Scenario: the world sits on the brink of environmental disaster.
Only heroic effort will prevent a catastrophic rise in sea levels, accompanied by deadly droughts inland.
Mass species extinction is all but inevitable unless the nations take decisive action.
World leaders are gathering at an emergency international conference to decide on a course of action.
You’re charged with selecting Canada’s delegation.
Whom do you bring along?
Well, if you’re the current minister of the Environment, the choice is obvious.
You bring along representatives of the oil industry.
It’s been customary in the past to include environmentalists, opposition MPs, and First Nations leaders in delegations to climate conferences, but they were a damn nuisance, always demanding that corporations should be willing to sacrifice a portion of their profits to save the world from destruction — as if!
Baird has rid us of these turbulent pests.
No more David Suzuki — what the hell does that old hippie know about running an economy?
The Bali delegation is environmentalist-free.
Instead, Baird has invited EnCana Corp of Calgary, a major oil and gas producer and carbon emitter, as well as representatives from Iogen Corp and PlascoEnergy Group Ltd., two companies from Baird’s own riding that have recently received between them $13 million in government funding.
These business delegates, the only Canadians who will have the government’s ear in Bali, are enjoying closed-door meetings with the minister, daily briefings, and the ability to influence government policy, and therefore to help block any progress that may hurt profits.
Baird has brought Encana representatives along to help him reinforce his climate message.
But what is that message?
US campaigner Al Gore, a keynote speaker at Bali, has urged the world to “Make peace with the planet” before we suffer a carbon summer as bleak as any nuclear winter.
Baird’s message? Hey, no fair! China gets to emit, why shouldn’t we?
It’s idiotic, childish, and destructive, it’s an attitude that could block any chance of decisive action, but what does Baird care?
He’s eliminated all the pesky environmentalists who would insist on nattering these complaints in his ear.
This year he’s brought along a supportive claque of businessmen, and all is well.
He makes an obstructionist speech, goes back to the meeting room, and gets nothing but love from the corporate guys waiting there.
Good speech, Mr. Minister, you give ‘em hell out there.
It worked at the Commonwealth Conference and it can work here. Go John go.
The majority of the world’s nations agree that emissions reduction standards should be real, based on absolute figures.
No fair, says Canada.
They have to be based on a percentage of production, so they don’t harm our economy.
In our system, actual emissions can be allowed to rise astronomically, so long as they are accompanied by a similar rise in profits.
Most nations want to see wealthy countries lead the way in meeting emissions reduction targets.
We’ve profited longest from energy extraction, caused most of the global warming threat, and have the money, the expertise, and the resources to make swift, significant progress, and to assist developing countries to follow.
Not fair, says Canada. What about my bottom line?
China may be a tiny per-capita consumer compared to us, but look how many of them there are.
You put them all together and they emit lots. They have to be bound by the same standards as we are, and right now.
While at Bali, Baird has announced new government spending on climate change: not to reduce emissions, but to mitigate the impending effect of climate change on our communities.
Canada will spend $29 million on adaptation research, and another $56 million on various projects.
If Canada succeeds in blocking progress on global emissions at Bali, those millions will be a drop in the ocean that’s going to be making its way up the streets of Vancouver, Halifax, and St. John’s.
The bill for sandbags alone will exceed Baird’s $56 million.
Going travelling this year?
Maybe you’d better get out the seam ripper and pick the little Maple Leaf flag off your backpack.
Whether it succeeds or fails, Canada’s attempt to block international progress on climate change is not going to make you very popular abroad.
Al Pope won the 2002 Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.