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Share your views: How can Canada lead again on the environment?

Posted by Kirsty Duncan on December 13, 2011 | No Comments

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

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  1. Avatar of Ken Cunningham Ken Cunningham said on

    Kirsty, just a few thoughts.
    I’ not sure we should adopt a strategy based on just shaming the govtover Kyoto[ good luck with that]. What might be more effective is to push hard on making them walk the walk. Presently it seems to me they appear to be not paying much of a price here. If they insist on not commiting to anything without the major emmiters being inside the tent then perhaps we should push them to make this happen; just what concrete actions, diplomatic and othewise are they prepared to hitch up to their waggon? IOWs don’t let them hide behind the major emmiters arguement as they have done in the case of the Obama administration.
    I’ll have more to add later…got a sick child home today.

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    • Avatar of Kirsty Duncan Kirsty Duncan said on

      Dear Ken,
      Hello and warmest wishes.
      How is your wee child?
      Thinking of you and your family, and sending you all my very best,
      Yours very truly,
      Kirsty

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      • Avatar of Ken Cunningham Ken Cunningham said on

        Thnx Kirsty. She’s not so wee actually – a fine strapping girl of 10. But she seems to be mending – nothing too serious.

        One additional thought, which you are free to disagree with if i have gotten my facts wrong re kyoto protocols/process.
        Granted it is a crying shame our govt has given up on kyoto. But…is it now time to accept the argument that we shouldn’t be offering green aid $ [ as stipulated in kyoto] to those developing countries who are now [ 14 years on] major emitters, ie., China, india Brazil. Things have changed and i fear this argument is now not popular with the public. Of course we should support the fund to aid those developing countries who are really going to struggle with adapting to CC without slipping back into poverty.
        Unfortunately politics does play into this.

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        • Avatar of Kirsty Duncan Kirsty Duncan said on

          Dar Ken,
          Hello and I am so pleased to hear she is improving.
          I can hear the pride in your writing–absolutely lovely!
          My thoughts on this:
          As a result of climate change around the world, we see dwindling fish stocks in the Atlantic and other oceans, encroaching deserts in northern Nigeria, flooding lowlands in Bangladesh, shrinking rain forests in Asia and the Pacific, and rising sea levels around the Maldives which lie only 1.5 metres above sea level.
          In the Maldives, weather patterns are shifting. Fishing is poor and people are starting to relocate. There, sustainable development means climate-proof development. After the 2004 tsunami, 16 sewer systems were built, but there was no money for maintenance and 16 islands were bankrupted. As a result, the Maldives will be carbon neutral in 10 years and will invest in tomorrow’s technology, not yesterday’s diesel. Even these actions will not guarantee its future as its tomorrow will in part depend on international climate negotiations today.
          Climate change is not just an environmental issue; it is also a human rights issue: the right to live. Climate change is also an international security issue and a justice issue; that is, the ones who are suffering most had the least responsibility for it.
          We must listen to leaders of small island states who remind us that climate change threatens their very existence. Recently, the island nation of Kiribati became the first country to declare that climate change is rendering its territory uninhabitable and asked for help to evacuate its population.
          In any struggle, it is important to listen to the front lines. In the case of climate change, they are aboriginal peoples, those living in low-lying states and those living in the Canadian Arctic. If people are being meaningfully impacted by climate change, they should be meaningfully involved in negotiations. Governments must be accountable to those who are impacted. Tragically, Kiribati and the Maldives are the canaries in the coal mine. If the international community cannot save the front line first, it will not be able to save itself down the line.
          In seeking an effective and just agreement from Durban, I see several key challenges and opportunities. The challenges are: first, to build trust and strengthen good faith; second, to push for strong action despite difficult economic times; and third, to make any agreement an inclusive deal that leaves no country or group behind, deepening world poverty and threatening international security.
          Let me therefore talk about financing climate mitigation and adaptation, which has always been a key challenge. The government will rightly ask, why take on more debt? The answer is simple. The benefits of strong, early action on climate change dramatically outweigh the cost. For example, it has been estimated that to stabilize emissions at manageable levels would cost about 1% of global GDP, but that not to act would cost at least 5%, now and forever.
          While the numbers can be debated, the essential fact cannot be. In fact, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy predicts that climate change will annually cost Canadians $21 billion to $43 billion by 2050.
          Let me come back to the fact that those who have the most to lose from climate change are the ones who have contributed least to the problem and who are the least equipped to deal with it. Many of the least developed countries and small states are already struggling to achieve the millennium development goals, particularly since they lack the necessary financial and technical resources. On top of these challenges, many face severe physical impacts from climate change and have economies that are particularly sensitive to climate variations, such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
          I will, as always, look forward to your thoughts,
          Kirsty

