U.S.-China Climate Pact Leaves Prime Minister Harper With Few Excuses Left Not to Act

U.S.-China Climate Pact Leaves Prime Minister Harper With Few Excuses Left Not to Act
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While on a visit to Bejing, U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday announced with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping a new bilateral agreement on hard reduction targets for climate change pollution in those two countries.

The United States agrees to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent from 2005 levels by the year 2025 and China commits to levelling off its carbon emissions by 2030.

When China or the United States act on any major global political issue, other countries take notice. And when China and the U.S. work in partnership on a major global issue, other countries definitely take notice. Looking at early analysis of what these announced targets represent in terms of the impact on our climate, it is clear they don’t go far enough. However, it is a grand gesture by two powerhouse countries and that will have big ripple effects.

This all leaves Canada and its Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a very awkward position.

Harper has said many things about climate change over the years, the vast majority of them wavering somewhere between complete denial and total delay. One thing Harper has been very clear on when it comes to the issue of climate change, is that he would not commit Canada to taking the issue seriously if the United States and China did not take the first step.

The U.S.-China joint announcement clearly puts the ball in the court of other major polluting countries like Canada, whose per capita carbon emissions are some of the highest in the world.

At international climate talks last year, I witnessed firsthand just how little Canada is doing to help draft a new global agreement on carbon emission reductions. Canada has moved from being a pariah engaged in delay tactics to being a country happily sitting on the sidelines twiddling its thumbs, while other nations that are already feeling the impacts of climate change firsthand (such as the Philippines) desperately try to convince major polluters to do what is right.

Next year will be an important year for global climate change talks, with a major world leader’s summit happening December 2015 in Paris. The timing of the China-U.S. climate pact is strategic, with few negotiation rounds left before the big show in Paris. If it wasn’t clear already, the U.S.-China agreement has now clearly set the expectation that leaders from all the other major industrial nations will be expected to show up at that meeting with hard commitments.

The U.S.-China commitment might not be as bold as it could be, but it leaves little room for countries like Canada and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make any more excuses for inaction.

Photo: Whitehouse.gov

U.S.-China Climate Pact Leaves Prime Minister Harper With Few Excuses Left Not to Act

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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