Light of Hope, Voice of Reason
This blogpost represents the opinions and views of an individual and does not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Youth Delegation and related organisations.
Today, leaders of the UNFCCC and international ministers came together for the opening ceremonies of the high level segment of the UN Climate Negotiations in Durban. Common themes in their messages include the importance of a second commitment period of Kyoto, respect for the concept of common but differentiated responsibility, the critical nature of the Green Climate Fund, and for Annex 1 countries (those who took targets in the first period of Kyoto) to step up to their historical responsibility. They also called for a shift in values and international relations, essentially indicating a much needed shift in the way we treat each other and the earth. There was an overarching premise that it’s time to put domestic priorities aside and think about citizens of the globe.
Across the board, speeches included calls for a fair climate deal and faith in the international process. Christiana Figueres, the President of COP, passionately declared that vulnerable populations need urgent action and visionary leadership from present ministers. Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, noted that while a fair, ambitious and binding deal is out of reach now, it will not be for long. In the face of the urgency of climate change, we must not be hasty to dismiss Kyoto because it is not working perfectly at this precise moment in history. He stated that to dispose of it before creating a strong substitute would be foolish. The President of South Africa warned that developing nations are losing faith in industrialized countries’ intentions to follow through on the Green Climate Fund, and that greater cohesion is needed among adaptation projects and financing.
While all of these statements are undeniably compelling, I was struck most by the address made by Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. He said that he could see the hope on the faces of the minsters that had just arrived. Hope for a better deal, and hope for a safer future. I was pleased to hear him praise EU and Norway for making a second commitment to Kyoto, and blatantly call out countries who refuse (Canada is the only Annex 1 country I can think of which has done so).
I see the type of burning hope he describes on the faces of negotiators and ministers from around the world, but not from Canada’s negotiators. Instead, I see hope in the faces of almost every other Canadian here in Durban, from the young people and the Indigenous groups to the labour unions. It seems that the people at this conference who are demanding the most change from the Government of Canada are its own citizens.
I can’t help but feel that Mr. Zenawi was singling out Canada with his Kyoto comments, and was tugging at our government’s heartstrings by telling us that he sees the light of hope on our faces. I am both impressed that the President of Ethiopia was taking time out of his formal address to the plenary to tell Canada that its stance on Kyoto is deplorable, and saddened by the fact he had to do so. His was a voice of reason – he spoke both of the urgency of climate change, the solutions, and the obvious but surmountable barriers standing in our way.
I hope that Peter Kent’s arrival here in Durban will lead to some interesting and positive policy moves on Canada’s part, but I can feel the light of that particular hope fading as the hours drag on and the news spills in of Kent’s various shortcomings as Environment Minister. I have absolute hope for a “complete, fair, ambitious, and effective” deal, as Meles Zenawi put it, but I have no confidence that we’ll be part of that solution while Canada continues down its current path of corporate-sponsored climate warming.