Bali: Canada – the Prodigal Country Backs Down

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Like some barely reformed miscreant, who wins cheers for promising to give up his bad habits, Canada won a huge ovation in Bali on the weekend when it stopped blocking an international agreement on emission targets.

This is no reason for a surge in national pride among Canadian readers. Canada spent most of the last two weeks refusing to accept any emission targets – refusing, in fact, to participate in any international carbon-cutting exercise that did not bind developing countries to take action from day one.

At the same time, the U.S. – the only developed country in the world to have spurned the Kyoto agreement and (coincidentally?) the biggest producer of greenhouse gases on the planet, was also resisting emission targets AND was trying to dodge having to share green technologies with struggling countries in the developing world.

Both countries caved in at the last minute. The Americans signed onto the Bali “roadmap,” which brings the U.S. formally back into post-Kyoto negotiations. That’s a good thing.

And Canada’s Environment Minister John Baird finally abandoned its obstructionism, allowing the inclusion of non-binding emission targets for the post-Kyoto round. That would be good, too, if Baird had not immediately said that Canada has no intention of trying to meet even the modest end of the 25- to 40-per-cent reduction targets.

So, again, like prodigal children, Canada and the U.S. are winning praise – not for being good, but because, for a brief period, we have stopped being bad. Now it’s time for both governments to prove that they may deserve a little of the warmth they have generated. If they don’t, they may discover too quickly that Canadian and American voters, like the people in the rest of the world, have figured this out, are tired of being humiliated on the international stage, and are ready to look for a government that might do a better job.

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