From the Saskatchewan prairies to the Qatari desert – my journey to COP18
I was fortunate enough to have been a member of last year’s Canadian Youth Delegation to COP17, which took place in Durban, South Africa. Having become increasingly aware of the impacts of climate change over the previous years, as well as Canada’s inaction in working towards any meaningful solutions, I nonetheless found myself incredibly shocked by things that were being said by the Canadian government on the international stage.
Last year’s COP17 was a giant bucket of cold hard reality to the face. As I told many people following my return home, I knew that climate change was a serious issue, but I had no idea how terrible the situation had gotten until I was sitting in the plenary sessions, listening to delegate after delegate talk about how their country was being affected by climate change; until I learned more about the false solutions being proposed at the international level; until I heard first hand about the human rights violations and lack of consultation involved in those projects; until I heard the appalling things that Canada was saying – and with almost no consequence.
It is with very mixed emotions that I return this year to COP18 in Doha, Qatar. It was incredibly draining, both on a physical and an emotional level, to work so hard in order to counter the narrative that Canada is promoting – one that says we are a nation producing “ethical oil” and a source of safe, clean energy for the world – while the reality of treaty rights violations, increased levels of death and disease in communities living downstream from the tar sands, and the knowledge that tar sands expansion alone is set to push the world far beyond the only agreed upon temperature rise of 2 degrees is an incomparable tragedy of a capitalist society which puts the interests and profits of polluting industries over the value of human life.
I have come to Doha with the CYD again this year to ask our negotiators what their climate legacy will be. Will the world continue to hear increasing numbers of stories of communities affected by the impacts of climate change and the impacts of extreme extraction? Or will they feel the weight of an already warming world on their shoulders and do what is right – take action, develop and sign on to strong, legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage other countries to do the same? Will they represent in good faith the people who have sent them here to speak on behalf of the country of Canada, the country where the majority of citizens are opposed to further tar sands developments, to pipelines endangering our communities – people who want to see Canada become a leader in sustainable policy?
That is the question I am asking of all who attend COP18 in Doha – what will be your climate legacy, and are you prepared to live with that?