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On the eve of the Lima climate conference

Edmonton-based Council of Canadians organizer Aleah Loney is now in Lima, Peru for the Conference of Parties (COP) 20 summit. She’s there with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition delegation and will be blogging about her observations on the United Nations climate change conference that starts tomorrow.

There is a mixture of hope, reality and necessity on the eve of this conference.

The Associated Press reports, “Energized by new targets set by China and the United States, the world’s top climate polluters, UN global warming talks resume Monday with unusual optimism… Negotiators from more than 190 countries will meet in the Peruvian capital for two weeks to work on drafts for a global climate deal that is supposed to be adopted next year in Paris. …Pledges by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this month to limit their emissions after 2020 sent a powerful signal that a global deal could be possible next year. Earlier this year, the European Union [also] announced an emissions target for 2030, meaning the world’s three biggest emitters have made pledges.”

While these pledges have been criticized as being weak, the article adds, “The hope now is that other big polluters including India, Japan, Russia and Australia will set their goals.” Unfortunately the reality is, “There is little expectation that negotiators will agree on enforceable legal terms. The U.S. and other countries [including Canada] oppose a legally binding emissions treaty…”

And while it may be “hoped” that Australia will set their goals, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper is working with that country’s prime minister to derail any serious action on climate change. The Daily Mail has reported, “Australia and Canada have invited the UK to join an alliance of ‘like-minded’ nations to limit action on climate change. The two countries … want others to join them to resist a legally-binding international deal on carbon emissions. …[Australian prime minister Tony Abbott] said efforts are underway to form a new ‘centre-right’ alliance including Britain, as well as India and New Zealand.”

Today’s Associated Press article also notes, “In Lima, delegates hope to specify what information should be included when countries submit their formal emissions targets early next year, so that the targets can be compared against each other.”

When the Harper government submitted its figures to the United Nations last January, it estimated that emissions from the oil and gas sector in Canada would increase by 23 per cent between 2005 and 2020, and by 48 per cent by 2030. Fueled by tar sands expansion, and the pipeline infrastructure that facilitates such growth, Alberta’s greenhouse emissions are projected to increase by 40 per cent between 2005 and 2030. In 2009, the Harper government promised at the COP 15 climate conference to reduce emissions by 17 per cent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

The Trans Canada Energy East pipeline would produce 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the crude oil production required to fill it, while the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline would produce 270 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 35-year period.

The Council of Canadians was also present for the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010. The COP 21 climate conference will take place in Paris on November 30 to December 11, 2015. The New York Times editorial board has commented on the necessity of progress in these talks, “If the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report is to be taken seriously, as it should be, the Paris meeting may well be the world’s last, best chance to get a grip on a problem that, absent urgent action over the next decade, could spin out of control.”