Textes d'opinion

Climate «babblers»

Several people have been critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to skip the United Nations Climate Summit held in New York in September.

But whatever one thinks about the goal of reducing CO2 emissions, when you think about the frequency of such meetings, and the effects they have on the evolution of the climate, it’s not clear why our elected officials should bother attending them. There is clearly a problem with such a bureaucratic process.

Indeed, since the first climate conference in 1979, global consumption of fossil fuels has increased by 79%, or 1.83% per year. Same thing for CO2 emissions, which increased by 77% from 1980 to 2011, a rate of 1.85% per year.

In fact, after the First World Climate Conference in Geneva in 1979, the 2nd World Climate Conference in The Hague in 1989 and the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, emissions had gone from 18 433 million metric tons to over 21 000 million.

And it got worse after that. Since 1997, the year of the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and of the 2nd Earth Summit in New York, these meetings have grown even more frequent. And CO2 emissions have increased… even faster. While these officials were cosily meeting in New-York in 1997, and then in Buenos Aires in 1998, in Bonn in 1999, in The Hague in 2000, in Marrakech in 2001, in New Delhi in 2002, in Milan in 2003, in Copenhagen in 2009 and in Cancun in 2010, CO2 emissions went up faster, at an annual rate of nearly 2.5%, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

This is quite amazing considering the average Kyoto target (which varied between nations) was a cut of around 5% relative to 1990 levels by 2012.

Now, I realize that bureaucrats cannot change the climate or significantly reduce CO2 emissions all by themselves—although a burdensome bureaucracy is usually an efficient way of undercutting economic growth, and thereby cutting CO2 emissions—but it makes you wonder: What are these people doing, exactly? Gossiping while sipping fine wine and taking in the vistas from their hotels? Are they comfortable with the positive correlation between the frequency of their little get-togethers and the increase in CO2 emissions?

Maybe they should get together less often, or at least do some carpooling and keep their airplane and limousine travel to a minimum.

Especially when you consider that it cost European taxpayers over C$850,000 to send five bureaucrats to the Earth Summit in Rio in 2012, along with their entourage (60 people)—a meeting whose outcome, according to one politician who attended it, was “insipid,” according to an article by U.K.'s Daily Mail.

Worse still, the carbon emissions resulting from these business class return flights from Brussels to Rio were estimated at almost five tonnes per passenger, for a total of 300 tonnes for the bureaucrats and their entourage.

Someone should tell them about conference calls.

In this context, who could blame our Prime Minister—or any politician,for that matter—for saving taxpayers some money? And even more importantly, helping the environment!

Michel Kelly-Gagnon est président et directeur général de l'Institut économique de Montréal. Il signe cette chronique, qui a aussi été publiée dans le Fort McMurray Today, à titre personnel.

Back to top