Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Climate Change - London snowstorm to Cancun talks

Good morning.

I’ve just been watching the A-Channel TV news. Something called a ‘streamer’ – a weather phenomenon having to do with moisture coming off a lake – has been passing along a zone west of London, Ontario. It’s built up 2 metre (6.5ft) drifts of snow along areas of highway between Strathroy and Sarnia. Seventy tractor trailer trucks and even more cars have been absolutely bogged down in the snow. People were stuck in their cars for 12 hours, 18 hours, more than 24 hours … and rescued by four wheel drive vehicles, snowmobiles and even military helicopter. It’s an unbelievable scenario. So near to here, but so different from the relatively light snow we’re having.

So I'm thinking more than a bit on climate change!

Some years ago, the term was global warming … meant to refer to fact that there’ll be an overall average worldwide temperature increase due to greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere through the many ways we overuse fossil fuels. I’d been concerned that wide media use of the term ‘climate change’ might be a glossing over of the warming that will have bad effects on agriculture, coastal flooding, Arctic and Antarctic ice melt.

Weather disturbances worldwide over the last few years have lead me to prefer that ‘climate change’ term, however. Increased numbers of hurricanes at sea and hitting land. Droughts where there shouldn’t be. Extremely heavy rainfall and flooding where there shouldn’t be. And, right here in southwestern Ontario, really weird snowfall … this month, in my city, my neighbourhood.

Anyone who’s read my blog from the beginning knows that I named it as homage to Elizabeth May’s terrific book How to Save the World in Your Spare Time (Key Porter, 2006). The book is a handbook on how to tackle city hall and other levels of government, how to make your voice heard, bring an issue forward and make change. It’s a how-to do a petition, get an issue into the news, target an audience, deal with media, get your point across, plan for the victory party and have some fun with it all. It’s a terrific book.

May, who just happens to be head of the Green Party of Canada ( was just in Cancun Mexico, as part of the Conference of Parties 16th talks about climate change (COP16). She – the Green Party – sent out an e-mail today in which she gives an overview of some of the positives of that meeting. Titled: Copenhagen to Cancun: what just happened?, she gives a much more readable summary than most newspapers did, at least for me, since I’m not versed in this

Here are some things I take from May’s blog (excerpts are in quotation marks, italicized) and other reading I’ve done. Basically, I find it incredible that 190 countries agreed to a document, the Long-term Cooperative Action document [ ] where it says that climate change is real and urgent and threatens us.

Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Espinosa (facilitator of the meeting) and her team managed to re-build some trust between participants as different groups worked on issues. Groups were not closed; people could cross over between them.

‘The documents do not by themselves obligate governments to take any new steps. What they do is build a strong foundation for agreements to be reached at COP17 next year in Durban, South Africa.’

The language is strong and unequivocal. In the LCA [Long-term Cooperative Action -see May's blog post, at the bottom for link] decision it is stated “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, and thus requires to be urgently addressed by all Parties.”

‘The decisions confirm that the science and IPCC advice is compelling. It commits to find ways to avoid allowing global average temperature from increasing to 2 degrees C, but recognizes the need to consider that the high point should be 1.5 degrees C. For the first time in a UN decision, it mandates that all nations should immediately determine the year by which GHG emissions should peak and begin to fall. It states all parties agree “that Parties should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.” It states that industrialized countries should reduce emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.’

‘Further it states that “addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift towards building a low-carbon society that offers substantial opportunities….”’

‘It deals extensively with the need for adaptation (creating a Cancun Adaptation Framework and Adaptation committee), for financing, it creates a new Green Climate Fund, as well as funding to help arrest deforestation. There are many detailed elements. Not all were great. Many were disappointed to see Carbon Capture and Storage added to acceptable technologies for the Clean Development Mechanism'

‘New and welcome elements were language recognizing the importance of human rights in implementing climate policy, respect for indigenous peoples, women, and gender-related issues, and a clear victory for labour in the reference to the need for a “just transition.” Cities and sub-national governments finally get the respect they deserve as partners.

‘What does it mean?

It means Kyoto is still alive, but the parties are not committed to a second commitment period when Kyoto’s first period ends in 2012. It just means there could be a second commitment period. Anchoring of voluntary pledges from the Copenhagen Accord may fit into the language of the LCA text, but the Copenhagen Accord targets are laughably weak. Hence, the language calling for industrialized countries to “raise the level of ambition” in their targets.’

There’s still a lot to be done, internationally and here.

Here in Canada, we need to communicate with every level of government and every individual we can.

Canada – represented by Environment Minister John Baird - again won the Colossal Fossil Award for putting up the most obstructions to events at the climate change meetings. As Elizabeth May says, before the next round of talks in Durban, SA in 2011: ‘we have to get a change in our government’s position, or get a new government. Canada stepping up to commit to a second commitment period, even on weaker targets, could help shift the balance to saving Kyoto.’

I haven’t read a lot about the climate change talks until just lately. I’m learning. Big topic. But, as always, I’m trying to locate positives which can be built upon.

Best regards to all of you,

Why’s Woman


Note: And putting this at the bottom of this post doesn’t mean this is unimportant! I just couldn’t figure out another place to put it.

One country, Bolivia, did not put its name to the Cancun document because it believed it was not strong enough. At the last climate change meetings in Copenhagen, Bolivia took the lead in producing a document called the Cochabamba accord, a strong statement about the need for economic and environment change. I’ve read excerpts from this (will find the link) and find I nod my head in agreement with it. At the Cancun meetings, Bolivia was given its due opportunity to state its position. Concensus decision making protocol does say that in situations where everyone is given the chance to voice an opinion, a ‘concensus’ decision is said to be reached when everyone else agrees and a disagreement is registered. So, it can be said that there was concensus on the Cancun document. I don’t doubt that many individuals and countries will go to Durban to bring an agreement that has many more of Bolivia’s ideas.

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