CANCUN, MEXICO — As the first week of United Nations climate talks in Cancun draws to a close, the stage is set for the arrival of political representatives to open the high-level portion of the negotiations.
Despite a rocky start for the government of Canada, which collected three Fossil of the Day awards on the first day of the talks, the remaining negotiations offer opportunities for Canada to step up and rebuild some climate credibility.
The Cancun climate talks must yield the building blocks for a fair, ambitious and binding agreement at the next major UN climate talks in South Africa a year from now. More specifically, developed countries like Canada should:
- commit to stronger transparency provisions for their emission reduction commitments and financial support;
- agree to launch a new global climate fund, and show support for the kinds of innovative financing sources that can generate the scale of funding that poorer countries need to adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce their own emissions, and
- support the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol in a second (post-2012) commitment period.
"What's at stake in Cancun is the future of our collective efforts to fight climate change. Is Canada going to do what is right, or continue to shamelessly promote the interests of oil companies?" said Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre. "If Stephen Harper really cared about climate change, he would instruct Environment Minister John Baird to support strong action to fight climate change here in Cancun, including the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol."
Canada was the only government to weaken its target after last year's Copenhagen talks, and has so far failed to produce a plan, or adopt the key policies, needed to meet that target. Despite stating its goal of "aligning" Canada's climate policies with those of the United States, the federal government is not following the Obama administration's lead in funding clean energy or in setting greenhouse gas emission standards on some facilities in 2011.
"Canada is one of the world's top 10 emitters of greenhouse gas pollution, and Minister Baird comes to Cancun with a serious credibility problem about reducing that pollution," said Clare Demerse of the Pembina Institute. "Other countries need to know that the government will stand behind its commitments before Canada's reputation at these talks will improve. We'll be looking for policy commitments to cut Canada's emissions from Minister Baird next week."
Showing leadership at the United Nations climate talks can take many forms.
"Addressing climate change will mean a transition toward a green economy. We need, nationally and internationally, recognition that a 'just transition' plan needs to be in place in order to mitigate the effect on workers in relevant sectors, and to build the quality, good, green jobs of the future. Green jobs need to be decent jobs. Workers and their unions want to be part of the solution," said Claude Généreux of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
"Canada can make a constructive contribution to the negotiations by supporting the creation of a new fund in order to help developing countries, especially the least developed and the most vulnerable ones, to adapt to climate change impacts and to limit their own greenhouse gas pollution," said Patrick Bonin of the Association québécoise de lutte à la pollution atmosphérique, a Quebec-based NGO.
"Canada has an opportunity to show leadership here in Cancun," said Amara Possian of the Canadian Youth Delegation. "Frankly, the expectations for Canada at these talks are low. In the past, our climate policy has been so shortsighted. Now, not only is our international reputation suffering, but our government is jeopardizing our future. We expect and demand more from our country."
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