Whiplash for Canada at COP25

Protests against Canada in Madrid, Spain. Dec. 11, 2019. Photo by Indigenous Climate Action / Allan Lissner

Pity the poor staffers assigned to Canada’s negotiating team at COP25, they must be suffering whiplash.

Walk the halls of this sputtering summit and you’ll find UN delegates gratefully heralding Canada as a bulwark against the global tide of authoritarians and extraction populists ignoring climate calamity. You’ll run into climate advocates praising Canada’s pledge to go zero carbon. But step into a side conference and you’ll find a panel of carbon experts PowerPointing the pollution impacts of Canada’s rapidly expanding oil and gas industry. They’ve ranked Canada 55th out of the 61 biggest countries in the world, rating our performance “very low.”

Need some fresh air? Outside, activists from every corner of the world are protesting Teck Resources’ proposed mega-mine in the Alberta oilsands which the feds need to nix or approve in the next couple months. Canada’s delegates would probably rather stick near the negotiating rooms where observers praise them for pushing stronger international climate rules. Or maybe head over to the finance panel where the United Nations rep is showcasing Canada’s Just Transition strategy for coal workers as a model for the world to follow.

After a miserable day mired in the inanities of United Nations procedures, you might want to head over to the Canadian embassy for a quiet drink. But it might not be so quiet because there you will find Indigenous youth who have occupied the reception area in protest, calling out the government for authorizing pipelines despite First Nations opposition, and approving mega projects which threaten their homes and future.

Indigenous youth occupy the Canadian embassy in Madrid, Spain. Dec. 11, 2019. Photo National Observer

 

Canada’s experience at the Madrid COP is a bit of a microcosm of the country’s predicament. Canadians overwhelmingly want more ambitious action against climate change. Two-thirds of voters made that clear in the last election.

The federal government has brought in a package of climate legislation better than most in the world. Our electricity is among the greenest anywhere and is moving towards zero carbon. Provinces with good EV programs are selling electric cars as fast as dealers can get them on the lots.

In fact, 85% of the country is pretty much on track to meet the climate targets Canada pledged to the international community.

And yet, despite our tiny percentage of the world population, Canada is the ninth largest climate polluter in the world. The main reason is that we’re a top-five producer of oil and gas. Back when most of us hadn’t realized the climatic dangers of burning fossil fuels, we built an industry that is a true wonder of engineering and technology.

We should have recognized, even then, that the foundation of this engineering marvel was crushing human rights while poisoning, fragmenting and, in many cases, obliterating the land and territories of Indigenous people.

But most Canadians benefited greatly from the wealth generated by the fossil fuel boom. What’s different today is that we are belatedly reckoning with the brutalities of colonialism. And now we do know — we know the climate impacts of burning oil, gas and coal. But we are only just beginning to reckon with these fossil fuel impacts. We are phasing out coal use domestically. But with oil and gas, we are doing exactly the opposite — we are doubling down, massively expanding the industry year after year. Fossil fuel production has levelled off in most countries, but it is still growing globally. About 85 per cent of that global expansion of new oil and gas projects is happening in the U.S. and Canada.  MORE

One activist on her decision to shun Trudeau: ‘A refusal to sit idle’

Riley Yesno: Why absence and silence was so powerful at Daughters of the Vote


Trudeau looks to the audience for a question following his speech to Daughters of the Vote in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday April 3, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

“Your seat is your power. By giving up your seat you’re giving up your power”.

That’s what Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality, told me and the other two dozen or so delegates from Daughters of the Vote, who protested in the House of Commons by walking out on Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and turning our backs on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on April 3.

Run by the non-profit organization Equal Voice Canada, the Daughters of the Vote program is an initiative that brings together 338 women, gender-fluid and non-binary folk—one from every federal riding in Canada—to engage with women in politics, sit and speak in the House of Commons, and provide a platform for young leaders to have their voices amplified.

Although many of my fellow delegates and I didn’t say a word during our protests earlier this week, I think our messages were certainly heard.

The peaceful action attracted unanticipated media attention as reporters and journalists swarmed many of my colleagues following our exit from the House. The main question they wanted answered: Why?

Read more: The fall of the feminist Prime Minister

While I cannot speak on behalf of any of my peer’s individual motives, I know that some said they were prompted, at least in part, by the ejection of former ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus.Others said they protested in response to the policies, programs, and beliefs held by  Scheer and  Trudeau that have violent implications for their communities; such as Scheer’s anti-2SLGBTQ+ stances on marriage equality, or the Trudeau government’s sale of weaponry to countries like Saudi Arabia and large-scale environmental offences for example. Several people simply saw others taking action, and knew that this was a time to enact meaningful allyship and show solidarity. MORE

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Daughters of the Vote discuss participating in politics, MPs being kicked out of caucus

Canada can’t rely on luck to protect northern waters

Image result for Canada can't rely on luck to protect northern waters
Tanker Jana Degagnes under tow by the Canadian Coast Guard on March 22, 2019 after breakdown in the Cabot Strait. Photo from the Canadian Coast Guard
Last week marked the thirtieth anniversary of the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill. As director of the largest, local conservation group in Alaska back then, my life was immediately overtaken by trying to compel response to the spill, manage clean-up of oiled marine life, and search for long term policy fixes.

Typically, this anniversary is a time when I reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go to protect the safety of our seas and mariners, especially in northern waters.

But, instead I was transfixed by a narrowly averted disaster as the disabled Viking Sky cruise ship rolled in heavy seas off the coast of Norway. With over 1,300 passengers and crew at risk, a dramatic rescue was launched, lifting close to five hundred passengers one-by-one from the foundering ship to a helicopter battling strong winds. Nine crew members of a nearby cargo ship also had to be plucked from the sea when they were forced to abandon ship in the extreme conditions.

At the same time last week, the Canadian Coast Guard had to dispatch two icebreakers to assist a tanker loaded with 8,000 tons of oil products. The tanker had lost its steering after its rudder was damaged by heavy ice in Cabot Strait off the southwest coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In both cases passengers and the marine environment got lucky. Response equipment was in the area. No one killed, no fuel spilled.

But with Arctic ship traffic on the increase, we can’t afford to rely on luck. MORE