“Talking Green, Walking Dirty”

By Karen Rooney

This is first and foremost a response to the opinion piece (“Share the Climate Task”) published by Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment.

The Government of Canada has repeatedly been one of the most obstructionist countries during the climate change negotiations here in Durban. Not only has Canada repeatedly stated it’s unwillingness to proceed with a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol but it is actively pressuring other countries to remove themselves from the process as well.

Mr. Kent states in his article that Canada is here “negotiating in good faith” and is a “willing partner” during these climate change talks. Let me be very clear – Minister Kent is speaking the truth. He is here negotiating as a willing partner to corporate oil and gas industries in the good faith of polluters.

How do we know? He has stated, on the record, that he is here to negotiate on behalf of the Alberta tar sands, one of the dirtiest industrial projects in the world and is actively lobbying to weaken European Union legislation in order to open up more of the world’s markets to this filthy oil.

While Mr. Kent waxes poetic to the people of Africa about his history here and Canada’s desire to move forward and into a clean future, yesterday the Canadian government approved a $9-billion tar sands expansion project. Marketed as an economic boon for those in Canada, the reality is that this project will only worsen the lives of Canadians at home, and act as yet another detonator to the tar sands carbon bomb. Approving a project like this ensures runaway climate change. It assures the devastation of human life and the planet, especially in places like here in Africa, a continent already being cooked by climate change.

As one of the six Canadian youth who stood in silent protest during his opening address in the plenary session of COP17, I am appalled that Mr. Kent would suggest that he is here on behalf of the interests of my generation. Minister Kent has refused to meet with youth, environmental groups, and the majority of civil society, attempting to plug his ears to any voices of dissent.

Mr. Kent goes on to talk about Canada’s involvement in fast start financing to “help developing countries be part of the solution”. While the rhetoric of this funding is sweet to the ears, the simple reality is that the Canadian government spends more money contributing to the climate crisis than they do to solve it. This $1.2 billion over three years is little more than a smokescreen. Canada spends more than that subsidizing the tar sands industry with $1.4 billion annually. In short, Canada may talk green but they walk dirty.

Two days ago I, and five other Canadian youth, stood up to this rhetoric. It has gone on for too long and our voices have been unheeded for years. We have a collective duty to make our voices heard and ensure that we are resisting the messaging of the Canadian government. Canada’s stance during these negotiations is not reflective of the views of Canadians, who believe that climate change is one of the major issues facing us today and want stronger action on the part of our government.

At the end of his piece, Mr. Kent states, “Everyone must do their share”.  Again, he is correct. Everyone must do their share and that includes the entire Government of Canada. It’s time to stop making excuses. It’s time to put people around the globe ahead of polluters.

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