Monday, December 7, 2009

Canada Needs an Environmental Protection Agency with Bite

For those of us who take climate change seriously and are exasperated with Canada’s pathetic track record on environmental issues, the question arises do our democratic institutions have the capacity of bringing about the scale of change necessary to address the problem.

Looking at what’s happening in the United States, it may be a case of collective wishful thinking to believe that the Senate or the Canadian Parliament will adopt a climate bill that will deliver the goods with regard to significant Green House Gas (GHG) reductions. Yet, significant action may come about through regulation rather than legislation.

Today, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a follow-up to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that placed GHGs under the purview of the Clean Air Act, declared that GHGs threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. As a result, the EPA is now in position to implement stringent emission standards for transportation as well as for any large emitters. Of course, the regulations will be challenged in the courts, which will delay their implementation, but slowly the regulatory framework will emerge and it will be independent of the partisan politics (e.g. the US Senate) that prevent significant change from coming about.

To learn more, visit the EPA website at

Given how our parliamentary system is profoundly undemocratic, presently we have a minority government with the support of only 23% of the electorate that dictates the terms of our climate change policy, we should follow the Americans' lead and create an independent agency that decides the regulatory framework for the reduction of GHGs. It would require an act of Parliament, but once in place it would escape the domination of electoral politics. In other words, the consequences of climate change are far too important to leave it to our politicians to come up with effective legislation.

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