Time to build not to destroy: who is Canada actually representing in the climate negotiations?

Canadian youth bird of climate hope.jpg


Ericka Nickels as bird of climate hope hung with messages from Canadian youth: "Stop playing chicken with our futures."


Canada is getting used to winning the “fossil” awards for being a bad actor in the international climate negotiations. It begs the question of who Canada is actually representing in the climate talks? The Canadian people? Or the tar sands oil industry?

Whereas Canada was one of the leaders in developing the existing climate treaty (the Kyoto Protocol), under the current federal government, Canada has tried to undermine the international negotiations at every step. This, in opposition to what the Canadian people want. Today at the climate negotiations, members of the Canadian political parties not in the government (Bloc Quebecois, New Democratic Party, Liberal Party and Green Party), and representatives from labor unions, environmental organizations, youth organizations and Aboriginal communities stood together to call Canada to task.

Gerard Kennedy of the Liberal Party summed it up by noting that the Canadian government is out of step with the majority of the people in the country and calling on Canada to be constructive. What does that mean in these last days of the negotiations? It means that Canada should not stand in the way of the Kyoto Protocol continuing into the future. Elizabeth May of the Green Party pleaded with Canada not to stand in the way and to stop sabotaging the negotiations: “Kyoto is architecture, rules and represents more than a decade of negotiations. We don’t have time to start anew. Now is the time to build not to destroy,” she said in today’s presentation.

As the negotiations enter the final two days, there is a sense of cautious optimism. Without all the pressure of heads of state and high expectations that we saw in the last round of climate talks, the ministers and negotiators are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. This more constructive attitude is greatly helped by the Cartagena Dialogue about which I have written before. The countries involved in the Cartagena Dialogue bring proposals for language and a sense of how to find the path forward towards consensus to their negotiating groups.

But when a country such as Canada stands in the way, it threatens everything that countries are trying to achieve together to fight climate change. Yes, countries can still move forward with national actions even if there is no international agreement. But more effective is to have an international structure for monitoring those actions, for transferring technology and for helping with funding. Climate change is upon us and we do not have time to dawdle. We need the most effective international framework to ensure fast and effective national action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help countries deal with the impacts of climate change.

Linda Duncan from the New Democratic Party noted that it is time to turn corner on climate change and move towards a greener strategy for Canada. I agree. Canada should show that it is listening to its people and not to its tar sands oil industry. Canada should support measures here in Cancun that will help us all fight climate change.