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  November 30, 2009

Canada's image lies in tatters

George Monbiot: Canada is now to climate what Japan is to whaling
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George Monbiot is a British writer, known for his environmental and political activism. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000), Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice (2008) and Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning (2009). He is the founder of The Land is Ours campaign, which campaigns peacefully for the right of access to the countryside and its resources in the UK.


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay, in Washington. Joining us from our studios in Toronto is George Monbiot. Thanks for joining us, George.


JAY: So talk a bit about Canada. Canada likes to be seen around the world as the peacemaker, or sometimes peacekeeper. We're supposed to be the conscience of the world, Canadians think. How are we doing on climate change crisis?

MONBIOT: I think climate change is doing to Canada's international image what whaling has done to Japan's. You're beginning to get a very bad name for the way the government's behaving on this. It's not making popular decisions at the moment, certainly not popular internationally, and from what I understand not popular within Canada either. I think it's fair to say that the Harper government has done more than any other nation deliberately to try to frustrate and sabotage the discussions towards a climate agreement so far, so much so that at one of the meetings in Bangkok, almost all the developing-world delegates walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, because they were so outraged by the position he was taking. And then, at the next meeting in Barcelona, the Canadians won "Fossil of the Week" award because they were perceived to be the country which had done the most to damage a climate-change agreement and prevent it from happening. And throughout this whole process, Canada has played a baleful, woeful role in destroying or trying to destroy the chances of a powerful international agreement.

JAY: It's interesting. Even in Canada, some of the Canadian provinces are attacking the federal government over this. Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario have come out with their own legislation on carbon targets, carbon-emission targets, and they're critiquing the federal government.

MONBIOT: Well, it seems to be Alberta and Saskatchewan against everybody else. But the federal government appears, as far as I can see, to be championing Alberta at the expense of the rest of Canada. And, I mean, what I perceive, and certainly what the opinion polls show, is that the great majority of Canadians are disgusted by the position that their government is taking, and it is not speaking in their name.

JAY: When you have a country like Canada which is so resource-selling dependent—and in terms of oil supplies to the United States, Canada is the number one supplier of oil, and certainly the tar sands in Alberta play a big role in that—what do you say to Canadians that say we would take a disproportionate hit if we were to close down the tar sands? There is talk of carbon capture in the tar sands, but how realistic a proposal do you think that is?

MONBIOT: Well, it's not very realistic when you consider that a great deal of the emissions come from the huge vehicles used to dig the tar sands out. Carbon capture and storage isn't going to solve that, nor is it going to solve the downstream pollution, and nor is it going to solve the fact that this is an incredibly dirty, polluting, and inefficient way of extracting fossil fuel. The question you have to ask yourself is: what benefit is this delivering for Canada? And when you see how low the royalties are and how low the taxes are and how high the subsidies are for the development of these tar sands, the answer has got to be a pretty small benefit. In fact, it seems in some years that Canada is paying more for the tar sands than it's receiving in royalties and revenues and tax. That doesn't make any sense, and it's going to make even less sense when a global cap-and-trade system is brought into being which will make the tar sands completely unviable. Look, Canada is a highly developed, highly civilized, highly cultured nation. It has many strings to its bow. It doesn't have to turn itself into a primitive petro state and start behaving like Saudi Arabia. It's got many more options than that.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, George.

MONBIOT: Thank you, Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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