May 16, 2007
Trust is an essential part for international negotiations to progress smoothly.
In climate change negotiations, as well as other fora, countries must prove their good faith when it comes to taking on targets and timelines for emissions reductions.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is easy for no country. It implies a restructuring of the entire energy system, changes in the technologies we use, investments in research and development, and implementing progressive policies, as well as the deployment of renewable energies and energy efficiency and conservation.
It is not an easy task, and therefore as one country pledges to go forward, it depends on other countries to do the same in order to provide a global response to this global problem.
So when a country promises to reduce its emissions and two years before it's supposed to make those reductions, it announces it won’t do so, it jeopardizes the entire global effort.
This is exactly what Canada has done.
Last year it announced to the world its targets were impossible. But it still had not crafted its response to climate change.
Perhaps in the longer term other countries, believing in Canada’s good international reputation, thought Canada would somehow assume its fair share of responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the recently released regulatory plan for greenhouse gases confirmed that Canada is not ready to engage with countries in reducing global emissions.
Not only has Canada shattered the trust needed to foster productive negotiations at the conference here in Bonn by reneging on its targets, it is also using its opportunity to address the conference to mislead countries.
In its statements, Canada has pledged full support for the recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which presents a scenario of 2 degrees global climate change, and falsely claims it is in line with the report’s recommendations.
The IPCC report says that in order to prevent 2 degrees or more rise in global temperatures, world emissions must stabilize by 2015 and begin to drop.
Developing countries are experiencing rapid economic growth and rise in emissions, and while equipping them with renewable and energy efficiency technologies will certainly help, their emissions will continue to rise as their number one priority is poverty alleviation.
Given that industrialized countries, including Canada, account for 20% of the population but 45% of global emissions, and that current climate change can be attributed to them it is their responsibility to make deep reductions by 2020.
Europe and Norway acknowledge this historical responsibility, and have pledged 20-30% reductions below 1990 levels by 2020. Canada is obviously not willing to share in this responsibility, and has lost credibility, trust of other countries, and moral authority on the international stage. And yet, it continues to point the finger at developing countries.
As a result, negotiations have become much more difficult and cynical at a time when the science from the International Panel on Climate Change indicates we have no more time to waste.
Emilie Moorhouse is Sierra Club of Canada's Atmosphere and Energy Campaigner.