Environment Commissioner criticizes federal foot dragging on climate change
VANCOUVER—Living Oceans Society applauds the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, released today in Ottawa. “Commissioner Gelfand’s criticism of the federal government’s lack of progress on climate change is richly deserved, particularly in response to the Conservative’s failure to move forward with promised regulation of emissions from the oil and gas sector,” said Karen Wristen, Executive Director of Living Oceans Society.
The report is explicit in pointing out the enormous and growing contribution of the oil and gas industry to Canada’s carbon emissions levels. “Not only did the current government back out of the Kyoto Protocol; it will fail to meet the voluntary emissions reduction targets it announced after doing so,” said Wristen. “The Prime Minister has no interest or plan in place to tackle climate change which more astute world leaders have identified as the most pressing issue facing our planet.”
The ocean, which will continue to absorb carbon from the atmosphere for decades after emissions are stabilized, has already reached a level of acidity that is toxic to some marine life. West Coast shellfish growers are no longer able to keep larval-stage shellfish in natural seawater in the Pacific Ocean, where acid levels are increasing most rapidly.
Karen Wristen, Executive Director
The office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is established under the Auditor General’s supervision and the Commissioner is charged with providing “parliamentarians with objective, independent analysis and recommendations on the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment and foster sustainable development.”
Julie Gelfand was appointed Commissioner in February 2014. Her career has spanned work in the environmental movement where she was among the leading voices calling for action on climate change. She has experience working with industry as well, having taken on the sustainable development portfolio for the Mining Association of Canada and later, Rio Tinto Alcan.
Prior commissioner Scott Vaughn was sharply critical of the government’s record on protecting Canada’s oceans from oil spills. His critique motivated the introduction of the Energy Safety and Security Act in January 2014. Poised for third reading already, this Bill looks likely to pass during the current session of Parliament. On leaving the post in April 2013, Vaughn observed that the independence of the position is critical: “If the government has done a great job, then great job, but if the government is dropping the ball, for example on the 2020 climate targets—there’s no way they’re going to meet them—there’s somebody who has the objectivity and the perspective and access to all that information to be able to make those calls.”