If Prime Minister Stephen Harper is waiting for his frenemy in statecraft, U.S. President Barack Obama, to establish a regulatory agenda for carbon emissions before he raises any finger but his middle ones to his critics in the environmental lobby, his patience will soon be rewarded.
Today, the putative leader of the free world introduces what one news report describes as “the most significant action on climate change in American history.” According to the Guardian online, “The proposed regulations Obama will launch at the White House on Monday could cut carbon pollution by as much as 25 per cent from about 1,600 power plants in operation today.”
Consider that these facilities account for as much 40 per cent of all emissions in the United States, and you can’t help suspect that these rules might actually possess some gravitas for a change.
Consider, also, that Mr. Obama is using his executive authority without the imprimatur of Congress, where nearly half of sitting Republicans publicly reject the science behind climate change. That means no pesky horse-trading when it comes to the language and substance of the new regs.
In effect, reports the Guardian, “The rules, which were drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and are under review by the White House, are expected to do more than Obama, or any other president, has done so far to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change. They will put America on course to meet its international climate goal, and put US diplomats in a better position to leverage climate commitments from big polluters such as China and India.”
Or as the president told graduates of West Point during a speech last week, “I intend to make sure America is out front in a global framework to preserve our planet. American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We can not exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else.”
Hmmm. What say you now, Mr. Harper?
For years, Canada’s prime minister has insisted he can’t do much to further his international commitments – particularly, the ones he made in 2009 at the Copenhagen climate change conference – to reducing this nation’s carbon footprint without a clear signal and comprehensive guidelines from its largest trading partner.
Now, he has it.
In fact, one could argue, he’s had it for nearly a year.
“Today, President Obama is putting forward a broad-based plan to cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change and affects public health. The plan, which consists of a wide variety of executive actions, has three key pillars: Cut carbon pollution in America; prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change; lead international efforts to combat global climate change and prepare for its impacts.”
That’s an excerpt from a document entitled, “The President’s Climate Action Plan”, dated June 25, 2013. It is, apparently, the fountainhead for this week’s regulations. And, according to a recent report in the Globe and Mail, somebody in the environment ministry was well aware of the plan on the day of its unveiling last summer.
“The United States has implemented limits on emissions from the oil and gas sector that are ‘significant’ and ‘comparable‘ to those the Conservative government is considering, says a newly releases Environment Canada memo, one that contradicts Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s assertion that Canada is waiting for the U.S. regulations before it will act,” the Globe piece revealed. “The June, 2013, memo. . .was produced after President Barack Obama released his Climate Action Plan that day.”
How curious, then, that Mr. Harper – apparently oblivious to Mr. Obama’s initiative – should tell Global News in December, that regulating Canada’s oil and gas emissions “would be best done if we could do this in concert with our major trading partner…so that’s what I’m hoping we’ll be able to do over the next couple of years.”
The good news is, of course, nothing now prevents Mr. Harper from boldly going where no westernized, reform Tory has gone before: To the front lines in the battle to save the planet from too much hot air; a commodity, it seems, that’s common to polluters and politicians, in equal measure.