A comparison of science and technology goals for environmental research and policy is an uncertain venture. It requires an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of environmental policy in a particular country, the structure of its research community, the manner in which science policy decisions are traditionally made, and the manner in which the specific linkage of science and policy has been resolved with respect to the environment. This paper will outline some of the processes and some of the implications of these interlocking issues for Canada, selected European countries, the European Community, and Japan.
Canadian environmental policy is characterized by the complex division of labor between federal government and provinces. The latter control practical environmental policy to a greater degree than the federal units of any other OECD country. This division of responsibilities has rendered the participation of Canada in international environmental agreements particularly difficult. On the one hand, Canadian federal authorities have shown great enthusiasm and support for international environmental activities—not least because their constitutional authority for foreign affairs is broader than in most other areas of policy. On the other hand, the provinces, which control most of the policies that need to be adopted to meet international obligations, have not generally been willing to have their hand forced by international agreements negotiated by the federal authorities.
Canada is a very large, extremely sparsely populated country. Consequently it has tended to confront the environmental impacts of human activity and modern technology at a relatively late date because visible degradation of the environment remains rare. For example, Canada adopted controls on acidifying emissions well after most other OECD countries because it argued that its own emissions were largely dissipated over very large areas and were not the direct cause of some of the phenomena that were being attributed to acidification. Only the need to match its pressure on the United States with comparable deeds of its own moved the Canadian provinces to adopt more stringent measures. Canada's size has also been a major factor in causing the country to have a greenhouse gas emissions profile that is highly disadvantageous—and relatively difficult to change. Long distances—and a cold climate—imply high transport and domestic energy requirements, which can be reduced only through major innovations and extensive investments in public and private infrastructure.
Canada is a country whose economy continues to depend in large measure on the production of commodities—primary economic goods extracted from the environment. Commodity markets provide less room for the recovery of environmental costs than most other markets and have been subject to long-term downward price pressures. At the same time, much commodity production is again