In Durban, Growing Criticism of Canada’s Position on Kyoto and Push for Tar Sands

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.

20 Responses to In Durban, Growing Criticism of Canada’s Position on Kyoto and Push for Tar Sands

  1. charles says:

    While I am disappointed in Canada for preempting the talks in Durban with it’s plan to pull out of Kyoto, I think we need to be very careful using phrases such a “Climate Justice”. This will only put many borderline Canadian supporters of action on the defensive, not the best way to convince them.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Tar Sands development is consistent with Canada’s past. If they have a reputation for being green, it does not jibe with reality.

    Canada has been furiously liquidating its remaining old growth forests for decades, in spite of angry local and international opposition. This is the case even in “liberal” provinces like BC and Quebec. Government land is awarded to private firms under “tree farm licenses”, whether or not it is old growth, and regardless of whether there is a legitimate sustainability plan.

    Air pollution regs for industry are weaker in Canada, too.

    If someone tries to play on Canada’s past reputation, he will draw a blank even up there. The Tar Sands has wide support, including outside Alberta.

    While the US never signed, Canada now wants to withdraw from Kyoto. Our northern cousin is a fellow rogue state, run by industries and banks that specialize in resource extraction. Opposition needs to arise from outside, since internal politicians and media outlets have been successfully “managed” by the countries’ owners.

  3. dana1981 says:

    The Harper government has managed to make Canada worse on climate change than the USA. That’s quite the accomplishment.

  4. Leo Elshof says:

    As a Canadian I am ashamed of the Harper government. We have become a dirty oil pusher led by the son of an Exxon-Imperial oil executive, a Bush wannabe. Harper has muzzled scientists in federal departments just like G.W. Bush did as well. Canadians are slowly waking up to the ugly side of their national leader and many don’t like it.

  5. Jocelyn says:

    I have to second that. I find it very discouraging to see how much effort our (current) government spends trying to make the tar sands look good. And now that the Keystone XL pipeline has been delayed, they want to take a pipeline from the tar sands to northern coast of BC. That’s quite a gutsy move when you consider that most (if not all) of the aboriginal groups affected have stated that they are against the pipeline and that BC has banned oil tankers from their northern coast.

  6. Peter Mizla says:

    The history of Canada- going back to the time of Cartier and the French trappers- to the exploitation of minerals in the Canadian shield, there has been a long history of massive resource extraction taking place to the north. The Tar Sands extraction in Alberta should be of no surprise.

    On a more darker note- Canada will suffer much less then the US with a 2-3 degree rise in temperatures- and even at 4 degrees it will not suffer the large ‘uninhabitable zones’ as the US.

  7. Chris Lock says:

    At some time before he was Prime Minister, Harper said “you won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it.” I think he meant to say, “you won’t recognize the planet when I’m through with it”

    I can’t stand my Prime Minister. Whenever he’s on the television, I find myself just yelling at the screen just to be sure I can’t hear what he has to say.

    We are a Petrostate, and all policy is geared toward that. Our Ministry of the Environment exists to take on environmentalists, not protect the environment. Alberta has had the same party, the conservatives, in power in Edmonton for 40 years. How much dissent and debate can happen in the provincial legislature? And now that Harper has his much sought after majority in Ottawa he gets to run roughshod over the country as well. Pat Martin had every right to swear on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, because Harper closes debate on everything.

    I’ve said it before here, and I’ll say it again. I believe people outside of Canada will be more effective in slowing down or stopping the development of the tar sands than the citizens of Canada.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Why not? Have they some problem with the concept of ‘justice’ or only when it applies to non-Westerners?

