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NEWS: Prentice submits weak emission targets to the UN

Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced on Saturday, January 30th, that Canada has submitted an emission reduction commitment of 17 per cent from 2005 levels to the UN – the same target the U.S. announced to the UN this past Thursday.

As reported by the Canadian Press, “Throughout the Copenhagen negotiations we maintained that our clear policy was to support the outcome of Copenhagen and also to align our clean energy and climate change policies with those of the Obama administration,” Prentice said.

(To read Brent Patterson’s view on why further integrating climate policies with the U.S. as a threat to worldwide climate justice, visit: http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2690 )

The submission comes a day before the UN’s deadline of January 31st for countries to outline their own emission-reduction targets under the Copenhagen Accord. The Accord’s lack of mandatory limits on emissions (instead allowing countries to propose their own targets) is but one controversial element of the two and a half page document.  

In commenting on the target, Prentice said he believes it will be challenging but attainable. “We’ll deal specifically with the oilsands, we’ll deal specifically with all sources of emissions but today the objective of this announcement is to fulfil our obligations under the accord,” he said. “We know we can achieve that target, we’re prepared to stand behind it and other countries will now have to do the same.” 

The Canadian Press reports Prentice as saying work still needs to be done within the next year on negotiating a binding agreement with all carbon emitters, including China and the U.S.

This is unacceptable.

The Council of Canadians went to Copenhagen demanding that global North countries including Canada commit to emission reduction targets of at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels – a target in line with more recent climate science and the 350PPM target (a target which was the focus of the world’s largest climate day of action, October 24, 2009) supported by numerous global South countries, climate justice and indigenous rights networks.

To read more about what components the Council of Canadians outlined for a legally binding, strong international agreement with deep emission reductions that advances climate justice, refer to our COP15 background paper at: http://canadians.org/energy/documents/Copbackground.pdf

Pledging 17 per cent below 2005 levels falls far below what is needed. When compared to 1990 levels, this actually equates to a commitment to reduce emissions to 2 per cent above 1990 levels – a weakening of the previous paltry target of reducing emissions 3 per cent below 1990 levels!

 This is further indication that the Harper government refuses to take the climate crisis seriously, instead, remaining committed to an energy vision based on export-oriented resource extraction. Nowhere is this more explicit then in our government’s support for the ongoing development of the tar sands, the fastest growing single source of greenhouse gas emissions in our country. The majority of tar sands crude is exported to the U.S.

The weak Copenhagen Accord is the product of backroom negotiations between a handful of countries. It does not contain mandatory deep emission cuts. While it does include reference to climate financing, it has been criticized as half the amount that is truly needed and is potentially just smoke and mirrors if there aren’t commitments that the financing be new (in addition to other committed financing), is dependent on carbon markets or managed outside of the UN (such as by the World Bank).

The Copenhagen Accord is merely “noted” under the UN because of the unwavering opposition of a number of countries including Tuvalu, Bolivia and Venezuela committed to a strong international agreement. 

Even worse, the Copenhagen Accord has been accused of being a means to undermine the UNFCCC process and the Kyoto Protocol which, while it has its flaws, is legally binding and contains mandatory emission reduction targets (the first phase of these targets will come to an end in 2012, agreed commitments for a second phase was supposed to emerge from the Copenhagen negotiations).

To read more about the U.S. role in moving forward the Copenhagen Accord and undermining the UN process, refer to:
http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2690 ; http://blog.newint.org/editors/2009/12/22/blood-on-the-summit-fl/

To read a comparison of the demands for a strong international agreement and the Copenhagen Accord, go to: http://canadians.org/energyblog/?p=176

This announcement should steel our resolve to collectively challenge the Harper government’s poor performance in ensuring Canadian’s energy security and role in addressing the climate crisis.