A climate negotiator’s tearful plea

The world’s most poor and vulnerable nations experience climate change as a present reality, while we tend to talk about it as a future abstraction. They’re already suffering, but can’t do much about it. We could do something about it, but we’re not yet suffering.

I became aware of that distinction in Copenhagen during the COP15 climate talks three years ago. At the time, I wrote:

The context of the conversation that’s taking place in Copenhagen is entirely different from that in North America. Instead of arguing about if climate change is a real and serious concern or predicting future consequences if we don’t act, the narrative here is that dangerous climate change is already a reality

Today I listened to a man from the island nation of Tuvalu, which is emerging at this meeting as a symbol of why we must act. The highest point in Tuvalu is 4.5 meters above sea level. In other words, unless we aggressively reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, this nation will slip beneath the waves. Negotiators from Tuvalu have been strongly pushing for tough, binding targets in plenary, and the tiny state has captured the imagination of many of the NGO delegates, particularly the youth.

Through this lens, the Canadian government’s pathetic non-participation in the negotiations is seen as not just embarrassing, but cruel. The world’s poorer countries believe they are already suffering, and that people are already dying, because of the actions of the world’s richer countries. For them it is as if the United States, Canada, and Europe are turning a giant tap that slowly drowns them while they cry out in vain. The immorality becomes blatant and blaring. And yet they continue to chose hope over anger; it’s remarkable.

I was reminded of that today when I saw this article and video of the lead negotiator from the Philippines issuing a tearful plea to the COP18 plenary in Doha. Three years later, and all that’s changed is Canada’s climate plan is more pathetic and lacking than ever. In 2009 there was lots of criticism that the government’s targets were way too low, today we’re not even on track to meet those targets.

We didn’t talk about this much in the last federal election. Let’s do better next time. Talk is the least we can do.

2 thoughts on “A climate negotiator’s tearful plea

  1. Here’s the problem, as I see it.

    There is a somewhat one-sided (at least from appearances) request for sacrifice.

    Clearly, the biggest push for a response for climate change comes from the sort of left side of politics.. and the biggest resistence comes from the right. For obvious reasons.

    Carbon tax, or other measures to diminish carbon emissions tend to be directed primarily towards a certain segment of the economy – business interests relating to oil, gas and coal. It also tends to impact most those areas of Canada that do not have high levels of hydro-electric production and who, therefore, rely upon gas or coal to generate electricity.

    So – there are those in Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan that are somewhat cynical over the effort to minimize co2 production as they believe they are being asked to carry the greatest part of the burden – their livelihood will be most directly impacted.

    I’m one of those people. I live in Alberta, and our economy, obviously, depends greatly upon fossil fuels. I feel I am somewhat understandably worried over a proposal from Ottawa that my family should feel the pain of efforts to reduce carbon more than a family in the GTA.

    I, and others like me, might be less resistent if it appeared the impact would be offset by other gains.

    Lower tax rates. A reworked transfer program, allowing Alberta for example to send less money to Ottawa. The message being – “Yes, we know you will have less income, but in part, it will be offset by less money moving east.”

    That sort of discussion, I would suggest, would be helpful.

    But – effectively saying, “We (us proper-thinking types in central Canada) think that YOU need to make do with less to help the world”, is for obvious reasons, falling on deaf ears.

    Just something to think about.

  2. PolicyReporter @55: “skeptics” or “deniers” those who present a sound-science basis for their deamgreesint with the computer models that predict warming.The interesting thing about most of the skeptics and deniers is their preoccupation with a very limited range of the available data indicating climate change.We can all argue about modelling until the cows come home. Models are only ever a simplified construction of what the modellers think are the main variables. They indicate trends, IFF you have correctly identified the dominant variables and their interactions.The bottom line is reality, as Paul Norton indicates @62. Never mind the modelling, what is actually occurring?While the skeptics and deniers work themselves into a lather over the modelling and cherry-picking a few segments of data that support their argument, we can measure climate change happening before our eyes in MANY different fields of science.How long can they stand on their sand castles, cover their eyes, and say the tide isn’t coming in, it isn’t, it isn’t, it isn’t ???

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