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Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet on Friday with his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. In any such bilateral meeting, it is paramount that each participant trust the words of their counterpart. After all, when it comes to the world of diplomacy, where wars are settled and treaties are signed, there's little more than words and trust. 

As a former employee in Canada's Foreign Affairs I have attended many bilateral meetings with foreign dignitaries. If I were advising Kerry, I would suggest one question he should ask of John Baird to see if he is an honest broker.

The question is: "Is Canada committed to confronting climate change?"

John Kerry is, and has been for a long time, a vocal leader on the issue of climate change. Sources inside his former Senate office have told me Kerry regularly expresses his commitment to act on climate change and understands the imperative of curbing water and air pollution to safeguard the economy.

Canadian Minister John Baird has a very different stance towards the climate change challenge, preferring to express contempt for proposals to implement market-based solutions to Canada's soaring greenhouse gas emissions. For example, just last year Baird told Parliament that the Harper government disbanded the National Roundtable on Energy and Environment because they did not like the Roundtable's recommendation that Canada adopt a tax on carbon.

   

"Why should taxpayers have to pay for more than 10 reports promoting a carbon tax, something that the people of Canada have repeatedly rejected? It should agree with Canadians. It should agree with the government. No discussion of a carbon tax that would kill and hurt Canadian families," Baird stated in Parliamentary debate.

For the record, polls consistently show that the majority of Canadians are in favour of a tax on carbon pollution.Even many of the companies operating in the tar sands are calling for a carbon tax.

When it comes to the issue of climate change, Kerry and Baird are diametrically opposed. If Baird is honest with Kerry he should explain to the freshly minted Secretary of State the rationale for the Canadian government's backtracking on international commitments to address climate change. Perhaps he can also explain why his party is currently running a national attack ad campaign against the Opposition party for proposing a carbon tax.

On the other hand, perhaps Baird will instead try to steer the conversation to what the Harper government considers a much more important and dire issue: President Obama's approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would pump millions of barrels of Canadian tar sands crude to U.S. refineries to largely serve an overseas market.

   

    The Alberta tar sands is considered one of the dirtiest and most carbon intensive industrial projects on the planet. A barrel of oil derived from bitumen produces three to four times more carbon emissionsthan a conventional barrel of oil.

Kerry, being the savvy diplomat he is, could (and hopefully will) point out to Baird, that any conversation about the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline is intrinsically tied to Canada evolving its postion on climate change. If Canada is serious about aligning with the U.S. on climate policy, as Stephen Harper has expressed, then Baird should be fully briefed and ready to cooperate based on President Obama's stated commitment to tackle climate change in his second term.

In his inaugural address two weeks ago President Obama said:

   

"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

The Keystone XL pipeline poses a key test for President Obama's commitment to fulfill his promise on climate action. Encouraging rapid expansion of Canada's tar sands operations is irreconcilable with aggressive efforts to curb climate change pollution in North America.

If Minister Baird is honest with his counterpart, he will admit as much to Secretary Kerry. Anything less than honesty on Baird's part will start Canada's relationship off with the new Secretary of State very poorly. It is a tough position for Baird to be in, but it is one created by the Minister and the Conservative government itself.

Poll

Will Kerry and Obama Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline?

50%21 votes
40%17 votes
9%4 votes

| 42 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  What's in it for the U.S.? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, chimene

    What does America get out of Keystone XL?

    It gets the risk of contamination of the aquifer that supports its breadbasket.

    It gets some temporary jobs during construction, although TransCanada has annoyed some state officials in the past by bringing in a lot of its own people instead of hiring locally.

    It probably makes a couple of billionaire brothers really, really, happy. At a minimum, American investors who own stock in TransCanada will be pleased.

    It gets some of the oil from the bitumen shipped south. That oil will cost more as the products of the tarsands will have a worldwide market (i.e., China) once the pipeline is built.

    Then there are those twenty permanent jobs, according to the State Department assessment.

    Canadian bitumen, heading to Texas refineries and then to China.

    American risk.

  •  If we can impose sanctions on Iran for its nukes (0+ / 0-)

    We can impose similar sanctions on Canada for its tar sands.  Unlike Iran, Canada is taking actions we KNOW are going to devastate America

    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

    by Mindful Nature on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 12:21:58 PM PST

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