06/26/2013 12:20 EDT | Updated 08/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Canada Is a Climate Change Loser, Not Leader

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 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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