Canada has long prided itself on being a progressive leader in North America.
But that image is changing in the eyes of some world leaders who are concerned about Canada’s regression in climate policy. As the country threatens to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol at the Durban climate talks, and pushes aggressively to extract and export carbon-intensive tar sands crude, Canadian officials are facing increasing pressure on the international stage.
This week, a group of African leaders is issuing a plea to Canada to consider the environmental and social consequences of the country’s energy policy. The group includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent South African activist who has been a leading voice on climate justice.
The group has issued a new ad in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper that slams the Canadian government for moving backward in addressing climate change — explaining the social consequences that stretch far beyond the country’s borders:
Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection. Today you’re home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change. For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death issue. By dramatically increasing Canada’s global warming pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating drought and famine today and in the years to come. It’s time to draw the line. We call on Canada to change course and be a leader in clean energy and to support international action to reduce global warming pollution.
The coalition, called Draw the Line, is being led by a leading environmental advocacy organization in Canada, Environmental Defence. Other organizations include Greenpeace, the National Resources Defense Fund and the Sierra Club. African leaders behind the campaign also include Jay Naidoo, a former cabinet member during Nelson Mandela’s presidency, and Zwelinzima Vavi, a general secretary from the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
While advocates step up their campaign efforts, negotiators are also expressing concern over Canada’s position. The country is also being criticized by China’s climate negotiator, Su Wei, for signaling its intent to pull out of Kyoto, saying “it will definitely add obstacles in our negotiation.”
Meanwhile, as Europeans take a harder line with countries over an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, officials in the region are considering legislation that would reclassify the carbon intensity of tar sands crude and “essentially ban” it from the EU under greenhouse gas reduction targets.
A key issue during the Durban climate talks will be if Canada — a country that has historically been seen as a North American ally in addressing climate change — will continue to move further away from action.