Green Party of Canada urges public mobilization for Cancun

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“We’re aiming to help reinvigorate Canadians to participate in democracy and hold the Harper government’s feet to the fire on the most pressing issue facing the planet.”

[As ecosocialists, we at  C&C feel that the demands outlined in this statement are inadequate. But such disagreements take second place to our pleasure at seeing the Green Party issue an important call for action against climate change and against Canada’s anti-environmental policies. We look forward to working with Green Party activists in building mass public actions.]

News release issued by the Green Party of Canada, October 29, 2010

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May called today for a re-politicization of the climate movement and for a major public mobilization during the one month lead-up to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change 16th Conference of the Parties.  The meeting will be held in Cancun, Mexico, on November 29, 2010.

“In the wake of the Copenhagen Summit disaster a year ago, much of the climate change movement has become either demoralized or depoliticized and instead focused on voluntary, personal initiatives like planting trees or growing local food. However positive, voluntary individual measures are highly inadequate when considering the breadth and scale of the fundamental economic and structural shifts we must undertake in our society, and in all nations globally, to tackle climate change. The hard truth is that politics, policies, laws, and international agreements are at the centre of the ability to ensure these fundamental shifts,” states Elizabeth May, who is also co-author of Global Warming for Dummies. “We’re aiming to help reinvigorate Canadians to participate in democracy and hold the Harper government’s feet to the fire on the most pressing issue facing the planet.”

Last year’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen, COP 15, was considered to be a great disappointment as it did not produce a binding agreement with concrete targets nor adequate financing for technology transfers and mitigation strategies for developing nations.  The so-called “Copenhagen Accord,” a non-binding political statement was not the decision of the official conference.

The Copenhagen Accord appeared to agree to keep the level of global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, after which scientists predict runaway global warming will take place through positive feedback loops like increased forest fires, drying out of the Amazon rainforest, release of permafrost methane, and melting of polar ice caps. However, the subsequent targets following the agreement submitted by nations to reduce greenhouse gases are considered to be entirely inadequate to keep temperatures from rising above the 2 degree threshold, resulting instead in runaway global warming.

“Canada under Harper’s administration has played a historically important role as the anti-environmental villain on the world stage in regards to climate change. Canada under Harper was the only Kyoto Protocol signatory to repudiate any effort to reach its Kyoto targets, and then worked from within the Protocol and at all subsequent international negotiations to continually derail any agreement towards strong, binding targets. The Harper government’s national and international policies on climate change and renewable energy are the worst among wealthy nations, and we can’t let them further derail progress in Cancun – the stakes are too high,” stated May.

The Harper government is proposing to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions to 3% above 1990 levels by 2020, which is considered far short of the minimum reduction of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 that scientists say is needed to prevent a 2 degree rise.  Leaked documents earlier this year showed the government acknowledging that they have no adequate strategies to even achieve the inadequate targets, and earlier this year they cut financial support for Canada’s wind power sector and discontinued support for the Eco-Energy home retrofit program.

The party will be launching a new Facebook Group, circulating a petition to thousands of households through its door canvass in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, and working to inform and mobilize thousands of its Canadian supporters.

The new Facebook Group called “Canada Must Show Climate Leadership” calls on the Harper government to show climate leadership by:

  • No longer obstructing and trying to sabotage international cooperation for stronger, binding emissions reductions targets and funding to tackle climate change.
  • Reaffirming a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol as the framework for the subsequent agreement negotiated in Cancun and beyond.
  • Enacting a legally-binding, national target based on science to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.
  • Restoring and enhancing funding for renewable energy and energy conservation programs, such as the wind power sector and the home energy retrofit program.
  • Implementing a national climate levy, where funds from a carbon tax would be put into supporting research and development of the renewable energy sector.
  • Placing a moratorium on the expansion of fossil fuel megaprojects, such as the Alberta tar sands.
  • Eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel extraction projects.
  • Supporting the inclusion of safeguards to protect biodiversity and indigenous rights through the REDD (Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation) mechanism.
  • Agreeing to contribute its fair share of a $100 billion adaption and mitigation fund for developing nations.


