20 October 2012

The swan song of the Round Table on the Environment

As part of its monstrous budget bill earlier this year, the federal government trashed the National Round Table on the Environment. The Round Table, established in 1988, brought together leaders from business, academia, environmental groups, labour and public policy, to bring “leadership in the new way we must think of the relationship between the environment and the economy and the new way we must act."

Considering that the members were appointed by the government of the day, the agency shouldn't have been perceived by that government as much of a threat. However, it developed the unfortunate habit of criticizing the government's lax environmental policies, for instance reporting that “Canada is currently on track to achieve just under half of the emissions reductions required to meet its 2020 target.”

This did not go over well with the government. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird went so far as to accuse the Round Table of recommending a carbon tax which in fact it never did. No matter, the government killed it.

It has now released its final report, a thorough 184-page effort entitled Framing the Future: Embracing the Low-Carbon Economy. The report emphasizes the economic imperative of moving toward a low-carbon economy and warns that we must act promptly to avoid "missed opportunities and growing economic risk." It points out that while "Canada’s actions today on climate, energy, trade, innovation, and skills will shape its economic prosperity for decades to come," the reality is that "Canada is unprepared to compete in a carbon-constrained world."

The report is prescriptive as well as descriptive and lays out a "foundation for a low-carbon growth plan" for the country. The fact that the report emphasizes economic benefit rather than environmental necessity should make it easier for our environmentally-challenged leaders to act appropriately and safeguard our country's future.

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