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NEWS: Harper challenged on his UN bid

There is more to report on about the delivery of our open letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa yesterday. The letter outlines our concerns about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bid for Canada to have a seat in the UN Security Council for a 2011-2012 term. The letter notes his government’s refusal to recognize water as a human right, its opposition to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights, and its failure to commit to deep emission cuts to address climate change.

Sun Media reports that, “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was in Ottawa Wednesday to meet with government leaders ahead of next month’s G8 and G20 summits in Ontario, said he wants Canada to comply with Kyoto. ‘I urge Canada to comply with the targets set out by the Kyoto Protocol,’ he told a large crowd at the Chateau Laurier Wednesday morning. ‘The science is sobering. Both the planet and the calendar are telling us that we are running out of time.’”

Canada had pledged under the Kyoto accord to a 6 per cent cut in emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. Despite that legally-binding pledge, our greenhouse gas emissions actually increased by about 26 per cent between 1990 and 2007.

The Sun Media report also notes, “Canada needs to set ‘ambitious’ targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and should lead by example as one of the richest countries in the world, according to United Nations top brass.”

In February, the Harper government called for – with no supporting plans or legislation – a cut in emissions of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. When this is translated to the standard baseline year of 1990, the Harper target actually equates to a 2.5 percent increase over 1990 levels by 2020.

In the Council of Canadians letter to Ban Ki-moon, delivered to him just prior to this speech and before his afternoon meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we state: “As you know, climate science indicates much more is needed and climate justice requires developed countries such as Canada to take immediate action resulting in deep domestic cuts. The Council supports a target of at least a 40 per cent cut below 1990 levels by 2020. Canada has gone so far as to publicly state it has no intention of meeting its legally-binding commitments as a signatory to the Kyoto Accord.”

In the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, Gilles Duceppe asked the prime minister, “Mr. Speaker, last fall, the Prime Minister did not even deign to speak at the UN climate change summit, even though a number of world leaders did, including President Obama. How can the Prime Minister aspire to sit on the UN Security Council when he has not taken any real action on climate change and he has even questioned its existence?”

Harper’s response, “Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, Canada is a strong supporter of the Copenhagen accord, which is the first agreement to include all the major emitters. I hope the Bloc Québécois and the other opposition parties will also support this very important international agreement.”

Duceppe also asked, “Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is meeting today with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. We know that one of the objectives of the meeting is to lobby for a seat for Canada on the UN Security Council. But since it came to power, the Conservative government has been at odds with a number of UN positions. How can the Prime Minister aspire to sit on the UN Security Council when he still has not signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?”

Lastly, on CBC-TV The National last night, the report by Nahlah Ayed – which focused on Ban Ki-moon’s criticisms of Harper’s climate policy – concluded with, “Canada hopes to land a seat at the Security Council this fall. Today an activist group handed Ban a letter saying Canada doesn’t deserve one. Ban does not get a vote but his views about Canada may sway others.”

The Sun Media article is at http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/05/12/13927206.html. The CBC TV report is at http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/The_National/ID=1492441093. The Hansard transcript of the exchange between Duceppe and Harper is at http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3&DocId=4525643#OOB-3160672.