This article appeared at Embassy – Canada’s Foreign Policy Newspaper : http://www.embassymag.ca/page/view/mckinnon-12-01-2010
December 1, 2010 – Entering into the United Nations climate talks in Cancun this week, the Canadian government is arriving to the table basically empty-handed while the climate crisis continues to impact millions of people around the world and here in Canada.
While many other countries are forging ahead and taking action, others are sitting on the sidelines watching the impacts worsen and the opportunities for a clean energy future pass them by. In the latter category, Canada is at the bottom of the barrel.
A brief recap of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recklessness and inaction on climate change makes it clear why the Canadian government will struggle this year to be taken seriously as a player at these global negotiations:
-Last month, the Conservative members of the unelected Senate killed the Climate Change Accountability Act in a last-minute vote before even considering or debating the bill, something that has not happened for over 70 years.
-Recently-publicized documents and research have shown that this government is going into other countries and jurisdictions and actively trying to undermine clean energy and climate change policy in order to protect the interests of the tar sands.
-The government continues fuelling the problem by giving around $1 billion in tax breaks to fossil fuel companies, despite promising to stop along with other leaders in a G20 commitment.
-The government has no credible plan to meet even our own weak greenhouse gas reduction targets, despite Canada being one of the top-10 global greenhouse gas polluters. Since last year’s UN climate talks in Copenhagen, Canada is the only country that has weakened its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
-The government has systematically muzzled its own climate scientists while simultaneously slashing funding for climate research as well as renting out Canada’s premier climate research vessel to oil companies for Arctic oil exploration.
-This government has committed money for adaptation and clean energy development in poorer countries, but it is mostly in the form of loans to private sector agencies of huge multi-lateral banks. The money that is in the form of grants was taken directly from the aid budget.
-The government has chosen to re-appoint John Baird as the minister of the environment, who notoriously has chosen not to take the climate change crisis seriously.
-The only major federal program to support renewable energy has run out of money. n Canada’s only federal program designed to support home retrofits has also effectively run out of money.
-This government has consistently been singled out as the worst performing country at these international negotiations, winning the Fossil of the Year award three years running.
The impacts of climate change have never been clearer: forest fires in BC, flooding in the Maritimes and Prairies, and hundreds of millions of people affected around the world. If governments act now it is not too late to avoid the worst.
Prime Minister Harper must stop acting recklessly in the face of dangerous climate change, and begin to represent Canadian’s interests by taking real action at home now, and stop trying to hinder and kill the efforts of other countries who are committed to doing their fare share.
Hannah McKinnon is communications co-ordinator for Climate Action Network Canada.