Environment year-end review

COP15 and Sustainability at McGill

The Conference of the Parties 15 (COP15) was held in Copenhagen in December. 40,000 attendees convened from around the world, 15,000 of whom were civil society observers. Activists rallied, demanding that COP15 be the COP to achieve a binding international accord that would set concrete goals to address climate change.

The result was the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, highly criticized for being an inadequate successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Although the conference wrapped up in December, many negotiators, activists, and journalists have already started planning for the next COP to obtain improved climate change policies.

Canada’s role at COP15 was peripheral. Prime minister Stephen Harper confirmed his attendance only after U.S. president Barack Obama decided to attend. Harper did not personally address the United Nations, choosing instead to have minister of the environment Jim Prentice make a two-minute speech. Twenty-eight nations were invited to draft the Copenhagen Accord on the last night of the negotiations; Canada was not among them. At a recent conference at l’Institut d’études politiques in Paris, a member of the French negotiating team said Canada was not a big player in the negotiations, adding that the country’s hands seem to be tied by the Canadian government.

Immediately after COP15 concluded, Evo Morales announced an alternative conference, Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre el Cambio Climático y los Derechos de la Madre Tierra (Global Conference of Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth) to be held this month.

Morales was critical of the UN climate change negotiations, arguing for an examination of the structural causes of climate change and the necessity of a UN Declaration on the Rights of Mother Nature. 7,500 people have registered for the conference taking place from April 19-22 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

COP16 will take place in Cancun, Mexico. Activists hope that a COP taking place in Latin America will result in more representatives from developing countries, resulting in a fair international agreement.

McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum attended COP15 as an official member of the Canadian delegation, as did Andrew Cuddy, U3 Political Science and Environment.

From April 9-11, Conference of the Parties 6 (COP 6 Bis) was held in Bonn, Germany – the location of the offices of the UN Secretariat charged with the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

McGill student Amara Possian, U2 Joint Honours Political Science and Middle East Studies, attended COP 6 Bis as a blogger for the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. She was there to forge links between the Canadian youth movement and the international youth movement, otherwise known as YOUNGO (YOUth Non-Government Organizations), which gained accredited group status at the negotiations.

Last fall, McGill students voted in favour of a Sustainability Fee ($0.50 per credit) which will inaugurate a Sustainability projects fund. The University has agreed to match the funds raised by SSMU, resulting in a total of $840,000 available for initiatives that promote environmental sustainability on campus. The Environment Commission of SSMU will be accepting applications throughout the year.