News announced yesterday highlights how different Canada and the United States have become, when it comes to tackling climate change.

Earlier this week, the United States announced that it will be bringing in policies to clamp down on global warming pollution from coal plants. This is a big deal for our Southern neighbour. The U.S. is the second largest polluter in the world (just recently losing the title to China) and, historically, they have been an obstacle to global climate action.

But that’s about to change. President Obama has been clear about his intention to tackle climate change, and the move to regulate coal emissions is a game-changer. Coal is the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States, accounting for about a third of the country’s total emissions. These new regulations – to be done through the Environmental Protection Agency in part to avoid congressional deadlocks – would cut emissions from coal by 30 per cent by 2030 (from 2005). They will also ensure that the United States meets its 2020 Copenhagen climate target.

And what’s happening here in Canada? Instead of transforming from laggard to leader like the U.S., the Canadian government is taking the opposite route: from leader to laggard. Where Canada was once a global good guy for spearheading early action on climate change, our country is now known for our climate inaction.

Emission from our largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution – the tar sands – continues to soar. Between now and 2020, tar sands emissions will cancel out the good work happening to reduce pollution everywhere else in the country. Even with the end of coal in Ontario, carbon pricing in British Columbia, and climate action in other provinces, Canada’s global warming pollution will still go up by 2020 because of the tar sands if industry gets their way.

And Canada is quickly running out of excuses for its inaction. The Government has long said they would harmonize their approach with the U.S. and have used U.S. inaction as an excuse for delay here at home. But this doesn’t fly anymore. Now that the U.S. is moving, it is time for Canada to follow suit by reining in tar sands pollution.

Canada is being left in the dust, when it comes to both climate action and getting on board with the emerging clean energy economy. The tar sands are damaging our land, air, water, health and communities. And despite what you may have been lead to believe, the tar sands do little if anything to benefit the Canadian economy. The tar sands make up less than two per cent of our GDP and they have been pegged as the highest risk oil investment on the planet. As the world moves away from high carbon fuels, there is little question that the tar sands will be at the top of the chopping block.

It’s time for the government to get the message. Putting all of our eggs in the tar sands basket is a bad idea for the economy and the climate. And no excuses will change that. The only responsible course of action is to pull up our bootstraps and get to work with real regulations that will see Canada’s emissions go down, rather than up and make sure we transition to a low-carbon economy that will power the 21st century.

Take action by sending a message to decision makers demanding an end to tar sands expansion here.

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