There’s a void the size of the boreal forest between the Canada we want to have, and the Canada our government has envisioned for us.
As Canadians, our values of kindness, honesty, respect and integrity lie at the core of how we see ourselves. We take pride in our place among the nicest people in the world. However, the Canadian government is on another planet when it comes to how it is behaving at the COP20 United Nations climate negotiations in Lima, Peru this week.
In between these two worlds, there’s an abyss; an emptiness the size of Canada’s overshot greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets.
When a Canadian climate change negotiator mentioned on Tuesday that Canada has the full intentions to meet its agreed emissions targets, we – the Canadians in the room – couldn’t stop laughing. It was either that or cry.
Everyone at the United Nations knows all too well that there is no possible way Canada can meet the goal it set for itself in Copenhagen unless we dramatically change the way we develop our economy. We cannot accomplish anything with business as usual. And yet, the government is putting on a wonderful theatrical show, trying to convince unassuming Canadians that all is well with Canada’s foreign relations. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Earlier this week, Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq stated that Canada’s “record speaks for itself.” It most certainly does – we’re consistently being singled out at these negotiations for disrupting political progress, advocating tar sands extraction at home and refusing to engage with the UN process in a way that meaningfully moves the world toward any fair, ambitious binding agreements.
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The government has been meeting with and prioritizing fossil fuel representatives over any other stakeholder at this conference. It is clear to everyone here that the most important citizens at these talks aren’t youth, Northern communities, future generations, First Nations or concerned constituents. Rather, Chevron, TransCanada and Shell are the only voices that Canada is listening to.
Minister Aglukkaq said on Tuesday that she is “confident we can achieve a climate agreement [in Lima]; however, it will require courage and common sense.” We as responsible Canadian citizens must hold her accountable. There is no way progress can be achieved if the Canadian government does not divorce itself from the tar sands industry.
Our government officials can and must do more to promote justice, whether it is back home in Alberta or within the halls of international negotiations. And we, as citizens, must let them know that these issues are important to us.
We youth are terrified. We are terrified because as scientists make dire predictions about our planet’s ecological future, our government lauds plans to increase tar sands production, a resource whose burning alone puts us over the two-degree-warmer threshold we must avoid in order to avert a catastrophic and widespread climate crisis. To add insult to injury, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said only this week that any plans to regulate the oil and gas industry would be “crazy.”
Now is the time, more than ever, to call our Members of Parliament and voice our fears, our concerns, our frustrations. Letting our elected representatives know that we are horrified with the government’s current behaviour in Lima is particularly important if those MPs are Liberal or NDP members. Why is it that they did not send any members to COP20? While it is known that the Prime Minister Harper’s office does not allow Opposition parties in the official delegation, both parties could have sought external accreditation, as did Elizabeth May of the Green Party. Evidently, it is important that these parties hear our concerns – especially if we plan to elect one of them to leadership in 2015.
We must demand no less than for our representatives to step up to the plate or otherwise participate in a very stark betrayal to all past, present and future Canadians. When it comes to the climate crisis, the stakes are simply too high. We haven’t got any other choice but to act.
Follow Yona's live-tweeting from COP20: @LeehiYona
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