Elizabeth May: Stephen Harper government should stay home from UN climate conference

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      Deadlines are sometimes called “drop dead” dates. When you miss one, you usually work harder than ever to get the project completed as close to the deadline as possible. But in the climate negotiations, the utter failure to arrive at an agreement at the deadline—last December in Copenhagen—has been followed by a period of political lethargy. Greenhouse gas levels building up in the atmosphere have a lifetime of 100 years. The destabilizing influence of warming gases is already having devastating impacts in fires, droughts, floods, and threats to low-lying areas.

      Starting next week, UN climate negotiators will meet again. Much is at stake. This will not be the flashy summit of world leaders. We are back to the plodders—the diplomats and bureaucrats who have been working on climate treaties for 20 years.

      The negotiations for a climate treaty began in 1990. A brisk two-year sprint of negotiations resulted in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed with much fanfare by all world leaders (everyone from Castro to Bush Sr.) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It agreed that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions represented a threat, and pledged to stabilize emissions at levels prior to the danger point. The UNFCCC essentially created its own global parliament. All nations that ratified were known as “parties”. Starting in 1995, the parties started to meet annually to agree on tougher, more precise measures. These annual meetings are called the conferences of the parties—or COPs. We have had good COPs and bad COPs, and now we are heading into COP16 in Cancun.

      COP3, in Kyoto, resulted in the ill-fated protocol of the same name. It is still in force. It is a legally-binding global treaty whose first phase ends in 2012. Other than Canada, all ratifying nations to Kyoto have either met their targets or have, at least, made progress toward them. The U.S. has never ratified.

      It was in Montreal in 2005—the last good COP—that the pledge was made to complete a successor agreement to the first phase of Kyoto by 2009, at COP15. That deadline and its high expectations were smashed to bits in the miserable failure of COP15 in Copenhagen.

      Copenhagen can be said to have suffered from high expectations. It also was sabotaged by the intervening negotiations (COP 12-14) in which progress was slow and retreat in vogue. Canada led the way in obstructing progress. That was why Canada was awarded the Fossil awards. The Fossil of the Day (and Colossal Fossil for the most awards in any COP) gives recognition to the worst country in the room, the biggest saboteur in each day’s negotiations. That Canada under Harper out-sabotaged the U.S. under George W. is something to ponder.

      The one thing that was supposedly negotiated in Copenhagen, the “Copenhagen Accord”, was not part of the official UN process at all. It is a political fig-leaf—transparent even without full-body scanners. It is a non-binding statement with no legal effect. And even at that, the targets adopted by Copenhagen Accord countries are wholly inadequate to avoid tripping past the atmospheric tipping points that spell catastrophic and politically destabilizing levels of climatic destruction.

      The upcoming COP, starting next week in Mexico, is certainly not suffering from high expectations. Imagine low expectations, and then lower them. Developing countries want to see industrialized countries live up to their responsibilities. They want to pursue the Kyoto Protocol. Industrialized countries, with some exceptions, are now prepared to jettison Kyoto and embrace the fraudulent Copenhagen Accord. The Copenhagen Accord proponents hoped that by throwing money at developing countries, or rather the promise of money, consensus could be achieved. Low-lying island states are far more interested in survival than money. The debate about building on Kyoto or dumping it will continue in Mexico.

      The issues of financial transactions and transparency, funding for developing countries to adapt to climate change, the importance of protecting forests as carbon sinks, all these will be negotiated in Mexico. If there is any hope, it is that enough progress will be made in Mexico that a full negotiation of all issues can be concluded at next year’s meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

      As for Canada, the most helpful thing the Harper government could do would be to stay home. Sadly, our government, fresh from killing the only climate bill before Parliament, will send a team, headed by a part-time environment minister, to battle progress. And Canada’s reputation, or what’s left of it, will be further eroded.

      The atmosphere is not interested in negotiating with humanity. Runaway global warming becomes a greater and greater risk. It has to be hoped that sufficient good will and political courage can be mustered to make real progress.

      Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and will be attending the negotiations as part of the Global Greens delegation.

      Comments

      11 Comments

      Kevin

      Nov 26, 2010 at 5:34pm

      Go get em Lizzy!

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      tim.

      Nov 26, 2010 at 9:33pm

      "As for Canada, the most helpful thing the Harper government could do would be to stay home."

      this is why i will never vote for the green party.

      actually, the most helpful thing the harper government can do is to actually show some leadership and commit to binding targets set out in the ndp's bill (bill c-311). it's unlikely that will happen, but that's what's most helpful.

      also, kudos to bill c-311, despite it's undemocratic defeat, that bill is amazing.

