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The G7 and its 85–year carbon pledge

The G7 and its 85–year carbon pledge

The G7 gives itself a lifetime to fulfil its climate change promise

If you thought it was hard to keep up your New Year’s resolution, try keeping an 85-year pledge.

That’s exactly what Canada and the other G7 countries are committing themselves to as they try to get control of global greenhouse gases. While Canada failed on its Kyoto agreement and won’t meet its 2020 Copenhagen target, that’s not stopping Prime Minister Stephen Harper from making even more long-lived environmental pledges.

First, a deep cut in carbon emissions by 2050 and second, an eventual end to fossil fuel use by 2100.

At first glance, it’s praiseworthy. The world’s leading economies commit to decarbon the world economy. Some environmental groups were quick to call the G7 announcement “groundbreaking,” although not everyone is as supportive and approving.

“It’s not groundbreaking. It is politically cheap to pledge a non-binding commitment that falls way behind someone’s time in office,” said David Keith, an engineering professor at Harvard University and former University of Calgary professor who was one of Time magazine’s “heroes of the environment” in 2009.

“What we really need is specifics in the next few years or decades.”

Vague on execution

The pledges do add weight to the movement to get off of fossil fuels, but how the G7 countries achieve their goals is unclear.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how vague Canada has been in the past about achieving its emissions targets. Just last month, the federal government promised a 30 per cent cut to emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. It gave little indication how it exactly planned to do it. Eliminating all cars for a year would only put a dent in carbon emissions.

 

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