There seems to be a recent trend, where every week Canada’s work towards climate change mitigation makes it into the news. Or more accurately, the mitigation of our climate change work. In the past week Canada’s performance on reducing green house gases has been ranked as the worst in developed nations according to the Climate Change Index and we managed to eke out a tie for the prized Fossil of the Year Award.
What makes both of these victories so impressive is that they are not one off accolades, but rather a testament to the hard work put in by the Harper government to ensure this type of success expected every year. We did not only rank last in developed nations, out of all nations studied we ranked 58th out of 61. The only countries ranked below Canada were Kazakhstan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, all three of which are predominantly fossil fuel producing nations. With the tie this year, Canada has successfully extended its Fossil winning streak to five consecutive years. We have proved we are no flash in the pan, and Canada enters 2013 as a strong favourite once again.
In 2006, Canada was 46th out of 53 countries in the Climate Change Performance Index. It was ahead of the two countries most similar to it in terms of history, size and wealth with Australia ranking 50th out of 53 and the United States ranking 52nd. However, six years later Canada finds itself no longer in the realm of the global average for rich, low-density countries but rather we nest with the oil barrens of the world.
For many, this suits them just fine. They’d say there is money in fossil fuels and that more resource development is just what we need to get our economy chugging. And I would be remiss not to acknowledge that there is money in fossil fuels and, if short term GDP growth was the objective, increased fossil fuel extraction would likely do the trick. But will Canadians at large be comfortable in their newfound identity? For, with every dubious award we receive, it becomes closer to our reality.
Each new failure dirties the shine of Canada’s past standing on the world stage. Every time a Canadian politician offers a climate summit some platitude regarding the seriousness of this issue, while knowing full well that their government is more interested in exploiting the melting arctic ice than stopping it, it becomes more of our identity.
Gone is Canada the peace keeper, gone is Canada the mediator, gone is Canada the respectable global citizen. In its place stands the Canada of today. Today’s Canada says “look, I’m sorry. I know it matters, but it’s really not a great time right now”. Today’s Canada is made up of billion dollar fighter jets and million dollar science cuts. Today’s Canada can sign a thirty-year trade deal with China with one hand and with the other brush off any claim of shortsightedness on the issue of climate.
This is Canada today. And for at least the time being, this is the Canada of the future. It is the Canada that the little flag on your bag represents when you travel abroad. It is the mantel carried by anyone who states they are a Canadian. And at the end of the day, it is this Canada that is referenced when you are asked, “Are you proud to be a Canadian?” And so, it is time for Canadians to stand up and ask themselves that very question. Are we happy to hang out with the nations more valued for the oil that flows underneath them than for the ideas flowing out of them? Are we happy to be the worlds lumber yard? Or do we want to be the nation that takes these resources and uses them to build a sustainable future for our world?
The question is posed Canada, the world awaits your answer.
By: Stefan Hostetter