Good Sunday Morning!
What a week! First to the really great news. On November 30, voters in Kitchener Centre elected Ontario’s second Green MPP Aislinn Clancy!
As readers of this letter will know, I have been excited about Aislinn’s campaign since I first met her last May. The occasion was a major interfaith conference “Our Whole Society: Finding Common Ground in a time of Polarization” held at Wilfred Laurier University. More or less at the last minute, I was invited to give the keynote when former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne had to cancel. Logistics to get to Waterloo for the conference were challenging, so I asked my bench mate and caucus member, the indispensable Member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre, Mike Morrice, if it would offer any benefits to local Greens if I accepted the invitation. Mike urged me to come and said I could meet the recently nominated GPO candidate for the by-election in Kitchener Centre. So, on May 9, Mike and I had a nice event at a pizza restaurant with Aislinn and the core group of volunteer canvassers for the by-election. The door-knocking had already started, but the writ did not drop until nearly six months later! Steady hard work paid off. I am so happy I made it the K-C for two more campaign visits. By November 30, Aislinn and a growing band of over 400 volunteers had knocked on every door in the riding, Aislinn herself had hit every door – twice!
The vote count is just stunning––she won by a landslide. As this story points out, the Green vote was more than the combined votes for the NDP, Liberal and Conservative candidates!
I got the good news as John read morning websites in Canada after our 13-hour flight the night before in Air Canada Economy. Right up until the boarding call for the flight, I was zoomed into the committee looking at C-33 the bill on railway safety and management of ports. We have been working with South Coast Ship Alliance pushing for amendments to limit out-of-control anchorages. I was arguing and defending my amendments next to the boarding gate for the flight from Toronto to Dubai––luckily delayed by nearly an hour so I could continue with my amendments.
Waking up in Dubai at 6:25 AM (6:25 pm in BC) to the news that Aislinn had won Kitchener Centre was a great start to COP28 but the morning did not go well for me after that. Our hotel is not far from the COP meeting site, but there is a huge amount of walking to get anywhere in this complex. The 300 metres from hotel to metro station was fine, even in 30-degree heat, but once off the metro at our stop at the exhibition area, the line-ups to get to the registration desk started. We were queued for hours and zigging and zagging, funnelled by the belted pathways to keep us all snaking along. A security guard noticed I seemed to be flagging so pulled John and me out to access the line-up for the disabled. Just as I felt the relief of seeing the security line-ups beyond the next door, I tripped on the ledge of the door and fell hard, literally flat on my face. John was just behind and saw me disappear from sight. The COP28 medical crews responded in a flash. I was swarmed by lovely people. Checking for vitals and then to see if I had broken anything. Fortunately, I had enough time before gravity did its inevitable work that I was able to get my hands in front of my face to break the fall. I still landed on my face, but the damage was minimal. The efficient medical crew insisted on getting me into a wheelchair and whisked off to the COP medical clinic on site. The doctors tested blood pressure and blood, etc., and all were relieved. I felt nothing more than embarrassed and a bit shaken up. John managed to negotiate keeping the wheelchair. Another COP lesson learned, if you want to speed through line ups, be in a wheelchair! We managed to pick up our credentials and over to the Canada Pavilion where I had arranged to have some meetings––another long walk, but I was simply being wheeled along as John made light of the benefits of the extra exercise regime of pushing me in the chair.
The early win was the agreement on the opening day to proceed with the Fund on Loss and Damage. Unlike other funds that are intended to assist developing nations, “Loss and Damage” comes from a more radical place. It was first proposed in 2013, at COP19 in Warsaw. That COP opened as a vicious and devastating storm hit the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, killing more than 6,300 people. The head of the Philippines delegation, Yeb Sano, spoke powerfully of the devastation. He announced he would fast for the duration of the COP and many others went on a hunger strike in solidarity with him. Those of us who did wore red armbands to indicate we were fasting. The protest continued with demands for a new fund for “Loss and Damage.” Here is his speech at the opening of COP 19.
As COP19 wrapped up, all the efforts to move to provide funds from Industrialized countries to countries devastated by extreme events rooted in climate disruption became a non-committal paragraph noting the creation of a “Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.” It promised little more than studying the idea. At every COP it is reviewed and developing countries plead for its implementation and every year the loss and damage gets worse. Last year, COP27 agreed to put such a fund in place, and this year, a full decade since Yeb Sano’s plea, countries finally announced funds to start compensating countries in the Global South laid waste because of pollution from the industrialized North.
The host country, United Arab Emirates, committed $100 million to the fund, matched by Germany. The United States announced a paltry $17 million, and Japan even less at $10 million. Canada pledged $16 million. Even that $16 million from Canada is from a previously announced budget line item for $5 billion from Canada to developing countries on all funds for the developing world for climate action.
More funding announcements came on the second day of COP28: The United Arab Emirates on Friday said it would contribute $30 billion to a new climate-oriented fund, with finance juggernauts BlackRock, Brookfield and TPG stepping in as inaugural launch partners.
The announcement was widely seen as a greenwashing effort by the host UAE and specifically its president Sultan al-Jaber, who both chairs the COP and is CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Much has been in the media about the accusations that the UAE has hoped to ink further oil deals through the COP28 process. Al-Jaber denies this. Meanwhile, whether or not the UAE had such plans, Saudi Arabia has been unmasked as trying to increase oil and gas production. Canada does not come to this with clean hands either. Within our national delegation comes huge pressure for more fossil fuels in delegations from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Premier Danielle Smith arrived today with over 100 delegates from Alberta alone.
Watch for these issues and more in National Observer coverage from Dubai.
I have put my focus on the evolving negotiations for the “Global Stock Take” as I described last week. It never occurred to me that the idea of a “group shaming”–– by measuring progress every five years beginning at COP28––would be abbreviated and known as the “GST.”
We are still in line-by-line review of draft text in mind-numbing interventions on maladaptation, the balance between adaptation and mitigation, systemic barriers to both, and so on. The draft text will eventually crystalize in what the Global Stock Take must measure.
I will keep you posted on developments, but for now mark your calendar for next Saturday night in Canada––in the wee hours of the morning for me in Dubai––for our next zoom members’ meeting with Green leaders. Jonathan Pedneault and I will be holding a “Live from Dubai: It’s Saturday Night!”
WHAT: Live update from Elizabeth at COP28
WHEN: December 9, 8pm ET
Until then, take good care, and I promise no more prat falls!
Me in Dubai wearing my Canada Emissions cap.