When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world’s peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbor, decent, civilized, fair, well-governed? Think again.
This country’s government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee’s tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.
So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy toward dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalization of the country and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by former US president George W. Bush.
Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the US. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada this month will outweigh a century of good works.
In 2006 the new Canadian government announced it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6 percent between 1990 and 2012. Instead emissions have already risen by 26 percent.
It is now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto Protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: Countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won’t accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.
After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialized nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December last year, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country that had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.
In June the media obtained Canadian briefing documents that showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking because they were so revolted by his bullying. On Nov. 28, the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours — and eventually won — against Canada’s obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.