“We are truly sorry for out government’s stance on climate change” – a Letter to South Africa and the World

Durban-20111130-00177

Originally Published in the South African daily The Mercury

As COP17 kicks off today in Durban Canadians here at the summit in South Africa and back at home are profoundly sorry. We want to apologize in advance for our government and our negotiators who in the coming weeks will undoubtably stand in the way of progress, blocking any international agreement to combat climate change.

Despite the welcoming hospitality we have received by your country and city, and the steely resolve of people from around the world here to carve a real deal our government seems determined to rain on the world’s parade.

We recently learned that Canada has announced that it will be legally pulling out of the Kyoto Protocols, and officially taking a stand at the Durban Summit that will protect Canada’s dirty energy industries.

For Canada protecting the biggest polluters is the top priority, ensuring the rapid expansion of Canada’s tar sands – one of the dirtiest, most destructive energy projects on the planet.

The tar sands have terrifying potential when it comes to climate change, promising what NASA climate scientist James Hanses said would be “game over for the climate” if there are allowed to continue as planned. This is on top of a laundry list of devastating impacts on local Indigenous communities, poisoning the air, water and land near the tar sands.

So to South Africa, and the world, we are sorry. Our government is putting polluters ahead of people around the globe, but we can’t give up hope. We are here with you to stand up to Canada and forge a path forward to build a just, sustainable future.

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5 Responses to ““We are truly sorry for out government’s stance on climate change” – a Letter to South Africa and the World”
  1. Tracy says:

    Perhaps your gov can see what a circus ours is and prefers not to join ranks for reasons beyond the obvious. Too many dirty deeds all round to take anybody seriously anymore.

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  1. […] The letter cites irresponsible Canadian policies, such as Environment Minister Kent’s declaration to defend the tar sands at the COP17 climate negotiations and Canada’s recent rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. The full apology can be found here. […]

