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Hannah McKinnon

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Canada Is a Climate Change Loser, Not Leader

Posted: 06/26/2013 12:20 pm

On Tuesday, President Obama made it clear that a safe future for our children and climate comes first. His announcement and speech Tuesday hit a high note when the president said no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as long as it has significant impacts on our shared climate. There is no doubt about it - the KXL pipeline means more tar sands and more pollution, giving the president little choice but to reject the proposal when it lands on his desk this fall.

While Alberta starts the long process of recovery from the devastating recent flood, and wildfires continue to tear through Colorado, climate change is hitting close to home across North America. Without serious action from some of the world's largest polluters, it's only going to get worse.

The president's announcement today may not make the United States the global leader it should be on climate change, but it is a solid step in the right direction. The new national climate action plan will strengthen energy efficiency, increase the country's use of renewable energy and set tougher standards for the largest global warming polluter in the United States - coal-fired power plants.

But it was towards the middle of his speech that the President really took it up a notch - by proclaiming that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline should not be built if it means significant impact on our shared climate. This is huge. In January, 18 of the world's leading scientists wrote to the president to confirm that Keystone XL would indisputably lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions. More pipelines equal more tar sands, which equals more pollution.

So what about Canada? For years, our government has promised to be in lock-step with the our southern neighbour when it comes to dealing with climate change. Yet, while the United States cracks down on its largest source of greenhouse gas pollution, our largest source of global warming pollution - the Alberta tar sands - continue to grow and the emissions continue to soar. We've heard over and over again that regulations on the tar sands are just around the corner. Even if this time that proves true, we expect they'll be little more than lip service and greenwashing.

Climate leadership does exist in Canada - Ontario's coal phase out, B.C.'s Carbon Tax, and Quebec's climate goals are all good examples of provinces stepping up to the plate in the absence of federal leadership. This announcement from the U.S. should serve as a reminder that Canada has the tools to tackle climate change and the resources to build a clean energy economy and energy efficiency.

While Canada used to be able to duck and hide behind the United States when it came to failing to act on climate change, with the U.S. stepping forward, Canada is now alone in its refusal to take climate change seriously.

Instead of meaningful actions, Canada has spent millions on empty PR campaigns designed to greenwash the tar sands. Canada is among the top ten polluters in the world and has lost credibility on the world stage due to our inaction on climate change. Weak regulations on the tar sands will only worsen our already tarnished global reputation, while the government spins its wheels (again) to prove that less is more.

With the U.S. president showing he's willing to act on climate change, it's time for the Canadian and Albertan governments to stand up and make the changes that will enable a future safe from growing climate catastrophes. They could start by introducing new rules that would reduce the amount of global warming pollution coming from the tar sands. While the President looks for ways to build a safe future for his children and future generations, Canadians must demand the same from our government - the safe, clean and renewable energy future that we deserve.

Don't forget to check out TarSandsRealityCheck.com for the truth about the tar sands.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE: Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

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  • Alberta Premier Alison Redford thanks Capt. Jill Bristow for rescue and relief efforts by her and 2,200 Canadian Forces members in Southern Alberta. Bristow, a pilot with 417 Squadron in Cold Lake, and the rest of her chopper crew pulled people from raging floodwaters in High River on June 20, 2013.

  • A young girl hugs a Calgary police officer. " It's going to be ok," said one Twitter comment in response to the photo. Some commented on how the girl had done what many wanted to do to show their thanks.

  • Kevan Yaets crawled out the back window of his pick up truck with his cat Momo as the flood waters swept him downstream after submerging his truck in High River, Alberta on Thursday, June 20, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • Yeats later said he had no idea the cat would plunge into the water and nimbly swim across a flooded street to dry land.

  • Christine Bierman and Mickey Cimolai drive away through Canmore flood waters surrounding their rented condo. The couple had planned to get married the weekend of the flood, and almost called it off, until the community encouraged them to go ahead with it.

  • When the city of Calgary requested a few volunteers show up for cleanup efforts after the flood, thousands showed up instead.

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when touring the flooded region, "I've seen a little bit of flooding in Calgary before," he said. "I don't think any of us have seen anything like this."

  • Edmonton police officers arrived in Calgary to offer their support.

  • Alberta Premier Alison Redford runs into superman, also known as Jackson, who had been wearing the outfit for two days because he heard people were in trouble. "He just happened to be taking a break from saving the world when he ran into Premier Redford. Thank you, Jackson, for making today a little happier for all of us," a statement on Redford's Facebook account read.

  • Krystal Lelond of Black Diamond clutches her cat Pipi after being evacuated from her home after the Sheep River overflowed its banks.

  • Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi runs into three young helpers who are raising funds for Red Cross by selling lemonade and cookies.

  • Volunteers from AMP90.3 bring coffee to Edmonton Police Officers who headed to Calgary to help their neighbours.

  • A Tim Hortons gift card is left on the window of a police cruiser in Calgary.

  • Alberta Premier Alison Redford reacts to the devastating aftermath of the flood.

  • Cookies along with a thank you card are left on a police cruiser in Calgary.

  • A convoy of military vehicles makes its way through a flooded highway before heading in to the flood zone in High River, Alta. on Saturday June 22, 2013 after the Highwood River overflowed its banks.

  • Aerial photos of Canmore and Calgary flooding:

  • A washed out foot bridge lies on the creek bed in Canmore, Alta. Friday, June 21, 2013.

  • Flood waters surround the hospital in Canmore, Alta. on Friday, June 21, 2013.

  • Flood waters surround buildings in Canmore, Alta. Friday, June 21, 2013.

  • Cougar Creek runs through the Trans Canada Highway during heavy floods in Canmore, Alta. Friday, June 21, 2013.

