AS the governments of 200 nations began to gather in Copenhagen for a conference on climate change on Monday, there was absolutely no doubt about who is going to be the bad boy of the meeting. In fact, Blame Canada! might as well be Copenhagen’s official theme song.
One of the reasons that Canada is a climate culprit is its failure to meet the climate reduction goals it agreed to at Kyoto. Canada is not the only villain, of course, but with the increasing determination of the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to stand firm on the development of the Alberta oil sands and its continuing insistence that environmental sacrifices cannot interfere with economic development, there is hardly anyone who is not willing to regard Canada as the Little Whipping Boy of Copenhagen. While Canada may be singled out for abuse, the climate conference appears to surrounded by confusion, which does not bode well for a final conclusion that will take the world beyond Kyoto. Without a final agreement at Copenhagen, we are told, we may have lost the war on climate change.
That, at least, was how the Copenhagen conference was first announced, as a vital step forward from the confusion and fraction that surrounded the Kyoto accords.
There was never a great deal of confidence that it could accomplish that, however, particularly as long as the United States continued to insist that the emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil—and they are giants—pay their fair part of the cost of reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions.
At the Singapore summit of the Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation, when no agreement was struck to prepare for Copenhagen, it was widely believed that a final deal was impossible.
No but, it seems, is too big for these talks. The collapse of the Singapore negotiations triggered a succession of events—China and India agreed to negotiate on climate change; Barack Obama agreed to attend with some new proposals; and Mr. Harper said that he, too, would come to negotiate Canada’s position; and then thousands of stolen e-mails cast doubts on climate change science. There are still two weeks of talks to play out at Copenhagen, so who knows what will happen—but it’s enough to make your head whirl.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2009 A10