Canada-China Overview Series

What Can Canadian Companies Do To Trade Responsibly With China?

Posted on: March 25th, 2013 by Harmony Foundation No Comments

 

By the end of 2011 there were over 2,500 Canadian companies in China. Like most western companies they have benefitted from permissive labour, health, and environmental standards and yet not one Canadian company is found among the top Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) rankings in China. With China Canada’s number two export destination this is an increasingly dangerous approach.


Changing Reality in China

There are now over 30 national laws and regulations related to CSR in China; as well guidelines from stock exchanges, industry association and leading institutes. As social and environmental deficits and public expectations for improvement rapidly rise, the Chinese government has begun to use CSR to address environmental and social deficits. More than 400,000 registered NGO’s and close to 3 million grassroots groups place companies under even closer scrutiny.

 

What Can Canadian Companies Do to Trade Responsibly with China?

Healthy, prosperous, educated communities are the best places to do business and investors, customers, staff and other stakeholders increasingly favour responsible companies. They recognize that integrity and accountability are more likely to lead to economic success and want meaningful investment in society not wasteful image-building campaigns.

 

China is no exception and each Canadian company has a critical decision to make: continue operating as usual and risk market share and reputation or to align its business strategy and sustainability outcomes to meet the needs of society.

 

Canadians have benefitted from China’s remarkable economic development, and those who benefit carry a responsibility to invest in social development and environmental protection as they do at home.

 

What can your company do?

 

1)    Develop and contribute expertise and technology to help create clean and green solutions. China’s current 12th Five Year Plan emphasizes reducing energy use and carbon emissions and protecting water.

 

 

2)    Stop selling harmful products and technologies. Selling millions of pounds of tobacco or coal fired power-plants to China with little regard for public health or the environment is irresponsible.

 

3)    Abide by highest international human rights, health and environmental standards. In January 2013, CCTV, China’s largest TV network, reported that KFC’s supplier uses 18 types of antibiotics raising chickens (it doesn’t do so in the USA and Canada). KFC is now facing a severe public relations crisis in China.

 

 

4)    Contribute to meeting China’s national priorities articulated in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015):

 

  • Poverty alleviation, especially in rural and agricultural areas.
  • Building a resource saving and environmentally friendly society.  Government is regulating environmental impacts more strictly, and the public is paying closer attention to performance of international companies.
  • Developing a skilled population. Providing training and investing in education for staff and civil society development.
  • Promoting community self-governance and improving the mechanisms for safeguarding people’s rights.Support participatory governance and encourage staff volunteer programs.

 

5)     Respond to local key stakeholders

While government relations are important, companies need to respond to the expectations and concerns of other stakeholders, e.g. business partners, media, NGOs, customers and employees, and differences in cultures, economic conditions, and stakeholder values while respecting international requirements.

 

6)    Strengthen community engagement through substantive society-oriented CSR initiatives. For example:

 

 

7)    Work with develop capable local NGOs. NGOs enjoy close relationships with local communities and understand local needs and concerns. They provide invaluable insights for CSR initiatives and can help implement them successfully. The key is to distinguish Government Organized NGO (GONGOs) from independently organized NGOs, and to find reliable partners based on their credibility, capacity, and local relations.

 

 

8)    Implement strategic philanthropic programs. Disaster relief is important; however successful companies also invest continuously in education, social development, culture, and environmental protection.

 

 

9)     Adopt transparency, accountability, and honesty in reporting.

In brief, Canadians want their companies to do well and to contribute to our prosperity but not as the result of irresponsible development which damages the environment and public health, exploits the poor and ignores the needs of future generations.

 

Doing Business with China without Selling Our Soul

Posted on: December 14th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments

 

Standing in front of a Beijing Starbucks on a polluted October day I wondered what would approval of the Nexen–CNOOC deal mean for Canada and our relationship with China, not to overlook the Foreign Investment Protection Act and growing Chinese investment. We recently received an indication via the government’s new rules on foreign acquisitions. Or did we?

 

I’ve worked on environment and development issues for over 30 years, in China since 2005. I’m heartened that Canadians are paying increased attention to our relationship with China, but are we sufficiently concerned about our role in the environmental, health and social problems plaguing China and other countries with which we do business?

 

Since the early 1970s when we renewed diplomatic relations with China, our relationship has largely driven by economic leaders seeking commercial benefits and politicians anxious to facilitate that. National strategies to guide the relationship have been lacking, as well as a clear set of principles.

