Canada's Harper follows fellow "climate villain" Abbott into political oblivion | RenewEconomy

Canada’s Harper follows fellow “climate villain” Abbott into political oblivion

Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott – both labelled ‘climate villains’ – are gone. Will their successors, Trudeau and Turnbull, deliver?


In less than two months, the two political leaders named by New Statesman as the “world’s worst climate change villains” have been tossed out of power: Australia’s Tony Abbott by his own party, and Canada’s Stephen Harper in a national poll.

It is good news for the upcoming Paris climate change talks. Both countries, under their former leaders, ranked at the bottom of the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for their efforts on climate change. Among G20 countries, only Saudi Arabia ranked lower than them.

Since their elections – Harper in 2006, and Abbott in 2013 – they had applied the brakes on climate change and renewable energy policy, despite some strong efforts at sub-national levels (the provinces in Canada and states and territories in Australia).


During a visit to Canada last year, Abbott and Harper decided to create a “conservative alliance among ‘like-minded’ countries” to try to dismantle global efforts on climate change.

At a press conference, Harper applauded Abbott’s efforts to dump Australia’s carbon tax. Indeed, Abbott had borrowed the “axe the tax” slogan from an earlier Canadian campaign.

Now, both have gone. Abbott became a victim of his own poor polling and a push to replace him with


the more moderate Turnbull. Harper’s Conservative Party has been stunned by the revival of the Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

Both new leaders promise more on climate change. Turnbull does not believe the climate science is crap, and the Liberals have vowed to take action. But what will they change in the form of policies?

Turnbull – barely credibly, but because of unstated commitments to the conservative rump in his party – has said that Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets will not change. He even defends Direct Action, a policy he once lampooned.

And, on Tuesday, he questioned whether Australia needed an institution such as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the institution that Abbott vowed to dismantle, but couldn’t. The CEFC has been at the heart of all major initiatives on large scale renewables and financing for rooftop solar and energy efficiency in the last two years.

Trudeau has promised to tackle climate change as one of three big priorities of his new government – along with repairing relationships with Barack Obama and ending bombing runs on Islamic State, and focusing instead on humanitarian interventions. But there are few details.

He has promised to attend the Paris climate conference, along with provincial leaders, and within 90 days, hold a meeting with these First Ministers “to work together on a framework for combating climate change.” Central to this would be the creation of national emissions reduction targets.liberal-leader-justin-trudeau

But not everyone is impressed, because Trudeau has not stated what his targets will be. As one columnist in the Toronto Start lamented, Canada has a history of promising big on climate but delivering little.

“If past practice is the best indicator of future conduct, it won’t matter what target Trudeau sets because the Liberals will miss it as they’ve missed every other target they’ve ever announced going back 22 years,” Lorrie Goldstein wrote.

“The Liberals never implemented Jean Chretien’s 1993 promise to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions to 20% below 1988 levels by 2005.

“Subsequently, Chretien promised in 1997 under the UN’s Kyoto accord, to reduce Canada’s emissions by a less ambitious average of 6% below 1990 levels between 2006 and 2012.

“By the time Chretien’s successor, Paul Martin, lost power to the Conservatives in 2006, the Liberals were 30% over that target.

“That isn’t surprising given that top Chretien aide Eddie Goldenberg admitted in 2007 the Liberals knew they couldn’t meet their Kyoto target when they agreed to it.

“Ironically, that’s the real reason Canada today is viewed, as Trudeau repeats ad nauseam, as an international climate pariah.”

Harper tore up Canada’s Kyoto targets, but while he promised to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, few expected him to actually achieve it.

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  1. Rob G 5 years ago

    It’s good to see Harper gone. It will certainly put more pressure on Australia come Paris. And if today’s question time is any indication, then Malcolm may not be the guy we want in charge of climate action. Today, he re-affirmed the desire to axe ARENA and the Clean Energy Fund. He stumbled his way through, praising Greg Hunt at every turn. Should he choose this road, then he too may suffer the same fate as Harper and Abbott. He needs to pull his finger out on this and get onboard. It was good to see Labor attacking him on this dubious position – he does wobble on this one and Australia need to know it!

