While tens of thousands of protestors have gone to Copenhagen to call on world governments to do more to fight against climate change, the most surprising protest on the first day of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen occurred thousands of miles away: in Canada.
Greenpeace protestors dodged security and scaled two of Canada’s Parliament buildings in Ottawa. They unfurled banners that read “Harper-Ignatieff: Climate Inaction Costs Lives” and “Stop the Tarsands” in French and English. Stephen Harper is the conservative Prime Minister of Canada and Michael Ignatieff is the Liberal Leader. Nineteen of the Greenpeace activists were later arrested peacefully.
In addition, a petition by Canadian environmental groups calling on the Harper administration to do more to combat climate change has been signed by more than 150,000 Canadian citizens.
Canada has come under increasing international criticism for dragging its heels on climate change and its continuing exploitation of tar sands for oil. The extraction of oil from the tar sands is energy intensive and leaves a carbon footprint that some say is the largest industrial source of carbon emissions in the world: 40 million tons of greenhouse gases every year.
At the same time, Canadian climate policy continues to trail behind most other nations. The country is the only one to drop out of the Kyoto treaty and due largely to the exploitation of the tar sands, its emissions have risen 26 percent since 1990 (10 percent more than the US who never signed onto Kyoto). Currently, Canada has pledged to reduce its emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from 2006 levels, saying that it will move lockstep with the United States on climate change.
During a recent meeting of Commonwealth, the head of the UN Ban-Ki-Moon singled Canada out for not doing enough. After the meeting, some called for Canada to be banned from the Commonwealth for its stance on climate change.
Polls consistently show most Canadians would like the government to do more on climate change.
(12/07/2009) Canada’s tar sands have been internationally criticized as one of the world’s largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, but the energy-intensive extraction of oil also has a less-noted impact on the local environment. A new study shows that the Alberta’s oil sands are likely releasing more PACs (polycyclic aromatic compounds) into nearby Athabasca River and its tributaries than the industry-funded and government-supported Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) has reported.
(12/02/2009) In 2007 American delegates to a climate summit in Bali were booed outright for obstructing a global agreement on climate change. Then in a David versus Goliath moment they were famously scolded by a negotiator from Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad. “If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way,” Conrad told the American delegates. However, much has changed in two years: the United States, under a new administration, is no longer the climate change pariah. The US has recently announced emissions cuts, negotiated successfully with China on the issue, and will be attending—Obama included—the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen next week. Obama and his team probably don’t need to worry about being booed or remonstrated this time around, but that role may instead go to Canada.
(09/13/2009) This March, the Canadian province of Quebec pledged to conserve 50 percent of its boreal forest lying north of the 49th parallel, protecting the region from industrial, mining, and energy development. On Thursday 500 scientists and conservation professionals—65 percent of whom have PhDs—sent a letter to Quebec’s Premier Jean Charest calling on him to make good on his promise.