Suddenly, it seems, the environment is everywhere. Right there on the Maclean's and New York Times bestseller lists and on the table of recommended books at Chapters. And right there in the media reports from the ecology front lines in China and Mexico City and in the public clamour over the dump out on Carp Road. Everywhere, it seems, except near the top of the Conservative agenda...
In opposition, the Conservatives were sharply critical of the Liberal government's ratification of the treaty. Instead of the mandatory emission-control targets and timetables set out in Kyoto, which the Conservatives considered unwieldy and unrealistic, they promised a less stringent, voluntary "made-in-Canada" plan to be worked out with the provinces
Once they got into power, the Conservatives stopped talking about pulling Canada from Kyoto, a word that, interestingly, did not appear in the party's election platform and was rarely uttered on the campaign trail.
During the Liberals' 13 years in office, Canada's greenhouse emissions leaped 24 per cent to one of the worst per-capita levels in the world. Instead of imposing tough fuel-efficiency requirements on new vehicles, or waiving the GST on hybrid cars, or using the federal surplus to provide incentives for the development of alternative energy technologies -- all strategies considered and then dropped -- the Liberals ramped up the pro-Kyoto rhetoric, spent a lot of money ineffectively and did little else.
"To make these international commitments and then sit on their hands was a total failure of leadership and the worst kind of hypocrisy," says Michael Byers, an expert on global politics and international environmental law at the University of British Columbia.
Like most observers, Byers doesn't quite know what to expect from the Conservatives. He's not surprised they'll stay in Kyoto but scale back the commitments made by the Liberals -- a balancing act intended to keep both the energy industry and environmental groups at bay as long as possible...
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