Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Green Party's Fred Twilley at COP-16 in Cancun, Mexico

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 16th Conference of the Parties (COP-16) is now underway in Cancun, Mexico! Sudbury’s own Fred Twilley, nominated candidate for the Green Party, will be attending this conference. He’ll be bringing an important message to other international attendees: despite the dismal actions of the Canadian government to do anything meaningful to combat climate change, average Canadians still care about finding a way forward.

Fred had the opportunity to speak with concerned Sudburians earlier this month at a non-partisan Climate Change Forum. At that forum, Fred committed to taking the important messages of Sudburians to other international delegates, to let them know that we in the community of Greater Sudbury care about climate change, and we too, are looking for workable solutions. Fred will be speaking with other delegates about local success stories which his counterparts might have experienced. Fred has committed to bringing their ideas back home to Sudbury, and sharing those experiences with Sudburians in January, 2011, at a follow-up forum.

There’s a lot happening here in Greater Sudbury with regards to tackling climate change. Earlier, in October, the first international association of the Citizens Climate Lobby was formed right here in Sudbury, thanks to the awesome efforts of Cathy Orlando of Laurentian University. Since then, at least two other Canadian associations have taken root. The Sudbury association has been participating in the Million Letter March – Canada initiative, which urges Canadians to write to our Members of Parliament with the message that we need to do more to combat climate change.

The Nickel District Conversation Authority-led Greater Sudbury Climate Change Consortium has also been actively meeting throughout the past year. Look to this organization to be involved in a few exciting ventures over the next year.

There has also been exciting news from our business community, with renewable energy initiatives being discussed, and with new renewable energy businesses locating in Greater Sudbury bringing green-collar jobs to our community.

Clearly, people in Greater Sudbury are becoming more aware of the impacts that a changing climate will have on our community. There’s a growing understanding that we need to take a very close look at many things in our personal lives, and try to figure out how we can do our part to minimize our impacts on climate. We understand that actions and efforts must be co-ordinated between all levels of government, and with all sectors of our business. Together, we can make real progress to reduce emissions, if there’s a will to do so.

And there is a will to do so, on a personal level. Last week, an Environics Research poll was released which shows that our Conservative government is considerably out of step with the will of a vast majority of Canadians on the need for urgent action on climate change. The poll reports that over 80% of Canadians believe that an emphasis on consumerism and economic growth is contributing to a changing climate. As a result, Canadians acknowledge that we must shift our economic, social and environmental priorities to deal with the climate crisis. 70% of Canadians even volunteered that Canada should reduce its military spending in an effort to tackle climate change.

Our Conservative government, however, continues to thwart the expressed will of a majority of Canadians at every opportunity. While Fred Twilley was hearing from concerned Sudburians at the December 16th Climate Change Forum, the unelected Conservative-dominated Senate was in the process of killing Bill C-311, the NDP sponsored, Liberal and Bloc supported Climate Change Accountability Act. Conservative Senators took this action to kill the bill without any debate, despite the fact that a majority of elected MP’s in the House of Commons passed the bill.

Further, in the past week, an increasing number of reports have come out in the mainstream media that our tax dollars are being used by the government to lobby against climate change policies and programs in United States and elsewhere! These shocking revelations, and the actions of Harper-appointed Conservative Senators, along with Canada’s sending a part-time Minister to COP-16 in Cancun, clearly represent a desire on the part of our government to do nothing at all to address climate change.

Personal and local actions are very important if we’re going to have any hope at all to reduce our carbon emissions. However, our upper levels of government must also be very committed to emissions reduction. So far, Harper and the Conservatives have chosen to champion inaction, claiming that Canada will be economically disadvantaged if it acted to reduce emissions on its own. This argument, however, doesn’t hold water. The proof that it’s a cop-out argument can be seen in the vibrant and growing economies of European nations like Sweden, Germany and Denmark, who have been “greening” their economies and growing highly-skilled jobs for workers. Indeed, these countries, along with South Korea and China, have begun exporting their green technologies abroad to places like Canada, who are now forced to play catch-up.

As our federal government continues to shore up the fossil fuel industry through billions of dollars in investments and deferred taxation every year, renewable energy initiatives have largely remained uncompetitive in Canada. It’s absurd that our Conservative government continues to subsidize rich oil companies, which are mostly foreign-owned, at the expense of green energy start-ups, which are in many cases home-grown initiatives, which seek to use technology developed right here in Canada. It’s no wonder that an increasing number of Canadians are beginning to question in just whose interests our government is making decisions.

I’ve received word that Fred Twilley has arrived safely in Cancun. As many of you know, travelling to by air is a very carbon-intensive form of transportation. That’s why the Sudbury Federal Green Party Association will be off-setting Fred’s air travel through a donation to the Kapuskasing Forest Project, a Carbon Zero project. While it may seem ironic to some that international leaders are travelling to Mexico by air, generating significant carbon emissions in the process, the fact is that gatherings like COP-16 are the best way for international agreements to move forward. They are a necessary step in achieving international consensus in dealing with climate change.

Like it or not, we are all in this together on Planet Earth; what one nation does with its carbon emissions is going to impact everyone else. Historically, we here in Canada have certainly contributed more than our fair share of emissions into our atmosphere, and we’ve received the economic benefits and an unparalleled quality of life for having done so. Today, per capita, Canada remains one of the dirtiest nations in the world when it comes to emissions. We must make a sincere contribution to do more in the fight against climate change. We owe it to our families, our descendants, and the world.

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