 

Some try to allay the fears of Canadians about social injustice and environmental damage arguing that the enormous economic change in China from a state to market-driven economy has led to significant improvement. Such an assertion is not supported by evidence and a policy of opportunity rather than relationship building is unlikely to achieve long-term success.

 

In our paper “Strengthening Canada’s Foreign Policy: Lessons from Our China Experiencewe examine the shortcomings of a foreign policy overwhelmingly based on short-term trade and economic ambitions and put forward ideas for a comprehensive, coordinated multi-sector Canada-China strategy that better meets Canada’s interests and our international responsibilities.

 

 

 

 

China is a complex environment, whether conducting business, pursuing political co-operation or recruiting wealthy tourists, students and immigrants. Our businesses governments, universities (and others) typically pursue their own interests with little regard to how they may or may not represent Canada’s best interests let alone how co-operation might achieve more lasting outcomes. It’s no great surprise then that many have noted, with some frustration, Canada’s lack of “brand recognition.”

 

The federal government is the only existing structure capable of pulling together the various actors and aspects of our China relationship into a coordinated effort. We recognize the inherent jurisdictional and operational challenges but these must be overcome to better serve Canada’s long-term interests.

 

It is a very large objective to create a non-partisan forum to bring together the diverse political and economic forces that contend in pursuing a Canadian strategy on China. Most governments and businesses are content with a loose policy environment in which they can adapt and adjust to circumstances as they please.

 

This may serve the interests of government and business but does it best serve Canada and the Canadian people? To answer that question we encourage our business and political leaders to work with civil society organizations to develop, with active public participation, a strategic policy. Canadians have the right to be represented abroad in ways that imbue pride.

 

Canada is a country with many natural and human assets. This author believes that Canadians are grateful for our blessings and will support a China policy, indeed a foreign policy that is socially just, environmentally responsible and economically sound.

If our national leadership is unwilling or unable to bring us together in the spirit of cooperation to craft such a strategy then Canadian civil society should step into the void and bring together interested parties to develop constructive proposals. What role do we want to play in the world? It’s time for Canadians to have that discussion and decide, not by inattentive or uninformed acquiescence but, through an honest, respectful process of nation building.

 

At the same time we need to decide who we welcome to Canada, including investors. Should Canada allow foreign purchase of our strategic assets?

 

In my opinion it’s the wrong question. It’s not about who develops our resources but how quickly they are developed, for whose benefit and how development impacts the environment and the lives of Canadians, particularly those whose rights may be immediately impacted.

 

I object to resources being developed too quickly because decisions are driven by investment goals rather than the best interests of Canadians. These assets will appreciate over time and they belong to Canadians not a small group of investors, foreign or Canadian.

 

Canada doesn’t need to develop the oil sands or any other natural resource in one generation nor is it fair or responsible to do so. Just as our foreign policy must be socially just, environmentally responsible and economically sound so must be our domestic practices.

 

There are alternatives. We can achieve economic success, without abandoning our social and environmental principles and responsibilities, only if Canadians are willing to work together to make that aspiration a reality.

 

Michael Bloomfield

Founder and Executive Director

Harmony Foundation of Canada

December, 2012

 

 

 

 

Canada, China and Human Rights: Indifference, Self-Righteousness or a Truly Principled Approach

Posted on: April 10th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments

 
Canada is not only a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but Canadians were among its principal authors. The protection of human rights is a principle that Canadians take very seriously, one that deeply informs our world view and the way we interpret international relations.
 
In 2006 the Globe and Mail conducted a major survey that found that 72% of Canadians agree that promoting democracy and human rights in Asia should be a priority. Concerns include the widespread use of the death penalty, “re-education” through labour and arbitrary detention of minorities such as Tibetan, Mongolian and Uyghur people. No less important are the conditions under which people labour to make the consumer goods we buy from China. Accusations of prisoner abuse, including forced labour are bad enough, but organ-harvesting claims are so outrageous they are beyond our comprehension.
 
These concerns are ones that clearly weigh heavily on the Canadian public’s consciousness. The pursuit of economic and commercial interests can therefore not ignore China’s human rights record without a fundamental clash with Canadian values and public opinion.
 
If we Canadians are truly committed to human rights and ethical behavior aren’t we obliged to speak up at home and abroad, and work for positive change? Shouldn’t our good reputation and relations in the world compel us to play a constructive role in helping to resolve human rights violations as they occur?
 
Arguably yes, but, unfortunately, to speak up can also mean to be shut up.
 
