News  Canadians disappoint at COP15

Summit fails to reach binding agreement

Last month’s climate summit in Copenhagen ended with climate activists across the country denouncing Canada’s role at the summit as weak and counterproductive.

Canada’s official delegation – which was led by Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice and included McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum as an advisor – drew ire from many delegations from the Global South. The delegation committed to a 3 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020, as opposed to the 20 per cent reduction pledged by the European Union. One delegate from Rwanda demanded, “Can they not do math?”

Due to what many perceived as Canada’s failure to commit to substantive reduction targets, the Climate Action Network awarded Canada with the Fossil Award, which Toronto mayor David Miller accepted on Canada’s behalf.

“Like most Canadians, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that our government continues to be one of the biggest obstacles to reaching agreement,” said Miller as he accepted the award given to Canada by a coalition of 400 global NGOs.

Miller is the chair of the C40, a coalition of the world’s largest cities committed to tackling climate change. He marched with the Canadian Youth Delegation during the December 12 demonstration in Copenhagen for a comprehensive and binding agreement on climate change.

“Local governments and young people are the most powerful agents in the fight against climate change,” said Miller in a statement to the press prior to the march. “This Saturday, I will walk beside Canadian youth and I will ask our federal government to take immediate action domestically to reduce our emissions. We must ensure that our grandchildren have a safe future.”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May was also among the members of Canadian civil society groups at Copenhagen. She joined in criticizing the Harper government’s stance.

“The reason Canada kept winning the Fossil of the Day award in negotiations, at COP 12, 13, 14, and 15, was that we were actively obstructing progress,” wrote May in a press release.

Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament has also been widely criticized as an attempt to evade backlash toward his government’s disappointing performance at the conference.

The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was established at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

Frustration with Canada’s role in the negotiations eventually led to a coalition of delegates from Trinidad and Tobago, scientists, and activists demanding that Canada be suspended from the British Commonwealth until it adopts a more aggressive climate policy.

Several of the delegates and leaders from the Global South voiced frustration at the conference’s abortive attempts at a binding agreement on climate change. Bolivian president Evo Morales urged the United States to adopt the Kyoto Protocol, and called for an international system that holds countries accountable to their emissions reduction targets.

“Those who do damage to Planet Earth and those who do damage need to be judged,” said Morales in an interview with Democracy Now!. “And [toward] those ends, we have to organize a tribunal for climate justice in the United Nations.”

Morales also announced that Bolivia would host an alternative summit in April of this year.

Throughout the conference, delegations from several African countries and small island states threatened by rising sea levels pushed for a new and more effective climate deal that would limit long-term temperature increases to 1.5 ° C.

–with files from Devon Willis in Copenhagen