11/28/2011 10:56 EST | Updated 01/28/2012 05:12 EST

In Durban, Canada Needs an Oil Change


Every late November there is a gathering. People who seldom see each other come together to bicker, argue and fein agreement. No, I am not talking about Thanksgiving, but rather the upcoming round of United Nations climate change talks in Durban, South Africa. But like Thanksgiving dinner, there is always one uncle who shows up and ruins the whole affair.

Here in Durban, that's Canada.

Since 2006, the Government of Canada has positioned itself as one of the most obstructive forces when it comes to global action on climate change. It currently stands alone as the only nation to weaken its international commitments after the Copenhagen conference; this after it stood alone as the only nation to renounce its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

So why the shift when as recently as 2005 Canada was internationally celebrated for forging a pathway towards a global deal in Montreal?

A hint? Its a massive scar in the Earth that can be seen from space. With the potential to line the pockets of Canada's oil barons and the potential to drive us closer to climatic tipping points the Government of Canada has chosen the former. Our leaders have decided to protect the short-term gains of our fossil fuel-driven economy in lieu of ensuring my generation, and those that will follow, a just and sustainable future. In short, Canada has decided to put polluters ahead of people.

In the last year alone, Canada has been outed internationally for its efforts lobbying on behalf of the oil patch. In Europe, the government has joined with oil companies to try and submarine the European Union's Fuel Quality Directive, a step towards reducing emissions from Europe's transportation sector. At the same time our government has dispatched agents to try and force the Keystone XL into the United States, despite the massive upswell of resistance all along the pipeline route, and across the country.

The impacts of climate change, and the extractive industries that are driving it's expansion, are threatening the lives and livelihoods of people here and now. Canada faces a choice. Will it continue to labour in defence of an industry driving one of the greatest crises of our generation while the world leaves us behind? Or will we make the shift to a just, sustainable and green economy that puts the needs of all people ahead of the wants of a few major polluters?

At the global table, we're tired of watching our government play the role of the unwanted dinner guest. We're not willing to simply sit at the kids table and watch them mortgage our future to protect the fossil fuel regime. Canada needs an oil change, and if our government wont do it, you bet we will.

Cameron Fenton is part of the Canadian Youth Delegation currently in Durban, South Africa for the United Nations COP17 Climate Change Conference.