Bracing For Disappointment As Durban Climate Talks Begin

The annual circus round of global climate talks starts on Monday in South Africa. I wish I was feeling more optimistic about the possibility of elected politicians to come to an agreement that would preserve an admittedly changed, but still relatively stable climate, for future generations. As the IEA reminded us recently, we have five years left. If nothing changes by 2017, if we don’t revolutionize energy systems, if  countries can’t agree on a global climate deal, global warming will breach the 2 degrees Celsius barrier and we will be locked into runaway climate change.

As I type this, I’m bracing myself to listen to our federal “Environment” Minister Peter Kent on CBC radio’s The House. Sure enough, he starts by bashing the Kyoto Accord, and then goes on to cover Canada’s inaction on climate change with the fig leaf of wanting “all the world’s emitters” to be part of an agreement. The Kyoto Accord, as Evan Solomon points out, was a binding agreement, unlike Copenhagen. In response, Mr. Kent feels that Canada is “well on its way” to meeting its (unacceptably low) 2020 targets. Then he pulls out that old chestnut, that Canada represents only 2% of the world’s emissions (yes, Minister Kent, but we emit much more per capita than any other country except Australia). He doesn’t have a plan to reveal on how Canada will meet the rest of the (unacceptably low) 2020 targets, but says they will be revealed “over time”.  The federal environment watchdog has pointed out that the federal government’s approach is disjointed, but Mr. Kent defends the Harper government’s piecemeal, half-hearted approach. In conclusion, Mr. Kent’s ideal outcome for the Durban conference is for a “modest” but non-binding agreement that includes “all emitters”.  Not surprising that this environment minister, who doesn’t understand what ozone is yet has slashed funding for this crucial environmental monitoring, also doesn’t have a clue about the urgency of the climate crisis (although you’d think he’d at least read the International Energy Agency’s reports, coming as it does from a petroleum industry watchdog, as opposed to anything that scientists or environmentalists produce which Kent’s ideological bent would disallow).

I fear what we will see in Durban is many politicians but few leaders, even as we teeter closer to the precipice of global climate catastrophe.

Durban COP17 Resources:

Allianz Knowledge, an insurance and financial giant, has excellent resources for understanding climate change in general, and the U.N. climate talks in general:

Are Durban Climate Talks Worth the Bother?

Politicians Need To Listen To the People, Not the Polluters

The House: November 26, 2011

Hamilton: Fiscal Challenges? Maybe It’s Time To Reconsider a Carbon Tax

Big Oil-Funded Meeting of Canadian Energy Ministers Ends: Did They Get What They Paid For?


Canada’s energy ministers ended two days of annual talks Tuesday in the Kananaskis resort in the Alberta Rockies announcing they have agreed to work together on opening up new markets to Canadian crude oil.

They also agreed to work on streamlining the process for approving energy projects.

In a communiqué, the ministers said they also aim to improve energy efficiency, energy information and electricity reliability.

In an admirable show of independence, Ontario’s energy minister refused to support the final communiqué issued, because it referred to the Alberta tar sands as “sustainable and responsible”. It appears that Big Oil money talks but not everybody listened this weekend.  The McGuinty government is responsible for the visionary Green Energy Act that focuses on jumpstarting renewable energy production in this province.  Ontario plans to keep up the focus on energy policy, particularly renewables, at the upcoming Premier’s meeting in B.C:

“For years, if not decades, governments in Ottawa of all political stripes have sought to find ways to transfer Ontario tax dollars into Western Canada to support the oil and gas industry,” said Mr. McGuinty, when asked in Oakville, Ont., about his views on the meeting.

“Well, how about using Canadian tax dollars to support clean energy industry that is taking place, that is developing – we’re at the forefront in North America, we’re creating thousands of jobs, we’re reducing our contribution to climate change. We’re shutting down coal-fired plants.”

Mr. McGuinty said these are “difficult things” to do. “What we’re saying to the feds is, ‘Hey, you want to help support energy superpowers, you’ve got to take a look at the entire country. Take a look at the contribution that each province is making, and I think we’re making a powerful contribution.’ ” Read more at the Globe and Mail.

Meanwhile, First Nations and environmental groups are dismayed at the official support of the energy ministers for the Alberta tar sands, the dirtiest project on earth. Ed Whittingham of the Alberta-based Pembina Institute wrote:

“While the ministers expressed interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy production, their decision to call Canada’s oilsands a ‘sustainable’ source of energy for the world raises serious questions about that goal.

“Non-renewable, high-carbon sources of energy are by their very nature unsustainable. Canada needs to plan for a transition away from depending on exports of such sources, like the oilsands.