Dealing with Chinese violations of human rights is a difficult balancing act for Canada, as the Harper Government has awkwardly discovered. In the realm of international relations and realpolitik, interests commonly come before principles and to interfere with another country’s internal affairs is often taken as provocation.
 
China considers human rights to be nothing more than domestic affairs, well outside the realm of acceptable external influence. For the Chinese government, Canada has absolutely no right to interfere in these areas and the Chinese leadership has no reservations about saying so.
 
When Stephen Harper first came to power in 2006 he took a principled, bold, and ultimately antagonizing stance with China in regards to human rights and Tibet. He made numerous strong speeches, claiming that Canada would not “sell out to the almighty dollar.” He avoided attending the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games— though he claimed it was not a snub— and even publicly hosted the Dalai Lama in 2007.
 
After several high profile Chinese snubs, and increasing pressure from Canadian business groups, the Harper government has slowly reversed its tough stance on China.
 
It hasn’t been easy. In December of 2009 Harper made his first state visit to Beijing, the first prime ministerial visit since Paul Martin in 2005. This lapse was not lost on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, whose public rebuke of Harper in front of the international press, the Globe and Mail described as an “unprecedented breach of diplomatic protocol.”
 
Since that time, the Harper government has worked hard to repair relations, and they have indeed improved. Canada has since been awarded “approved destination status” for Chinese tourists, some Canadian beef has been allowed back into the Chinese market, and the two nations have pledged to double bilateral trade.
 
Unfortunately, a part of this campaign of building back the Chinese relationship has been to roll back our focus on human rights, not a comforting development for those concerned about Canada renewing our old habit of tepidly raising concerns and then pursuing business as usual.
 
Our challenge is to build and maintain a healthy relationship with China without kowtowing and relinquishing our core values for the sake of a buck. Indifference is not a respectable option, and nor is cynical posturing. The relationship with China cannot be just interests or just principles. We need a maturity that acknowledges the complex reality of the situation that China is too big, too important, and too proud to be treated like a recalcitrant school-boy.
 
On one hand we cannot be too over bearing, lest the Chinese turn their backs and shut us out. On the other hand, we cannot be silent lest the Chinese take our acquiescence for granted, and ignore our concerns with smiling faces and deaf ears. For both our future and the world’s, we must remain engaged—acquiescence will benefit no one.
 
This position may be obvious and easily preached in the classroom, but in the real world it is much, much tougher. Some recent scenarios make that dramatically clear. The first is a case of three Tibetan brothers, previously honoured by China and the world for wildlife conservation, that were recently thrown in jail because they tried to stop a government official from hunting illegally in a park. They are not Canadian citizens, but their case is regarded by many international observers as a major reversal of Chinese progress that sets an unsettling precedent. How should Canada respond to this? Do we agree that it is an internal issue and stand back or do we acknowledge the greater implications, become involved even if it threatens our economic interests?
 
Is the situation different when a Canadian is involved? Another example: Husein Dzhelil, a Canadian citizen of Uighur descent was sentenced in 2007 to life imprisonment by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court for “plotting to split the country” and to 10 years in prison for joining a terrorist organization. How do we address this? He unequivocally denies the charges. Do we treat it like a one-off consular case, do we risk addressing the broader issues of minority repression? Or do we mumble some objection and then let it go after China rebuffed our enquiries?
 
How and when Canada addresses human rights abuses in China and elsewhere is a difficult issue. Material gain that results from ignoring human rights violations is not something Canadians support. We expect our government to behave with integrity when violations occur, even if we risk political or economic consequences. In an age of sound bites and web trolling campaigns we need to keep our wits about us and hold fast to the principles, integrity and common sense that make us the envy of the world. Unless, of course, cheap consumer goods and wealthy Chinese students and tourists are more important to us.
 

The Canadian-Chinese Trade Relationship

Posted on: April 10th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments

 
China is now world’s second largest economy. The centre of global manufacturing, China is the world’s largest importer and its second largest exporter. By all economic indicators China has risen, and with sustained double digit growth is indeed still rising.This phenomenal transformation happened as companies across the world raced to relocate production to take advantage of low wages and a potential market of 1.3 billion people, including an emerging middle class that, according to the market research firm Euromonitor, has already reached 80 million and will grow to 700 million by 2020.
 
China has become an increasingly important trading partner for Canada too. While still dwarfed in volume by the United States, China has become our second biggest import destination (10.9% of imports compared to the US with 51%) and our third biggest export destination (3.1%, compared to the UK with 3.36% and the US with 75%).
 