  2. […] “We are truly sorry for out government’s stance on climate change” – a Letter to South Afric… from the Canadian Youth Delegation at COP17 28 November Alberta oil ‘legitimate’ resource: Peter Kent (Financial Post) Heading into the 17th Conference of the Parties meeting, Environment Minister Peter Kent says he will not sign on to any deals that mandate some countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions while others don’t — as his government argues was the case under the Kyoto Protocol. He is also unequivocal in his defence of northern Alberta’s bitumen production, a position he expects will be supported by Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen when she joins him at the end of the week. (CYD) The 17th Conference of Parties on climate change began today to the death knoll of Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. It was confirmed today that Canada plans to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding emissions agreement, early next month. Read more 9 November Canada cuts environment spending Stephen Harper’s administration is cutting budgets for climate, conservation and ozone monitoring projects (The Guardian) Environment Canada is roughly analogous to a combination of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Environment Canada had a 1.07- billion-dollar budget in 2010, which has now been cut 20 percent to 854 million dollars for 2011-12. The EPA and NOAA budgets for 2010 were 10.3 billion and 5.5 billion dollars, respectively. 8 November (CBC) Canada’s climate stance expected to spark controversy — New funding for climate change adaptation Canada expects to face international pressure at upcoming climate change talks over its refusal to sign onto a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, says Environment Minister Peter Kent (Globe&Mail) Mr. Kent has been under pressure to pay far more attention to the effects of climate change, above and beyond what’s being done to control greenhouse-gas emissions. Government-picked advisers at the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy have told the minister that warmer temperatures will be costing Canada and its people about $5 billion a year by 2020, and will rise steeply up to as much as $43 billion a year by 2050. The roundtable highlighted high costs to the forestry industry, and along Canada’s coasts, where flooding is expected. Researchers also pointed to pressure on city hospitals from illness and death due to hotter temperatures. The largest chunk of the funding will go to Environment Canada’s climate change prediction and scenarios program. But there will also be money to look at the implications for fish, Canada’s North, public health for aboriginals and for the rest of the population, and for competitiveness. 14 October Environmental network forced to close doors Decision tied to loss of federal government funding A 34-year-old national environmental network that has served as a link between people and the federal government shut its doors Friday afternoon after Environment Canada cut its funding. The Canadian Environmental Network was told Thursday that its funding from the federal government won’t be renewed. Tories cut off Canadian Environmental Network Kent abruptly ends longtime funding partnership By Mike De Souza, Postmedia News 26 September Environmentalists, natives and unions denounce ‘biocidal’ oil-sands policy (Globe & Mail) Hundreds of people converged on Parliament Hill on Monday to protest a massive pipeline project that, if approved by Washington, would transport 700,000 barrels per day of bitumen from Alberta to a Gulf Coast refinery hub in the United States. … While the protesters were being arrested on Parliament Hill, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was praising the economic benefits of the oil sands and the pipeline at a meeting on nuclear thermal hydraulics in Toronto. 16 September Canada’s ozone tracking in jeopardy Friday has been proclaimed by the United Nationals General Assembly as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, to commemorate the signing of the 1987 Montreal Protocol. this year the day comes amid international worries over Canada’s apparent plan to shut down: A network of 17 ozone monitoring stations across the country that take balloon-based measurements of the atmosphere. The World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre, the international database that makes archived ozone data from around the world available to scientists. 15 September Youth environmental group fake news pranked federal government An organization of young people masquerading as Environment Canada created a fake Environment Canada webpage and sent pretend news releases to Canadian media with the aim of showcasing the government’s inactivity on climate change. The Canadian Youth Climate Coalition news release yesterday directed readers to a website using the Environment Canada news template to promote the re-introduction of a grade school program from the early 1990s that taught children about climate change and environmental conservation. The fake Environment Canada web page promised a “renewed commitment from the Government of Canada to take on climate change.” (Global News) Youth activists forge Environment Canada website in cyber-hoax 9 September First nations group rejects pipeline ownership offer Enbridge’s proposal to hand over 10-per-cent stake in $5.5-billion project called ‘desperate and disrespectful attempt’ to buy support The five northern B.C. first nations that make up the Yinka Dene Alliance claim traditional territory that covers 25 per cent of the pipeline route. First nations’ support is considered critical to the project because land claims have not been settled along most of the pipeline route through northern B.C. Enbridge had said earlier it would be offering an ownership stake to about 50 first nations in B.C. and Alberta whose traditional territory bordered on the 1,140-kilometre pipeline route. However, this is the first time members of the Yinka Dene Alliance had been made a direct offer, said Nadleh Whut’en First Nation Chief Larry Nooski. Pipeline Through Paradise Why oil sands, a sunken ferry, and the price of oil in China have the Great Bear Rainforest in an uproar. (National Geographic | August 2011) Now, when the Gitga’at people of Hartley Bay discuss the proposed Northern Gateway project, an oil pipeline that would turn these same waters into a supertanker expressway, they always mention the Queen. The accident taught them two lessons, they say. No matter how safe the ship, the most mundane human error can sink it. And when disaster strikes, they alone will be left to clean up the mess. That leaves them skeptical about the pipeline and the tankers it would attract—about 220 a year. The government has already approved a fleet of liquefied natural gas tankers to call at nearby Kitimat in 2015. The oil tankers would be even bigger. 19 August Is Canadian Oil Bound for China Via Pipeline to Texas? (National Geographic News) The proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would ship oil from Northwest Canada south through Mid-America to the Texas Gulf Coast has drawn sharp opposition from environmentalists worried about Canadian forests, greenhouse gases, and potential leaks. But one line of attack is more about economics and geopolitics than land and water. And it strikes at pipeline proponents’ central argument that Keystone XL would buttress U.S. energy security. Opponents contend instead that the pipeline’s petroleum could largely bypass the American markets and be shipped to Asia. … The project would provide a much-needed outlet for booming oil production from the tar, or oil, sands of Alberta in Northwest Canada. Output from the sticky sands has jumped amid higher fuel prices and new technology. Now producers need new routes for getting the oil from their mines and wells to customers. … And the United States is essentially Canada’s only foreign customer. But lurking in the background are eager buyers in Asia, particularly Chinese importers who want to use Canadian oil to feed their fast-growing market. 