“A national energy framework needs to seize the economic opportunities offered by clean energy and achieve Canada’s climate targets. Unfortunately, the documents released today failed to make either addressing climate change or supporting renewable energy a priority.

“Before their next meeting, Canada’s energy ministers need to outline a national energy framework built on meaningful dialogue with citizens. An effective framework must also include a price on greenhouse gas pollution as a central feature.”

Meanwhile, while Canadian policy formally ignores the reality of climate change, the worst drought in half a century continues to kill Somalis by the tens of thousands,  the UN Security Council considers a proposal to form a climate change peacekeeping force, and the ongoing heat wave across much of North America kills at least 13 people in the American heartland.

More links:

Ontario Refuses To Call Alberta’s Oil Sands “Sustainable and Responsible”

Les écologistes pas convaincus

Pembina Reacts To the Outcome of Energy Ministers’ Meeting in Kananaskis

Ontario Tax Dollars Supporting Energy in the West, McGuinty Says

Energy Ministers to Seek New Oil Markets

Bangladesh Surpasses Solar Energy Goal of One Million Homes, Sets New Target

I’ve declared today to be  “Good News Friday” on 350orbust. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of bad news out there, but today we’re going to focus on some feel-good stories to start the weekend off.

  • From a country that is too often in the news for tragic reasons, here’s a story that celebrates what can be done when a developing country decides to leapfrog over dependence on fossil fuels and conventional means of delivering power to households. Bangladesh had set a goal of powering one million households with solar energy by 2013, but achieved the landmark 18 months ahead of time. Officials say that over 5 million Bangladeshis now have access to home electricity because of solar technologies. Empowered by their success, the country has set a new goal of 2.5 million solar-powered households powered by 2014.

To read the full story click here.

  • Here in Canada, where our economy is dependent on the massively destructive and carbon-emitting Alberta tar sands, the NDP has announced that it is resurrecting the Climate Accountability Act that was killed in the unelected Conservative-dominated Senate last spring after being passed by the elected Members of Parliament.  Ironically, the Harper Cons have responded by saying that the NDP should heed the message sent in the last election (I guess it’s convenient for them to trot out “democracy” occasionally when it suits their purposes, although once again they are ignoring the fact that 60% of Canadians voted against them). Oh, right, this is a feel good blog posting, sorry, the Harper govt is guaranteed to ignite the ranter in me! Here’s the link to the story on NDP Resurrects Climate Change Bill
  • I’m classifying this as a “good news” story because it shows that the judge in climate activist Tim DeChristopher’s trial is desperate to avoid media focus on the miscarriage of justice that is being carried out in Utah. Mr. DeChristopher disrupted an illegal U.S. government land auction in the dying days of the Bush administration (read more here) and was convicted in March after a trail in which he was not allowed to explain his motives or to mention the illegality of the auction.  As the Peaceful Uprising website states:

By issuing another last-minute delay, Judge Dee Benson has made it clear that he is desperate to avoid public accountability for the persecution of peaceful climate justice activist  Tim DeChristopher. The change was made directly following our announcement that there would be nationwide solidarity actions on June 23rd. It is another attempt to defeat citizen organizing, and it must not succeed.

Such delay tactics did not work before. Tim’s trial was rescheduled nine times over a period of two years–without explanation. They can do the same with the sentencing hearing, but those fighting for a just and healthy world know that we cannot wait.  

Click here to read more and to find out how to take action with Tim on the 23rd if you live in the United States – but don’t delay, it involves receiving a banner in the mail by that day!  In honour of Tim’s ongoing battle for a just and sustainable world, I’m reposting this video of his response after being convicted in March:


White Water, Black Gold

You can’t practice abstinence while running a brothel. Yet politicians of almost all stripes talk simultaneously about developing the Alberta oil sands while getting serous about reducing carbon emissions. Sound like a crock? It is.

Mitchell Anderson, It’s the Tar Sands, Stupid

It’s not just the carbon emissions from the tar sands that are polluting our ecosystem and making our children’s future more precarious. The amount of fresh water contaminated by the Alberta tar sands boggles the mind.  The tailings pond (where 90% of the fresh water used ends up) are large enough to be seen from outer space. Oil sands mining is licensed to use twice the amount of fresh water that the entire city of Calgary uses in a year.  White Water, Black Gold follows adventure filmmaker David Lavallee on his three-year quest across Western Canada for the truth about the impact of world’s thirstiest, and dirtiest, oil industry:

This is a journey of jarring contrasts, from the pristine mountain ice fields that are the source of the industry’s water, to the Tar Sands tailing ponds, where thousands of migrating birds have unwittingly landed and died.

