Commentary  Step up to the climate plate, Canada

T his past December, the world’s governments met in Copenhagen to negotiate a new climate treaty. Citizens across the globe protested, watched, and prayed for an ambitious and fair solution to this ballooning human-created catastrophe.

But our leaders failed us. No legally binding agreement came out of Copenhagen as the 192 participating countries could not unanimously agree on a deal.

A weak, unbinding agreement was struck in the final hours of the conference. The U.S., China, South Africa, Brazil, and India agreed to a deal – established in a process the Bolivian delegation described as “anti-democratic, anti-transparent, and unacceptable.” The five nations then aggressively pushed a “take-or-leave-it” document on the remaining countries – giving negotiators very little time to read the accord over before voting on it.

The agreement asks developed countries to provide $10 billion a year to developing countries from 2010 to 2012, and increase that amount to $100 billion a year by 2020. Civil society coalitions like were calling for support of at least $100 billion a year by 2013.

Nor were countries required to commit to hard emissions reductions or timeframes. The promised but unenforceable emissions reductions made so far still keep the planet heading toward an estimated 4°C warming. This last November, Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in the U.K., postulated that only around 10 per cent of the planet’s population – around half a billion people – will survive if global temperatures rise by 4°C.

The scientific community, the European Union, and most developing countries are calling for a maximum temperature increase of between one and two degrees.

Canada played a key role in the treaty talks’ failure. Our government said it would only reduce our emissions by three per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and the secret high-level government document leaked by the CBC on December 14 revealed the government was pondering abandoning even that pathetic promise.

The Conservatives are out of touch with the majority of Canadians, whose concerns have been expressed in recent polling and through unprecedented displays of action.

On December 12, people in Canada organized 400 rallies, protests, and vigils demanding a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty. In the weeks leading up to Copenhagen, over 20 people were arrested holding seven peaceful sit-ins at the offices of Conservative cabinet ministers.

And going by the number of postings on Facebook, the number of outraged letters to the editor, and the number of meetings being called, it has become increasingly clear that people are not demoralized by Copenhagen: they are incensed.

“Like many of my friends, I joined the climate justice movement recently because of the importance of Copenhagen,” says Katelyn Blacisk, one of my colleagues at People for Climate Justice. “Canada must do its fair share, reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as rapidly as possible, and prioritize the needs of poor people who are feeling the effects of climate change worst and first. Until Canada does this I’m staying active.”

As people living in Canada we have the opportunity and responsibility to force our government to address the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.

Jessica Bell is an organizer for People for Climate Justice as well as a trainer for the Ruckus Society. To get involved, contact the People for Climate Justice – You can write Jessica at