Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Response to my letter to Stephen Harper on climate change

In a blog in December I sent a letter to Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada. In my post I indicated at the time that I would also publish his response.

In January I received a letter from his office that it had been forwarded to the Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq. I received her reply yesterday. 

I am including my original letter and the response of the minister.

Read my letter and then the response. Except for the first paragraph, nowhere else in the response is there any indication that she is answering my letter. It is just boilerplate paragraphs pasted together praising the accomplishments of the Conservative government on climate change.

I have also included photos of the addressee, Stephen Harper, and the minister who responded.

First my letter addressed to the Prime Minister:

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A2

December 2014

Dear Prime Minister:

Like many other Canadians, I am very concerned about climate change. We are therefore upset by your government's perceived inability and unwillingness to take the actions that are necessary to stop it. Climate change is one of the greatest problems of our age, since it threatens the earth that we share with people from many other nations.

The world's top diplomat, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, has publicly chastised Canada for our inaction on climate change and insisted that Canada should stop stalling and provide much needed leadership con this issue, "It's only natural that Canada as one of the G7 countries should take a leadership role," he said in an interview on The National. He noted that Canada and Australia placed last among the developed nations when it comes to dealing with climate change.

Ban Ki Moon did not mince words in his criticism of Canada. As a Canadian, it pains me very much to hear such negative comments made about my country from this otherwise mild-mannered diplomat. I hope that you do not simply dismiss his words, but take them seriously.

While Ban Ki  Moon praised Canada for pledging $300 million dollars to the UN's Green Climate Fund, which is intended to help developing countries fight climate change, he added that Canada as a rich nation could do much more both to help other nations as well as here at home. I have calculated that Canada's contribution amounts to only a little more than 3% of the $9.3 billion that has been donated to this fund thus far. That is shameful.

Your government can no longer use the excuse that the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters have refused to take any action, since China and the United States, recently signed a deal that will see the US alone cut its emissions by 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Your government has thus far matched US emission targets, but targets are not enough. But will you be able to meet other targets? As Environment Canada's own reports show your government has fallen short of the target it agreed to five years ago, after the climate meeting in Copenhagen. These new targets will be even more difficult to meet.

By promoting the Alberta oil sands and the pipelines needed to bring that oil to market you are ignoring the efforts of other provinces who are trying to introduce alternative sources of energy, especially renewable ones. Some provincial ministers went to Lima to discuss what they are doing in the absence of  concrete federal measures. I need not remind you that you are the Prime Minister of Canada, not just Alberta or the oil sector.

Please excuse the forthright nature of my comments, but my concern about climate change is longstanding. I have written about it in my blog many times. My first post on this topic was in 2011 (http://hellemanworld.blogspot.ca/2011/11/global-warming-is-real.html) and many more posts appeared afterward.

By the time you get this letter, UNFCCC COP20 in Lima, Peru, will be over. But this conference is largely a preparation for the the major climate change conference to be held  in Paris in 2015. I urge you to provide the leadership that Ban Ki Moon is calling for. Many Canadians support this call.

The drop in oil prices is a good time for your government to change its policies on climate change. If oil prices remain low for a long time, the oil sands will no longer be viable economically and then the pipelines do not need to be built. Many Canadians will thank you for changing the policies.

The costs of extracting and refining the oil sands are extremely high, but they extend beyond the financial. The environmental costs are horrendous, as has been documented repeatedly. These costs will ultimately be borne by taxpayers, not the oil sector.

If you asked for my opinion, I would suggest that the oil in Alberta be left in the ground until better methods of extracting it that are less harmful to the  environment can be found. As Stephen Lewis has observed already, no politician will dare make such a proposal, but that does not mean that it should not be done, I am no a politician, hence my boldness. I hope that you will be equally bold.

All of Canada's natural resources belong to the people of Canada. As such, they must be used wisely. We must treasure them so that not only we but also our children and grandchildren can benefit from them. Oil cannot be replaced. It can only be used once. Now is the opportune time to look for alternatives.

Your refusal to regulate oil and gas emissions because of the recent drop in oil prices, as you stated in the House of Commons the other day, contradicts your earlier promise to do so. Canadians are already bearing the cost due to climate change in terms of violent weather. More costs will become due in the future. Thus the time for action is now.