  • I am not certain that we can view the Green Party of Canada as we might any other political party. Everytime they have had a change of leadership, its seems to reflect power shift to a faction that ultimately is tied to other parties. The previous faction was made up of former Tories and the current faction seems close to the Liberals. The GP of Canada does not seem to have the coherence of its version in the US; both have said to be like each other but upon examination they would not appear to be at all. The GP of Canaada at one time endorsed Brian Mulroney’s decentralization moves whereas the GP of the USA fully understood the real motives of Newt Gingrich’s attempts at decentralization (more power to corporations) and rejected them. Elizabeth May is no Ralph Nader and the GP of Canada is too amorphous and too fluid to be called a political party (or maybe its just too weak). We need more attention to this ugly fact but too few of Canada’s so-called alternative publications will cover this. We are running out of time; we need a real movement to fight for climate justice but it is not happening at the moment.

  • [In response to Steve…]

    The “GP”, as you call it, is a political party with funding, staff, and thousands of members. If they were serious about organizing a mass mobilization, they would have done so. They certainly have more resources and a higher public profile than Climate Justice London, for example; and yet they are doing far less movement-building than your group is.

    The “GP”, true to their word, set up a Facebook group; but they have just let it sit there and die. It serves no purpose whatsoever – not even as a vehicle for public education.

    In short, no, I don’t agree that ecosocialists can’t complain about the Green Party’s lack of leadership and organizing. I agree with Ian that we have to press them to match their press release with action. But for the present, ecosocialists will have to do their own organizing, and hope that some day the “GP” will get with the program.

  • [In response to Jeff White’s points…]

    I hope you agree that ecosocialists can’t just complain that the GP isn’t doing enough ‘on the ground’ organizing, unless ecosocialists can point some of their own successful initiatives in popular mobilization.

    I think we should be self-critical enough to acknowledge our own failures on this score, but also to celebrate what we are able to do, in spite of its limitations. Admitting our weakness in this respect is a first step toward addressing the problem, as opposed to finger-pointing at other political currents.

    Re: pre-Cancun mobilizing, there is currently organizing going on in several cities across Canada to build “People’s Assemblies for Climate Justice,” an initiative supported both by grassroots action groups like Climate Justice London [Ontario], and by relatively ‘institutional’ broad left environmental organizations like the Council of Canadians, Indigenous Environmental Network, KAIROS and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition.

    They are billed as “movement-building and organizing events,” designed to “turn awareness into action.”

    I see it as a kind of test for ecosocialists, to assess the extent to which we can give our political project practical meaning by engaging constructively with this process (and other similar processes going on in the climate justice movement). To the extent that ecosocialists remain mired in the stance of sideline nay-sayers, the ecosocialist project remains a sectarian enterprise (with potential to be much more, but so far unrealized potential).

  • Of course the Green Party doesn’t plan to carry though on this the way a mass ecosocialist party would. But that’s not the point.

    Here we have a large organization calling for public mobilizations. That’s a big step forward.

    This gives us another way to promote the idea that mass action is needed, an opening to talk to people in or around the GP, etc. Ecosocialists and other green radicals should welcome their statement enthusiastically and press them to act on it.

    Who knows? They might surprise us, and if they do, it can only be good for the movement.

  • Is the Green Party actually going to try creating a “public mobilization”, or are they just calling on someone else to do it?

    Launching a Facebook group and circulating a petition in one federal riding (the one where May is trying to get elected) is hardly what I’d call a “major public mobilization”.

  • I’m glad that C&C is supporting progressive ideas and actions from various sources. I think that your credibility will be enhanced if you consistently support popular, progressive ideas. At the same time, no one is stopping you from criticizing other movements and ideas.