Saturday, March 17, 2007

The British Debate on Green House Gas Emissions

The debate about how to reduce Green House Gas emissions is considerably more advanced in the UK than in Canada. Many of their ideas and questions should be imported here.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

[Britain saving the planet] is, to put it mildly, an ambitious goal. And this weekend, a number of searching questions are being asked. For example, can a country that contributes just 2 per cent of the world's carbon emissions really make much of a difference to the planet? And, if not, are politicians justified in asking the voters to dramatically change their lifestyles and, inevitably, pay more tax?

Similarly prohibitive measures are not being undertaken by China, India and America, the world's largest polluters. In fact, with the science around global warming still evolving, some ask whether now is the right time to fix on specific policy commitments at all.

Canadians would do well to consider other issues too:

Despite their embrace of radical environmental policies, neither party has a convincing answer as to why Britain should take the global lead on climate change, other than as a "moral obligation".

In worldwide terms, Britain contributes just a fraction of total carbon emissions - about 544 million tons. [Editor's note: Canada emits about 800 million tons.] By comparison, America pumps out more than 5,844 million tons. China and India, two of the fastest-growing economies, emit 3,263 million tons and 1,220 million tons respectively. China alone has more than 2,000 coal-fired power stations in operation and a new one opens every four days. If the UK stopped all of its emissions today, China would have replaced the lot within a year.

In such developing countries, climate-change issues receive little attention. What concerns the people and politicians is how to drag themselves out of poverty. Almost 300 million Indians still live on less than 50p a day: convincing them that development must be balanced with care for the environment is not easy, even though they are most at risk from climate change.

"The climate debate has been captured by people who have at heart an interest in exerting control over people's lives rather than letting them live better lives," said Julian Morris, from IPN. "It is extremely sad to see Britain's political parties trying to capitalise on this."

Wake up, Canadians! Canada's not going to save the world, even if we emitted nothing.