As the second and most critical week of the Cancun climate change conference gets underway, participants from Canada’s largest union say the Harper government must stop hiding behind others to justify its dismal record on the climate change file.
“Every day, we ask ourselves who Canada will be hiding behind next to justify its inaction,” says Claude Généreux, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), who is participating in the Cancun UN climate change conference.
“One day, the Canadian government says it is waiting for the U.S. to establish targets – knowing full-well that the context with the new Congress is not favorable,” says Généreux. “The next day they say we are waiting for China and developing countries to do more. And now, Harper and environment minister Baird are hiding behind Japan and Russia in their opposition to the renewal of the Kyoto protocol. Who will we hide behind tomorrow?”
Généreux charges that the defacto position of the Conservatives is simple: wait it out, and hope the process fails.
“But hiding behind others is not leadership. It is not acceptable to justify your inaction by the inaction of others. We need to take our own responsibilities as a rich and high CO2 emission country, and then we will be in a position to ask more of others”, he says.
The Canadian government says it is favorable to a new treaty that would include binding targets for all countries, rich and poor, and that without them, it would oppose new rules. According to Généreux this really means that the Conservatives are looking for an excuse to kill Kyoto and withdraw Canada from the commitments it already made in previous treaties.
“That being said, we must not lose hope,” Généreux says. “Our union demands that the Canadian government stop its strategy of passive obstruction and engage in these talks in good faith. We need to build on Kyoto and Copenhagen, establish stronger targets and fold other counties within the process as much as possible. We collectively have an obligation to ensure the process moves forward, not backward.”