“Canada Is the Dinosaur” at COP 15

Posted on 17 December 2009 by editor

Activists inside the Bella Centre on Dec. 16, 2009. Credit: A. Libisch/TerraViva

Activists inside the Bella Centre on Dec. 16, 2009. Credit: A. Libisch/TerraViva

By Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Canada bears a large share of responsibility for any failure to make a breakthrough in reducing greenhouse gas emissions here in Copenhagen, say participants and civil society activists.

Canada is the only country to ignore its international obligations under the previous Kyoto climate treaty. It has blocked all attempts to get a new treaty to significantly cut carbon emissions, the activists and delegates from other countries charge.

“Canada is the dinosaur at these talks,” said Canadian David Cadman, president of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, an international association of local governments that hosted this week’s Mayor’s Conference on climate change here.

“They are all about protecting Canada’s fossil fuel sector instead of protecting the interests of the Canadian public,” Cadman told TerraViva. “This government ignores its international commitments and role in international affairs. This is not the Canada that any of us know.”

Canada is “throwing a spanner into the works wherever it can”, agreed Dale Marshall of the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian environmental group.

“They are even blocking agreement on the use of 1990 as the base year,” Marshall said in an interview.

It’s not hard to understand why. Not only are Canada’s emissions 34 percent higher than the 1990 baseline and rapidly growing, its massive Alberta tar sands production is believed to be the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions.

The emissions cut offered by Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s government is just three percent under 1990 levels by 2020 – less than the Kyoto obligation of cutting six percent by 2010.

Canada is also lobbying hard alongside the U.S. to abandon the Kyoto Protocol process entirely, to the outrage of developing countries. And it expects them to make significant emissions reduction commitments despite Canada’s unwillingness to live up to its legal obligations from 1997.

“Canada’s reputation has never been lower, our influence has never been less,” said Maurice Strong, a legendary Canadian businessman who was the secretary-general of the Stockholm Conference in 1972, first executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, and the chair of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, among other notable accomplishments.

“I took an informal poll at the Bella Centre [where the main conference is being held] and almost everyone says Canada is the spoiler here,” Strong told TerraViva. “The tar sands are making us one of the worst polluters on the Earth.”

“Canadians cannot be proud of this,” he added.

Scientists have repeatedly warned that to have any chance of keeping global warming below 2.0 degrees C, industrialised countries must cut emissions 25 to 40 percent by 2020 compared to the baseline of 1990. Canada has only committed to a three percent reduction.

Growth in global emissions must peak by 2015 and rapidly decline to zero by 2050, said John Schellnhuber, director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The current proposals as of Thursday will lead to a minimum 3.5 C degree rise in temperatures, Schellnhuber told TerraViva.

“No one here is talking about emissions peaking before 2020, and that is the most important point scientifically,” he said.

If emissions don’t peak until 2020, they will have to decline by nine percent per year. “Such an abrupt decline is currently unimaginable,” he said.

The Canadian government apparently welcomes the unimaginable, or more likely doesn’t believe that climate change is happening.

“By not agreeing to emissions reductions, Canada is holding a loaded gun to our heads, and seems ready to pull the trigger on millions of us around the globe,” said Kodili Chandia, a Ugandan activist with Action Aid, an international NGO.

“They leave us no choice but to see them as criminal,” she said.

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    This post was mentioned on Twitter by gharman: blame canada. check and double-checked. read “canada is a dinosaur at #cop15″ http://is.gd/5rPqe #climate #copenhagen…





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