Sometimes you can’t help but think: wouldn’t it be nice to live in a country like Denmark? Here is a country that has a Minister of Climate and Energy, as well as a Minister of the Environment. Canada just has an environment Minister and not one who seems all that interested in solving the climate crisis. By contrast, Danish Minister of Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard really wants the world to solve the climate crisis. So much so she called on the world to help her.
At COP 15 today, Minister Hedegaard met for an hour in an open session with members of Civil Society (the term used at COP meetings to refer to just about anyone [including labour] who is not an official member of a government delegation). She urged all citizens of the world to keep up the pressure on world leaders to get a deal done this week in Copenhagen. “Climate change is at the top of the agenda; nothing else would draw 110 or more heads of state together right now,” Minister Hedegaard told delegates. She emphasized that we cannot afford to get drawn off track by procedural issues and other distractions. COP 15’s outcome must be an “over-arching agreement, with two tracks of action underneath it,” according to the Minister.
This means that the world must at the very least come to a political agreement that includes two tracks: one that extends the life of the Kyoto Protocol in some way, particularly as it applies to prosperous countries like Canada, and a second track built on newer negotiated elements. Earlier in COP 15 developing countries from Africa pushed very hard for the two track approach and won on this point. A two track outcome is consistent with what the international community agreed to at COP 13 in Bali in 2007. But the Minister also warned that if a political agreement (meaning an agreement that is not legally-binding at the close of COP 15 on Friday), must quickly be worked on in 2010 to transform it into a binding accord.
The window of opportunity to reach a deal on climate change is open at this moment. “Global leaders must show the world that they can solve global problems,” Minister Hedegaard said. As the host country and one of the world’s most progressive states on the climate file, Denmark wants to have a deal reached in Copenhagen. The Minister implored the crowd of at least one-thousand COP 15 delegates to keep up the pressure on governments and their ministers at COP 15. This is exactly what CUPE is doing at this event: pushing the federal government to forge an agreement in Copenhagen, by, for example, meeting with all levels of government from Canada, monitoring how Canadian government representatives are negotiating, particularly with respect to extending the Kyoto Protocol, and attending briefings being held by Canadian negotiators.
Pam Beattie reported two days ago from Copenhagen on how the CUPE delegation took to the streets in a massive protest to send a message to governments. Now the fight has moved inside the Bella Centre – now CUPE delegates and thousands of other COP 15 delegates representing the many parties that comprise “Civil Society” (e.g., other labour, environmental, Aboriginal, social justice, faith-based, anti-poverty, youth, and dozens of other groups) are keeping the heat on federal governments in whatever way they can.
And this is where other CUPE members can join in. It’s still not too late to let Harper and Prentice know that Canada must help the world reach a fair, ambitious and blinding climate change agreement in Copenhagen. In fact, Harper and Prentice need to hear it now loud and clear from every corner of Canada like never before. They just might get the message. Then Canada might go from climate villain to climate citizen (we have a long way to go before we become climate heroes or superheroes). Who knows, if a good deal is reached this week, Canada might even get its own Minister of Climate and Energy. Maybe even one as impassioned and dedicated as Minister Hedegaard from Denmark.
Matthew Firth in Copenhagen