Durban, South Africa: November 30, 2011

by Andrea Palframan, Watershed Sentinel

Canada was awarded the first Fossil of the Day award at the Durban COP17 by the Climate Action Network. Calling Canada ‘a bad joke’, CAN highlighted the Harper government’s contribution to setting weak targets and making empty plans in conferring the dubious honour.

The award comes on the heels of news leaked by CTV that Canada intends to scrap the Kyoto Protocol. This revelation, though shocking to many here in terms of both timing and content, has been foreshadowed in remarks by the federal environment minister Peter Kent, who has called Kyoto “irrelevant” and recently said pulling out of Kyoto is an option.

When asked whether she thought the news had been deliberately leaked to coincide with the start of the COP negotiations, Greenpeace’s Tzeporah Berman commented that “with the Harper government it’s always a question of whether they are just being ignorant, or whether they are being belligerent. In this case, I think it’s both.”

Elizabeth May of the Green Party called the move “an act of sabotage.”

Berman continues, “Canada is playing way above its weight by not only having the most regressive and destructive climate politices in the world, but working to weaken other countries’ policies. The Canadian government is spending more taxpayers money on lobbying against clean energy and climate progress around the world than they are spending on developing clean and safe solutions for Canadians.”

In a statement released today, the Council of Canadians, along with dozens of other civil society groups, say Canada has lost its moral compass on climate change. Since coming to power, the Harper government have tried to undermine and wriggle out of its Kyoto commitment by pointing to other parties – the United States – who have not adopted the targets to provide a legal loophole for their own non-compliance.

Seemingly happy to scrap Canada’s long-term global reputation for short-term gains, Canada’s government is racing to the back of the climate queue, setting an odious example for other polluting nations. As such, many here would rather Canada simply stay home.

“To say they are leaving Kyoto behind, and then they still want a deal – they know in effect that there won’t be a deal that they have to sign onto and they won’t have to reduce emissions,” says Berman. “Stephen, don’t even bother coming.”

Here in Durban, Canada is quickly becoming a focal point for anger. Says May, “Canada will become a pariah globally if it goes through with this.” The Canadian delegation should be bracing itself, as it is about to face South Africa’s famed social protests, which are among the world’s most prolific.