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Lay of the Land

Canada Fights Global Warming | Homer at the Helm | Fuel Economy Decline | W Watch | San Joaquin Valley Air Quality | California Marine Reserve | Bold Strokes| For the Record | Green Elephants | Loggers Against Logging | Sprawl | Little Chips, Big Impact | Updates

Dudley Does Right

While the United States ignores global warming, Canada works to halt it

By Jennifer Hattam

The U.S. government says it can’t be done. But our northern neighbor believes a major industrial nation can significantly reduce its climate-altering pollution without harming its economy. In November, Ottawa unveiled its plan, which involved asking each of the country’s 30 million residents to go on a carbon dioxide "diet" to reduce personal greenhouse-gas emissions by just over a ton a year.

Each Canadian currently generates five tons of CO2 annually—half from automobile use. "People understand that there is an eventual cost to emitting carbon dioxide and other pollutants," says Paul Giroux, a spokesperson for the federal agency Environment Canada. "You can reduce the amount you drive, use more public transit, or insulate your home. The sum of these actions will take us there."

To make it happen, the agency will press for Canada’s next federal budget to include financial incentives for using more public transportation and making homes and small businesses more energy-efficient. The government may also join like-minded U.S. states such as California and New York in urging automobile manufacturers to make more fuel-efficient cars.

The consumer component is just one aspect of Canada’s plan for meeting the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, which it ratified in December. (Now ratified by over 100 nations, the 1997 treaty is poised to go into effect without U.S. support if Russia joins the group, as promised, this summer.) To bring its CO2 emissions 6 percent below 1990 levels, as the protocol requires, Canada must cut out 240 million tons a year. Its most energy-intensive businesses are expected to contribute almost a fourth of that total, which has prompted vigorous opposition from industries, as well as the provincial governments, that depend on natural-resource extraction. "There may be negative economic consequences," says Giroux. "But we are also sure that the development of new technologies, especially wind and hydrogen power, will bring important economic benefits."

Environmentalists fought hard to get that message out to the public, says John Bennett of the Sierra Club of Canada. He notes that "the federal plan addresses all sectors of society and is a strong basis for going forward." And a strong indicator that, on climate change at least, the rest of the world is leaving the United States behind.

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