Climate-change activists frustrated that premiers don't confront Stelmach

Posted: January 29, 2008
Section: Global Warming

Ian Bailey, January 29, 2008, Globe and Mail -- Climate-change activists had their hopes dashed yesterday that premiers and territorial leaders at this week's Council of the Federation would gang up on Ed Stelmach to urge him to take stronger action.

None of the leaders openly confronted the Alberta Premier on the issue.

"They lost an opportunity to put more and more pressure on the Alberta government to get in line with the rest of the provinces that are moving forward on the climate-change issue," said Mike Hudema, an Edmonton-based Greenpeace campaigner, who flew into Vancouver to lead a noon-hour demonstration against Alberta's policies.

About 40 protesters, holding picket signs and chanting, took on the Stelmach government, chiding it for not going far enough in climate-change policies announced last week.

Critics have said the plan, which promises to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to 14 per cent below 2005 levels by 2050, doesn't call for net reductions in emissions for a dozen years.

Several said they hoped the other premiers, notably B.C.'s Gordon Campbell, who has promised a one-third cut in emissions by 2020, would urge Mr. Stelmach to go further.

"An opportunity was lost here. I definitely question premiers who have come out and said they understand climate change and yet at a premiers meeting where they could try to rein in what is a rogue province that is setting all the other provinces back and definitely setting Canada back in the climate issue, they definitely missed a chance to really do that," Mr. Hudema said.

Tzeporah Berman, strategic director for ForestEthics, disputed suggestions by Mr. Campbell that he can lead by example.

"Premier Stelmach's actions are going to wipe out all the gains we make. This country and the gains we can potentially make on climate change are being held hostage by the tar sands," she said.

"If the premiers are serious about ensuring Canada reduces our emissions and takes a leadership role, they have to be willing to have the tough conversations."

Mr. Campbell, in remarks to reporters, said all the leaders have different approaches to the issue of climate change, and there is respect for those approaches.

"Premier Stelmach will follow the course he thinks is best for his province," Mr. Campbell said. "I believe what you do is lead by example and others follow."

Meeting chairman New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham said the discussions were civil. "It's important we take a pro-active approach to deal with the issue of climate change, but this wasn't a meeting that centred around a number of premiers ganging up on other premiers who held other points of view," he said