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Harper government knows “earth’s future” depends on “combating desertification”, doesn’t seem to care

Compounding an already controversial decision to pull out of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Harper government’s previous statements are raising even more questions.

Contradicting the government’s current claims the treaty showed “few results”, in June 2007 federal cabinet minister Josée Verner said “earth's future” depends on “combating desertification,” calling it “one of the key challenges to environmental sustainability”.

The comments were made in a statement on the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which marks the anniversary of the adoption of the UNCCD. Verner was Minister of International Cooperation at the time. Verner also said in the statement, “This World Day allows us to highlight the importance of dryland-related issues and the fact that desertification is a global concern. This day also reminds us we can effectively combat desertification through greater community involvement and cooperation at all levels.”

The CIDA website still highlights the importance of the UNCCD and calls land degradation “an environmental sustainability priority” for the federal government.

“This confirms Harper knows how important this treaty is, but is abandoning it anyway,” said Barlow. “Is Harper pulling out of this treaty in the hope that doing so removes a key international legal instrument at a time when First Nations are increasingly challenging the legal legitimacy of his government’s legislation, especially in relation to tar sands, mining, and omnibus legislation?”

The UNCCD is the only legally binding treaty in the world on desertification. Canada is now the only country not a party to it.

“Given that the UNCCD has been run out of CIDA, which the 2013 federal budget folded into DFAIT to align it with corporate interests, we need to ask who benefits from this decision,” said Barlow. “This government is a total enabler of Canadian mining companies destroying local water systems in Latin America and other places. This is a huge story in its larger context.”

“Drought and desertification are growing in over 100 countries. We are relentlessly damming and diverting water for the global food trade and over pumping groundwater at a rate that doubles every 20 years,” said Barlow. “Water sources are drying up in many parts of the world. This is simply the worst signal Canada could make to the global community and it comes at the worst time. It is shameful the Harper government would pull out of this crucial negotiation.”