In the lead up to the G8 and G20 summit, Premier Hu and Prime Minister Harper pledged to further that relationship and to double bilateral trade by 2015 to $60 billion.
 
This projected increase may be good for Canada if we get it right. As the recent recession made painfully clear, the American greenback is not infallible and if Canada is going to maintain its economic strength in the 21st century it is going to need to diversify its trade portfolio. With its soaring economy and prospects for the future, it only makes sense that China should play an increasingly larger role in Canada’s future trade strategy.
 
However, the crucial point is just that: Canada’s trade with China must be managed as a part of a forward-thinking and comprehensive strategy.
 
At the moment, Canada’s trade relationship with China is one of great imbalance. China sells us cheap consumer goods and electronics and we, almost exclusively, sell them raw resources— agricultural produce, pulp, lumber, oil and gas, coal, minerals, metallic ore. A table of the top ten imports and exports is included at the bottom of the post.
 
There are several problems with this current trade relationship. First of all, it is problematic from a Canadian point of view because natural resources are inherently unstable. Some natural resources— such as those in agriculture and forestry – produce at the whims of nature. The potential for bad weather, disease, and pests can all lead to sudden unforeseen disaster. More important however, all natural resource exports are unreliable in the sense that they are commodities that lack a unique selling point. Pulp from BC is not much different than pulp from elsewhere in the world, and the same goes for Alberta’s oil, Manitoba’s canola seeds, or Saskatchewan’s potash. If there is a sudden surge of output or a change in demand anywhere in the world, Canadian prices will be affected. Subject to intense competition and the fluctuations of natural systems and the international market, Canada’s current export base is at the mercy of forces well beyond our control.
 
Another problem with this current relationship is that it is not forward looking. It is representative of a past age, with Canada the hinterland supplying the needs of “metropoles” elsewhere in the world. If Canada’s role in the chain of production remains unchanged, China is merely replacing the United States, and the United Kingdom before that. If Canada wants to remain a global economic player we need to be more creative and much more innovative.
 
At the moment there is an enormous opportunity in the world for those actively engaged in the development of low-carbon and other “green” technologies. Rising energy costs, increasing resource scarcity, and a growing awareness of the enormous risks from climate-change, offers great potential for technologies and expertise that improve efficiency and reduce our environmental footprint.
 
According to estimates from a 2009 report by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants Clean Economy, Living Planet clean energy technologies will be the third-largest industrial sector in the world by 2020. The water treatment industry in China alone is projected to be worth $1 trillion by 2025. The global demand for green technologies is already on the rise, and, according to a 2009 report by the Canadian Conference Board, the green tech industry has grown at about 10 per cent each year between 2002 and 2008.
 
While making strides towards an environmentally sound, economic base, Canada does not have to reinvent itself. Our long history with natural resources and our natural geography give us definitive advantages over other countries, notably in waste management, water treatment, and energy-efficient resource extraction technologies. Canada may also be able to develop strengths in wave and tidal power and the next generations of biofuels.
 
While the opportunity is there, Canada is largely missing out. From 2002 – 2008, the same time period of global growth in the industry, Canadian trade in the green-tech sector actually shrunk by 2% a year, when adjusted for inflation. Comparatively, from 2000 – 2009 Canada’s oil production increased by 85%. Considering that oil prices will increase as demand rises and supply falls, this liquidation of our energy assets is simply bad business. At the same time, neglect of low-carbon energy— undoubtedly the energy sector of the future— is simply bad long-term economic policy.
 
The stimulus funding of 2009 presented a great opportunity for Canada to invest in the green economy. In the midst of the recession UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a “Green New Deal” with investments focused on renewable green energy, green jobs and greater energy efficiency. Many of the world’s most powerful economies responded. South Korea allocated 78% of its stimulus to the green economy, and China 30%, and the US 12%. Canada spent just 8.8% – which placed us 10th in the ranking of the G20.
 
Furthermore, according to a recent report, nearly half of that 8.8% was slated for funding of profitable oil companies for unproven carbon capture and storage technology.
 
Unfortunately in the past year not much has changed. According to the same report, entitled Falling Behind: Canada’s Lost Clean Energy Jobs produced by Environmental Defense Canada and United Steel Workers, in 2009 Canada invested just $357 million on renewable energy, compared to the US which spent $27 billion. Even on a per-capita basis the US invested almost 9 times more than Canada. The report estimates that this investment gap already has cost Canada 66,000 direct and indirect jobs, not including the job opportunities lost in greener transportation and energy efficiency.

