Tria Donaldson: After Copenhagen, Canadians must keep fighting for climate action
By Tria Donaldson
Millions of people around the world, myself included, are suffering from what I call “Copenhagen syndrome”—a feeling of hopelessness and directionless after the disastrous round of climate-change negotiations in Copenhagen.
So much time, energy, and emotion was invested in the Copenhagen summit because it was supposed to be “the end”—the moment when the world came together and created a deal that would set the solutions in motion, if not save the world entirely.
Needless to say, as the dust settles on Copenhagen there is still a long way to go. The deal we got at the end of Copenhagen was a weak political agreement reached by a few countries, and not endorsed or accepted by the rest of the parties at the table.
I was in Copenhagen with the Canadian Youth Delegation, a group of 35 young people from all over Canada who went to hold our government accountable during the talks. We blogged, talked, to the real Canadian delegation about our concerns, and organized visually compelling actions. And most of all we hoped that the governments of the world would work toward a deal that would prevent the worse effects of climate change.
We needed a deal that will keep warming below two degrees in order to avoid complete climate catastrophe for the most vulnerable people and places. We needed a deal with hard targets for emissions reduction and money to finance adaptation and mitigation projects in the developing world. And we needed a deal that is legally binding, with real consequences for countries like Canada that fail to act on our obligations.
Not reaching that deal will have very real consequences. For small island nations, like Tuvalu and Maldives, a two-metre sea-level rise could submerge the whole country. For Inuit and people in Canada’s North, the loss of sea ice means a loss of culture and livelihood. For my generation and for future generations, two-degree warming would mean utter uncertainty about what to expect from weather patterns, crop growth, and water access.
As a young person, I thought that governments of the world would take this threat to my future more seriously. But the negotiations were a little chaotic. For several days, negotiations completely broke down and were suspended because countries couldn’t agree on basic things. On several days, even official country delegates didn’t know what was going on or what the state of negotiations was, as countries made backrooms deals to water down progress.
And then there was Canada.
Day after day, I watched Canada win the Fossil of the Day award, which is given out by a coalition of over 450 environmental groups from around the world to the country doing the most to block progress.
We won for setting emissions-reduction targets so low that countries like New Zealand cited Canada as the reason they weren’t going to have more ambitious targets. We won for Canada being the only developed country that did not commit to any financing for adaptation and mitigation. And we won because Canada wanted to completely kill the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding international climate-change agreement we have.
The position of the Canadian government went a long way toward stalling the negotiations and backtracking on agreements that have been in place since the Bali round of negotiations in 2007.
The climate crisis is real, it is serious, and we are running out of time to act. Polling shows that the majority of Canadians want stronger emissions-reduction targets from our federal government. A recent vote in the House of Commons shows that the majority of the federal parties want stronger action. And several provinces and cities have stood up and demanded stronger action federally.
With all this momentum building for strong action, I wonder what it is going to take for our government to wake up and to start acting.
All I know is that I am now in the second phase of Copenhagen syndrome. After the mourning period, it is time to fight. And COP16 is not that far away.
Tria Donaldson is a 24-year-old Kamloops resident who was a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation to Copenhagen. She works with several environmental organizations, including goBeyond and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.