Columnists

Stephen Leahy
Canada leads the way to climate disaster at COP19

| November 21, 2013
Photo: Kancelaria Premiera/flickr

WARSAW, Poland -- Canada has led the way to scuttle the UN climate talks here in Warsaw, Poland taking with it nearly all hope of keeping global warming to less than 2C say members of various international organizations.

Along with 190-plus nations, the Harper government signed an international agreement to keep carbon emissions below 2C at the UN climate talks in Cancun in 2011. And yet here at these very difficult climate talks to create a new treaty to protect the climate, the Canadian delegation considers the 2C target "aspirational" and not especially important according to sources.

The government's official COP 19 Qs and As webpage fails to mention the 2C target.

Canada has unilaterally walked away from its international climate commitments including the Kyoto Protocol and the 2009 Copenhagen Accord said Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, a German climate science research organization.

Following Canada's lead, Japan abandoned its Copenhagen target last Friday. Meanwhile, Australia under the Abbott government, has gutted its climate policies making it impossible to reach even its inadequate Copenhagen target Hare told DeSmog here in Warsaw.

The Harper government actually congratulated the Abbott government for doing this.

"These countries' promises and commitments are not worth the paper they're written on," said Hare.

This is creating a "very corrosive atmosphere" here. Why should any country trust Canada, Japan or Australia when these countries have no problem walking away from previous commitments he said.

"We're in a downward spiral that's pushing us on a path to 5C a temperature the planet has not seen in 55 million years," he said.

Even a future where the global average temperature is 4C higher means temperatures in southern Canada will be 10 to 12C hotter than the warmest days. Food production will collapse as well most nations says Alice Bows-Larkin, a climate scientist at the U.K.'s Tyndall Climate Center.

"A 4C world must be avoided at all costs," Bows-Larkin said.

This bleak future can be avoided but countries like Canada must cut their carbon emissions 10 percent per year starting now she said.

Instead Canada's emissions are skyrocketing mainly because of the tar sands. Meanwhile the Harper government tells Canadians it takes climate change seriously and is acting.

"As a Canadian I'm ashamed of our increasing emissions and our efforts to block progress on creating a new climate treaty," said Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and leader of Canada's Green Party.

That's probably why the Harper government refused to allow May to be part of the Canadian delegation here in Warsaw. Instead, she is here as a member of the tiny Afghanistan delegation, who are grateful for her knowledgable support in what is a very complex negotiation.

"Rich countries like Canada never talk about staying below 2C," May told DeSmog. "We're walking away from our commitments, even the ones the Harper government made."

She urged Canadians to pressure their MPs, and not just Tory MPs. The Liberals and NDP need to be pushed to take a strong stand on climate she said.

"There is an election coming in 2015. We have to make climate change the key issue."

This article was first published on DeSmog Canada.

Stephen Leahy is the senior science and environment correspondent at Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS) based in Rome and Montevideo. To continue this work at a time of severe cutbacks and closure of many media, Leahy launched Community Supported Journalism.

Photo: Kancelaria Premiera/flickr

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