Chris Aylward

Climate (in)justice

Tar sands pollution.jpg

A super-typhoon swept through the Philippines last month, leaving thousands of dead and literally millions displaced. No greater storm has reached landfall in recorded history. While no specific weather event like this can be directly attributed to global warming, it does fit the pattern of increased hurricane activity overall since the 1970s, coinciding with a rise in sea temperature. And most climate scientists agree that this rise is indeed caused by global warming. (For a full-on technical discussion, you can click this link.)

So what is our government doing about it?

Stephen Harper’s opposition to remedial climate measures led to Canada withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, the immediate cause of the warming trend. It was a shameful step, isolating us from almost all other countries in the world. 191 nations and the European Union remain committed to the targets set out under the Protocol. Only the US, Andorra, Canada and South Sudan are not on board with it.

Big Oil was happy. It has just the right government in place at the moment to help it achieve its short-sighted goals. Why should atmospheric pollution get in the way of the drive for profits from the Alberta tar sands?

In the meantime, a lot of international gassing, no pun intended, has been going on since the Kyoto Protocol was signed. The job just wasn’t being done, and the hope has been that a better comprehensive agreement, one which nations would actually stick to, might be reached. There was a conference in Copenhagen in 2009, and another one in Warsaw this year that just concluded. So frustrating were the Warsaw talks that the International Trade Union Confederation and a number of other groups marched out. Here’s part of what they had to say:

The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing. In fact, the actions of many rich countries here in Warsaw are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself, which is an important multilateral process that must succeed if we are to fix the global climate crisis.

The Warsaw Conference has put the interests of dirty energy industries over that of global citizens—with a “Coal & Climate Summit” being held in conjunction; corporate sponsorship from big polluters plastered all over the venue; and a Presidency (Poland) that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry. When Japan announced that it was following Canada and backtracking on emission cut commitments previously made, and Australia gave multiple signals that it was utterly unwilling to take the UN climate process seriously, the integrity of the talks was further jeopardized.

The result of the Warsaw meeting? The participating nations have agreed to draft plans by 2015 to set targets that would come into force in 2020.

Such breakneck speed! But too rapid, it seems, for the pro-fracking Polish government, whose Environment Minister chaired the conference. He was demoted from his environment portfolio as the talks were going on.

But in fairness, how can people come to a serious agreement when some nations are doing their best to derail the process? It does my heart no good to note that Canada has been in the forefront of that obstructive process, now joined by Australia. Kevin Grandia, a noted climate-change blogger, observes that this time around, Canada has adopted a passive, do-nothing strategy: before, it had actively blocked attempts at real progress.

Here at home, Canada has failed to live up to even the relatively modest commitments on greenhouse gas emissions that it made in Copenhagen. Canadians are giving up hope that the Harper government is serious about doing anything to stop climate change. We now rank at the very bottom of the developed countries in environmental protection, and lack all international credibility on the subject. We are simply not taken seriously on the world stage: in fact, we’ve become an international laughing-stock.

Kind of makes you proud to be a Canadian—eh?

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This page contains a single entry by Chris Aylward published on December 5, 2013 8:00 AM.

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