Is Canada considering giving its oil and gas industries — particularly the tar sands — more leeway on greenhouse gas emissions?
A draft document obtained by CBC News and reported last night suggests the idea was to be proposed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper ahead of this week's climate summit. That report inspired a "lie-in" today by Canadian youth at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, where international climate negotiations are under way.
"Climate impacts are already being felt — in the North, on our coasts, in our forests. Climate change is the greatest risk posed to the security and prosperity of present and future generations. By their conscious failure to act on the climate crisis, the Canadian government is knowingly committing us to climate chaos," said Megan McKeen, 18, part of the Canadian youth delegation.
Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice, in Copenhagen for the talks, told the CBC today that he hadn't seen the draft but stressed that it did not represent the official position of the Harper government.
The draft documents suggested lowering the oil and gas industries' required emissions cuts from 48 megatons below business as usual to 15 megatons below business as usual instead. The outcome would be greenhouse gas reductions three times weaker than the government initially proposed in 2007, said Matthew Bramley, director of the Pembina Institute's Climate Change Program.
Emissions from the oil and gas sector as a whole could increase 37 percent above 2006 levels by 2020, as opposed to the initial requirement of a 6 percent cut, Bramley said. On top of that, companies could comply by paying into a technology fund instead of reducing their emissions. If those changes were made, Canada would miss the goals its leaders were bringing to Copenhagen by a huge margin, he said.
Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre told reporters in Copenhagen:
"We think it's unacceptable that one of the richest nations on the face of this planet is not willing to do its fair share when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We have one of the worst records of all 57 richest nations on the planet, second to last, just in front of Saudi Arabia."
The Harper government has proposed a national emissions target of 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2020, equivalent to about 3 percent below 1990 levels.
Also on Tuesday,
• A new plan surfaced for the deforestation program REDD that for the first time puts a dollar figure on the table, but it still lacks funding commitments from developed countries to cover the cost. Experts following the talks say the United States and Colombia are part of the problem.
• African nations saw no progress on their calls for more ambitious reduction targets from the developed world, said Raman Mehta of ActionAid. "The developed countries have been dragging their feet," Mehta said. Worse, added Dale Marshall of the Canada-based David Suzuki Foundation, developed countries are blaming the developing countries for the hold-up.
• Everyone is counting on the heads of state, who begin arriving on Wednesday, to change the game, said Kathrin Gutman of WWF.