Yesterday (December 14), the Canadian government pledged to set binding emissions reductions targets of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Moreover, Canada promised to devote five percent of the country’s GDP to helping developing nations deal with climate change. Or so it initially seemed.
This morning, the Yes Men, a group of activists known for their use of satire, posted a message on their Web site claiming responsibility for the hoax.
Here's what transpired:
Monday morning, a media release announced the ambitious plan. But it quickly became apparent that the e-mail was the first step in an elaborate hoax aimed at shaming the Canadian delegation at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen.
Since the summit began on December 7, the Conservative government has been accused of playing an obstructionist role in negotiations.
Following the initial announcement was a second release, this one describing the Ugandan delegation’s alleged praise for Canada’s about-face.
And then there was a video of a Ugandan woman identified as Margaret Matembe posted on a fake COP15 Web site.
Next came a story posted on a forged Web site designed to look like the European edition of the Wall Street Journal.
Then there were two more media releases allegedly from Environment Canada, denying the authenticity of the earlier releases. These too also turned out to be fakes.
The whole episode climaxed with Dimitri Soudas, spokesperson for the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accusing Steven Guilbeault, cofounder and deputy director of Equiterre, of being the source of the hoax.
Equiterre, which bills itself as a group promoting ecological and socially just choices, described the accusations as “shameful” and requested that the PMO retract its statement.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Soudas refused to do so and described Equiterre’s request as “another PR stunt”.
But it turns out Equiterre was not responsible for the hoax.
Today (December 15), a message was posted on the Web site for the Yes Men, which stated that a group calling themselves the Climate Debt Agents brought together members of ActionAid and the Yes Men to craft the ruse.
“What at first looked like the flip-flop of the century has been revealed as a sophisticated ruse by a coalition of African, North American, and European activists,” the message on the Yes Men’s Web site states.“The purpose: to highlight the most powerful nations' obstruction of meaningful progress in Copenhagen, to push for just climate debt reparations, and to call out Canada in particular for its terrible climate policy.”
According to December 15 report in the Associated Press, the Yes Men may have more in store for Canada.
You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.