On December 11th 1997, the nations of the world adopted the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Fourteen years later to the day, countries which had gathered in South Africa for COP 17 approved the “Durban package”.
The Package extends the Kyoto Protocol and commits the world to negotiating by 2015 a new agreement that covers all countries. It also advances the new Green Climate Fund established last year in Cancun and language to reduce emissions from deforestation.
Although the agreement does nothing to reduce emissions or increase funding beyond existing commitments, it is generally being recognised as a step that could put all major emitters on the same playing field.
Despite this, it is important for Canadians to understand that scientific assessments show that present government commitments fall very short of what governments say they want to do, which is limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. While the world emits 48 gigatonnes of carbon each year, most models suggest that emissions need to drop to 44 gigatonnes by 2020 to maintain a likely chance (66%) of remaining under 2 degrees Celsius. The reality is if all current commitments are added together, a gap of 6–11 gigatonnes remains, and the longer we wait to take action on climate change, the more expensive it will be.
Shamefully, the Conservative government continues to ignore the science of climate change, the evidence of global warming’s impacts, and the projected $21-43 billion annual adaptation costs to Canadians by 2050. At Durban, the Conservative government obstructed negotiations, and became irrelevant. Unfortunately, the government led only in taking the world further to dangerous climate change.
Canadians elect governments to meet their needs, without compromising future generations or and saddling them with enormous debt. It is important for the Conservative government to realize that climate change is likely the defining issue of our generation, that individuals are making significant change in their own lives, and that they want change on the national and international stage.
What is needed is a Prime Minister like Lester Pearson who firmly believed that Canada had a responsibility to actively participate in any international activity, and had the perseverance, vision and wisdom to build a blue print for the future-in his case, peace building and peacekeeping. What is also needed is parliamentarians who have the courage not to defend the government’s indefensible position on climate change, but rather work across party lines on this environmental, human rights, justice and security issue, and demonstrate moral and intergenerational responsibility, and fight for their children’s and grandchildren’s future.
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know how you think Canada can once again lead on the environment.
- Kirsty Duncan
Liberal environment critic