Both government and industry spokespeople deny any cause for concern, but in the course of his journey Lavallee, backed by university scientists, makes a number of discoveries that challenge that assessment and raise serious concerns for Canada and the United States.

Native peoples living downstream are contracting unusual cancers; new science shows that water resources in an era of climate change will be increasingly scarce; the proposed upgrading of the oilfields could endanger multiple river systems across Canada that makeup about half of its water supply; and a planned oil pipeline across British Columbia brings fresh threats to rivers, salmon and the Pacific Ocean.


This Saturday, June 18th, is  International Stop The Tar Sands Day, where events are taking place in front of Canadian embassies around the world to shine light on the terrible price the tar sands extract from our planet and the people living around it.  In anticipation of International Stop The Tar Sands Day, The Winnipeg Chapter of the Council of Canadians has organized a screening of White Water, Black Gold this Thursday, June 16, at 7 pm at the Unitarian Church, 603 Wellington Crescent.  Admission is by donation. I’ll see you there!

More links:

International Stop The Tar Sands Day

Tar Sands Vs. Clean Water: Eating the Earth For Cars

David Lavallee

The Pembina Institute: Water Impacts of Oil Sands

It’s The Tar Sands, Stupid

Departing Auditor General Sheila Fraser Weighs In On Need to Address Climate Change

Climate quote of the day, from Canada’s Auditor General Sheila Fraser:

Canada needs a national, long-term, climate-change strategy — one that will allow us to mitigate and adapt to changes, to cover the costs and to engage Canadians in adjusting both their attitudes and their activities.”

Ms. Fraser was found to be the third “most trusted Canadian” in a Readers Digest poll published this month, behind environmentalist David Suzuki and building contractor Mike Holmes. Her 10 year term is ending on May 30th. She didn’t mince words in a farewell speech this week, and made particularly pointed remarks about two national policy areas: Climate change and First Nations.

More links:

Retiring AG Sheila Fraser Says Climate Change, First Nations Must Be Dealt With

Rick Mercer On The Conservative Environmental Plan: Oil Rules

Although this video is nearly three years old, it is just as true now as it was then.  Rick Mercer considers the Harper government’s oil industry approved “environmental” strategy in “Oil Rules”:


More links:

The Harper Government’s Record on Climate Change

Federal Election 2011: A Checklist For Clean Energy Success

Environmental Voices Deliberately Barred From Federal Election Discussions

This is the new reality in Canada after five years of Harper’s control; there is now a deliberate and consistent attempt to keep environmental concerns out of the election discussions.  This despite the fact that Canadians consistently rank environmental concerns at the top, or near the top, of their concerns.

Of course, Canadians know that Elizabeth May was barred from participating in the election debate on television, despite the fact that her party garnered nearly 0ne million votes in the last election.  It seems the old boys club felt threatened by her articulate and interesting performance at the last debate.  But it goes beyond just shutting May out of the mainstream media. In an article in today’s Toronto Star, Stephen Bede Scharper from the University of Toronto, discusses how a 4th year student at Guelph University was barred from a Conservative rally after being “flagged” by an RCMP security check.  As Scharper points out,

Joanna is unaffiliated with any political party, has no criminal record, and comes from a dynamic family that I have known for years. Like many Canadians, she is trying to seriously engage in the key issues of this election.

Her unfitness to participate in a democratic rally seems to be based entirely on the fact that Joanna is a member of her university’s environmental group and has attended global climate summits as a youth delegate, although this is just a guess as she has never been told by anyone in the Conservative party why she was barred.

Is this is the kind of Canada we want?  I know I don’t!On May 2nd, I’m voting to get Canada, and democracy, back.  How about you?

Read all of Scharper’s article:  No Welcome Mat For Environmentalists

And from a 2010 column by James Travers, editor and political correspondent at the Toronto Star, who passed away last month.  He was certainly on to Mr. Harper:

Imagine a country where Parliament is padlocked twice in 13 months to frustrate the democratic will of the elected majority. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that slyly relaxes environmental regulations even as its neighbour reels from a catastrophic oil leak blamed on slack controls. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that boasts about prudent financial management while blowing through a $13-billion surplus on the way to a $47-billion deficit. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where a political operative puts fork-tongued words in a top general’s mouth. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that refuses to fund the same safe abortions to poor women abroad as it provides at home. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where the national police commissioner skews a federal election and is never forced to explain. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that writes a covert manual on sabotaging Commons committees. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country dragging its climate change feet as the true north melts. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that silences political debate on the sale of a publicly owned, crown jewel corporation. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country that puts higher priority on building super-prisons than keeping people out of them. That country is now this country.