  • Cougar Creek runs through the Trans Canada Highway during heavy floods in Canmore, Alta. Friday, June 21, 2013.

  • Road damaged is shown looking west along the Trans-Canada Highway in Canmore, Alberta on Friday June 21, 2013.

  • Heavy equipment operators work to keep up with debris, as Cougar Creek pours over the Trans-Canada Highway near Canmore, Alberta on Friday June 21, 2013.

  • Cougar Creek runs through the Trans Canada Highway during heavy floods in Canmore, Alta. Friday, June 21, 2013.

  • Cougar Creek runs through the Trans Canada Highway during heavy floods in Canmore, Alta. Friday, June 21, 2013.

  • Cars and trucks sit on the road looking east along the Trans-Canada Highway from Canmore, Alberta on Friday June 21, 2013.

  • The Calgary Stampede grounds are immersed in water during heavy flooding in Calgary, Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • The Calgary Stampede grounds are immersed in water during heavy flooding in Calgary, Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • The Calgary Stampede grounds are immersed in water during heavy flooding in Calgary, Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • A flooded downtown Calgary is seen from a aerial view of the city Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • A flooded downtown Calgary is seen from a aerial view of the city Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • A flooded downtown Calgary is seen from a aerial view of the city Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • A flooded Calgary is seen from a aerial view of the city Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • A flooded downtown Calgary is seen from a aerial view of the city Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • A flooded downtown Calgary is seen from a aerial view of the city Saturday, June 22, 2013.

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    A flooded Calgary is seen from a aerial view of the city Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • A flooded Calgary is seen from above, June 22, 2013.

  • The Calgary Stampede grounds are immersed in water during heavy flooding in Calgary, Saturday, June 22, 2013.

  • In this aerial photo, the flooded Cougar Creek runs through Canmore, Alberta, on Friday June 21, 2013. Communities throughout southern Alberta are dealing with overflowing rivers that have washed out roads and bridges, inundated homes and turned streets into dirt-brown tributaries. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

  • A man rides his bike as another picks his up in the flooded streets of Calgary, Alberta on Friday June 21, 2013. Alberta's largest city was swamped Friday by floodwaters that submerged much of the lower bowl of the Saddledome hockey arena, displaced tens of thousands of people and forced the evacuation of the downtown core. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

  • PM tours floods in Alberta

  • Calgary Flooding: Stephen Harper Visits A Submerged Alberta

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, walks to a waiting helicopter with Alberta Premier Alison Redford, right, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, for an aerial tour of flooding in Calgary, Alta.

  • A wall is reserved for messages and missing people at the arena in Blackie, Alberta on Friday June 21, 2013 after the Highwood River, overflowed its banks Thursday. The Red Cross is using the arena to house evacuees of the High River flood. Floodwaters that devastated much of southern Alberta left at least two people dead and forced officials in the western Canadian city of Calgary on Friday to order the evacuation of its entire downtown, as the waters reached the 10th row of the city's hockey arena. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jordan Verlage)

  • Displaced residents sleep on cots at the arena in Blackie, Alberta on Friday June 21, 2013 after the Highwood River, overflowed its banks Thursday. The Red Cross is using the arena to house evacuees of the High River flood. Floodwaters that devastated much of southern Alberta left at least two people dead and forced officials in the western Canadian city of Calgary on Friday to order the evacuation of its entire downtown, as the waters reached the 10th row of the city's hockey arena. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jordan Verlage)

  • Water rushes through what is left of Lions Park as the Sheep River flows through Okotoks, Alberta on Friday June 21, 2013 after the river overflowed its banks Thursday. The town remains on a flood watch. Floodwaters that devastated much of southern Alberta left at least two people dead and forced officials in the western Canadian city of Calgary on Friday to order the evacuation of its entire downtown, as the waters reached the 10th row of the city's hockey arena. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jordan Verlage)

  • A home in the community of Bowness is flooded as up to 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Calgary, Alberta, on Friday, June 21, 2013. Floodwaters that devastated much of southern Alberta left at least two people dead and forced officials in the western Canadian city of Calgary on Friday to order the evacuation of its entire downtown, as the waters reached the 10th row of the city's hockey arena. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • Cody Chatfield

    Resident Cody Chatfield drives his lifted 4x4 through his neighborhood looking at the flooded homes in the community of Bowness as up to 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Calgary, Alberta, on Friday, June 21, 2013. Floodwaters that devastated much of southern Alberta left at least two people dead and forced officials in the western Canadian city of Calgary on Friday to order the evacuation of its entire downtown, as the waters reached the 10th row of the city's hockey arena. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • Water flows past flooded vehicles in the community of Bowness as up to 100,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Calgary, Alberta, on Friday, June 21, 2013. Floodwaters that devastated much of southern Alberta left at least two people dead and forced officials in the western Canadian city of Calgary on Friday to order the evacuation of its entire downtown, as the waters reached the 10th row of the city's hockey arena. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • Vehicles are stranded in the flooded streets of Calgary, Alberta on Friday June 21, 2013. Alberta's largest city was swamped Friday by floodwaters that submerged much of the lower bowl of the Saddledome hockey arena, displaced tens of thousands of people and forced the evacuation of the downtown core. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

  • This aerial photo shows the closed Trans-Canada Highway in Canmore, Alberta, on Friday June 21, 2013. Flooding forced the western Canadian city of Calgary to order the evacuation of the entire downtown area on Friday, as the waters reached the 10th row of the city’s hockey arena. Communities throughout southern Alberta are dealing with overflowing rivers that have washed out roads and bridges, inundated homes and turned streets into dirt-brown tributaries. About 350,000 people work in downtown Calgary on a typical day. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

 

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