Editorial: Court offers ray of environmental hope

It was heartening to see a court in the Netherlands issue a brave ruling on climate change recently.

In a landmark decision, the court ruled the Dutch government must address the dangers of climate change by reducing emissions by 25 per cent within five years. Noting the risks faced by those living in the Netherlands due to the threat of climate change, the court found the government should go beyond current plans to cut emissions by up to 16 per cent by 2020.

Environmentalists, of course, hailed the decision. Further good news came with the Alberta government’s move last week to double its existing carbon levy to $30 per tonne by 2017. The change comes as the province’s new NDP government vows to address climate change more proactively, an issue that has created headaches for the energy industry there. While the province has had the levy in place for many years, critics have long complained it was too low to be effective.

The developments further reinforce the fact that in Canada, any progress on greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change will most likely come from areas other than the body that’s in the best position to do something on a meaningful scale: the Canadian Parliament. But they do offer some hope that incremental actions will lead to the more comprehensive solution most people recognize is necessary. Could a court challenge similar to the Dutch one succeed here based on Canadian law and spur the federal government into action? There’s reason to be skeptical, but the recent decision does give some hope. At the same time, there have been signals since the landmark Alberta election campaign that even the energy industry is warming up to the idea of more aggressive regulation. Canadians, of course, should have some say on the issue with the upcoming federal election campaign as well. Either way, it appears the prospects for change are growing even if Prime Minister Stephen Harper is likely to be one of the last people to acknowledge it.
— Glenn Kauth

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