“Many Canadians, not all of them cranks, have wondered what practical purpose there is in twisting the country’s industry into an unproductive pretzel in search of slightly lower carbon output when we’re responsible for just 1.5 per cent of global output.”
The implication, it seems to me, is that when you only account for 1.5% of something, what you do, or don’t do, doesn’t matter very much.
It’s an appealing argument on its surface, which must be why it gets repeated so often.
But its advocates rarely seem to recognize its strategic implications.
Later in the same article, McParland is highly critical of Ottawa for failing “to pay its fair share” when it comes to NATO’s defence of the Arctic.
In this context, it is worth noting that Canada only accounts for slightly more than 2% of NATO members’ combined military spending.
If there is no need for Ottawa to worry about greenhouse gas emissions because of this country’s relatively meagre contribution to environmental degradation, surely there’s no need to be overly critical of successive Canadian governments’ failure to invest sufficiently in North Atlantic security given Canada’s relatively meagre contribution to NATO’s military spending.
If you couldn't detect the sarcasm in that last sentence, let me be clear that I couldn’t disagree more with such thinking - as it relates to both cases.
Canada is not so powerful as to be capable of solving international problems on its own, but it does benefit significantly from the global governance system and structures that Ottawa helped our American and British allies establish after the Second World War.
It follows that we have every interest in contributing to collective, liberal-democratic solutions to transnational challenges.
By McParland’s logic, since China is the world’s largest carbon emitter, Beijing should lead, if not dominate, the international response to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Such an approach would almost certainly compromise Canadian interests. The Chinese demonstrate regularly they cannot be trusted as global stewards.
By doing Canada’s “fair share” to support a UN-led environmental solution, Ottawa adds its voice to those states that prefer liberal-democratic responses to global governance challenges. It also builds political capital that it can use to press others to act similarly.
Diplomats sometime call this negotiating with “clean hands.” No matter the issue, one must always do one’s bit before demanding that others behave similarly.
McParland seems to understand and subscribe to this mantra when it comes to defence and security.
The environmental case is no different.
On the NATO and the Arctic, I’m always interested to see what the University of Manitoba’s Andrea Charron has to say. I also pay attention to the writings of St. Francis Xavier historian Adam Lajeunesse.
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