Standing On Guard For The Tar Sands: Canada Wins Two Fossil Awards on Day 1 of Climate Talks

Today’s guest blogger is Ani, a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation representing Manitoba at the Durban climate conference. Ani works as a Public Education and Outreach Coordinator for Climate Change Connection, a project of the Manitoba Eco-Network. To read more about Ani, visit her info page at

While I’m experiencing my first day at COP 17 and struggle to figure out why the rooms are named after plants, materials and geographical locations and wonder why no one has provided me with a giant map of the Conference Centre, my email inbox filled up with rumors about Canada preparing to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol next month.

I felt inspired by Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) opening remarks during the plenary reminding countries to reassure that they are committed to work towards a real deal quoting Nelson Mandela – “It seems impossible, until it is done.” Only a few minutes later it was confirmed that Canada plans to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding emissions agreement, early next month. Peter Kent declared to the Canadian Press that he is coming into the negotiations ready “to play hardball with developing countries.” For some reason I thought it was those developing countries who should be playing hardball with developed countries.

Following these developments the day ended with the fossil of the day award. Both, First and Second Place were earned by Canada for failing to support a second commitment period and undermining the value of the Kyoto Protocol. Rounding out the awards, the United Kingdom received Third Place for helping to move tar sands oil into Europe.


Earlier last week Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said he hoped to win less fossils than his predecessors, he is not off to a very good start!

More links:

Youth Delegate

Fossil of the Day: Climate Action Network International

India Emerges as Climate Action Leader While Canada Stays Stuck in Oil Sands

An article on Yale Environment 360, “In India, a Clear Victory on The Climate Action Front“, discusses a recent sea change in India’s approach to climate change, as evidenced by the resignation of  its Special Envoy of the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Shyam Saran. Saran’s departure, the article points out, is related to the rising influence of Jairem Ramesh, Minister for the Environment and Forests. It is a good thing for a country, and a world, that needs to be moving towards reducing CO2 emissions now, not in 10 or 20 years.

India’s traditional negotiating stance, shaped and defended by Saran, could be summed up in one truculent sentence: The developed world had caused the problem and the developed world should fix it. Ramesh, though, pressed for a change in approach: Though India may not have been part of the problem, he insisted, it had to be part of the solution.

Ramesh has long argued that it is in India’s best interests to address climate change, and is now poised to move India toward low-carbon policies at home and in the international arena.

In his short stint as environment minister, Ramesh has managed to walk a difficult political tightrope. He has moved India’s climate policy forward against the opposition of much of the civil service and India’s influential civil society, both quick to accuse politicians of pandering to outside pressure and failing to defend India’s interests. In an influential speech to Parliament last year, Ramesh argued that it was in India’s own interest to be proactive on climate measures, regardless of international frameworks, because a failure to do so left India’s future prosperity vulnerable to climate shocks. India, he said, should offer a 20 to 25 percent reduction in emissions intensity by 2020, a proactive policy, he argued, that would allow India to claim leadership internationally. It infuriated the traditional climate negotiators who had spent years avoiding any suggestion of leadership.

Closer to home, Ontario will be making another move towards a greener and cleaner economy soon.  Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Brad Duguid, is expected to make an announcement later this month on an ambitious provincial program aimed at helping Ontario’s biggest industrial players become more efficient users of electricity and stronger competitors on the world stage by paying up to 70 per cent of the cost of an energy retrofit. Read more about Watt Guzzlers Get Green Retrofit at the

Alas, at the federal level in Canada, as discussed earlier, the Harper Conservatives’ strategy is tied to short-term economic gain in the Alberta oil fields at the expense of Canada’s long-term environmental and economic health.  Contrary to last week’s throne speech penned by the Conservatives, which talked about the need to become a clean energy superpower and lead in green job creation, in reality their policies are set to take Canada in the opposite direction. Read more at Hamilton: Federal Green Strategy Goes From Bad to Worse.

In contrast to Harper’s much-repeated mantra that addressing climate change will hurt the economy, Canada’s economy in the long-run will be much healthier if we embrace, rather than resist, the new green economy.  Harper would be well advised to view the video, Are we fixing fundamentals, or just pretending? It addresses the question “Will the environment lose out to the economy in 2009?” and was made prior to the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland last year.


For more information on this video, including the full script, go to