At the Vienna negotiations on climate change this week, Canada played a key role in preventing agreement on goals for greenhouse gas emissions. Over 100 governments reluctantly agreed that cuts of 25 to 40 percent are needed, but set no binding targets. But even that inadequate result was resisted by Canada’s representatives.
Press reports …
Delegates agreed that the 25-40 percent range “provides useful initial parameters for the overall level of ambition of further emissions reductions.”
It fell short of calls by the European Union and developing nations for the range to be called a stronger “guide” for future work. Pacific Island states said that even stiffer cuts may be needed to avert rising seas that could wash them off the map.
Nations including Russia, Japan and Canada had objected to the idea of a “guide,” reckoning it might end up binding them to make sweeping economic shifts away from fossil fuels, widely seen as a main cause of global warming.
Non-governmental observers charged that Canadian officials were standing in the way of a binding agreement by watering down calls to limit concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to levels that scientists have estimated would stabilize global temperatures and prevent an increase of more than 2 C.
A coalition of international conservation groups dubbed Canadian negotiators – along with their counterparts from Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and Russia — charter members of the “four-degrees club,” because of policies that would allow the planet to heat up by more than 4 C to what many scientists believe would be dangerous levels.
“You’re looking at the Arctic sea ice (melting) and Canada becoming a tourist destination — not for its ice hotels, but as a beach location,” said Hans Verolme, director of the World Wildlife Fund International’s climate change program, who sat in on the negotiations. “These are really very large changes, and some people were understandably upset.”
Another observer added that Canadian negotiators also tried to delete language in a draft version of the UN statement that called on countries to base their emissions reduction goal on the original Kyoto Protocol targets.
“Both Japan and Canada rejected that or said that they would like that paragraph deleted from the text,” said a Canadian delegate at the talks, who asked not to be named.
A spokesperson for Environment Minister John Baird denied that Canada is blocking an agreement on climate change, explaining that the Vienna meeting was only setting the groundwork for decisions that would be made by elected officials in December.
“Canada’s position has been clear,” said Mike Van Soelen. “Any agreement on climate change needs to include large emitting countries like China, India and the United States. We have also insisted that a global effort on climate change is needed.”
The federal government has set a national target that would still leave Canada’s emissions above 1990 levels in 2020.
The citizens of Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and Switzerland will have to pressure their governments into action, as these were the countries hindering progress in Vienna.