Lost in the current political flap over Conservative senators killing a climate change bill approved by the House of Commons is an inconvenient truth about the now-defunct legislation.
The bill was demanding what no government could reasonably deliver.
The so-called Climate Change Accountability Act, originally proposed by the New Democrats in 2006, would have committed the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 per cent over the next 10 years.
On Tuesday, the Conservatives managed to pull off a surprise vote in the Senate that killed the bill on the spot.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended the move, saying the legislation was setting “irresponsible targets” that would entail “shutting down sections of the Canadian economy and throwing hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of people out of work.”
What exactly would cutting emissions by 40 per cent entail?
The latest figures from Environment Canada show the government could send the country back to using the horse and buggy and still not satisfy the greenhouse gas reduction targets in the climate change bill axed by the Senate.
In fact, eliminating all the cars, trucks, bulldozers, railways and airlines in the country wouldn't get even halfway to meeting the requirements in the bill — namely, cutting annual greenhouse emissions by about 290 million tonnes by 2020.
Similarly, turning off the heat in every home and commercial building in Canada would reduce annual emissions by less than 80 million tonnes.
The largest industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country is the network of electrical power-generating stations fuelled by gas, oil and coal.
Shutting them down would plunge much of the country into darkness. But it still wouldn't cut emissions by more than about 40 per cent of the annual targets demanded in the bill killed by the Senate.
The bottom line is that unless Canadians would settle for freezing in the dark, no government of any political stripe was going to come close to meeting the emission-reduction targets in the proposed legislation.
While the Conservatives using the Senate to kill the greenhouse gas legislation is drawing howls of political protest from the opposition benches, the environment will be no worse off as a result.