Tories try to steer a middle course on environment

Both sides of Kyoto debate present doomsday scenarios

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The Gazette, Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's taken a while to get the pro- and anti-Kyoto forces on the same page, but they finally agree - the sky is falling.

The pro-Kyoto forces say the sky will fall and the planet will not be saved if we don't reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. The anti-Kyoto forces say the sky will fall, and the economy will be ruined, if we do. And in any event, it can't be done.

It's a tough choice: save the planet, or save your job.

Well, since you put it that way, John Baird, what's your solution?

Baird is the Harper government's relief pitcher on the environment, brought in when the starter, Rona Ambrose, didn't have any stuff in the early innings of the crucial climate- change game.

Appearing before a Senate committee last week, Baird threw a knock-down pitch straight at the head of the Liberals.

It had precisely the desired effect - it knocked the Grits to the deck, emptied the pro-Kyoto dugout, started a general brawl and created a buzz in the stands.

But it was just a setup pitch for Baird's fastball, on what the government actually intends to do about climate change in the way of an achievable solution. That's coming.

But first, let's roll the videotape. Baird arrived at the Senate committee with an impact study on the costs of implementing Bill C-288, a Liberal private member's bill endorsed by all three opposition parties, requiring the government to meet Canada's Kyoto targets starting next year.

This bill isn't government policy, and the government has no intention of implementing it. But that didn't mean Baird couldn't use it for his knockdown pitch.

The impact study forecast that implementing Kyoto would mean 275,000 Canadians would lose their jobs next year alone. "This," Baird said, "is equivalent of every worker in Saint John, Saguenay and Regina combined losing their jobs and their capacity to provide for themselves and their families." Entire census metropolitan areas would become ghost towns!

Electricity bills would go up by 50 per cent after 2010. The cost of heating a home by natural gas would double. Gasoline prices would go up by 60 per cent.

And if you think consumers are angry over gas a $1 a litre, try $1.60.

Overall, Canada couldn't meet its Kyoto targets, said an Environment Canada news release, "without intentionally manufacturing an economic recession." And not just any recession: Canada's GDP would decline by 6.5 per cent relative to 2008 projections and 4.2 per cent below current levels, "comparable to the deepest recession since World War II, which Canadians faced in 1981-82. Many still remember the pain of that time."

Bottom line, "real disposable income for a family of four would fall by $4,000."

In other words, meeting Kyoto targets would cost $1,000 for every man, woman and child in the country, send the economy into its deepest slide in a quarter century, send the cost of driving your car and heating your home sky high, and cost hundreds of thousands of Canadians their jobs next year alone. And the only way we could meet our targets would be by spending billions of dollars abroad on emissions credits, which wouldn't reduce our actual levels of emissions.

The sky is falling.

And if we don't meet our Kyoto objectives? Canada, which is responsible for about two per cent of the world's emissions, would have to shoulder its share of the blame for rising tides, a melting ice cap, the extinction of the polar bear, more Category 5 hurricanes, the loss of western forests due to pine-beetle infestation, not to mention the $7 trillion in economic costs calculated by the Stern commission.

The sky is falling.

Amid the apocalyptic scenarios, the media continue to ignore significant success stories, such as Canada's forest products industry, which has retooled, re-engineered and reduced its emissions by 44 per cent, exceeding Kyoto targets by a factor of seven. Or companies in emission-intensive industries, such as Alcan in the aluminum segment, which has reduced its emissions in Canada by 30 per cent, five times the Kyoto number, while increasing production by 25 per cent.

These industries have achieved these results by voluntary compliance. Baird proposes mandatory targets. The oil industry in Alberta and the auto industry in Ontario, both nervously await his next pitch.

With Rusty Baird on the mound, they better not crowd the plate.

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