I appeal to you not only as a Canadian but also as a fellow Christian to change the policies of your government before it is too late and the damage done through climate change becomes irreversible. Stop denying the reality of climate change. I recently heard on the radio of a scientist who denied climate change until very recently, but now he has changed his mind. Perhaps you will change your mind as well. Although I am not holding my breath, this is still my prayer.

Therefore, I implore you, Mr. Prime Minister, to heed the many voices that are calling for change. Do not think only of immediate political gains but about your legacy when you leave office. Remember, a day of accounting is coming -- one will be measured not by the number of seats the Conservative party garners in the next federal election but by the judgment of future generations, including your own children and grandchildren for what your government has done to the environment.

Ultimately all of us will have to stand before the Creator and provide an account of what we have done to the creation. I hope that you can do so without a feeling of shame and remorse. Are you willing to sacrifice the future of our country for the sake of politics? Not only the fate of Canada but also that of the entire globe hangs in the balance.


Next I have included the response from the Minister of the Environment:

Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment

Minister of the Environment/Ministre de I'Environnement 
Ottawa, Canada K1 A OH3

FEB 0 9 2015 

Adrian A. Helleman, Ph.D. 

Dear Dr. Helleman: 

The Office of the Prime Minister has forwarded to me your email message of December 15, 2014, concerning climate change. I regret the delay in responding. 

While the United States and China account for 39 percent of global emissions, Canada accounts for less than 2 percent. Our government is encouraged that the United States and China-the world's two largest emitters-have made new commitments to address climate change. We will continue to work constructively with all of our international partners to establish a fair, effective international agreement that includes meaningful and transparent commitments from all major emitters. 

Our government takes the challenges of climate change seriously. That is why we are pursuing a comprehensive climate change agenda, both internationally and domestically. 

Internationally, Canada continues to work with its global partners to address climate change. Canada is playing an active and constructive role in the ongoing discussions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including at the most recent climate change conference in Lima, Peru. For Canada, an effective new international agreement must include a commitment to action by all the world's major emitters of greenhouse gases. 

Canada's international efforts include providing support to other nations. Building on the $1.2 billion we have already delivered in fast-start financing, our government recently announced a $300-million funding pledge to the Green Climate Fund. This fund supports projects and programs to address climate change in developing countries. 

Canada is proud to be a founding partner and a major financial contributor to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in order to align global efforts to tackle short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon and methane. Canada is also Canada advancing work to address these pollutants under its chairmanship of the Arctic Council. This work is especially important for Canada as short-lived climate pollutants significantly impact the North. 

Domestically, our government is implementing a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reduce emissions. We have already taken action on two of this country's largest sources of emissions-the transportation and the electricity generation sectors. 

The transportation sector has been a key area of focus as it generates nearly one-quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. With these regulations, 2025 model year passenger vehicles and light trucks will emit about half as many greenhouse gas emissions as 2008 models, and greenhouse gas emissions from 2018 model year heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by up to 23 percent. 

Our government has also introduced stringent coal-fired electricity standards, making Canada the first major coal user to ban construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units. These regulations require the phase out of existing coal-fired electricity generation units without carbon capture. In the first 21 years, these regulations are expected to result in a cumulative reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing roughly 2.6 million personal vehicles from the road per year. This action further cements Canada's place as a global clean energy leader, with more than three-quarters of the electricity supply emitting no greenhouse gases. 

Building on our announcement at the New York Climate Summit regarding Canada's intent to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, on December 5, 2014, our government announced the next steps for the development of these regulations. Hydrofluorocarbons are the fastest growing greenhouse gases in the world and can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. 

Our government's regulatory approach is complemented by investments of more than $10 billion that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the longer term. These measures include support for green infrastructure, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies, and the production of cleaner energy and fossil fuels . Our government has also taken action to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies such as tax preferences for oil sands producers and eliminating certain tax preferences for mining sectors, including coal. 

Canada's approach is generating results. Our economy has grown substantially while greenhouse gas emissions have decreased. Canada's per capita emissions are now at their lowest level since tracking began in 1990.

Our government is working to ensure that we achieve results for Canadians and the environment. This approach will result in real emission reductions, while maintaining Canada's economic competitiveness and supporting job creation opportunities for Canadians. For more information on federal actions to address climate change, please visit www.climatechange.gc.ca.



The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, P.C., M.P. 
Minister of the Environment

If you think her response addresses my concerns adequately, please let me know. I am very disappointed in the minister and the government she represents. The policy of the Canadian government on climate change is not only inadequate but also inappropriate and dangerous to Canada and the rest of the world.

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