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Canada is a business appendage of the USA. Plans exist for its eventual annexation by the USA, when times get dire, so it could be imminent. The ruling Canadian elites would be happy to oblige, in return for a ‘consideration’ and if the rabble grew restless, well the tear gas, pepper spray and billy clubs will soon disabuse them of their insubordinate ways.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Harper got 40% of the 60% of the enfranchised populace who bothered to vote. That is 24% of the enfranchised, themselves say 70% of the total population. That takes it down to around 17%, and then you must recollect that the average far Right voter is the most ignorant, intellectually insufficient, and senile and near or fully demented segment of the populace. Another triumph for capitalist ‘demo-crazy!’

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It sounds just like Australia. You have tar sands we have coal and gas. Our leaders are a little different, but share obsessive loyalty to the USA and Israel, and contempt for the future. However our Fuhrette, Gillard, does not deny climate destabilisation, but, idiotically (or is it just the low cunning of the political opportunist)presumes that you can go on exporting hundreds of millions of tonnes of coal, ‘for generations’, and that a ‘carbon price’ will, magically, make it all better. I mean, our politicians are so ninth rate that many actually believe this stuff.

  12. Sasparilla says:

    The market – demand for tar sands oil has to be eliminated (literally outlawing its sale is probably the only way in the end) and only then when it is no longer profitable to mine and burn will the rape of those areas of Canada be stopped.

    In the mean time, money gets what it wants and there’s alot of money in that tar sands oil (over the last 2 months tar sands oil has increased in price at its sale point in the US by 25% or so, this is the result of the collapse of the spread of West Texas Intermediate Crude pricing which tar sands sells for in the US and the world price of Brent Crude – this recent 25% bonus goes right to the bottom line of the Canadian tar sands oil governmental complex.

    Money is and will continue to flow into Canada’s coffers as a result of the devils deal they have made selling the tar sands oil – seems cutting off the demand will be the only way to end it, no way a national government is going to willingly kill that tar covered golden goose.

  13. knoxkp says:

    Our PM is a megalomaniacal piece of work to be sure – having recently decided he doesn’t like the phrase ‘Government of Canada’, replacing it with the ‘Harper Government’ (not kidding!). But our so-called environment minister is worse – when he took the portfolio he said it was his job to defend the reputations of the tar sands polluters. I’m disgusted and embarrassed.

  14. How many major oil exporting nations would you want to live in? So goes Canada under the Harper Government. The Canada of old is drowning in its own oil.

  15. Artful Dodger says:

    Indeed, Mike. Most readers of this blog are probably not aware that there is only one Canadian Company developing the Tarsands, Suncor. Their largest shareholders are all big Banks, Canadian and foreign:

    Other big actors are all foreign Oil companies. Royal Dutch Shell owns the massive Albian Sands project. Exxon-Mobil is a part owner of Suncor.

    Norway’s Statoil acquired 12 billion NOK of tar sands leases in 2007, a somewhat cynical move to maintain profits as North Sea lease play out, and Norway switches to domestic renewables.

    China’s Sinopec owns a stake in the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline to Canada’s West coast, and owns several large leases in the Tarsands.

    Let me put this as simply as I can: you don’t put on a condom unless you’re planning to copulate. In this business environment, the Government of Canada is bringing the lube.

  16. Artful Dodger says:

    Yes, just say No. Find a clean way, or go without. No Tar! “Notar”.

  17. caroza says:

    One of our South African national treasures (Zapiro) has a brilliant cartoon on the topic.

  18. Spike says:

    They have certainly taken the disgraceful mantle over from Australia. They must be thinking Canada will not suffer badly from climate change, but I suspect they will be disabused of that notion.

  19. perceptiventity says:

    from Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren

    After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I’ve come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale , I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.

    An intrigueing possibility…

  20. PeterW says:

    First let me say that Harper and his kind are scum, but sometimes I wonder if all the attention the Tar Sands have been getting is making the coal barons happy. The amount of coal burned in the world dwarfs the Tar Sands’ CO2 production. Perhaps it’s easier to complain about the neighbour on the other side of the fence instead of looking in the mirror.

    By the way eastern Canada doesn’t see a bit of the oil produced in the Tar Sands. Most of it goes to the good old U.S. of A.