May calls on Prime Minister to change course at UN climate talks

OTTAWA – Green Party leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, held a press conference today to explain the importance of the UN Climate Conference (COP18) unfolding in Doha, Qatar, until December 7 and call on the Canadian delegation to participate in good faith.

“At this conference, even more than the previous 17, the carbon-reduction negotiations will have a real sense of urgency – as nations negotiate a follow-up to the Kyoto protocol after a year of destructive, often tragic, climate-change-related weather,” said May. “I sincerely regret that I cannot be there at this historic time.”

May cancelled her planned participation in Doha at the last minute when it became clear that her 80 substantive amendments to the Harper Conservatives’ second omnibus budget implementation bill would be in the House of Commons over the next few days.

In Doha, countries are aiming at an agreement by 2015 to establish a new global, climate-change protocol by 2020. As well, countries are negotiating the second phase of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which targeted emission reductions for developed countries between 2008-2012, commencing January 1, 2013.

At last year’s UN Climate Conference, in Durban, South Africa, the European Union, other European countries, and Australia agreed to participate in phase two. Russia, Japan, and Canada refused to. (The US never ratified Kyoto.) On the day after the conference, Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Canada would drop out of Kyoto completely. This comes into effect on December 15.

“Incredibly, despite having announced our legal withdrawal from Kyoto, Environment Minister Kent plans to participate in the Kyoto process as though we were still a full party,” said May. “After turning their backs on the entire process, what will they have to offer? My fear is that, as with past years, they will obstruct the proceedings.”

The Green Party leader said it was a bad indication of things to come that Canada received the Fossil of the Day award Wednesday after Kent refused to contribute new funding to help poorer countries tackle climate change, in spite of a commitment at the 2009 UN conference in Copenhagen to do so.

May pointed out that scientists are now concluding that the speed of climate warming is faster than they had predicted. Canada and most of the world committed to reducing emissions to ensure global climate would stabilize at less than a 2-degree increase above pre-industrial levels. Instead, scientists are warning we could stabilize at 5 or 6 degrees. This will spell disaster for civilization.

In Canada’s north, not only the ice cap is melting, but, in the Arctic and throughout much of the Canadian boreal, water once trapped as ice in glaciers, permanent snowpack, and permafrost has begun to melt.

The “refrigeration effect” of the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories on the rest of the continent is declining, and we may have lost up to 300 glaciers in the Canadian Rockies between 1920 and 2005. Based on September averages, water levels in Lake Huron have declined by 115 centimetres between 1997 and 2012. Over the last twenty years, the increased area of algal blooms and growing presence of toxic cyanobacteria in Lake Winnipeg are a warning of larger eco-hydrological problems throughout the region.

“Given the already disastrous impacts of climate change in Canada, I hope the Harper Conservatives find it in themselves to reverse their previous conference direction and join with the EU and others to, in effect, save the planet,” concluded May. “Even a recent issue of the respected business magazine Bloomberg Businessweek stated: “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.’”


Media Contact:
Debra Eindiguer