    • Miles Harding 5 years ago

      The coveted golden dinosaur has “Australia” engraved on it in readiness for Australia at Paris.
      We should have no trouble winning it now that Canadia has knocked itself out of the running.

    • john 5 years ago

      Australia will carry on with its rubbish Direct Action which is the old system which payed people to not use carbon but put it in the ground or simply grow trees and grass, or burn Methane.
      Pathetic I know but that is the brilliance of this system.
      Any reduction action out there NO I found nothing here move along please.

    • john 5 years ago

      He can not change the direction of the party he is hated by the likes of Abbott and his followers need I mention the people who played out the rolling of him last time they passionary hate him
      He is on thin ice so no way can he change anything.
      The poor bugger is between a rock and a fall of the cliff situation

      • Barri Mundee 5 years ago

        The hard right could make life difficult for Turnbull but I think he would not be rolled unless his polling turns down and stays down. If, as some believe, he goes to the polls around March next year and wins then we should see some substantial policy changes.

        • Pete 5 years ago

          What difference will winning an election make if he has the same far right-wingers in the party? If he changes policies they’ll just roll him and bring Abbott back, then we’ll have another 3 years of falling behind the rest of the world.

          • Barri Mundee 5 years ago

            An election win would cement Turnbull’s position and ability to change policies opposed by the right. I very much doubt that Abbott would have enough support to roll him. The Liberal party rewards success.

  2. Roddy 5 years ago

    Turnbull will speak, intelligently and eloquently, about climate change, but then do very little, whilst continuing to fawn and suck up to his party’s electoral backers, the fossil fuel industry. Like the true sycophantic gimps they truly are.

    • Pedro 5 years ago

      And there in lies the problem. How to get the LNP and Labor fossil fuel and other corporate electoral backers out of politics. My only idea so far is to ban all party political donations and fund the parties from the ATO proportionate to their vote.

      • Jacob 5 years ago

        Oh that would be a godsend! NSW now has taxpayer funded election campaigns.

        • Pedro 5 years ago

          It is definitely a conversation I am going to have with anybody that will listen. Rational, evidence based democracy is under threat by corporate interest and has to be rooted out of politics.

          • Jacob 5 years ago

            Or we could have military coups every now and then like they do in Thailand, Pakistan, Egypt.

            South Korea had military rule for 30 years until 1993.

      • Julia Perry 5 years ago

        I think it would be hard to do that because the corporate backers would find a way around it.

        • MaxG 5 years ago

          The corporate backers have already won… sponsoring each side of politics, lobby the heck out of it, and eliminated the free and independent press. We are only fed nonsense, like whatever is being discussed in election campaigns, such as gay marriage, instead of takling the likes of a TPP, TISA, Assange, etc.

        • Pedro 5 years ago

          I agree it would be hard maybe even decades to change. We could make a start with all political donations over say $100 has be disclosed on a monthly basis. Also a majority of voters need to be convinced that political donations from non voting entities such as corporations is a source of political bribery/corruption.

  3. john 5 years ago

    Harper proved how to be a very myopic person and it proved a total fail.
    I found it rather funny that his election advertising was all attack and the other was not just goes to show being negative does not all ways work.
    Anyhow good riddance to a blight on humanity.

    • Jacob 5 years ago

      Fear sells. But not always.

    • Ian Porter 5 years ago

      Sounds exactly like Mr Abbott actually!

  4. Jacob 5 years ago

    What was the immigration rate in Canada in 1993 compared to 2005.

    If the emissions are total and not per-capita, then yes Canada would struggle to meet the target due to mass immigration of illiterate people.

    • Bob Fearn 5 years ago

      Yeah, like all the doctors, engineers, chemists and teachers that fled Syria.
      The illiterate people are obviously already in Canada.

