Environment ministers or environment impostors?

May 19, 2009

Environmentalists usually go on endlessly about the magical ‘power of one’ to save the world from spiralling towards environmental disaster. But let’s face facts; lending your signature to save the tigers, adopting an orangutan or your annual subscription to that wonderful wildlife newsletter is not really going to make a big dent on an individual level at least. The lucky sods with a dispropotionate ‘power of one’ are the environment ministers of countries who can change the big policies that matter and steer the world to a more sustainable future one country at a time. A chance to be hailed as environment heroes that most of us would kill for. Well, they quite clearly have not been doing their jobs the way things are at the moment. If anything, they have gained notoriety as crafty stooges negotiating their way out of environment commitments for their governments, watering down environment legislation, cosying up to developers and giving boring speeches on World Environment Day. I felt some of these schmucks deserve special mention for disservice to the environment.

1. Sammy Wilson, Current Environment Minister, Northern Ireland

Not for nothing is he the British Green Party’s ‘Green Wash Award’ winner for ‘the minister most likely to damage the environment’. Prior to his appointment, he campaigned against the setting up of an independent environment agency and was a passionate advocate for nuclear power. He is credited with the statement “I do not believe in man-made global warming” and has blocked the broadcast of climate change advertisements from television, calling them part of an “insidious propaganda campaign”.

2. Jim Prentice, Current Environment Minister, Canada

He won Canada the ‘Colossal Fossil Award’ at the climate change meeting in Poznan in December 2008 for  failing to embrace science-based emission-reduction targets and, generally, for slowing negotiations. In his first speech as environment minister, he has stated that we can’t afford to “aggravate an already weakening economy in the name of environmental progress.” The final icing on the cake was his statement that climate change could actually benefit polar bears. “I don’t think anyone disagrees the whole process of climate change has implications for polar bears,” Mr. Prentice said. “What those implications are is still under scientific investigation. It could be positive, it could be negative.”

3. Ján Chrbet, Ex-Environment Minister, Slovakia

He was fired by the Prime Minister recently for refusing to divulge the details of a dodgy emissions trading contract he had masterminded. The contract allowed a newly-formed company to buy Slovakia’s excess emissions quotas at only two-thirds of the price for which Slovakia’s neighbours Ukraine and the Czech Republic sold their own quotas. This could cost Slovakia tens of millions of dollars. Chrbet refused to disclose the contract details even at the cost of his job. Someone is getting a fat cheque in the mail soon.

4. Peter Garett, Current Minister of Environment, Heritage and Arts, Australia

This was one guy who had the potential to be the coolest environment minister ever. Lead singer of Aussie rock band Midnight Oil, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation for a decade, Order of Australia recipient and LiveEarth Australia presenter. He had it all, until he became environment minister that is. In office he approved a controversial uranium mine expansion, a paper pulp mill in environmentally sensitive Tasmania and dredging Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay. How could you Peter? Sob…

5. Shigeru Ishiba, Current Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Japan

Hardline supporter of Japan’s dubious practice of killing 800 whales a year for ‘scientific research.’ He told reporters that Tokyo “will not be able to accept any proposal that would prohibit Japan from continuing its research whaling.” 18 years and 6800 dead whales later, the research programme has managed to publish a mere 4 peer reviewed papers that demonstrate the need for lethal whaling. Mr. Ishiba is also the second person in the Cabinet of Fukuda to express belief and concern in the existence of UFOs. I rest my case.

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