Good Sunday Morning – December 10

Good Sunday Morning!

This is my second Sunday at COP28. This morning started with a Green Party zoom town hall back home to Canada – “Live from Dubai – It’s Saturday night!”

Usually, calculating time zones is the simple difference between Sidney and Ottawa. Only three hours are involved. While working from Dubai – a full 12 hours difference from home – I get confused as to what day it is, much less what time it is! So “Live from Dubai – It’s Saturday night!” started at 5am local time on Sunday for me.

My next meeting is at 7:30am Dubai time, and I am so excited to get there.

At the mid-point of every COP we have a Global Green Party gathering. All elected Green parliamentarians registered at the COP are invited for “Green Family Breakfast.”  We are usually a group of 50-60 with Green MPs giving reports from the UK, Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, Rwanda, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and a few other countries as well. We also invite Green allies in countries where there is no Green Party, so today we have included the extraordinary MP from Vanuatu, Ralph Regenvanu, former minister and champion of pressing for Ecocide to be added as an offence in the International Criminal Court.

Our annual COP breakfast always includes a detailed analysis of where negotiations sit and what we can coordinate and push forward for better results. The most empowering and encouraging part of my role a Leader of the Green Party of Canada is effective work with colleagues from around the world. I know a lot of our meeting will focus on the horrors of Gaza. The unprecedented invocation of Article 99 was brilliant, but defeated by the USA.

I don’t think any Greens from Palestine or Israel are here, but I stay in touch with them by email. The core of seeking peace and non-violence is embraced by us all. The COP28 negotiations do not provide enough diversion to stop the constant pain and grief of the unbearable humanitarian disaster as it unfolds. Nor can I stop thinking of the hostages and their families. It is, as Mia Mottley says, “a polycrisis world”. We have to be able, against all odds, to simultaneously keep all the dangers in our minds as we work for solutions.

Back to COP28 and work being done here, I also benefit from connecting with Green-minded parliamentarians and municipal leaders from Canada. I had not seen former Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson since March 2018, when I happened to be at an event with him the morning I went to Burnaby Mountain and was arrested protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline. But he is here in Dubai as a Special Ambassador and lead convenor on Urban Climate Leadership as appointed by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. I also enjoyed catching up with Catherine McKenna, now a critic of the government in which she served. She is not as harsh in her criticism as I am, but still she is surprisingly candid in calling out our greenwashing.

One real treat of this COP was reconnecting with a young activist I first met when she was 16. In 1986, Desiree McGraw, an 18 year old Seth Klein now known to us all for his climate work, and friends Alison Carpenter and Max Faille, set out across Canada on an eight-month road trip, stopping at high schools everywhere they could to show the remarkable National Film Board film about Helen Caldicott, If You Love This Planet. They were raising awareness of the threat of nuclear war with their group, Students Against Global Extermination. It was called it the SAGE Tour.

I have kept up with Desiree intermittently over the years, memorably working with her at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, again in 2005 at COP11 in Montreal when she was an advisor to former Prime Minister Paul Martin, and most recently when she was named President of Pearson College in 2015. I knew she had moved back to Montreal and in 2022 won a provincial seat in the Assemble National of Quebec, as a Quebec Liberal. Her provincial seat is in the same area – NDG Westmount – where Jonathan Pedneault ran federally in the by-election. It is a very Anglo, progressive community, and it is where she grew up.

I learned from Des about a really impressive initiative in the Quebec National Assembly that I would love to implement in the federal House of Commons. After her election she successfully pressed for mandatory climate education for all MNAs. It has not been covered at all in the English media outside Quebec, and even the French media has not made much of it. But I think it is brilliant.

It came up in conversation as I told her I thought one of the reasons we had such poor decisions from the federal Liberals is that many members of the Cabinet have never had a science briefing on climate.

It felt as though we had come full circle with me back to working on issues of nuclear disarmament, as covered in this generous opinion piece by Canada’s former Ambassador on Disarmament, the Hon. Doug Roche.

The work at COP28 continues at this hour. I know it looks pretty bleak from the coverage of Sultan al-Jaber. But it remains a multilateral negotiation and so many diplomats, negotiators, and delegations of Indigenous people from around the world are working very hard. Those of us who understand how desperate it is that all nations increase their efforts to hold to 1.5 degrees while we still have a slender hope of doing so cannot be discounted by the cynical. We do not have the luxury of giving up.

This is an opinion piece on COP28 I wrote a few days ago, and here’s another that was just posted in Policy magazine.

Meanwhile back in Ottawa, the Conservatives have opened up the US Republican playbook. Obstruction at all times and at all costs, without any solid rationale or respect for the basic rules of respect for the institution. Voting on nonsense amendments to an 11-page bill, literally thousands of amendments. Part of me wishes I was there, but on balance I think I am doing more good here. Tons of thanks to Mike Morrice for stretching himself so thinly to cover for me so I can work at this COP.

Please keep a good thought – a prayer – a visualization – for an unexpectedly good result from COP28. And of course for peace in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Have a good Sunday! I leave here on the 14th and will be home again in Sidney by the 15th. Cannot wait!!

Sending love,