Global survey ranks Canada ‘very poor’ on climate change fight

A global survey that looks at international efforts to address climate change has yet again ranked Canada near the bottom — just as the country’s top environment officials leave for a United Nations conference on the issue.

A global survey that looks at international efforts to address climate change has yet again ranked Canada near the bottom — just as the country’s top environment officials leave for a United Nations conference on the issue.

The sixth annual list compiled by 190 climate experts around the world placed Canada 54th out of 57 countries, ahead of only Australia, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

“Our federal government is not really scratching the surface of the kind of policy action that is needed to get serious about this problem,” said Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank that contributed to the survey.

The rankings, compiled by the German group Germanwatch, reflect both the actions and policies of the 57 countries that produce 90 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The survey includes measurements of a country’s emissions, whether they are growing or shrinking and an analysis of climate change policies.

“The world is not doing at all well in addressing climate change,” said Bramley, who pointed out the top three spots in the ranking were deliberately left blank. “No country is doing enough.”

Canada doesn’t look good no matter what country it is compared with. The nation is ranked last out of the top 10 carbon dioxide emitters and second-last among developed countries. Since 2006, it has never ranked higher than 46th overall.

Brazil, praised for its slowing rate of rainforest deforestation, was at the head of this year’s survey. Sweden and Norway place second and third. The United States sits at 51st.

Pembina’s analysis of Canadian climate change policy, which was used in the ranking, was broadly disparaging.

The institute suggests that federal funding for carbon capture and storage will result in emissions reductions much smaller than projected increases, while Ottawa’s failure to put a price on carbon means massive public subsidies are still needed for such projects. The think-tank says tax breaks for renewable energy are too weak to make a difference, while emissions proposals for coal-fired power plants won’t kick in until after 2020.

In Ottawa, federal Environment Minister John Baird talked up the Conservative government’s recent vehicle emission standards as an example of its commitment to fight climate change.

“The regulations are in place for North American vehicle standards, something we have negotiated with (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama,” he said. “That will see real reductions for greenhouse gas emissions.”

Baird was preparing Monday to fly to Cancun, Mexico, for a climate change conference aimed at building on modest agreements achieved last December in Copenhagen. He repeated government policy that Canada shouldn’t move in advance of what the rest of the world is doing.

“It is absolutely essential and mandatory if we want to reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions that all large polluters must participate.”

Any new agreements on climate change must include all major emitters, including China and India, said Baird.

“We want to see global emissions stabilized and we want to see them reduced and that requires the participation of all the big players, including Canada.”

India produces 2.6 times as much carbon dioxide as Canada; China produces almost 12 times as much.

Bramley points out that Canada isn’t even keeping up to the U.S. New rules there from the Environmental Protection Agency go into effect Jan. 2 that are aimed at curbing emissions from large industrial facilities such as refineries and cement factories.

“There is no sign of anything comparable in Ottawa,” Bramley said. “It does become difficult to avoid the conclusion that when the government of Canada says we have to harmonize with the U.S., it’s really little more than an excuse for delay.”

Linda Duncan, environment critic for the federal New Democrats, said Baird is going to Cancun with nothing to offer to improve Canada’s climate-change reputation.

“Canada’s minister is heading to another round of climate negotiations empty-handed once again,” she said. “Canada arrives in Cancun with no progress to report.”

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