In stark contrast to the lackluster incentives given to green economic development, the Canadian government gives the oil and gas industries $2 billion a year in subsidies and tax relief, according to the Pembina Institute’s most recent estimate. This is an industry with annual revenue of $80 billion, and while profits have been down since their record highs in 2008, profits posted this quarter indicate a strong come back. In fact, following the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico the Albertan oil sands are looking more and more appealing to US buyers and the Canadian industry’s prospects are looking brighter than ever. Subsidies of this scale for an industry that is this profitable are absolutely ridiculous.
 
Canada’s oil and gas industry simply does not need government support. This is a fully mature industry that is more than capable of standing on its own two feet. Not only that, but those feet are firmly planted where they stand. Unlike other industries, like automotives, there is no risk of flight with the oil patch. The resource is ours and unlike an assembly plant it is not at risk of being moved elsewhere, no matter how much the oil and gas industry blusters.
 
China is already on board for pursuing a more sustainable path to economic development. They have acknowledged that their current approach simply cannot be maintained. While the West polluted its way to development and managed to put off dealing with its consequences, China cannot do the same. They are already choking on their own growth, reeling from the effects of unprecedented levels of smog, desertification, water contamination, and deforestation, to say nothing of the human costs.
 
In a nationally televised speech, which opened the annual session of the National People’s Congress in 2007, Premier Wen Jiabao announced:
 
“We must make conserving energy, protecting the environment and using land efficiently the breakthrough point and main focus for changing the pattern of economic growth.”
 
China is showing leadership and taking the initiative to chart sustainable economic growth and development. Canada needs to reassess its economic priorities in general, but needs to re-evaluate its relationship with China in particular. China’s economy is going to drive the 21st century, and how Canada relates to that economy is going to determine our future in this new century. We can continue to be hewers of wood and haulers of water or become leaders in the research and development of the technologies and methods which the world needs to ensure a healthy, sustainable, and secure future, as do we.
 
Source: http://www.asiapacific.ca/statistics/trade/bilateral-trade-asia-product/canadas-merchandise-trade-china
 

On the Environment: Canada Continues to Lift Far Below our Weight in China

Posted on: April 10th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments

 
Incredible dramatic economic growth since the 1970s has transformed China into a dominant force in the world economy, raising the standard of living for millions of Chinese.
 
China’s new role as a global power presents new challenges to the ranking world powers. Western nations can no longer afford to ignore or isolate China, which is quickly becoming a pace-setter on the world stage.
 
However, China’s economic success has not come without a steep environmental cost. The last three decades of unabashed economic and industrial growth has wreaked catastrophic results on the environment and compelled China to seek foreign partners to chart a greener more sustainable course for the future. According to TIME magazine, China currently occupies the dubious distinction of having two of the top ten polluted cities in the world, with Linfen and Tianying occupying the top two positions on the list. The top ten polluted rivers in the world include China’s Pearl and Yellow Rivers. While only 44th in the world per capita, China is by far the world’s worst polluter nation with the highest overall annual emission of greenhouse gases (6,018 million tonnes).
 
Canadian companies, governments and organizations have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage their expertise and technological innovations in the environmental sector to create unique green solutions with the world’s foremost emerging economy. We not only have the opportunity to strengthen trade and commerce with China, which are commonplace today, but also long-term relationships in the vitally important and rapidly growing fields of environmental sustainability, education and social development.
 
However, moving forward the question remains; is Canada doing its part to help China through her environmental challenges or are we shirking our responsibilities in exchange for lucrative short-term economic profits? Does Canada have a long-term plan moving forward for its relationship with China? If so, what are our goals and interests in China besides dollars and cents and how can we show leadership on the environment and the development of more inclusive and open society?
 
The evidence strongly suggests not only that the Canadian relationship with China lacks a clear sense of direction, but that rhetoric about environment and human rights is a thin veneer covering overwhelmingly commercial ambitions emphasizing fossil fuels, uranium and lumber. Significant evidence of a long-term commitment towards environmentally and socially sustainable development is simply not there.
 
