David Cadman is on his way to Copenhagen, Denmark. There, the COPE councilor for Vancouver will act as international president of ICLEA-Local Governments for Sustainability and work to bring national governments on board with thousands of municipal initiatives.
As things stand now, he’s got his work cut out for him.
For weeks, the European media have speculated that Canada will do everything it can to sabotage the UN Climate Change Conference (December 7-18). Prime Minister Stephen Harper only agreed to attend the summit after his American and Chinese counterparts said they would be there. And on December 2, James Hansen, one of the world’s pre-eminent climate scientists, said that the best thing the conference can do for the planet is to end in failure.
Speaking from home while packing for his flight, Cadman remained optimistic.
“It is so important that people understand that turning around the ship of state and getting to a low-carbon economy, is a very, very daunting task,” Cadman told the Straight. “But there is no alternative.”
He said that with cities soon expected to hold two-thirds of the Earth’s human population, it is vital that local governments are heard and convince their national counterparts that the need to reduce carbon emissions is urgent.
The plan, Cadman explained, is for local representatives to meet with national delegates and arrive at strategies to move forward on energy efficiency.
Some 70 heads of state are scheduled to attend COP15. And Cadman said that ICLEI is in contact with the Canadian prime minister’s office.
“Of course, it is very hard to meet with Canada nowadays,” he cautioned. “Because there is nothing to discuss. There is no plan.”
He explained that while Harper has announced he is prepared to address intensity targets, there is no guarantee that this strategy will reduce Canada’s carbon emissions. With intensity targets, individual developments are forced to reduce their emissions. “But,” Cadman noted, “if you do three times as much development, even if it is 25 percent or 40 percent more efficient, you are still going to put out a lot more greenhouse gases.”
Cadman predicted that Harper will find himself isolated at the summit. “I suspect that they are going to be very lonely,” he said. “I think everyone realizes that they [the Canadian delegation] are the obstacle.”
As the summit’s opening approaches, there has been talk about the emergence of a global cap-and-trade market. Under such a system, countries or corporations that can immediately reduce their carbon emissions would be giving carbon credits. These could then be sold to entities that want to emit greater amounts of carbon dioxide than their cap allows.
It is the possible emergence of such a cap-and-trade system that prompted Hansen to speak out against the summit.
Hansen–who likely deserves more credit than anyone else for the U.S. Congress’s turn on climate change–argues that a cap-and-trade system will not result in the emissions cuts that are necessary to avert dangerous temperature increases around the world.
“This is analagous to the indulgences that the Catholic church sold in the Middle Ages,” Hansen recently told the U.K.’s Guardian. “The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption.”
Cadman readily admitted that Hansen’s warnings are valid. “From a scientific perspective, I understand his concern,” he said. “But from a realistic perspective, I think we’ve got to see what we have to work with here and try and work with it”¦.It’s the old adage of allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”
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