Leadership lacking at top

Capital Region local governments are increasingly making efforts to reduce their environmental footprints

Capital Region local governments are increasingly making efforts to reduce their environmental footprints, especially where it involves greenhouse gases.

Most have emission reduction targets in place that they are striving to hit by a certain self-imposed deadline.

So what does it say to those municipalities and individuals when the top level of government is backing away from plans to be part of the global climate change solution?

The Conservatives paid lip service to the problem when Environment Minister Peter Kent said Canada planned to “work toward a new international climate regime which will include all the major emitters.”

Rather than continuing in a leadership position in this critical time of international co-operation, Canada is saying it doesn’t want to play ball unless the U.S. — by far the world’s largest polluter, although China is fast catching up — is on its team.

The U.S. refused to join the Kyoto Protocol from day one and continues to do so, for wholly protectionist reasons. That the Conservatives are choosing a similar path — their eyes remain sharply focused on the revenue-rich oil sands — shows more weakness than leadership.

The fact emerging superpower China assumed a leadership position at the recent international climate conference in Durban when Canada, No. 8 on the polluters list, so clearly distanced itself from one, indicates we’re moving in the wrong direction.

The effects of climate change won’t get put on hold just because governments decide that for now they must throw all their energies into economic recovery.

Sadly, this step backward in Canada’s efforts to be part of the solution could have the net effect of reducing the long-term economic prospects of future generations.

Ironically, the people making such decisions now likely won’t be around to witness the aftermath of their short-sighted choices.