UN Summit on Climate Change

On September 22, world leaders gathered in New York at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change. With less than three months to go before climate talks in Copenhagen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the urgent need for progress. Failure to reach agreement on a climate treaty will have devastating consequences.

“Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. We will soon reach critical thresholds. Consequences that we cannot reverse. The world’s leading scientists warn that we have less than ten years to avoid the worst-case scenarios projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

During the Climate Summit, some positive remarks were made by Chinese President Hu Jintao. Although China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, it is making some significant strides in moving to renewable energy.

Japan’s new government has also demonstrated some leadership with a promise to cut emissions by 25 per cent below 1990 levels.

WHAT IS CANADA DOING?

Meanwhile, Canada’s Conservative government promises to reduce emissions by 3 per cent below 1990 levels, with no plan to get us there. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, reaching a record 747 million tonnes in 2007.

If we are to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change, developed countries must reduce emissions by at least 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2020, with at least 80 to 95 per cent reductions by mid-century.

Canada’s Conservative government is putting our future at risk by refusing to join with others around the world. The government is not even interested in having Canada join the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization that promotes the use of renewable energy.

It continues to promote dirty oil from the tar sands, and the unproven technology of carbon capture and storage — while other countries are creating thousands of green jobs through investments in wind turbines and solar power.

The risks of carbon capture and storage are highlighted in a report by the Munk Centre for International Studies, released earlier today. Carbon capture is Canada’s technology of choice for tackling the climate crisis. However, it poses unacceptable risks to our groundwater.

Pumping carbon dioxide into the ground can result in the leaching of arsenic, lead and other harmful toxins into groundwater. It can also displace saline water, contaminating drinking water supplies.

Canada should follow the lead of other countries by switching to renewable energy and energy efficiency to reduce emissions. We need investments and incentives to speed the transition to the green low-carbon economy of the future, and substantial funding for the mitigation and adaptation efforts of developing countries.

During the countdown to Copenhagen, our government must also back a binding commitment to science-based targets for reductions of emissions, in line with recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Without a global, unified response to the climate crisis, there will be mass extinctions, and hundreds of millions of people will be threatened by unprecedented droughts, famines and rising sea levels. Addressing the world leaders at the Climate Summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “Now is the moment to act in common cause.” During the countdown to Copenhagen, our leaders must show leadership in tackling the climate crisis.

            

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