Imagine a country where parties that win the most federal seats are dismissed as “losers”. That country is now this country…

And the list, unfortunately, goes on.  To read the entire article go to Changing Canada, One Backward Step At a Time

For more election information that isn’t being covered by the mainstream media, check out these links:

What’s in a Preposition?

Harper’s Goon Squads: Get Used To Them

54 Conservative Candidates Currently Skipping Election Debates

“Threat” of Federal Coalition Greeted With Outrage

And, according to Amnesty International, Canada is now a “country of concern”

And remember George Orwell’s assertion in 1984: “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

What Do Canadian Women Have Against Stephen Harper?

Do you want to know the pick up line that goes over best with Canadian women?  Check out this video to find out:


Over the five years Stephen Harper has been prime minister, he has:

  • closed 12 out of 16 status of women offices across Canada

  • eliminated funding of legal voices for women, including the National Association of Women in Law

  • eliminated funding for Sisters in Spirit, an internationally praised organization leading investigations into 600 cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

Since 2006, Harper has cut funding for women’s advocacy by 43%.

More links:

Project For Slain Women Faces End: Federal Funding for Sisters in Spirit Ends March 31

Tories Accused of Culture of Intimidation

Sisters in Spirit

Canada’s Environment Minister Says Cutting Greenhouse Gases is Pointless

On May 2nd, Divorce Harper

Here in Canada, we are at the midway point in our federal election campaign. So far, the Conservatives seem to be making no attempt to hide their undemocratic tendencies. Most recently, an early poll held at the University of Guelph to encourage young people to cast their ballots was interrupted by an irate Conservative campaign staffer, who declared the vote illegal and tried to grab the ballot box. Election Canada officials had to intervene, and stood in front of it to prevent him from making off with it. Read the full story here.  As Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pointed out, this is the kind of behavior one might expect in some country without such a proud tradition of democracy like Syria or Egypt, but not in Canada. What are the Conservatives so concerned about? Well, a recent article in the Globe and Mail, How Parliament Would Look Like If Only Youth Voted, shows why Harper and his minions might be happy if all the youth in Canada stayed home.  It seems the Harper Cons just aren’t that popular among that demographic. But as it stands right now, this age group is the least likely to vote.  Here’s one response by young people to this election: On May 2nd, divorce Harper!

Is your government treating you bad? Mine is. Here are some tips to help us get through this!


More links:

How Parliament Would Look If Only Youth Voted

Anti-Harper Website Attracts 2 Million Hits

Surprise “vote mobs” Shaking Up Election Campaign

Tory Times Are Tough Times, Especially For Our Children’s Future

Why do I keep posting about the importance of electing a new Canadian government that does not include Stephen Harper and his Conservatives?  What does this have to do with climate change?

As a Canadian who knows that there is going to be a price to pay for our addiction to digging up buried carbon and transferring it into the air, I recognize that the next 5 years are crucial in jump-starting the clean energy economy in our country and giving our children a chance at a safe and secure future.  Harper and his cronies have consistently shown that they are firmly ensconced in the Alberta tar sands, and are in lock-step with the fossil fuel industry, which has no interest at all in encouraging an economy run by nonpolluting, renewable energy sources.  Under Harper’s leadership, Canada has become an international pariah at U.N. climate conferences, and Canada has been awarded more “Fossil” awards than any other country. The Harper government has also cut funding to monitor climate changes in our country, and has muzzled by intimidation Environment Canada scientists. Climate Action Network Canada describes Harper’s legacy this way:

The current government has taken a reckless approach to one of the greatest challenges of our time. Despite the fact that the impacts of climate change have become increasingly obvious, the government has failed to take this crisis seriously.

For more background, check out the “What The Heck IS Canada’s Policy?” page, or go to Climate Action Network’s 2011 Election Watch Page.

So, with apologies to my international readers,  here’s another synopsis of the Harper government’s mismanagement of our country. As the video description reads:

Five years after he was first elected, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have shown themselves frightening consistent in their contempt for parliament, inability to tolerate dissent, and hostility towards any truth or facts that do not back up their world view. On May 2nd, let’s end Harper’s reign and bring common sense back to government.


Here’s the list of Harper’s legacy that the video highlights: no tax income trusts .. nuclear safety watchdog fired … in and out scandal … Bernier … fixed election dates anyone? … proroguing .. short term deficits .. long form census … lost UN security council .. torturing prisoners .. misleading the house of commons .. $26 million to promote the economic action plan after it ran out … breached parlimentary privilege twice .. government of Canada replaced by Harper government on all documents

More links:

The Government of Canada’s Record on Climate Change (2006 – present)

It’s Time For Canada’s Fossilized Climate Policy to Be Buried

Climate Action Network Canada Response to Conservative Platform