  5. caffdan 5 years ago

    Just love it. Go Trudeau. Conservatives have had their day, thank goodness. Now for Australia’s conservatives to go the same way

    • Dudley Hunter 4 years ago

      Canada have much higher carbon emissions per capita than the US. Why does Trudeau get off the hook for this? Because he is good looking? Because he is charismatic? Why dont you hold him to the same standards you expect from the US?

  6. NoBurn 5 years ago

    Good riddance! The insiders and cronies and lobbyists and other bottom feeders, aren’t happy today. Perhaps, if we keep pushing the Libs and those newly elected, we can get the results we all seek. The “good-old boy” way of governing must end on a global level!

  7. James 5 years ago

    The reason I voted “anyone but Harper” was his total disregard for the environment by passing bills that killed all of Canada’s environmental protection laws, excluded pro-environment stakeholders from the project review process and prohibited all Canadian government scientists from speaking about climate change.
    I am so glad that the environmental villain control-freak Harper is gone !

  8. janellethomas 5 years ago

    I don’t understand why there is still a hope Turnbull will, in some mysterious way, be better than Abbott on anything. He has said all the government’s policies are unchanged and remain in play. Turnbull will be just as bad as Abbott, if not worse. He is more cunning, more persuasive in an oily, used sales car man way, that’s all..

    To become PM he did deals and promised there would be no ETS and no carbon price during his term as PM. He’s not going to go back on those deals, to do so would see him dethroned. Yesterday he was saying he didn’t see the need for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA. Not a good sign.

    He will send Julie Bishop to Paris, as Abbott planned to do, and she will be an embarrassment to everyone there (and to us) because she will have to tout this government’s useless Direct Action.

    • MaxG 5 years ago

      The leader has changed, but its the same shonky party it always has been. I have been setting myself up to freedom, by removing one subscription at a time.

  9. MaxG 5 years ago

    Two clowns gone the world can do without! 🙂

  10. trevormarr 5 years ago

    Actually, this is closer to the truth, it appears that the Canadian elections had some external influence in their outcome. To me, that is not beneficial at all. Stephen Harper is a Great Canadian!

  11. trevormarr 5 years ago

    Actually, we simply need to continue increasing efficiency, continue reducing emissions responsibly, continue research into optimizing ALL forms of energy and using the best source of energy to suit the given need. The World needs ALL forms of energy, for health, safety, protection, production, construction, manufacture, transportation, pleasure, comfort, competition, growth and success, just to name a few. Build a better mousetrap and the market is yours! But market should be achieved by capability and value, not by Mandate. That makes the most sense for Humanity. That makes the most sense for Humans also!

    I have a far greater fear of adapting to life and climate without fossil fuels than I will ever fear any life with them!

    Any Government, if worth it’s salt, should be looking at issuing INCENTIVES to any Industry. The Industry tax will be ‘X’ amount, but if your Company increases Efficiency by a MEASURED % and reduces Emissions by a MEASURED %, then you get a scaled REDUCTION in your taxes! That way it shows commitment to the World, while keeping the Country successful with industry optimization, NOT elimination!

    The choice to support our World Class, ever optimizing Fossil Fuel Industry is up to the individual. Perhaps the Governments should simply issue two cards. #1 says ‘I support fossil fuels’, #2 says ‘I do not support fossil fuels’. You can only sign one! But in order to get gas at the pump, or propane for your BBQ, you MUST have a signed #1 card!

    That will weed out a large number of hypocrites in my opinion.

    • Bob Fearn 5 years ago

      So you “have a far greater fear of adapting to life and climate without fossil fuels than I will ever fear any life with them!”
      I have a far greater fear of people without a logic gene than people who can actually think!!

      • trevormarr 5 years ago

        how so?

        • trevormarr 5 years ago

          inspire us with pictures of your EV, solar, wind power, your life without benefit from fossil fuel? Do you live in a cave?

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