The Canadian relationship with China seems as backwards as the coal-burning plants that Canadian companies are installing in China. Rather than emphasizing investment in the economy of the future, renewable energy, value-added commodities and green solutions to tackle climate, water and other problems, the Canadian model has been strictly ‘business as usual.’ What message are we presenting to China, that Canadian companies are only driven by bottom-line economics and not the place to look for innovative solutions to the pressing environment and development issues facing China, Canada and the world? For example, Canada’s leading overseas development agency, CIDA, lists one of its objectives as “to promote environmental sustainability in China through support for Chinese efforts to manage environmental issues in western regions of China by enhancing the capacity of the country’s land resource management systems.” Laudable goals and sentiments but what’s preventing CIDA from delivering results?
 
As we explored in the blog article entitled “Where’s the Beef in the Canada China Relationship” there is much political pressure on CIDA to abandon China because China has the financial capability to provide for itself. We disagree because China’s development decisions will affect the world’s economy, security and environment, trends to which Canada will not be immune.
 
In the interest of meeting our global responsibilities we must do more not less. However, we must recognize that funding needs to be focused on sustainability initiatives that bring practical results, prosperity while protecting public health and the environmental and building social assets too.
 
CIDA certainly talks the talk, but how well it actually walks the walk is an entirely different story. In too many cases CIDA’s rhetoric and progress at the grassroots level simply do not match, a problem across government where much more money is spent on policy development, bureaucratic exchanges and research without practical application than spent on results- based projects which improve health, education, social justice and the environment.
 
For example, between 2005 and 2012 CIDA spent 13.5 million dollars on a Statistical Information Management project, “so that it can provide data relevant to the Millennium Development Goals and other international economic, environmental, and social agreements.” Do Canadian taxpayers need to spend over 13 million dollars on data collection? Another project, led by Simon Fraser University, consumed over 16 million dollars developing agricultural policy options for China. SFU doesn’t have a department of agriculture and like many other projects there isn’t clear evidence that this project generated real results for communities and peoples in China. Need another example, how about over 4.4 million dollars being spent on “Cooperation on the Management of the Environment Sustainability.” Sounds good right? Unfortunately most of the money was consumed by more policy options, study tours and talks about environmental sustainability.
 
Now don’t get me wrong, I respect the value of baseline research in order to collect information necessary to develop and implement practical projects, and I believe CIDA supports many valuable activities despite political pressures to increasingly fund commercial or bureaucratic initiatives.
 
However, looking at the list of CIDA’s funded projects the majority seem to simply study and write about policies, and never produce or even lead to results for communities and people and the environment in China. It is one thing to study and analyze problems at Canadian universities, and consulting companies but there simply is not enough funding available to waste in on projects that produce little more than work and professional credits and papers for the participants. CIDA is not the only Canadian government organization whose mission is comprised by misdirected and misplaced spending; recently NRCAN launched a project to export “clean coal” to China and India. If you have a perplexed look on your face, you are not alone; there is nothing clean about coal period. According to NRCAN, “coal’s environmental impacts are the primary challenge to overcome for this industry to continue its vital role in providing an essential service. NRCAN’s “Canada’s Clean Coal Technology Roadmap” essentially provides Canadian corporations with more opportunities to flog their dirty coal products overseas, reaffirming that it is “business as usual.”
 
And what about Environment Canada our lead agency for environmental protection, conservation and management, what could they be doing? Of course, we need to meet our national requirements for clean air and water, carbon reduction, but Canada cannot even meet its own goals let alone its international commitments by staying home. Our environmental report card has been inconsistent at best.
 
Canada still dramatically lags behind other developed nations in demonstrating a tangible commitment to the environment. A 2008 analysis by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy in collaboration with the financial services and consulting firm Deloitte concluded that Canada currently ranks sixth among the eight major economies when it is evaluated across five key categories and 1.5 comprehensive indicators necessary for low-carbon performance. In comparison to the rest of the G8, Canada continues to fall severely behind in the creation of green energy jobs, sustainable energy investments and renewable technologies. Simply put, Canada has some serious catch up to do in the Green Race.
 
Although this isn’t a pitch from some naive Sinophile there is much to be admired in China’s emerging grassroots environmental effort. There should be no doubt that China’s environmental performance will greatly affect the health and well-being of Canadians too! And, of course, the environmental consequence of our voracious appetite for cheap consumer goods gives us greater responsibility.
 
Simply put Environment Canada should be doing more to help China protect endangered species and disappearing habitat, to conserve energy, rehabilitate its fresh water and reduce carbon and other greenhouse gases. For that to happen Canadians and our leaders a need a new type of thinking, one that looks towards the future and not back at the past, which contributes to meeting the world’s problems rather than just talking about them.