Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

15 May 2019

Climate deadlock

Posted by Michael Keating

People have struggled for years to keep partisan politics out of the environmental debates, but is becoming a losing battle. The latest example is the carbon fee or tax on fossil fuel consumption in Canada. It was originally supported by many conservatives as a way of using market forces rather than government regulations to control pollution. Now some of the same conservatives are attacking the idea. Instead of saying it is one way of encouraging people to use less fossil fuels, they are painting it as a government cash grab. This schism threatens to become a major issue dividing the two major parties in the fall Canadian election. As well, some conservative provincial governments are now repealing environmental protection laws, including putting a price on carbon dioxide pollution. We are losing reasoned debate on what to do about one of the most important challenges facing the world at a time when we need consensus. Instead, political parties are turning to attack ads. It was not always this way. When I was an environmental reporter in the 1980s, there was general agreement among political parties on the need to deal with such problems as acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer and Great Lakes pollution. For many years there was all-party agreement that climate change was a problem to deal with. If there was criticism, it was that governments were not doing enough to control pollution. In recent years “wedge” politics has become more common with parties seeking to split voters into camps. Unfortunately, climate change has become a victim of political gaming. If one party proposes cuts to greenhouse gases another party will attack them seeking political advantage. The only way out of this mess is to establish a cross-party coalition that sets aside the old jobs versus the environment arguments and seeks agreement on what it will take to reduce emissions to a safe level.

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