As it Happens – COP 19

They’re talking climate, but is there a will to change?

The Warsaw Climate Change Conference enters its final week today. The only two Canadian parliamentarians in attendence are Environment Minister Leona Alglukkaq and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who is not officially part of the Canadian delegation.

The conference comes nearly a month after Environment Canada revealed that Canada will not meet its Copenhagen targets to cut emissions by 2020. Earlier today, a European report ranked Canada as the worst country in the developed world for tackling greenhouse gases. Those are of concern to Elizabeth May.

We reached Ms. May in Warsaw, Poland.

Carol Off: Ms May you re in Warsaw but you’re part of the Afghanistan
delegation. Why is that?

Elizabeth May: Well I obviously would prefer to be a member of the delegation of the government of Canada. Every previous Prime Minister since the United Nations was created has always included opposition members of Parliament and its only been under Stephen Harper that the delegations have gone to various climate conferences with only Conservative political represention at the federal level. So I was registered with the Global Greens network of the Green Parties from around the world and then got word that the government of Afghanistan had such a small delegation here and heard that I might be available and willing to serve on their delegation. So that’s how it occurred.

Carol Off: and that gives you access to meetings that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get into – is that right?

Elizabeth May: Absolutely! You literally can’t get into most of the negotiations if you don’t have a government badge and I’m very keen to observe how Aglukkaq does as our new Minister of the Environment.

Carol Off: Leona Agukkaq, the Minister of the Environment, who has arrived in Warsaw now issued a news release .She says that Canada is taking a leadership role in international climate change efforts and it will be of benefit to all Canadians. Is that how she is resenting herself? Give us a sense of the role she will play at this conference.

Elizabeth May: Well there’s no question that if you are part of a large fossil fuel company, if you are part of the large movement of big oil and coal to stop global climate action you would regard Canada as a leader but no one who cares about avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis can see Canada as anything other than a saboteur. Ever since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, he repudiated our Kyoto commitments. We’re the only country in the world to legally withdraw from the Kyoto protocol. We’ve been really enormously damaging to global efforts and in that sense obviously Canada is part of this planet and nothing that puts at risk the global climate system can be good for Canada so nothing in what you just read is true.

Carol Off: At the same time one of the things she says in this release is that she wants to see a commitment on the part of the government of Canada to climate change and to green house gas reduction in a fair and effective climate change agreement. And we’ve heard before from the Harper government that their concerns are that countries like Canada are expected to meet targets that other countries such as India or Brazil are not required to make and they’re not going to do that until other countries are part of the agreement on the same footing.

Elizabeth May: Well that of course is the argument that George Bush invented and that Stephen Harper has embraced that industrialized countries that have the capacity to reduce emissions shouldn’t do anything until other countries make their cuts along side of us. No one involved in the climate issue, particularly scientists and environmental activists, want to go forward without an agreement that includes all countries so there’s an element of truth to the way they’ve spun it but the reality is that Canada took on targets and has abdicated responsibility.

Carol Off: OK we should remind people because often it gets complicated that by getting out of the Kyoto agreement the Harper government agreed to these new Copenhagen emission reduction targets. How likely is it and what evidence do you have that Canada will not meet these new reduced emission reduction targets?.

Elizabeth May: Well the evidence comes from Environment Canada’s statistics . They do a review of green house gas emissions. I know it does get complicated and if I go into percentage by which year and what time I know we’ll loose people but the reality of it is that Canada committed to cutting green house gases again much less than what had been previously pledged under Kyoto but the targets that were selected by Stephen Harper and committed to four years ago -I know we’re no where near reaching them them because Environment Canada data says so. Canada at the federal level has done virtually nothing to contribute to reduction. the credit goes to – well one accidental thing for which no one wants to take credit was the financial meltdown of 2008. Thats when green house gases fell in Canada and they’ve been going up sharply as our economy recovered. The actions that have had the biggest impact, that were deliberate, were Ontario, thank goodness, committing to close down coal fired power plants and British Columbia bringing in a carbon tax on gasoline. So we’ve had some actions in Canada . The only action federally that is currenlty in place is lockstep with the United States because we have a shared car market including manufacturing. We brought on better fuel standards and I totally support that measure which is really important to have better standards in our automobiles. If we kept our Copenhagen target we would be by the year 2020 three % above 1990 level emissions. I was talking to a Norwegian delegate today and they are absolutely confident that they will not only hit but exceed their target of 30% below 1990 levels.

Carol Off: There’s a European report today that lists 58 countries and their reduction of green house gas emissions and their record and of those 58 countries Canada is 55th. It’s near the bottom. Below Canada is Iran, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia. How is Canada being regarded at the Warsaw Convention?

Elizabeth May: Well it’s so sad as a Canadian when you love your country and your proud to be Canadian and you go into these international fora like these meetings and I’ve been coming for so many years and the transition from when Canadians were respected and then there was a brief period when people were just puzzled and concerned and now its made a complete arc to where we are actually hated. We’re just held in contempt.

Carol Off: Alright. Well on that note we must leave it there. Ms may thank you.

Elizabeth May: thank you very much

Transcript done by Lois Eaton.