18 August Jobs Claims For Keystone XL Don’t Stand Up To Scrutiny from Wildlife Promise (National Wildlife Federation) So Canada wants to lose manufacturing jobs and related revenues, going so far as to overstate said losses, to facilitate its oil export to China? Sadly, this somewhat makes sense if you factor in Sinopec’s investment in Alberta tar sands. On a somewhat related note, it’s companies like Sinopec which benefited most from the near-halving of the federal corporate income tax rate over the last decade. After each cut, foreign company profits increased more than domestic investments in capital equipment/machinery, contrary to the story (both Liberal and Conservative) governments used to sell the cuts. 8 August Cuts to Environment Canada are a blow to science By Jeannette Whitton (Vancouver Sun) Re: Ottawa turns its back on climate, critics say, Aug. 5 The federal government plans to cut more than 10 per cent of the jobs at Environment Canada. Scientists are primary targets of the cuts. This is not the first sign that this government does not value science, or open scientific discourse, especially when the science has the potential to make government policies difficult to justify. Cutting scientists at Environment Canada seems an effective way to continue this campaign. This is alarming on many fronts. Environment Canada has specific scientific mandates carried out on behalf of all Canadians. For example, the Species at Risk group develops recovery plans for species at risk and their habitats. To date, there is no plan for most of the 500 species listed under the Species at Risk Act. Cuts won’t help these species. The Environment Canada website states: “Science, the foundation for our policy choices and the basis of our reputation with stakeholders and the international community, is key to our success.” If this agency is losing a large fraction of its professionals, how can the agency maintain its ability to inform policy choices? Jeannette Whitton Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research Centre, UBC 4 August Environment Canada job cuts raise concerns The axe is falling at Environment Canada, and around 700 positions are on the chopping block. Meteorologists, chemists, biologists and other scientists are among those who will be receiving letters from the department notifying them that they will either lose their job or be placed on a list of employees deemed “surplus.” Of course, this wouldn’t have anything to do with the EC report on Canada’s Emissions Trends — which made it into the New York Times Oil Sands to Raise Emissions, Canadian Report Says 29 July Northern B.C. fracking licence concerns critics (CBC) Critics are concerned that the B.C. government is allowing a natural gas company to draw water from a northern BC Hydro reservoir to use in a controversial technique called fracking. The government has approved a long-term water licence for Talisman Energy to draw water from Williston Lake, a BC Hydro reservoir in northern B.C. for the next 20 years. The water will be piped out of the Williston Reservoir, mixed with sand and chemicals and used to fracture shale rock underground to release natural gas. 14 July Boone Pickens Challenges Canada On Green Power Law Mesa Power Group, a Texas-based renewable energy company owned by billionaire T. Boone Pickens, plans to file a complaint with Canada charging that the province of Ontario’s green energy plan violates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 2 July Canada’s complacency on climate change is an embarrassment By Professor Damon Matthews, Concordia Department of Geography, Planning and Environment and Paul Shrivastava, David O’Brien Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, John Molson School of Business. (Montreal Gazette) Global warming is not going to go away by itself. And if our government has its way, Canada will remain part of the problem, rather than become part of the solution. Canada continues to lead the world in obstructing progress on international climate policy. The latest evidence was presented for the world to observe during the recent climate talks in Bonn, Germany. Organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the summit’s mission statement clearly spelled out the danger our civilization faces: “Climate change is one of the most fundamental challenges ever to confront humanity. Its impacts are already showing and will intensify over time if left unchecked.” Yet the Canadian delegation confirmed our country would not accept binding emission cuts; nor would it agree to emissions targets set under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, during Bonn negotiations. The Harper Conservatives have consistently shown disinterest in either meeting targets or agreeing to decrease Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions that fuel global warming and climate change. For the past several years, the Canadian government has opposed any post-Kyoto agreement without the participation of emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil. Canada has become an international embarrassment. What will it take for our government to recognize that our planet is overheating because of fossil fuels? Is solid scientific evidence, uncovered by leading academics and published in renowned journals, not enough to convince members of Parliament that humanity is damaging our climate system? What will it take for our government to heed the warnings that climate change is proceeding faster than anticipated and that its impacts can already be seen clearly in northern Canada? How can our government reject a clear scientific understanding that every additional emission of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere leads to warmer temperatures that will persist for centuries? Are our political leaders not concerned that human influences on planetary systems have become so widespread as to usher in a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – as suggested by Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen? Our government is acting as though it is unaware that Canada is being left behind as the rest of the world is moving forward to develop renewable and clean energy. This is both a tragedy and a missed opportunity for our country. Fossil fuels and polluting energies belong in the past. The longer our government takes to realize it, the poorer Canada will fare in the future economic order. The complacency of Canada’s political and corporate leaders in addressing climate change is dangerous for our well-being. Canadian civil society needs to bring pressure on its leaders to act responsibly. Now! By disregarding scientific evidence of global warming, by obstructing advances at meetings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, our government is willfully ignoring the writing on the wall. Compared to the Earth’s climate history, a four-year electoral cycle is less than a blink of an eye. But for those of us waiting for our government to bring Canada into the 21st century, a four-year Conservative mandate seems like an eternity. Let’s keep the heat on our MPs, and make sure they take the action on climate change that we not only want but also urgently need. […]

  3. […] “We are truly sorry for out government’s stance on climate change” – a Letter to South Afric…. Share this:EmailFacebookPrintTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]



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