THE BLOG

Climate-Denying Canada Should Stay Out of Warsaw Climate Talks

11/01/2013 05:17 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

For the first time since Canadian youth began participating in global climate change negotiations at the Montreal United Nations talks in 2005, we're not going.

Christina Figueres commented in an interview with the Guardian that allocating a global carbon budget would be too "difficult" for the UN climate regime, despite calls from the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, and most recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is the latest in an increasing inability of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to meet its own mandate of limited global temperature rise below two degrees. While this, along with the corporate capture of the UN talks, is reason enough to abandon the process, our reason is worse and closer to home.

Stephen Harper and the government of Canada are in climate denial. While politicians and civil servants acknowledge the existence of climate change, this government's policies on energy development and climate change are in stark denial of and run in opposition to the a safe climate future.

Before the 2012 United Nations climate talks in Doha, Qatar, then environment minister Peter Kent stated that climate change is a "real and present danger." Yet, over the past seven years, Canada has become a global pariah on climate change, with the worst record on climate change in the western world.

We pulled out of the Kyoto protocol, used climate funding for the most impacted nations as a strong-arm bargaining chip, reduced its national emissions targets and failed to meet even those weak targets. At the same time, the government has launched extensive, multi-million dollar public relations campaigns on behalf of the oil industry, lobbied in Europe and the United States to push tar sands and gutted domestic environmental regulations at the behest of the fossil fuel lobby. In fact the newly minted Minister for the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq has downplayed the reality of climate change, calling the science of climate change "debatable."

Canada has committed, along with the rest of the world, to limit global temperatures to a maximum of two degrees. According to their own estimates, we are on track to blow past that target. Looking at it another way, a two-degree limit requires leaving at least 80 per cent of fossil fuels in Canada and around the world in the ground.

The government of Canada is attempting to expedite fossil fuel development across the country with absolutely no consideration of the climate impact. Taking what they call a "sector by sector" approach to addressing the issue, the simple fact is that no policies or regulations being proposed by this government are addressing the reality of climate change, because none of them are limiting fossil fuel expansion. The tar sands alone have been approved to be on track to grow three times the size they can in a two-degree world. In other words, we have a government pursuing policies that deny the reality of climate change.

This is a dangerous place for a nation like Canada. The sheer scale of fossil fuel reserves in this country require leadership that can recognize this not simply as a short-term economic boon. As the old adage goes "great power brings great responsibility." This government has failed time and again to show the slightest inkling of responsibility, most recently overseeing a militarized attack on a community protecting itself from fracking in New Brunswick.

Over the past seven years our youth delegations have met with negotiators and ministers to urge greater action. Countless petitions, letters and phone calls have been sent to government. We have pulled elaborate hoaxes to shine a light on our government's inaction. We have even been thrown out of United Nations climate talks for turning our backs on Canada's climate failure. We have tarnished "brand Canada" to the point where politicians have attacked us as "uninformed" and been forced to defend themselves one the world stage. Despite all this, our government remains steadfast in its commitment to burn the planet.

They're in denial on the reality of climate change and past the point of reasonable discourse. Canada's petrostate politics have spilled over into the global arena and since we're not going, we also have a request for the government of Canada -- stay home. Until Canada is ready to recognize the realities of a changing climate and respond to it with more than public relations lines for the fossil fuel industry, our generation and frankly the world deserve better.