Photo: UN climate summit must get the ball rolling

By Ryan Kadowaki, Climate Change Program Coordinator

The 16th UN Climate Change Conference begins today in Cancun, Mexico. Unlike last year's negotiations in Copenhagen, which only resulted in a voluntary political declaration, this year's talks need to map out the way forward to a fair, ambitious, and binding agreement in 2011. Negotiations are expected to focus on the transparency of emission-reduction efforts in all countries and on financial support for climate action in the developing world.

Although it's hard to believe, our country arrives on the world stage without a plan in place to reduce its own carbon emissions. In fact, since last year's summit the Canadian government has managed to weaken its own reduction target by five per cent. Canada is the eighth-largest emitter in the world.

Will our delegation show up and reluctantly follow the lead of others as has been the government's position lately, preferring to wait for U.S. policy rather than dictate its own? Or will it take on a more antagonistic role? Last year Canada took home the Colossal Fossil Award, presented by international NGOs to the country with the poorest performance at the summit.

Expectations were lowered even further after the Senate killed the country's only piece of proposed climate change legislation without debate. The Climate Change Accountability Act would have made the government of Canada accountable to its international climate change obligations. Canadians responded in anger and in numbers, sending more than 16,000 messages to the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and the leader of the government in the Senate from our website alone.

But the past year hasn't been all bad news. We have seen some Canadian provinces continue to show leadership in addressing climate change. A number of municipalities are also putting in place carbon-reduction strategies. Last week, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver were among 138 cities to sign a pact in Mexico City to agree to measurable, reportable and verifiable emission reductions. We've also seen significant increases in investment in and implementation of clean energy in many parts of the world.

Clearly the UN Conference and international action are critical components of addressing climate change, but they aren't the whole story. Grassroots change has already seeded developments at the community, business and provincial level, and we can all work to create more success stories in 2011.

For more information on the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, please visit:

Climate Action Network Canada


November 29, 2010

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