Canada’s shameful performance in Bali

As many of you may know, a rather important conference is taking place this week in Bali, Indonesia. This is a United Nations Climate Change conference, and represents the gathering of representatives from over 180 countries, with hundreds of observers from inter- and non-governmental organizations. This is a crucial opportunity to discuss the time period during which countries are supposed to deliver on their commitments to the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, it is a chance to discuss what a ‘post-Kyoto’ agreement might look like – including such issues as binding targets for developed countries reaching further into the future and representing deeper GHG cuts, the negotiation of GHG reduction targets for developing countries, and who will shoulder the burden of the costs of adaptation.

In my humble opinion, Canada has, in the past, become known for taking relatively enlightened stances on environmental issues (as witnessed for instance by our work on the Montreal Protocol regulating ozone-depleting CFCs and our initial support of the Kyoto Protocol). Over the last couple of months, this scarce political capital and moral authority has been recklessly squandered by Rona Ambrose, Stephen Harper, and now finally John Baird (among others). We are quickly becoming known as the hypocritical roadblock standing in the way of international environmental negotiations, as we stall the process in Bali and refuse to accept binding GHG reduction targets. I encourage all to learn about the Canadian stance in these negotiations, and make your voices heard if you disagree. The following resources may help:

Check out the Bali Climate Change Conference website for more info on the progress of the negotiations.

Sign a petition to show your disgust with Canada standing in the way of effective climate change action.

And, as always, consider boning up on your knowledge of climate change causes and impacts by checking out the ever-changing website of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The reports of all three working groups are now up and ready to be perused.

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A wildly interdisciplinary path has led Sarah to pursue her PhD through UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. She gets riled about climate change, development, and equity issues, and any reference to P_ris Hi_ton. In her spare time, she cares for her rabbit (Stew) and composes self-congratulatory bios. (Sarah's intro post can be found here)

5 Responses to “Canada’s shameful performance in Bali”

  1. J.J.S. Boyce

    I already contacted my local representative on this topic a few weeks ago, before Bali again. No response, I don’t know if my thoughts were passed up along the chain or not. I’m signing the petition now, though.

  2. Joel

    I’m wanting to find more detailed news on what Canada is actually saying at Bali–any hints?

  3. Joel Stephanson

    OK, I can’t edit my above comment but will add the following. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. Canada was in part specifically opposed to language that supports the need to cut emissions by 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2020. The UN panel has warned of “rising seas, droughts, severe weather, species extinction and other effects” unless we agree to this, says the Canadian Press.

    On the one hand I see a lot of creative potential in our population to come up with realistic and effective means of meeting ambitious targets. Perhaps it’s the sort of thing where if we don’t give ourselves any choice but to succeed, we will succeed. That’s a key worry of mine: that we may be too soft on ourselves, and will fall short of what we are capable of in this area. We probably need more courage and boldness in aiming for reductions. I am not a great model of this in my personal life, I admit–but I do try, and we all should. The type of vision I would like to see more of is found in people like Conrad Schmidt, whose book I wrote about on Terry yesterday.

    On the other hand, the Conservatives probably will only agree on a target that they intend to meet, which is laudable. It takes a good degree of courage to stick to an increasingly unpopular view. My hunch, however, is that whatever the merits of their approach, the policy is still wrong. I can appreciate that those blasted economic concerns of emissions reduction have some merit (though I think we would need a detailed macroeconomic analysis to really know the extent of it–this would provide a more nuanced understanding of what is really at stake). The question is, what are the odds that a softer but still progressive environmental accord will fail to halt the droughts (read: starvation), extreme weather, and species extinction that the IPCC warns of?

    Here is where we must employ some good satisficing, and make a decision in the moment based on the best knowledge available.

    Arguments for:
    Time is precious. Every day that a region endures in a damaged or under-viable environment (from the present or continuing effects of our cars and industries and waste) is a day in which more of its species will suffer and die off (WE are a vulnerable species too, remember: cf. asthmatic death rates on high-smog days). The only real resource we have is the environment–the economy is, in a sense, entirely in the mind and entirely based on social contracts–not how much vegetation or clean water or clean air we have. Since natural resources are, in this sense, absolutely non-negotiable, protecting them must be our top priority.

    Our attitude is the missing ingredient: if we could agree on the environment’s primacy, our society might have greater cohesion and tolerance for adjusting to a new, more sustainable way of living. We should do what we can to foresee, prepare for and avoid economic shocks or recessions, if and to what degree those can be expected.

    It is not convincing, actually, that being more sustainable *could* significantly hurt our economy. It definitely will be better for it in the long run (no trees=no profits, no matter what your stripe).

    Arguments against:

    But in the same way that environmental issues are urgent, so is better health care, alleviating poverty in Canada, foreign aid, peacekeeping, and other good but expensive ideas. It is possible that overdoing climate action will hinder these other areas. And 25-40 per cent would be quite a stunning reversal if we could pull it off; in light of that, maybe it is a more ambitious or even costly goal than we can afford right now.

    At present, my personal conclusion to this ramble is this: we should take the best science we have and respond boldly to it, erring on the side of environmental sustainability, and doing our best not to neglect the numerous other social ills we face at the same time.

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