Civil society interventions
Meeting with Minister Peter Kent
December 6, 2012
John Stone- IPCC scientist
Scientists have been warning governments of the potential threat of climate change for almost half a century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 that: “Warming of the climate system is now unequivocal”. The scientific community is now concerned that we are running out of time to avoid serious impacts to our economy, society and environment.
Concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere are now at levels which we have not seen for close to a million years. Despite all the IPCC reports and years of negotiations, concentrations have steadily increased. If we continue on the current growth trend we could see by 2100 concentrations three times what they were at the beginning of the industrial revolution. This year’s emissions are the largest ever; the economic troubles of the past few years have made barely any difference.
There are now signs that climate change may be accelerating. The rate of change of global annual mean temperatures has got progressively faster. Sea-ice in the Arctic is melting quicker than models predict. As two Environment Canada scientists just reported, snow cover extent is declining as fast as, if not faster than, the sea-ice. There is good evidence that our emissions have raised the probability of more frequent and more severe extreme events – we have loaded the dice.
To achieve the agreed 2 oC target, global emissions will have to peak by the middle of this decade and be at least 50% of current levels by mid-century. Unfortunately, we saw a 0.8 oC increase during the last century and there is almost another 1 oC in the pipeline due to past emissions. With current emission trends we are on our way to a 4oC World.
The scientific community urges Ministers not to ignore the evidence; the problem is well defined; we now need to focus on solutions; further delay is not a responsible option.
Joy Kennedy – Poverty, Wealth and Ecological Justice Coordinator, The United Church of Canada and Chair, Commission on Justice and Peace, The Canadian Council of Churches
Faith communities are concerned about the lack of progress in the climate change negotiations and are monitoring them closely. Regrettably none of our leaders is in Doha, but the Canadian Council of Churches has sponsored our partner from El Salvador, one of the most climate vulnerable countries. The CCC reminds the Minister of our discussions in Durban, and urges him to “move to achieve better results.”
Climate solutions must “draw on the moral and spiritual resources of the world’s religious traditions. At root climate change is symptomatic of a spiritual deficit: excessive self-interest, destructive competition, and greed have given rise to unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. Humanity’s relationship with the environment is distorted by actions that compromise the welfare of future generations of life.”
We continue to call for leadership and action from our government “to put the long-term interest of humanity and the planet ahead of short-term economic and national concerns by pursuing the best interests of all. There is one human family and one Earth – our common homeland. How long can we barter this priceless inheritance?”
Climate justice requires Canada to “shoulder a greater share of the economic burden because of access to greater means, and our historic role. We have a moral imperative to act.”
Be assured of our prayers for wisdom and courage for you and all in Doha.
Mikey Etherington – Aboriginal Youth Initiatives, OFIFC
Wa chay. I am swampy Cree from James Bay, ON. In regards to climate change, my people can tell you that yes, it is real. Growing up I was taught the ways if the land and our culture relied heavily upon on our relationship to the land. My parents, grandparents and generations before them lived in a time where knowledge of the bush was important. It was a way to survive. There were no laws back then, only natural law. Presently, there are no fish left in some rivers and some are completely dry, from climate change & environmental injustices. These are changes my grandfather sees. My grandfather told our family when we were younger, saying that when the Great Depression happened in the 1930’s no one in the north knew about it because they knew how to live off the land. It shows our way of life can survive and persevere. The economy is not the basis of survival. Indigenous knowledge is relevant today and it is our holistic relationship to all things living and non-living. It is a way of life and understanding that is In order with Mother Earth. Government actions are destroying our culture. Respect us. All First Nations are willing to share & teach, but are you ready to listen?
Mima Mendoza – The Philippines
In September of 2009, Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma made landfall one after the other in the northern part of the Philippines, killing almost one thousand people and displacing more than 600,000. Total damages were estimated to be at $240 million. In December of last year, right after COP17 in Durban, Tropical Storm Washi decided to pay the Philippines a visit, causing devastating flashfloods in the south, an area that, under normal climate circumstances, does not experience typhoons. Almost 1,300 people were killed, 450,000 displaced, and incurred almost $50 million in damages. Just three months ago, a powerful southwest monsoon ambushed the country, killing almost a hundred, once again displacing hundreds of thousands, and incurring almost $20 million in damages. And if you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, Typhoon Bopha is currently ravaging the Philippines. Almost 300 people have been killed and almost 400 are missing from landslides caused by the storm. The Filipino people are counting more dead as I speak.
Brian Kohler – IndustriAll Global Union
Minister Kent, my name is Brian Kohler of IndustriAll Global Union, and today I’m speaking on behalf of the Canadian and international labour movement.
