COP16 — Canada encouraging inaction in climate negotiations

[This letter was written for the Green Party newsletter before Adriana left to attend the UN climate change negotiations.]

Logo for 2010 UN climate change negotiations in Cancun, MexicoAs this letter goes out to Green Party supporters, I will be part of a five-person delegation from the Green Party of Canada in Cancun, where the 192 countries who are party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are working to negotiate a treaty to protect the Earth from catastrophe.

As I write this, I’m concerned not only about the international impasse, but about Canada’s role in encouraging inaction both within Canada and internationally.

In the same week that the Senate defeated Bill C-311 in a sudden, surprise vote with no discussion, Climate Action Network Canada revealed that our government has been actively working to undermine progress by opposing fuel standards in other countries that would benefit the global climate but might hurt tar sands industries.  Meanwhile Steven Guilbault of Equiterre reported that Canada’s largest research vessel has been hired by the oil industry to map out Arctic oil prospects.

Canada’s Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has been focusing on the “opportunities” presented by the changing climate in Canada.  Rather than focus on dead trees and killer heat, we should also recognize that climate change will open up the Arctic seas to the financial opportunities of further oil exploration, they suggest.  No mention is made at all, in the Round Table’s recent report, of the floods, droughts and dislocations that other parts of the world face more imminently.

Canada was once a leader in climate science and action.  The first international meeting to address the threat took place in Toronto back in 1988.  As recently as 2005, then Environment Minister Stephane Dion took time away from his re-election campaign to lead the international negotiations held that year in Montreal.  Since 2006, Canada has the dubious distinction of being a leader at climate negotiations only in the number of Fossil awards granted for obstructing progress.  Canadian delegates to recent international meetings report that representing Canada means being subjected to continuous criticism for the role our country plays.

But Canadians can stand up to this.  Three years ago in Bali, Canada found itself isolated as the only Kyoto signatory nation that refused to embrace emissions reduction targets of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.  I received an urgent request to contact the Prime Minister’s office and demand a change in direction.  My call made it through and then I contacted my friends, as I’m sure many Canadians across the country did as well.  I know because within minutes the lines were down and shortly afterward electronic mail was not getting through either.  People started calling their MPs and Mr. Harper’s constituency office.  Within hours, Canada reluctantly capitulated to world demands.

So as delegates gather in Cancun, it’s important for Canadians to remain vigilant at home, and to be ready to hold our government to account.  We must all play a role in defending the Earth for our children.

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