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Cancun in review

Season’s greetings.

Just a quick note, before I head home for tea, cookies, some good books and rest for the holidays, to recap recent climate justice campaign highlights.

It seems practically impossible to highlight all of the different interventions and actions we took as the Council of Canadians and as part of a global climate justice movement in Cancun, and I’m sure many of you received the Cancun team blogs, media coverage and more. There are a couple of things that may have slipped past the radar, so bear with me about the repetition, but here are some highlights:

Official negotiations
Suffice to say, Cancun did not produce a meaningful international agreement leading to deep emission reduction targets that advances a framework of equity.  Instead, we have a Copenhagen Accord style agreement that threatens to entrench a weak ‘pledge and review’ system for emission reductions and allow significant loopholes (such as carbon offsets and World Bank controlled climate finance).  We’ll have more available soon about the outcomes of Cancun, for those of you that can’t wait or want to delve into the details, I’ve included a list of suggested links at the bottom of this blog.

Role of the Canadian government at the talks?
Suffice to say, no big shock here. The Canadian government continued to obstruct progress.  Winner of the ‘Colossal Fossil’ award, the Canadian government’s dubious actions included continuing to refuse to adopt the standard baseline year of 1990, Minister Baird falsely claiming that Canada is banning dirty coal and helping to kill the good elements of the Kyoto Protocol, a story the Council of Canadians helped to break with Canadian media.

Want a little more detail? Both Brent Patterson and I attended and blogged about a number of civil society meetings with our Canadian negotiator.

Participating in Alternative Spaces Outside of Climate Talks:

There were two main alternative spaces in Cancun, the Foro Internacional de la Justicia Climatico-Dialogo and the La Via Campesina Alternative Global Forum for Life, Environmental and Social Justice. The Council of Canadians held, and participated in a number of events in these alternative spaces related to our work.

For the climate justice campaign, we co-hosted a screening of Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change followed by a strategic discussion on how to build support for leaving oil and gas in the ground in the Arctic. We had a very informative discussion and made some good contacts to help build international solidarity work that will compliment our Canadian campaign on the Arctic – there will be more follow up on this, particularly leading up to the Arctic Council meeting in Greenland this May.  Read Brent’s blog about the event here.

Joined with allies from Canada and Latin America, we also hosted a roundtable on the proposal to hold a global referendum on climate change coming out of Bolivia. We shared the related polling results recently released in Canada and heard from allies experienced in holding legal and popular referendas.  Connections have been made – more on this soon! We also co-organized a panel and workshop on the Rights of Nature.  Read my blog about the panel here.

Helping to Build the Global movement for Climate Justice:
In addition to contributing to the alternative spaces in Cancun, we joined a march to a police barricade outside of where negotiations were taking place (more here).  You can find a number of interesting interviews with people at the march (literally while marching – apologies for the bumpy ride!) under the multimedia section of our Cancun webpage where you will also find more pictures and videos from our Cancun interventions. We also joined an action targeting the World Bank’s role in climate financing, part of an international campaign “World Bank Out of Climate Finance” that the Council of Canadians recently joined.

We participated in a number of actions targeting the tar sands and the development of oil and gas in the Arctic. We also instigated a creative campaign collecting pictures of Canadians holding candles of hope for Kyoto at a time when Canada, Japan and Russia were threatening to outright kill it and a number of Global South countries and social movements were rallying around a second round of emission reduction commitments under Kyoto, as a key demand.

Brent Patterson and I also joined an international caravan for climate justice travel through Mexico in the lead up to the Cancun talks that helped expose connections between local and global struggles. There is a caravan section on our Cancun webpage where you can read our blogs about the caravan stops, including learning about the destructive practices of the Canadian company New Gold in San Pedro, Mexico.

Helping to build the movement for climate justice in Canada (and providing a beacon of hope for those of us in Cancun!), Council of Canadians chapters joined local allies in hosting 14 People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice across the country during the Cancun negotiations. We’re currently compiling the report-backs from the events which ranged from 30 to 150 people in attendance. A number report that conversations were so empassioned that organizers had to pratically push people from the room at the end of the night! Emails were collected and next steps planned. To see an impressive list of local media coverage, check out the PACJ webpage, which we will update with highlights from the assemblies in the New Year.

There is much work to be done in 2011. While chances of acheiving effective international action and Canadian federal action on the climate crisis may look bleak now, I can personally attest to the unwaivering passion and commitment of many I have met in Canada and internationally to holding our governments to account. Equally important, actions are already underway to actualize the alternative visions we have for social and environmental justice in communities across the world.


Useful Analysis of Cancun Outcomes:
Council of Canadians Media Release: Canada Obstructs Cancun Climate Progress

Council of Canadians Media Release: Council Denounces Late-Night Cancun Climate Deal
Friends of the Earth International COP
16 Statement
View: ‘Why Bolivia Stood Alone in Opposing the Cancun Climate Agreement’ by Pablo Solon
Via Campesina Alternative Global Forum for Life, Environmental and Social Justice Declaration:
Declaracion de Cancun-Foro International De Justicia Climatica
Martin Khor, Third World Network: Strange Outcomes of Cancun Climate Conference