PCs PLAYING ANTI-CLIMATE TRICKS
The post-truth politics that propelled Trump and Ford to office were invented in the climate wars
It was the most surreal moment at the unveiling of the Ontario’s new climate plan last week – Environment Minister Rod Phillips heaping praise on Liberal governments of the last 15 years for successfully reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Then came the kicker: thanks to those efforts, Ontario has done its bit, so the Ford government intends to sit out the fight against climate change.
Ontario will not only do nothing, but it is also launching a legal challenge of the federal government’s attempt to fill the climate action gap through carbon pricing, although the Ford government will support any efforts to get pipelines built through Ontario.
Not even Phillips could pretend that the government’s so-called plan was anything other than a retreat.
After reducing Ontario’s carbon pollution by 44 megatonnes (MT) over the last 12 years, the new target is to reduce them by 18 MT over the next 12 years. When looking at the details of the “Made-in-Ontario” plan – and there aren’t many in the 53page document – it’s clear that much of the reductions that will happen will be due to federal government policies.
To add insult, the Ford government’s plan is replacing a system under which polluters paid for using our atmosphere as a garbage dump, with one where our taxpayers will pay polluters for what may or may not be reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
This switch is modelled on Australia, where the Conservative government abandoned a carbon tax that was reducing overall emissions and replaced it with industry subsidies through “reverse auction.” Australia’s plan has resulted in steadily rising emissions.
The Globe and Mail chastised the Ford plan in editorials and columns as “un-conservative” for its subsidies to business. But this misses the point about the Actually Existing Conservative movement: its devotion to free markets and small government vanishes when faced with a challenge to the status quo. South of the border, Trump stokes the resentment of white men as cover for using state power to prop up U.S. business and run massive deficits to pay for tax cuts to the 1 per cent. In Canada, uber-Conservative Jason Kenney is demanding government-mandated oil production quotas to benefit firms that made losing bets on the tar sands. As a long-time climate activist, I can’t help but note that the fake news tricks and post-truth politics that propelled Donald Trump and Doug Ford into office were invented in the climate wars. This includes making stuff up to advance one’s interests (like claiming that carbon pricing doesn’t reduce emissions), to creating an echo chamber to repeat those claims via taxpayer-funded “news” outlets that promote the government line (see Ontario News Now) and third-party online lobby groups (Ontario Proud). Most egregiously, the Conservative movement claims that pursuing policies that benefit the wealthy and powerful one per cent are “for the people.” Ford’s abandonment of carbon pricing isn’t a bug for the contemporary Conservative movement, it’s a feature. So if asking him to be a “true conservative” and support carbon pricing won’t work, what’s left?
In the U.S., progressive politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are working with the youth-led Sunrise Movement to advance a Green New Deal that would direct massive government investment into a rapid transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy economy.
In Canada, youth are occupying the offices of politicians as they gear up for a major PowerShift gathering in Ottawa in February. They recognize that a transition to 100 per cent renewables presents an opportunity to meaningfully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to align with scientists who say it is necessary to phase out fossil fuels to limit catastrophic warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
From the school walkouts in Australia and Sweden to the youth climate lawsuits in the U.S. and Quebec, where more than 50,000 people took to the streets to call for aggressive climate action in response to the election of the conservative Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government, young people are demanding climate solutions that are as big as the problem.
Not even environment minister Rod Phillips can pretend that Ontario’s climate plan is anything but a full retreat.