by Asha Jhamandas
Désirée McGraw thinks that Kyoto is the litmus test
on the environment for this government.
An award-winning alumnus, McGraw is now a Montreal-based consultant in
international negotiations and communications, who also lectures at McGill
University. She was at the School of Commuity and Public Affairs on Oct.
30 to share a wide-ranging perspective on Canadas ratification of
the Kyoto protocol.
In her presentation, McGraw defended Kyoto in terms of what she called
the 5 Cs: competitiveness for Canadian companies, the question
of national consultations on Kyoto, the threat to Canadas credibility
as ratification is delayed, our nations level of commitment to environmental
affairs, and the need for consistency in Canadas foreign policy.
She explained why it would
be wise for Canada to ratify Kyoto even though the U.S., its biggest trading
partner, has rejected it. American states, cities and companies are already
way ahead of their Canadian counterparts when it comes to reducing greenhouse
gas emissions and fascination gave way to surprise when she announced
that on a per-capita basis, Canadians, not Americans, are the biggest
energy consumers in the world.
She suggested that the U.S. might ratify under a future administration,
once the country had independently confirmed it could attain Kyoto targets.
Canada might be subsequently saddled with very expensive trade
Canada has a choice, McGraw said. We can pay now, or
pay more later.
She also dispelled the criticism that the failure to ratify is due to
a lack of consultations by the Canadian government.
Its due purely
to a lack of political will, she said.
Canada has some of the best minds working on environmental policy,
and Kyoto has been more extensively consulted upon than any other treaty
signed by Canada.
The Chrétien government, she said, just hasnt been consulting
the right people on the right question. Until now, selective discussion
with elites and experts had been framed by whether to ratify.
Instead, the Chrétien government should have been consulting Canadians
directly on how to implement the accord from the start. Canadians, and
the parliamentarians who represent them, should have more input on Kyoto
than the non-elected officials who are being consulted at international
The failure to ratify also undermines Canadas credibility as an
environmental champion both at home and abroad, McGraw said. Inaction
is causing environmentalists and other Kyoto supporters to view Canada
as having gone from environmental leader to laggard.
Businesses now have five years fewer in which to meet the Kyoto targets
of 2012, because Canada did not ratify in 1997 immediately after signing
As well, countries such as Canada which have not ratified the accord will
have no say in current UN negotiations aimed at bringing developing countries,
such as China, Brazil and India, into the climate change regime.
Though the current government has already proven its galvanizing potential
around seemingly insurmountable problems, McGraw lamented its lack of
commitment and tenacity towards the ecological debt. If Canada can
mobilize around something as seemingly mundane as a fiscal deficit, surely
it can make headway on the environmental deficit.
McGraw got an early start in international relations by serving as a youth
ambassador to the UN when she was 18. Class valedictorian, she graduated
with distinction from Concordia in 1993.
She and Mario Dumont, who is now leader of LAction démocratique
du Québec, were the only two students that year to receive a joint
degree in public affairs and economics. On top of her teaching, she continues
to consult with national and international clients, such as the UN.
She is also advising Paul
Martin on environmental and other policy issues. Martin served on the
board of the SCPA during McGraws studies there.
Environment minister André
Boisclair will give a presentation on Quebecs support for the Kyoto
accord at the Université de Montréal on Monday, Nov. 25.
The presentation, which is aimed at students, will take place at 11:30
a.m. at 3200 Jean-Brillant, Room B-2245.