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John Godfrey: A bit of clarification please?

I actually met John Godfrey at the Liberal Convention – bumped into him was more like it. He was talking to another delegate looking to see how to get to Jason Cherniak’s Liblogs sponsored social bash, and I happened to be nearby and sort of gave him directions where to get to. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, but unfortunately, I’m going to have to take him to task today because he’s dismayed me a bit with this quote today in the Saturday Toronto Star:

Ottawa still won’t aim to achieve Canada’s Kyoto Protocol target to cut emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Nor will it impose “green” taxes on fossil fuels.. Most disturbing to environmentalists, it also won’t set a national cap on emissions, at least in the short term. Instead, it’s negotiating “intensity targets” with the country’s large industrial polluters, which account for about half of Canada’s greenhouse gases. Godfrey, now chair of the Liberal caucus environment committee, agreed intensity targets could be acceptable if they’re part of a long-term strategy to achieve cuts. “If it leads to an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, it’s okay,” he said.

Ugh…with all due respect, no, it’s NOT ok, John, and here’s why, in case you need a reminder:

Many scientists oppose such targets because they’d let emissions keep growing, and environmentalists condemn that as a phoney policy. “The Canadian public won’t stand for intensity targets,” said John Bennett, executive director of the Climate Action Network, a coalition of environment groups. “They are nothing more than fakery. We have to have absolute caps.”….“Intensity targets are a means for politicians to pretend they’re doing something when, in reality, they’re allowing emissions to increase,”said Matthew Bramley, Ottawa researcher for the Calgary-based Pembina Institute.

With justification, the NDP bloggers are starting to call him out (and by extension the Liberals ) on this statement.

I took a bit of a stroll around the Liberal webpage to see if I could find some other musings Godfrey has had on the environment and what we should be trying to do to get back on track with Kyoto, and I did manage to find this back in October of last year, where he criticized Layton’s private member bill that was tabled in response to the Tories Clean Air Act. His reason -and the Liberals reason – for being critical of Layton’s bill back then was it was due to it not setting emissions targets before 2015, and that immediate short-term targets for green-house gasses were needed.

That’s fine.. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. The fact of the matter is though that Layton’s targets are correctly using hard caps, not intensity targets. I also agree with Mr. Dion’s tabled motion asking the Conservative Government to commit to Kyoto and this part as well where he “called on the Harper government to put in place a credible plan that would combine a cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions and a regulatory regime extends beyond what was already created by the Liberals in 2005”.

Again, no problem from me there, but I wasn’t aware that the Liberal plan for this involved having anything to do with intensity targets. Godfrey is now the chair of the Liberal caucus environment committee and was quoted in that context. Does our new Liberal environment critic David McGuinty share the same views as Mr. Godfrey? I’d sure like to know.

I’ve in the past in other blogposts been a bit critical of what I perceive to be the Liberals “wait and see” approach over this supposed Conservative-NDP approach on amending the CAA. The Liberals appear to be hoping that the ideological differences between those two parties will be too great and nothing will get done. I’ve argued that’s a risky strategy to hope that it fails so that the Liberals can maintain their “wedge issue” during an election campaign (which Godfrey got accused of doing here, where he said there was no time to bring forth an Opposition BIll on the Environment).

I’ve maintained we should be trying to take proactive steps (ie. support Layton’s private member bill provided it can be amended to include short term targets and some reference of trying to meet Kyoto targets – pretty minor amendments I’m willing to bet the NDP would accept – and in return have the NDP withdraw trying to amend the CAA).

However, if we’re going to be taking the “wait and see and hope nothing happens with the CAA amendments” approach, we were given a gift by Baird and Harper when both rejected using hard caps and brought up intensity targets again, (which I’ve already stated here I couldnt see how Layton and the NDP would find this acceptable). Here is our mini-wedge issue to say to the NDP that the Conservatives are just doing Clean Air Act Redux all over again, and here was our chance to say, “we dont think your bill is tough enough, Jack, but if you modify it to include short term targets, we’ll give it our support”.

John Godfrey has hobbled that with his statements today on giving emissions targets seemingly qualified support, and I’m disappointed if that’s official Liberal Party policy, and not just his personal opinion. Some might say he was stating that intensity targets are only good in combination with hard caps.. but a) how far down the road does he want hard caps to be, and b) how can he reconcile that to his October statement criticizing the NDP’s bill for not having short-term targets – does he want intensity targets first, hard caps later? How is that different from the Conservatives current CAA?

As I said earlier, Mr. Godfrey needs to clarify his statement, and it would be nice to hear from Mr Mcguinty as well (and Monsieur Dion for that matter) on this topic.

Oh, and in case you didn’t figure this out yet – I am against intensity targets, period.

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2 comments to John Godfrey: A bit of clarification please?

  • I agree he needs to clarify but he does say:

    “If it leads to an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, its okay, he said.”

    We shouldn’t be opposed to “intensity targets” because it translates into more environmentally friendly ways of extraction. The problem is using those targets as an argument for dealing with the problem. If you use them as a tool to help REDUCE emissions, then I’m fine with endorsing. The bottomline is overall emissions, it this is part of a package to ensure that, fine. I don’t think Godfrey argues for political cover, the way Harper does. From everything I have heard from Godfrey, he seems to get the urgency and is one of the more articulate Liberals on the subject.

  • knb

    I’m against them too and I heard McGuinty say he was as well, this morning.

    I wonder if Godfrey meant a new definition of intensity targets with a caveat that spoke to production increases?

    I know I’m stretching here, but it does seem odd that he’d be so out of step. I hope he clarifies and quickly.

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