore the legally binding targets is exactly that. The fact that Canada still shows up at meetings, and, until next month as President of the UN Climate Change Conference, is merely a sign of monumental hypocrisy bordering on sabotage.

Ambrose claim 3:

”I’ll tell you what a clean development expert said at the Institute for Policy Studies. She said that because of the lack of accountability around these kinds of projects, which by the way involve firms that are being paid by project participants–the project participants themselves are developers for the projects and also their own inspectors. You’re giving a negative response. She said, ‘You’re creating all kinds of incentives for corruption’.”

And in response to a question from Conservative MP Luc Harvey:

”Daphne Wysham, who is the clean development mechanism expert, said that, ‘You’re creating all kinds of incentives for corruption’, in giving a negative response.”

Reality Check:

The clean development mechanism (CDM) expert, Daphne Wysham, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, made the following statement in response to Minister Ambrose’s misuse of IPS research:

”I am horrified that my statement criticizing the CDM has been interpreted by Canada’s Environment Minister as justification for not living up to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol. We absolutely need a vehicle for both curbing emissions in the North and providing resources for clean energy in the south. The CDM may be flawed, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater will set us back decades at a time when action to reduce greenhouse gases is urgently needed. Canada must not violate its legally binding Kyoto commitments.”

Thanks to John Godfrey, Liberal Environment Critic, this matter was put before the House on October 6, 2006, although Minister Ambrose was not present to provide an answer.

Ambrose claim 4:

”The European Union market crashed only a few months ago, and hundreds of millions of euros and taxpayers’ money in European governments were lost.”

”So what I will reiterate is that our government will not take those kinds of risks with taxpayers’ money. We will not use taxpayers’ money to trade credits, to buy credits, or to set up an artificial market for credit trading.”

And in response to Bloc Quebecois Environment Critic, Bernard Bigras:

”In the European market in particular we’ve seen a recent crash that caused losses of hundreds of millions of euros and dollars to taxpayers and governments in Europe, and we will not embark on a risk like that with taxpayers’ money.”

Reality Check:

There was no “crash” of the European Union carbon market. There was a price adjustment. As any party that claims to understand the functioning of markets should understand, sometimes the market will re-adjust the price. The EU carbon market did so recently. No taxpayer funds were lost. The EU carbon market is driven by the private sector.

According to Climate Action Network Europe, governments do not contribute directly to the emissions trading market so no government money was “lost”. The value of the EU emissions trading market dropped last spring in response to incomplete data, but it did not crash. As Ambrose notes, the market is new and the current Phase I (2005 – 2007) is a pilot phase designed to ensure smooth operation during Phase II (2008 – 2012). The value of Phase II credits did not drop to the extent of the Phase I credits.

Ambrose claim 5:

To a friendly question from Conservative MP Mark Warawa, who asked:

”Early on, when you shared that we’re not going to be able to meet those targets, you said that we would have to shut down every train, plane, and automobile. Just how close were we to meeting our targets, and what did you mean by that?”

Ambrose replied:

”I asked the department early on to brief me on the opportunities for us to meet our targets and what that would mean. It would mean that we would have to shut down the majority of industry in Canada to be able to make that commitment, if we made that commitment here at home.”….

”What that would entail, just to give you a specific example, is that would mean that electricity prices in British Columbia would increase by 40%, electricity prices in Ontario would increase by 65%, and natural gas prices would increase by over 300% in Alberta and over $130% [sic] in Ontario. These are the kinds of impacts of forcing the 6% target on Canada’s industry today through a regulatory framework, which is exactly what Bill C-288 that was passed in the House last night entails.”

Reality Check:

It is critical that Canadians understand the rhetorical devises being used by Minister Ambrose to create public fear of Kyoto’s implications.

In every case she sets out an unpalatable, painful and unnecessarily damaging approach. Each of her examples represents what would happen if a government ignored doing the 500 or so useful measures that distribute the economic impact of carbon reductions, create new opportunities for new industries as the Green Party GP Squared approach would do, and instead did what no rational policy maker would ever do: take one area of the economy and wring out all 30% of reductions from that one sector. No fuel substitutions or energy efficiencies allowed.