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    • Avatar of Ken Cunningham Ken Cunningham said on

      Canada was a world leader on energy conservation during the time of the 70′s oil crisis. We should revisit and build on those ideas; energy conservation shouldn’t become a weak sister to new technology, since one of our societal problems is mindless consumption and wasteful and inefficiant use of our resources. The fact is our 2% of worldwide GHG emmisions conceals a bloated individual consumption.
      We face some uncomfortable truths; one of which is the world cannot support more Canada’s; more N. Americas. In one way or another our individual comsumption of resources alone has to go down, if the ROTW’s developing nations are to pull themselves out of poverty and wish to approach our lfestyle – that’s leaving aside the issue of Carbon footprint. Luckily the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
      We face at least 3or4 more years of Harperism. So, let’s take a page out of Jack’s book and work with every town, city, municipality and responsible organization the wants to see pragmatic, workable solutions acted upon now; let’s light candles and leave the Harperites to rage against the dark.

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  2. Avatar of Patrick Hamilton Patrick Hamilton said on

    Until we replace the Harper cabal, the environment will continue to get the short shrift…it was only a short while ago that the Harperites reluctantly conceded that CO2 was a contributing factor in global warming and climate change….that is why we need to support the Liberal Party with our dollars and our labour….We need a govt that will look ahead and ensure that future generations have a viable planet…I left the Conservative Party for a whole host of reasons, but the main reason was their utter disregard for environmental issues…..foot dragging on climate change and cutting funding for the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans while fish(salmon and oolichan) stocks in the Fraser River continue to crash were the two major ones. Of course now we see that the Harper cabal has decided to fast track environmental assessments on any large mining developments…..
    Those who want to see the environment respected, and sustainable practices implemented, must ensure we do everything we can to deny Mr. Harper and his cabal a second majority…my two cents…

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    • Avatar of Kirsty Duncan Kirsty Duncan said on

      Dear Patrick,
      Always a pleasure to hear from you.
      I believe the government must realize our home, the planet Earth, is finite. When we compromise the air, water, soil and the variety of life, we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present. Therefore, when we parliamentarians contemplate environmental policy and legislation, we must ask if it is something of which our children and grandchildren would be proud.
      As a result of climate change around the world, we see dwindling fish stocks in the Atlantic and other oceans, encroaching deserts in northern Nigeria, flooding lowlands in Bangladesh, shrinking rain forests in Asia and the Pacific, and rising sea levels around the Maldives which lie only 1.5 metres above sea level.
      In the Maldives, weather patterns are shifting. Fishing is poor and people are starting to relocate. There, sustainable development means climate-proof development. After the 2004 tsunami, 16 sewer systems were built, but there was no money for maintenance and 16 islands were bankrupted. As a result, the Maldives will be carbon neutral in 10 years and will invest in tomorrow’s technology, not yesterday’s diesel. Even these actions will not guarantee its future as its tomorrow will in part depend on international climate negotiations today.
      Climate change is not just an environmental issue; it is also a human rights issue: the right to live. Climate change is also an international security issue and a justice issue; that is, the ones who are suffering most had the least responsibility for it.
      A reminder of what climate means from this past summer:
      Severe drought developed in parts of east Africa in late 2010 and continued through most of 2011. The most severely affected area encompassed parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The humanitarian impacts of the drought were severe, especially in Somalia. They included significant famine and large-scale displacement of population.
      The UN estimated that 13 million people required humanitarian aid. A camp in Kenya had 400,000 people, most of whom were from Somalia. Our office helped bring a true hero, Dr. Hawa Abdi, to Canada to tell her story about the hospital she built on the land and the over 100,000 refugees she cares for daily.
      In Africa, climate change means the difference between life and death.
      The government has an opportunity to help prevent drought by taking action on climate change.
      Thanks Patrick, and I very much hope that you have a beautiful night,
      Yours truly,
      Kirsty

