The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was supposed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below 1990 levels, by the end of 2012. 15 years later, global GHG emissions are 58% above 1990 levels and the scientific community is now concerned that we are quickly running out of time to avoid serious impacts to our economy, society, and environment.
Meanwhile, our planet is warming. The average temperature increase today is at 0.8 degrees which has been linked to increased intensity of hurricanes, extreme weather events, droughts, flooding, crop failures, melting of permafrost, rising of sea levels, drying of aquifers, etc. To put this in perspective, a 2 degree warming would see small island states disappear, 4 degrees warming will mean rivers like the Amazon drying out, glaciers melting and shutting down freshwater flow, 6 degrees of warming – mass extinction.
Despite the comprehensive reports from the International Panel on Climate Change and years of negotiations, this year’s UN climate talks in Qatar failed to deliver real cuts to greenhouse gas emissions; neither did they ensure poor countries have adequate financial support they need to deal with climate change impacts. Countries did manage to conclude negotiations on a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, although important politically, it only covers 15% of global emissions and leaves loopholes that allow carry over, use and trading of hot air.
Even though Canada is not the only country that is not doing enough on climate change, we are certainly among the worst. After the government’s decision to drop out of the Kyoto Protocol, this year’s Climate Change Progress Index dropped Canada into 58th place out of 61, ranking just above Iran, Saudi Arabia and Khazakstan, and taking a clear place as the worst developed country when it comes to climate action.
For example, the new federal coal regulations don’t actually apply to all existing coal power plants until 2062. Sorry, Mr. Kent but this does not classify as “world leader in clean energy generation” as claimed in Environment Canada’s recent press release. The Canadian government is misleading the international community and its own citizens. An insufficient climate change plan cannot be covered up a by an environmentally-friendly facade.
During this month’s climate change talks, Canada failed to renew commitment to financially support the weakest countries to adapt to climate change. Instead, Environment Minister Peter Kent stated that Canada does not plan to contribute to the Green Climate Fund “until a new agreement applicable to all, as agreed to at COP17, can be adopted by all parties.” In other words, Canada won’t contribute funding for tackling greenhouse gas pollution until all the developing countries agree to cut their emissions in a binding deal. This despite giving over $1.3 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, a ratio of 7 to 1 compared to their climate finance commitments.
Our leaders let the world down again and putting us firmly on track to 4 degrees or more of warming by 2100. The science is clear, we have the technology to cut our carbon emissions, our economy is craving for it – all we need now – is political leadership!