Harper government fails us at the UN climate summit in Peru

Lima COP20
Council of Canadians organizer Aleah Loney (right) is a member of the Canadian Youth Climate Delegation in Lima.

Edmonton-based Council of Canadians organizer Aleah Loney writes she is in Lima, Peru to hold the "Canadian government to account for their blatant inaction on the climate" at the United Nations COP 20 climate summit. From there, she has noted, "Ideally, what will come out of Lima is that the groundwork will be laid for nations to sign on to a just, ambitious, and legally binding treaty at COP 21 in Paris next year. In reality, we expect countries like Canada and Australia to continue to stall negotiations and block meaningful action on the climate."

An article in today's Globe and Mail unfortunately confirms this unacceptable reality. The newspaper reports, "Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq heads to the United Nations climate summit this weekend with no new targets and no commitment to action on Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the [tar] sands, but with a pledge to crack down on a little-known chemical that represents a tiny portion of this country’s emissions. ...On Friday, the minister announced that Ottawa will enact new regulations to control hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in air conditioning and heating. The powerful short-term greenhouse gases account for only 1 per cent of Canada’s overall emissions."

In 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would reduce its emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. Under the Kyoto accord, Canada was obligated to cut emissions by 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012, but the Harper government withdrew from that treaty. The Vancouver Sun has noted that Harper's pledge of a 17 per cent reduction from 2005 levels is actually the same as promising a 2.5 per cent increase over 1990 levels. And even with that, the Globe and Mail has reported that documents submitted by the Harper government to the United Nations in December 2013, "show that, without further policy action, Canada’s emissions would be 734 megatonnes by 2020, or 20 per cent higher than the target of 612 megatonnes."

Loney adds, "In the daily stakeholders meetings with the Canadian government, we are consistently seeing questions around Canada’s commitments for COP 21 in Paris. National commitments come largely in the form of Intended Nationally-Determined Commitments (INDCs), proposals on which are due in March 2015. When an observer asked the Canadian representative about whether or not they would make the deadline and expressed concerns that Canada would be one of the only high emitting nations in the world to miss the deadline, the representative assured us they would complete the application in the first quarter."

Today's Globe and Mail article notes that, "[Aglukkaq] has convened a federal-provincial-territorial meeting for late February to discuss new post-2020 goals, though the United Nations has asked all countries to submit their targets by the end of March." In January, the Globe and Mail reported, "Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions will rise sharply after 2020 unless there are dramatic efforts to rein in emissions from the oil and gas sector, the Harper government indicates in a new report to the United Nations." That article highlights, "Without the climate regulations, the government forecasts that emissions from the oil and gas sector will soar by 23 per cent between 2005 and 2020, and by 48 per cent by 2030, swamping progress in other sectors. Fuelled by [tar] sands growth, Alberta’s emissions are projected to increase by 40 per cent between 2005 and 2030, while Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would all see declines."

The Council of Canadians has called for a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic (where Chevron is the third largest lease holder with exploration licenses for 205,000 hectares of seabed) and is opposed to the Energy East pipeline (which TransCanada is seeking to complete despite the reality it would allow for a 40 per cent expansion in the tar sands and generate 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, the equivalent of adding 7 million additional cars on to our roads). Loney warns us, "Corporate presence is certainly beginning to be felt as we near the end of the first week of meetings in Lima. On Wednesday and Thursday in our daily meetings with representatives from the Canadian government, a representative from Chevron was present. TransCanada Ltd. joined the stakeholder meeting today, the representative was curious as to whether Canada was favouring a 5 or 10 year term for the treaty in Paris."

For more, please read Aleah Loney's blogs Greetings from COP20 in Lima (November 30) and COP20 in Lima: Actions and Finance but no Action on Finance (December 5). To receive a daily update from the Canadian Youth Climate Delegation, please click here.