Watching Canada at the United Nations climate talks is a bit like to watching the unfolding Rob Ford saga -- just when you think that they can't do anything worse, somehow, despite the odds, they manage to surprise you. At the Warsaw climate talks Canada has been called out for congratulating Australia's climate backslide and been ranked dead last in terms of environmental protection by a global ranking on international development.
Now Canada is being accused of blocking progress on negotiations for a Loss & Damage mechanism. In other words, Canada is standing in the way of a tool to provide necessary support for countries being impacted by climate change to cope and adapt. Put into a current context, that means that Canada is blocking an international framework that in the face of increasing, climate-charged extreme weather events like Super-Typhoon Haiyan, would allow the Philippines has access to the resources it needs not just to clean up, but address the loss of lives and livelihood associated with the devastation of these storms.
Considered one of the few hopeful signs at the United Nations climate talks after the disaster of Copenhagen, Loss and Damage is meant to "address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including impacts related to extreme weather events and slow onset events, taking into consideration experiences at all level".
Based on the principle of historical responsibility, a Loss and Damage mechanism would provide the means for countries bearing the brunt of climate impacts, usually those countries least responsible for the crisis, to adapt to those impacts. It is "polluter pays" -- a policy that Stephen Harper has committed to in Canada -- in its clearest form. More than that, it is a mechanism to ensure that in facing this global crisis at least a shred of justice can prevail -- and Canada is blocking it.
Backdropped by the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, Canada's position is more than frustrating. As the worst climate performer in the western world, Canada's domestic climate policies, driven by Stephen Harper's extractivist, tar sands agenda are on track to blow past the globally agreed upon upper limit of warming of two degrees. For the majority world, this means drought, displacement and devastation and now not only is our government promising that we wont do better at home, but we wont be held responsible for the mess we're making in other people's backyards.
Canada has been called a laggard when it comes to climate action, but the reality is that it's far worse than that, our policies and politicians are making us into a climate denier as a nation. Environment Minister, Leona Aglukkaq's statement that climate change was "debatable" is just a tiny glimpse into the harsh reality of the Harper government -- they don't believe in acting climate change, because they can't. This government has gone all in on the tar sands and hung its hat on unsustainable fossil fuel development that -- according to the World Bank, International Energy Agency and others -- cannot happen for us to have a shot at mitigating runaway climate change.
This has translated domestically into a fact-phobic government that has silenced critical research and science and gutted environmental legislation, all part of the largest backslide on environmental action that this country, and maybe the world, has ever seen. It has meant an entrenched disregard for the rights of Indigenous communities. Canada's actions blocking Loss & Damage are the extension of this mentality into the global arena, a refusal to accept the consequences of their actions and, frankly, live in reality.
Harper's cross-Canada pipeline push has sparked a new momentum that was seen when over 130 communities stood up to "Defend Our Climate" Nov. 16. Typhoon Haiyan has spurred over half a million people to take action to stand with the Philippines in demanding urgent action at the Warsaw climate talks. There is a growing global consensus that 80 per cent of fossil fuel reserves will need to stay underground, and that high carbon fuels like the tar sands are at the top of the list of the first energy to get off. This is the reality of the world we're living in, and Canada's position in it is a global embarrassment.
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