Canada needs to commit to climate change

Alex Atamanenko
By Alex Atamanenko
December 13th, 2009

The world is gathered at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen to discuss our children’s future on this planet, and the affect that climate change will have upon it. Campaigns have been mounting around the world, coincidentally timed, to discredit climate change scientists and their science.

It is important to remember that while a handful of climate scientists’ email excerpts are being spun by sceptics, the large body of evidence for climate change is solid. Research from a variety of scientific fields, based on several lines of evidence, supports the conclusion that modern climate change is caused largely by human activity.

In late November, a Bloc motion calling for Canadian government action in Copenhagen was adopted by the majority of Parliament.

According to the motion, Canada should commit to propose the following at the Copenhagen conference on climate change:

1) To reduce greenhouse gas emission in industrialized countries by 2020 to 25% lower than 1990 levels;

2) To limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2°C higher than in the pre-industrial era;

3) To support developing countries in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government members voted against it. Canadians have seen this before.

In 2008, the House of Commons passed Jack Layton’s Climate Change Bill that set out fair and binding carbon emission reduction targets. Unfortunately, that bill was killed when the Prime Minister called an unnecessary early election, before the bill could get through the Senate.

When New Democrat MP Bruce Hyer re-introduced the same piece of legislation this year, the presumption was that it would swiftly move through the legislative process. Not so. This time, the Liberals joined with the Conservatives to delay the bill, ensuring Canada would have no legislated climate change plan as we stand before the world in Copenhagen.

When the Liberals, in October, voted with the Conservatives to delay passing the very same legislation they voted for in April, environmental leaders questioned their motivation and lack of commitments. With the clock ticking, Canada is running out of time to commit to legally binding, science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets.

We are now part of an ever-shrinking group of countries dragging their feet on climate change. Australia and the United States have changed their position on the issue. Canada will be “left in the cold, collecting fossil prizes at each international meeting,” according to Louis Fortier, Scientific Director of the Network of Centres of Excellence-ArcticNet, at Laval University.

Meanwhile, the tiny country of Maldives held a cabinet meeting under water to draw attention to their plight, if climate change continues unabated. This country, a collection of atolls and islands in the Indian Ocean, stands less than two metres above sea level. As climate change causes oceans to rise, it will probably be the first nation to sink beneath the waves.

In a global economy, we cannot expect other countries to commit to meaningful, binding reductions of emissions, if we do not do so ourselves. Multi-nationals operate under the premise of maximizing their profit, and will go where ever that takes them in the world. It is up to governments to represent their citizens’ best interests. It is important for the Government of Canada to take a leadership position and commit to fighting climate change in binding, concrete ways if we are to ever expect other countries to do so. To skirt this issue with a “you first” approach leads nowhere.

I doubt many Canadians are proud to be among the last of the holdouts on this issue.

Categories: Op/Ed