As the United Nations kicks off its climate-change conference in Copenhagen this week, much ire is focused on a new and surprising international bad boy: Canada. The country, of course, has long been revered as a champion of good causes. But to many Copenhagen delegates, Canada is now just another eco-hostile petrostate, thanks to its unapologetic support for its extremely dirty but highly lucrative energy industry, especially the carbon-spewing Alberta tar sands. Canada's fall from grace may seem abrupt, but the critics have a point. Three years ago Ottawa formally dropped its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, and Canadian CO2 emissions have risen 25 percent since 1999. "At least the United States had the courage to withdraw from the start," says Saleemul Huq, a scientist working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Canada signed up and then did nothing, and that undermines the whole point of an agreement."
This is making things awkward for Canadians. Last month a group of NGOs, including Greenpeace, demanded Canada's suspension from the Commonwealth, and the international Climate Change Performance Index for 2009 put Canada in 59th place--only one spot above Saudi Arabia. As the Copenhagen summit gets underway, American delegates can breathe easy--it'll be the Canadians taking the hardest knocks.