Ambassador Guy St. Jacques is Canada’s chief negotiator. Once a day, he meets with Canadian participants and observers to up date us on the progress of negotiations. After a short talk he answers questions. Most of the questions show that those asking them are in strong disagreement with Canada’s position. The answers Guy supplies are skillfully crafted and rarely satisfy the questioner. We in the room recognize that he must support the party line. At one point he said “My marching orders are 17%”.
Many of the side events that I have attended show that the evidence is getting stronger and that climate change is occurring faster. I was blown away by how serious the problem is in the oceans. Studies of the effects of climate change on the oceans have accelerated recently; only one major report came out in 2007. The chemistry and the mechanisms of the oceans are apparently better understood than for the atmosphere. It has been over 55,000,000 years since the oceans have been his acidic. A mass extinction before the end of the century is a real possibility.
My questions to St. Jacques have focused around this changing reality of climate change and how Canada could be a more effective negotiator if we lead by example, assuming that we believe that real action is necessary and urgent. In the light of this evidence, is it not better for Canada to take unilateral action and lead by example instead holding back until others get onboard? Canada only contributes 2% of the emissions so withholding action is a very weak threat. However, since we are less than one half of 1% of the world’s population, we are polluting at over 4 times the average per person. We need to have stronger targets than the world average.
In response to my questions the ambassador has repeatedly referred to “carbon leakage” as a reason for not taking unilateral action. When business moves to other countries to avoid high penalties for carbon emissions it is called carbon leakage. However, carbon leakage only occurs when the “stick” approach is used. That would not happen if carbon emissions were discouraged through tax shifting or incentives. In Canada we have experienced businesses leaving the country to take advantage of incentives from other enlightened governments. We could call this “carrot leakage”.
By insisting that large developing countries commit to more cuts to their emissions before Canada commits to reductions is in effect asking them to impede their progress in bringing their poor out of poverty while we Canadians continue to enjoy our comfortable lifestyle and wasteful ways. In order to reduce carbon emissions far enough and soon enough to have some hope of preventing climate catastrophe all countries will need to drastically cut carbon emissions. By leading by example Canada would have a much better chance of helping achieve some agreement at this conference.
Fred TwilleyNominated Green Party of Canada Candidate,Sudbury Riding