For example, her colleague put to her her initial scaremongering of “shutting down every train, plane, and automobile.”

This should have been explained as a piece of clever prevarication. With 30% of greenhouse gases coming from Canada’s transportation sector, Ambrose suggested the only way to reach Kyoto would be to take every plane out of the sky, every car and truck off the roads and to stop every train in its tracks. Yes, if we did that we’d reach Kyoto targets, but no sane government would choose a painful method to reach Kyoto when economically rational and sensible approaches remain untried. Clever rhetorical devise, but not true.

Similarly, she added a new piece of scaremongering on October 5th, that prices for natural gas and electricity would spike. This would be true only if these sectors were the only ones to be engaged in meeting the targets, and solely through domestic action, and of course, leaving those cars, trucks, planes, alone.

Ambrose claim 6:

”I can give you some examples of the money that was spent on international credits. I have in front of me a list representing at least $100 million that was used to purchase international credits. ”

”I can go through the list and share it with you: $5 million went to the Canada-China consortium; $3.7 million to the State Development Planning Commission in China; $2 million to the State Power Corporation of China; $2.5 million to Global Investment Management for Panama; and $375,000 to Paraguay….”

”I could go on: $5 million was spent through the Asian Development Bank to be paid to the People’s Republic, the Ministry of Science and Technology in China; $4.2 million through the World Bank to be paid to the regional areas of China, India, and other Asian countries; $2.3 million to the South Pacific; $3 million to Bangladesh; another $2 million to the State Power Corporation of China; $1.5 million to the Government of India.”

”I could go on and on. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in the purchase of international credits …”

Reality Check:

Thanks to Sun media this outrageous misrepresentation has received media attention. Despite Minister Ambrose’s claim that $100 million in international credits have been purchased, in fact, none have. Not one penny has been spent on international credits.

The list from which she was reading was a list of Canadian International Development Agency projects (CIDA). CIDA has a climate change program. It is nothing but a positive step to have aided developing countries embrace low carbon technologies. It would be even better to see more projects within the clean development mechanism (CDM).

Following the Green Party Press Conference September 14, 2006 Minister Ambrose said her government had not yet decided whether or not to keep Canada’s funding commitment to the Secretariat for the CDM. Her demonizing of CDM before the Committee makes it appear unlikely that the Harper government will fulfill the very modest $1.5 million pledge made by Canada at the COP11 meeting within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last December 2005.

It will be important to pursue this point to see if the Harper Government is ready to commit to funding CDM.

Ambrose claim 7:

In replying to Stéphane Dion, Liberal MP:

”I think it’s very important for you to send that signal that it’s important for us to continue to work with our international partners, but to also recognize that the target by your government is not achievable.”

Reality Check:

Former Environment Minister Stéphane Dion has not said the target is unachievable. In committee, Mr. Dion attempted to get his view on the record by way of point of order. Clearly Mr. Dion believes Canada can in fact reach its Kyoto targets.

Ambrose claim 8:

”I also indicated, as you know, that we do not have proper reporting and monitoring mechanisms in Canada right now for air quality objectives. We do not have national standards or national objectives because we do not have a national framework.”

”This will be the first time the federal government will embark on a comprehensive approach from a national perspective to dealing with the issue of air pollution and greenhouse gases. It is an ambitious achievement, and it’s an ambitious agenda.”

Reality Check:

Canada already has the legislative framework in place to properly regulate emissions through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Contrary to Minister Ambrose’s claims, Canada has had effective pollution legislation dating back to the 1970s when the federal government passed Canada’s first act regulating harmful pollutants.

A team of environmental lawyers who obtained a copy of the Conservative government’s expected Clean Air Act said expected amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act do little to reduce air pollution and may even weaken the federal government’s ability to regulate emissions.

In addition, the Sierra Club of Canada says the leaked copy of the bill does not enhance federal authority to control air pollution, greenhouse gases or reporting, enforcement, auditing and monitoring. The provisions of the bill, in fact, could delay important action to reduce emissions by allowing the provinces the option to opt out of CEPA regulations.

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