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  3. Avatar of Randolph Taylor Randolph Taylor said on

    The Liberal Party needs to clearly articulate and communicate its position on the environment. It needs to be based on longer term priciples that aren’t going to change. Unlike the Regressive Conservatives who would have us believe that you can either support the Economy or the the Environment, the Liberals need to show Canadians that by supporting the Environment we also support the Economy. We can have both and we need to have both.

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    • Avatar of Kirsty Duncan Kirsty Duncan said on

      Dear Randy,
      Absolutely, the environment and economy are two sides of the same coin.
      Governments worldwide are concerned with making the shift to stimulate growth, create new jobs, eradicate poverty and limit humanity’s ecological footprint. It is no longer a choice between saving our economy and saving our environment. It is a choice between being a producer and a consumer in the old economy and being a leader in the new economy. It is a choice between decline and prosperity.
      As discussed earlier, we should be critical of the government’s efforts to green our economy. For example, in 2009 the government missed a real opportunity for a triple win, a renewable stimulus with positive impacts on the economy, jobs and the atmosphere. While the government invested $3 billion in green stimulus spending, Germany invested $14 billion, the United States $112 billion and China $221 billion in green infrastructure and, in the process, created thousands of new green jobs.
      Going forward we need a green economy strategy to create a more environmentally sustainable economy. Specific measures might include green agriculture, energy supply, forestry, industry, the building sector, transportation and waste. This will require meaningful engagement of all stakeholders, progress in investment in renewable energy and tough questions about the government’s management of the oil sands. Where is the long-term plan? What action has been taken to regulate the pace and scope of development? What progress has been made to protect air quality, boreal forest ecosystems and water resources. What assessments are being undertaken to investigate the potential human health impacts of development as well as the environmental impacts? What solutions is the government considering?
      More stringent actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cannot be postponed much longer, otherwise the opportunity to keep the average global temperature rise below 2ºC is in danger. Serious impacts are associated with this limit, including an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, shifts in growing season and sea level rise.
      Thank you for your input, it is very much appreciated,
      Kirsty

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  4. Avatar of Dylan McKelvey Dylan McKelvey said on

    Liberals need their own brand of climate action. Not just a focus on climate change, but all aspects of environmental stewardship. Not a radically driven environmental movement, rather, one that focuses on being responsible. (Ex. We can take advantage of the oil sands, but lets also do ________)

    As one of the opposition parties, it is true that it is the job of the liberals to call the Conservatives out, and clearly point out what they are doing wrong. However, rather than just saying, ‘this is what they are doing wrong’, also tell Canadians what the Liberal plan would be instead.

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    • Avatar of Kirsty Duncan Kirsty Duncan said on

      Dear Dylan,
      Hello and thank you!
      Yes, I absolutely agree–the policy process begins by listening to you, by listening to stakeholder groups and Canadians across the country.
      While we build together, I think Canadians should be highly critical of the government’s abdication of leadership on issues related to climate change, specifically: its performance in meeting international climate commitments; setting science-based emissions targets; developing incentives for low-carbon technologies; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; pricing carbon; and putting in place adaptation measures necessary to respond to the risks of climate change.
      Comprehensive climate actions include developing a cap and trade system, eliminating subsidies for dirty energy, and providing incentives for low-carbon technologies and infrastructure investments.
      Finally, I can tell you that our party is focused on evidence-based policy.
      Yours truly,
      Kirsty

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