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      seth

      Nov 27, 2010 at 8:39am

      Since Lizzie May and the Green Party are doing everything in their power to reelect Brimstone himself and the pro global warming Neocons by stealing critical votes from the climate friendly Liberals and NDP, I'd say they are actually worse global warming culprits than the fascists since they should know better. Lizzie herself is actively working to reelect Gary "Tar Sands" Lund by denying votes to the Liberal candidate who might actually win.

      Currently, the Lizzie and the Green Party are fighting efforts to end global warming by supporting Brimstone's plan to eliminate AECL and its zero carbon zero pollution Candu nukes and fighting Ontario's plan to build up and refit its fleet of Candu's.

      seth

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      @seth

      Nov 27, 2010 at 2:35pm

      Couldn't you just move to China where most of the kooook-lier reactors are being built? If you don't like it here where we would rather not build retarded nuclear reactors to stockpile nuclear waste, leave.

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      Ray I

      Nov 27, 2010 at 3:47pm

      Elizabeth who? Talk about an irrelevant politician. The best thing she Harper can do is force the scientists to do what scientists do and that is prove their case. Why is the scientific community not of one mind on this issue? Why is there significant dissent? You don't see scientific disputes over gravity or over thermodynamics. I am not a denier but I want proof before we radically change the lives of the entire population. I understand that they admit that their model is flawed but still insist on using it. That does not sound like good science to me. Prime Minister Harper please keep the scientists' feet to the fire and insist on proof on behalf of the Canadian people.

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      art black

      Nov 28, 2010 at 6:40am

      Baird might as well tell all the scientists at EC to stay home. The bible thumping creationist party is hoping Jeebus comes back to save us. Help us Jeebus, help us! Big and dumb as a man can come.

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      William Wylie

      Nov 28, 2010 at 9:45am

      China is adding another Canada to their emissions every 6 months for the forseable future, and that puts the lie to the fraud known as Global-Warming and the Co2 taxation scam.

      China's "in your face" defiance of building hundreds of coal-burning energy plants is proof that the May's and Suzuki's can blow it out their rears!

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      Matt H

      Nov 28, 2010 at 3:59pm

      Dear Ray,

      You're part of the reason why there is any "debate" at all on climate change. The scientific community IS of one mind. There IS NO debate among them.

      The only debate we have occurs in the media and between politicians.

      And it seems the only people whole believe that the verdict is still out are people like you, Ray. People who claim to be skeptics of ANY environmental policy, under the guise of "well there just isn't solid proof."

      Yes there is, Ray, and it's easy to find. In fact, I think you, and people like you, KNOW it is. But like most climate change "skeptics", who lack the ability to think beyond the next five years into the future, I believe that you're really just afraid of whatever the economic implications might be and how they're going to affect your living standards.

      Correction, not living standards, as in, what you need to survive, but rather your comfort standards. What we lack in this country is a desire to undertake green energy alternatives because people like Ray are afraid that it will cost them money. People who think like Ray do will continue to block any real change in our environmental protection policies because they can't past their wallet.

      What we lack in this country, more than anything is a desire for change. Screw EKOS polls and all of that noise. It's meaningless. There is a silent majority in this country that sees the continuous back and forth political shelling by the left and right; the petty bickering, the name calling, the total lack of any maturity from both sides. The silent majority, the massive percentage of eligible Canadians who don't vote every time we have election, they see this. They see this and they are sickened by it. And rather than advocating for change, they do nothing.

      This is the reason why people like Ray are able to successfully breed doubt about climate change. This is the reason why any bills on climate change will continue to get thrown out by our senate (who do not deserve to be capitalized as a proper noun, those useless neanderthals).

      Because they know they can get away with it. They know that the silent majority, despite how they feel about these problems, have become so disillusioned that they will remain silent.

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      Ray I

      Nov 29, 2010 at 10:58am

      @ Matt please post your "Proof" that:

      a.) Climate change is not a natural cycle that the earth has experienced before and will experience again regardless of human intervention

      b.) Humans are the main cause of climate change

      c.) That climate change will be reversed by human actions being suggested

      d) That China and India are not able to completely wipe out any CO2 reductions achieved by the rest of the world's sacrifices.

      Scholarly papers please.

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      @William Wylie

      Nov 29, 2010 at 12:32pm

      Really, China is adding the equivalent of Canada's GHG emissions every six months? Please forward your calculations to the Gerogia Straight right away!

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