Oh, Canada. For shame.
While the rest of the world puts carbon cuts high on the political agenda in the lead up to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, Canada is once again emerging as the worst house on a bad block. Our dinosaur of a prime minister is clinging blindly to the tar sands and risks being left in the dust of climate leaders with real vision.
China’s stepping up to the plate. Japan is making headway. And just this week, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced emission targets that are music to the ears of environmentalists ’round the world: 40 percent cuts by 2020 (at 1990 levels)—conditional on a strong outcome in Copenhagen—and 30 percent unconditional.
Some are speculating that this will mean that Statoil, Norway’s state-owned oil company, will have to withdraw its controversial investments from the dirtiest of oil projects, the Alberta tar sands.
And the timing couldn’t be better.
With only 60 days left until the most important climate negotiations of our time, Greenpeace has been amping up its campaign to stop the tar sands by shining an international spotlight on one of the worst climate crimes of this generation.
A series of dramatic direct actions in open-pit mines, at upgraders, and on bitumen conveyer belts has succeeded in interrupting tar-sands production and exposing Canada’s dirty secret to international eyes who expect real climate vision from us Canucks.
The message from these actions is clear: that a strong, binding global climate pact at Copenhagen means shutting down the tar sands, Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse-gas emissions.
The tar sands are the largest industrial project on the planet. The most capital-intensive. The most destructive. And it’s not just Canada’s problem anymore. Oh, it’s still Canada’s shame. But the jig is up. Our dirty, oily laundry is out there for the world to see.
For too long, the tar sands have been quietly killing our home on Native land. Poisoning entire communities downstream from the toxic operations. Polluting our air. Destroying the boreal forest and releasing massive quantities of carbon in the process. Contaminating the Athabasca River, one of the most important water systems in North America, to the tune of 11 million litres of noxious waste every day.
These horrific numbers have been downplayed by provincial and federal governments more concerned with being mouthpieces for industry than with protecting their citizens.
But the silence is being lifted.
Over the past three weeks, Greenpeace activists from Germany, France, the U.K., Australia, Brazil, Sweden, the U.S., and Belgium have joined Canadians to take serious action in Fort McMurray and Fort Saskatchewan, the heart of the worst climate crimes in Canada and some of the most devastating in the world.
These activists came great distances to stand up to Big Oil in this country, even when—and especially because—our own leaders won’t. Because they know what Stephen “what climate crisis?” Harper refuses to admit: that the tar sands can never fit into the sustainable energy future that our planet so desperately needs.
Solutions to the climate crisis exist now. Greenpeace has been saying this for years, and with leading engineers, has produced an Energy (R)evolution report that outlines a number of viable scenarios that would see the world wean itself off of dirty oil and transition seamlessly to clean energy. What we’re lacking is the political will, the vision, and the leadership that will catapult us out of dirty, destructive, and dangerous projects like the tar sands, and toward the clean-energy economy of the future.
Sustainable energy and a world in which we can all live and breathe is the direction we’re heading in. The question remains, will Canada march proudly toward that future as a leader? Or will we be dragged, kicking and screaming, by other governments who have the courage to lead?
This December, we’ll find out. Greenpeace is calling on world leaders to stand up and fight for the planet. Harper, if you can’t be that leader, then we implore you, stay home.
Or, better yet, go to Tim Hortons for a donut.
Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
Jessica Wilson is a media and public relations officer for Greenpeace Canada.