Friday, September 19, 2014

Ottawa – Donald Lafleur

World leaders were invited by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to New York to attend a Climate Summit on September 23rd. The one-day event will serve to launch international climate negotiations. The Heads of State will meet to discuss actions taken by their countries in order to phase-out fossil-fuel-based economies and to promote the finalization of a new international treaty in Paris in 2015. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not attend the Summit. It is sad to say but we believe that this is a good thing. Political leaders attending the event want to work towards climate protection. Since Prime Minister Harper shows no interest in such an initiative, it is best that he stay home.

All Canadians are dismayed by the present situation. We can be part of the solution. Considering the importance of what is at stake, we would have wanted the Prime Minister to not only attend the Summit but also lead the way on the issue.

If we want to change the situation, we must all encourage politicians at all levels of government – municipal, provincial and federal – to make sure that climate protection becomes a priority.

Canada must sign the international climate agreement with specific targets in order to show the whole world that the problem is serious and that we are doing our part to solve it. Canada must at least announce, during the next United Nations bargaining sessions to be held in Lima, Peru, next December, the additional actions that it will take to reach the goal for 2020 that it set for itself in Copenhagen in 2009. Without those actions, the target will be missed, and by far. Canada could have announced those actions during the Climate Summit in New York, but it will unfortunately not take that opportunity. The best we can do is to encourage our government to state to the rest of the planet how it intends to meet its goal by 2020.

Under the current international negotiation process, countries are expected to announce ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions long before the last negotiating session in Paris in December 2015. In order to make sure that the negotiations are concluded on time, countries are expected to announce what they are ready to commit at the beginning of 2015. Canada will then announce its commitment and demonstrate how it plans to reach the long-term objective that it had felt essential for climate changes to remain within a manageable risk limit, i.e. emission reductions between 80% and 90% by 2015. Canada’s target for the Paris agreement is reaching levels 35% lower than those of 1990 by 2025 and 45% lower by 2030. Canada must also commit to provide major financial and technological support and to reinforce adjustment to climate changes and the capacity of developing countries to reduce GHG emissions.

We expect the federal government to support the efforts made by the provinces to meet a legally-binding national target. We want the federal government to facilitate cooperation throughout Canada and on the international level as well as exchanges and investments in renewable energy so that we can move away from the use of obsolete fossil fuels. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to act.

Progress has been slow. Dangerously slow. The time has come to step up the pace. We are ingenious, creative and competent. We have the ability to change things. We simply need to act.

Donald Lafleur is an Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress, which brings together most of Canada’s national and international unions, the ten provincial and two territorial federations of labour and dozens of district labour councils. Through these organizations, the CLC represents over three million union members who work in all occupations and in all parts of Canada.