Your government’s failure to develop a sustainable industrial policy for Canada puts present jobs at risk and future jobs offshore. I personally know young, highly skilled and educated Canadians, who cannot get decent jobs. I know more mature Canadians who are being laid off from the very industries that Canada will need to build a sustainable future. We need strong investments in greener jobs. We need research and development in green technologies. We need a legislative and regulatory system that creates a clear incentive for business to do the right things. And we need a Just Transition for workers that will transform existing jobs and ensure that working families and their children do not pay the price for the greed and incompetence of others. Minister, by addressing all of the dimensions of sustainability Canada can lead the world out of the climate crisis while ensuring that the transition is fair and just for workers, their families, and the communities that depend on them. Time is short, but the opportunity still exists to give the next generation of Canadians the hope of a decent job and a sustainable future. That great transition must start now.
For many years now, the labour movement has urged Canada to help build a fair, global and ambitious climate regime. We supported Canada’s ratification of the Kyoto Accord, which your government has now breeched. But a global climate architecture based on science, and rules, remains fundamental if we are to make the transition to a sustainable future, a transition that must now be rapid, but above all, just. We all have a role to play in bringing that about. As trade unionists, we speak for today’s workers – and future workers. Sustainability is the goal. Just Transition is the path. There are no jobs on a dead planet. As a senior minister of a rich country, your task here in Qatar is to give hope, not destroy it. How will you be remembered?
Disappointment is not nearly a strong enough word to express how I, and the millions of people that I speak for, feel about Canada’s recent performance on climate and environmental issues. But it is not too late to change that. I call on you, someone who has in the past shown an understanding of the threat of global warming, to play a constructive role in instructing your government colleagues and bringing them back on side with Canadian workers and the rest of humanity.
Yaaseen Ahmed – Maldivian Youth Climate Network
Dear Mr. Peter Kent,
We are writing on behalf of the Maldivian Youth Climate Network striving to empower young people to address climate change with a vision of building a resilient Maldives. We have been fortunate to attend the COP18 and see firsthand how the negotiations are progressing. We are deeply hurt and in shock with the lack of regard for the rights of our people, who have least contributed to climate change but are facing the worst consequences. If you don’t commit to a drastic cut in reductions of GHG emissions you are diplomatically committing to a mass genocide pact.
Just a gentle reminder, our islands are tiny and just 1 meter above the mean sea level. With the current rate of sea-level rise and ocean acidification, if we don’t halt the global temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius, our islands would disappear in the next 40 years. We are already experiencing negative impacts of climate change on a daily basis as more than 90% of our basic commodities are imported. With extreme weather events increasing, farms and factories being destroyed all over the world, the poor are becoming poorer. This is just a fraction of what we are suffering.
We beg for you to commit for drastic reductions in your country’s GHG emissions.
Hoping with desperation,
Yaseen, Ula and Aisha
Amanda Nesheiwat – Hurricane Sandy victim
My name is Amanda Nesheiwat, and I work as the Environmental Coordinator for the town of Secaucus NJ. My community was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, not as badly as other parts of NJ, but still as bad as anything we had ever seen. Climatologists have confirmed that the intensity of hurricane Sandy was due to the 2 to 5 degree increase in the surface of our oceans. People lost their homes, and their ability to get themselves back on their feet. Normal life was put on hold for over a month. The towns Mayor, my boss, who had lost his own home, became frantic looking for food and water to help his constituents. I spent two weeks making and taking about 500 emergency calls and as panic subsided, people started coming to me as the environmental coordinator with questions about climate change.
I don’t want there to be another disaster for more people to realize that our energy choices shape the world that our children will inherit.
Young people are fighting for climate justice in every way we can because climate change is the issue of our generation. We are working in social movements, the private sector, or in my case the public sector.
Current generations understand that the future will look very different but it is up to us to determine whether there will be positive or negative changes.
Daniel T’seleie – Northern First Nations
The Arctic is warming much more quickly than the rest of the globe, and the effects on our communities are palpable. I could speak of the impacts to infrastructure, transportation systems, food security, ecosystems, or human health, but details on these subjects alone cannot communicate the gravity of the situation.
The impacts must be described in relation to our cultures as Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic. Our cultures, languages, and spiritual beliefs are intimately tied to the natural environment. Something as innocuous as a rock on a river bank to you is a sacred and spiritual site to us. What you would describe as ice stuck to a lake bed has a specific and meaningful word in our language.
As climate change alters and destroys the natural environment, irreparable damage is caused to our cultures and languages. These are impacts that cannot be adapted to or quantified in dollar amounts. No policy but serious and immediate mitigation can address these impacts.
The Canadian state’s wilful inaction on climate change constitutes a cultural genocide against our people. After decades of residential schools, forced relocations, and dog slaughters, Canada’s policies on climate change form another chapter of genocide and colonization in the history of Arctic communities.