Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cleaning The Air

Flushed with the success of our recent media appearance, I realised that I hadn't put my $0.02-worth into the discussion of what is arguably the most important political happening of the week. Now I know that Peter offended a lot of dogs, but even so, I think the Clean Air Act merits some discussion.

I'm a relatively 'green' kind of Tory. I try to do my bit to minimize my 'carbon footprint'. And I like this Act. The really hostile reception that has been whipped up by what seems to be a coalition of anyone-who's-not-a-Tory puzzles me.

First off, the Liberals' 13 years were a dismal failure with respect to environmental policy. They signed the Kyoto protocol without any plan to achieve the targets it specified. They spent years trying to come up with a plan - I remember Anderson saying 'in a few months' for a long long time, when asked about the Liberals greenhouse gas reduction plans. The Liberals presided over a 25% increase in greenhouse gas emissions after they signed the Kyoto Protocol. If that's not a dismal failure, what is? They have absolutely no credibility on this file, so their take on the Conservative plan is, or should be, irrelevant.

The environmental movement has come out swinging against the Act and this puzzles me. Sure, it may not contain everything they were hoping for. It may not be a fast enough timetable for them. But it's a start and it does something really important. For the first time, it gives government the tools to control emissions. It provides the regulatory framework. Timeframes and target numbers can be regulated; it won't require new legislation to change the targets. But why would any group oppose giving government the levers it needs to control pollution and greenhouse gases?

The biggest complaint seems to be about the timing, but to me, this is just being realistic. All the groups that are howling have yet to produce a convincing plan showing that anything can be done faster, from where we are today. It could have been faster if not for 13 years of Liberal inaction. But we are where we are. You can jump up and down and demand a baby in one month, but it's going to take nine months, no matter how many women you put on the job. The CBC in particular has made much play of the 2050 date, as though emissions will continue at current or higher levels until 2049 and then suddenly drop off.

2050 is the target to be at the 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That means, starting now, we're shooting for that target. In 2015 things will be better. In 2025, better still, and so on. We won't get to 65% reduction in 2050 without making steady improvements between now and then. Yes, it's a long way out, but it means continual progress must be made between now and then, it's achievable and realistic.

Those opposed to the act (including all opposition parties) had better be prepared to acknowledge that all they're doing is setting us back further. Political parties, I understand, have their alloted roles to play in Parliament.

Environmental groups however, must recognise that if, as a result of their opposition to this Act, it dies, then there will be no progress in the lifetime of this parliament. There will be more lost years, more years with no regulation and no progress. And those groups better be prepared to have that on their conscience.