12/10/2014 06:40 EST | Updated 02/09/2015 05:59 EST

Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Isn't Crazy - Harper Is

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with the media outside the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada on Wednesday March 23, 2011. Canada's three opposition parties said Wednesday they planned to topple the conservative government in a vote of no confidence in Parliament this week and trigger the country's fourth election in seven years. Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs the support of at least one opposition party to stay in power, but all three rejected Harper's proposed budget after it was announced Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

Here in Lima, Peru at the United Nations climate change talks, I am watching negotiators from impacted countries like the Philippines working earnestly on a new agreement to reduce global climate pollution.

At the same time, I am reading stories back home about Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling the House of Commons yesterday that regulating greenhouse gas emissions from Canada's oil and gas sector would be "crazy."

Let's be clear who is crazy here. A common definition of "crazy" is "a state of mind that prevents normal perception and behaviour."

Given this definition I would suggest that it is not those who want Canada to regulate its oil and gas sector -- the single largest source of carbon pollution in Canada -- that are crazy, but Mr. Harper and his Conservative government.

Earlier this week we saw again the results of the atmospheric disruption and rising sea levels caused by climate change with another larger-than-normal typhoon in the Philippines. The lead Philippine negotiator here at the Lima conference, Yeb Sano, told the press that:

"To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels."

A flight from Ottawa to the Philippines would only take Stephen Harper about a day if he hopped on his government plane. But given the Prime Minister's historical unwillingness to take the issue of climate change seriously, even the first hand experience of the devastating impacts of climate change would be unlikely to change his mind.

Considering the reality of the situation on climate change globally, one can only conclude that Harper is in a state of mind that is preventing normal perception and behaviour. If Harper did have a normal perception, then he would be leading on this issue and standing with other major countries (like China and the United States) and committing to carbon pollution reductions that will make a difference.

Harper told the House of Commons yesterday that it would be "crazy" to regulate carbon pollution in Canada's oil and gas sector (read: Alberta's tar sands), because it would put too much of a burden on oil companies at time of low oil prices. Global oil prices have dropped precipitously, and oil companies are no doubt feeling the pinch, but analysts are predicting prices will bounce back up soon enough.

Environment Canada released a report earlier this week finding that Canada is falling far short of its 2020 commitment to cut carbon emissions by 17 per cent, making it clear that the Harper Conservatives have done little to reduce emissions over the past nine years they have run the country.

The recent drop in oil prices is nothing more than a convenient excuse for Harper and his government to continue to do nothing on this issue.

A convenient excuse for Canada. A very inconvenient one for countries like the Philippines.


Climate Change March