Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kid-glove treatment for Harper

Actually from what I have read there is a fair amount of criticism of Harper's position on the environment internationally in the press, although not too many commentator's make much of a connection with the US position. In fact now that Howard from Australia is history Harper can play the chief cheerleader for the US position at Commonwealth meetings as he has done and no doubt at Bali he will play the same consistent tune.

Kid-glove treatment for Harper
>by Linda McQuaig
November 29, 2007
Only a few years ago, Stephen Harper was a climate change denier whose opposition to Kyoto made him too extreme for most Canadians.

Harper is still opposing Kyoto. But now, as Canada's Prime Minister, he's able to do something about it. Indeed, he's playing a pivotal role in thwarting worldwide efforts to deal with climate change.

Odd things happen in politics, but this is surely one of the oddest in recent years. Even as polls show Canadians have become more convinced of the need to take decisive action on climate change, our Prime Minister has taken an aggressive role on the world stage against such tough action.

Last weekend Harper seems to have single-handedly undermined efforts by Commonwealth leaders meeting in Uganda to come up with a communiqué calling for strong action on global warming — a position that would have given momentum to upcoming UN talks aimed at producing a follow-up deal on Kyoto.

Harper gets away with being badly out of sync with Canadian public opinion on this crucial issue largely because of the kid-glove treatment he gets in the Canadian media. Commentators relentlessly flail Liberal leader Stéphane Dion for his awkwardness and ineffectiveness, while saying little negative about Harper.

There was little critical media response, for instance, to Harper's remarks at the close of the Commonwealth summit: “For the first time in a very long time, Canada's voice is being heard and the consequences of our voice being heard is we're getting the changes we want to see.”


Canadians, like reasonable people around the world, recognize that urgent action is needed on climate change, particularly in light of the devastating UN report earlier this month. To suggest that we should celebrate our voice being heard — when that voice is blocking progress on something clearly vital to the public interest — is absurd.

Harper veers from the absurd to the malicious when he tries to blame Third World countries for preventing progress on climate change — a strategy successfully used by Republicans and the oil industry in the late 1990s to get the U.S. Senate to reject Kyoto.

Of course, India, China and other developing countries will have to do their part in fighting climate change. But they didn't cause the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We in the West did — by burning fossil fuels that have allowed us to enjoy the comforts of the modern world.

We can cut back our consumption of fossil fuels dramatically and still maintain comfortable lifestyles.

If we demand similar cutbacks by those in India — where the average person consumes one-tenth of the fossil fuels a Canadian does — we'd condemn them to unending poverty.

That's why Kyoto — like the Montreal Protocol, which has made progress in reversing the Earth's ozone depletion — is based on what John Bennett of calls “differentiated responsibilities.” The West bears a bigger burden, reflecting its bigger responsibility in causing the problem.

Those wanting to block Kyoto typically try to stir up resentment in the West by suggesting the Third World is getting off easy. There goes the Third World getting a sweetheart deal again.

With the defeat of Australia's John Howard, U.S. President George W. Bush is increasingly isolated in his campaign to block the world from taking meaningful action on climate change. Our Prime Minister is playing a key role in helping him out.

But here in Canada, our commentators know that the big story is Stéphane Dion's lacklustre performance.

Linda McQuaig's column is originally published by The Toronto Star.

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