It’s official: Stephen Harper’s going to Copenhagen. After months of noncommittal remarks and avoiding any declaration on emission reductions, Harper, realizing he was about to be left out of the big kids’ party, followed Barack Obama’s announcement with his own. But while Obama—even with his lacklustre greenhouse-gas reduction targets—will be a welcome face among the tens of thousands of attendees at the all-important United Nations climate-change summit, this won’t be a comfortable trip for Harper.
The closer the Copenhagen talks get, the louder the cries of the international community become. Blaming Canada has become more than a joking mantra; it has become the battle cry of environmentalists, journalists, students, politicians, authors, and scientists around the world.
They’re calling us names. They’re sick of our stunts. They don’t want our dirty oil, and they don’t want our vapid politics. Thanks to the tar sands, Canada has become climate enemy number one among industrialized countries, and most recently among the Commonwealth nations trying to oust Canada from its midst.
The bad rap started shortly after Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol and then promptly spat in the face of the global community we’d just made promises to, rendering what should’ve been a binding treaty into little more than a scrap piece of paper. Instead of curbing our emissions since then like we promised to, they’ve skyrocketed by 34 percent above the Kyoto target for 2012. So it’s no wonder that governments around the world are skeptical of our intentions. They should be.
The tar sands are quickly replacing the seal hunt in terms of the shock and horror they inspire on the international stage. And it’s scary to think how far both Harper and Iggy will go to protect their precious dirty oil. If they’ll put seal meat on the menu at Parliament to defend the seal hunt, what will they do to defend the honour of the tar sands? Offer bite-sized bitumen brownies to visiting dignitaries? Mandate that all government vehicles must run off the bituminous sludge? Perhaps Her Excellency Michaí«lle Jean can take a trip downstream from the tar sands to Fort Chipewyan and eat some cancerous fish with the locals. (See? It’s just an extra eye—not so bad!)
On November 30, the Guardian published a brilliant if prickly article by acclaimed author and journalist George Monbiot, which bore the headline: “Canada’s image lies in tatters. It is now to climate what Japan is to whaling”. He goes on to say: “Canada is slipping down the development ladder....The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.”
Monbiot continues: “Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.”
And how do we as Canadian citizens feel about this? Not good. A recent survey tells us that close to 65 percent of Canadians are embarrassed by our government’s inaction and dreading the inevitable fall-out of again being the bratty child at the table of grown-ups.
So Harper will be there. But Greenpeace will, too. And each time he acts like that bratty child—each time he throws a tantrum, or crosses his arms and pouts, “I don’t wanna!”—we’ll remind him that he RSVPed to the grown-ups’ table, and it’s high time he acts like one.
Jessica Wilson is a media and public relations officer for Greenpeace Canada.