Compulsory policies, not targets alone, are the way to mitigate climate change, a world expert on the subject told corridor residents Monday.
Dr. Mark Jaccard, a professor of Energy and Materials Management and Policy at Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management, spoke to about 60 people at the Nita Lake Lodge this week as part of an event arranged by the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue.
Titled "Hope and Action on Climate Change at Copenhagen" in honour of the United Nations climate conference currently underway in Denmark, Jaccard focused on various aspects of climate change and the conference, which wraps up on Dec. 18.
Jaccard, speaking to a packed room that included Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed, implored national governments to make policies that can help them achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets.
"We need to get away from the world of targets and we need to get to the world of policies that achieve targets," he said.
"You can rant and rave about how our targets should be, I guess we were talking about this 25 to 40 per cent below our 1990 emissions levels by 2020. That is really unachievable for Canada and I think if a politician ever says I've got that target, then all the environmentalists will applaud and we'll all applaud, the media will applaud and that'll be a huge mistake. It'll be Kyoto all over again."
The Canadian government has been heavily criticized for not living up to emissions targets it agreed to under the Kyoto Accord. When the Conservative Party of Canada formed a minority government after the 2006 election, the country's greenhouse gas emissions had risen to at least 24 per cent above a target set down in the Kyoto Accord.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has since fended off accusations of government inaction on the environment by attacking the Liberals, the party that signed the accord and watched emissions go up while it was in office.
Jaccard, however, showed some sympathy for the Conservatives because he said they are prioritizing policies over impossible targets - despite committing to a drop of 20 per cent below 2006 levels.
"At least they're being honest," Jaccard said. "They're changing their language about how we do need to have policies that guarantee those targets, those would be regulations on the amount of emissions or prices on the amounts of emissions."
He urged local governments to focus on reducing emissions - in Whistler's case, primarily emissions from automobiles and buildings.
Jaccard also tackled the ClimateGate scandal - more specifically, the release by a hacker of over 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents from computers at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.
Those e-mails showed climate scientists allegedly falsifying data and "cooking the books" to make the case for global warming. One of the e-mails had Kevin Trenberth, an author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, writing, "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't."
The e-mails have since been used by critics of the global warming theory to suggest there's a conspiracy to chalk up climate change to more than it is.
To that, Jaccard said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looks at the top scientific journals when coming up with its climate data. Papers submitted to those journals go through peer reviews and only 12 to 15 per cent of submitted papers are approved - even his own papers don't always make the cut.
There are humans involved so there are biases and faults, but he doesn't care about "some academics acting childishly."
"I know that what the IPCC has been looking at is the very top papers from the very top journals and they have consistently said that this risk is a 99.9 per cent probability," Jaccard said. "It's there, you can't ignore it.
"You can't just ignore it because one scientist doesn't say that or because some scientists who say that are not very mature in how they treat people."
As far as Copenhagen goes in terms of reaching a new agreement on reducing emissions, Jaccard said there's likely to be agreements between industry sectors and subsets of countries, and negotiations for each have already been underway.