Conservatives nix One Tonne Challenge

Ottawa is abandoning the One-Tonne Challenge. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government cancelled the climate-change fighting…

Ottawa is abandoning the One-Tonne Challenge.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government cancelled the climate-change fighting program last week.

Established in 2004, the One-Tonne Challenge was the brainchild of Jean Chretien’s Liberal government. It urged Canadians to voluntarily reduce their individual greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne, by adopting lifestyle changes such as fuel-efficient cars and heat-efficient homes.

Officials at Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada, the two government departments that share responsibility for climate change, said they are reviewing all of the approximately 100 different federal programs designed to combat global warming, according to the Globe and Mail.

“The review hasn’t been completed yet and decisions on funding for climate change programs have not been finalized,” Environment spokesman Ryan Sparrow told the Globe and Mail.

Which means the new federal government’s approach to climate change is in limbo, said Yukon Conservation Society spokesman Lewis Rifkind.

“They basically said funding is over,” Rifkind said Monday.

“It’s hard to get a read of where this government is going on the whole climate change file.”

The One-Tonne Challenge had Yukon students manning Whitehorse gas stations last summer, offering free tire pressure clinics to motorists who wished to improve their fuel efficiency.

Essentially, the challenge was an information campaign.

But how effective was this strategy in terms of addressing the colossal problem of global climate change?

“To be brutally honest, not very,” said Rifkind.

“It did have a role in that it raised people’s knowledge and awareness of the issue.

“I sometimes wonder if the best value for money would perhaps have been better spent going after the big industrial polluters, such as refineries and aluminum smelters and factories with large carbon emissions.”

The Northern Climate Exchange at Yukon College also stands to have its funding cut under the Conservatives.

“No one really knows why,” said executive director Katharine Sandiford.

“The One-Tonne Challenge was one part of the solution. The government could have done more, working with large polluters.

“But if you’re going to encourage Canadian citizens to change their habits, I thought it was a pretty good effort.

“They could have put (the One-Tonne Challenge) on a six-month contract while they figured things out, then switch us over to a new program.

“They’re leaving hundreds of climate change experts high and dry, which basically cripples federal climate change programming.”

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