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DAY ONE: Enroute to Copenhagen

December 7, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re fortunate to have the head of Canada’s World, Shauna Sylvester, at the Copenhagen talks this week. Shauna has agreed to blog about her experiences and will be attending the COP15 meetings — stay tuned for more insights from the road as the Copenhagen proceedings continue.


It’s dark outside, the lights of Vancouver have long faded and we’ve reached our cruising altitude.  I’ve warmed to the Irish lilt of the British Airways chief steward who has convinced me that it is in my best interest to put down the Economist and watch the safety video.  I obediently pause from my review of the latest analysis of “Climategate” and count off the rows to the nearest exit.

I’m enroute to Copenhagen to participate on a panel with the Danish Board of Technology on climate change, meet with green business leaders and participate in the Climate Change Forum – the NGO parallel event to COP 15.  Over the course of this week, I will be writing a blog of my experiences.

I’m sure there is more than one person who is now thinking – why would an individual who cares about reducing our global carbon footprint board a carbon emitting jet to attend a global climate change conference?

It’s a fair question, and while I recognize the irony of my actions, I’m convinced that we can’t allow our Prime Minister to accurately represent Canadian interests at this conference.  The world needs to see that Canadians care passionately about the impacts of global warming and that the majority of citizens want responsible and immediate actions to reduce our carbon footprint.

At this stage, most of the countries of the industrialized world think Canada is a fossil – a small minded parochial actor that is proving to be one of the biggest obstacles to achieving a global agreement to concretely address climate change.  And, by all accounts, they are right.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Jim Prentice are actively eroding whatever goodwill Canada might have had in global diplomatic circles by actively undermining the COP 15 talks and suggesting that the world should scrap the existing Kyoto protocol and renegotiate a new agreement from scratch.  This is hardly the role of a globally minded country that hopes to play a leadership role at the G-8 and G-20 next spring.

Over the last two years I’ve participated in several dialogues across the country on climate change.  Each of these dialogues involved randomly selected citizens who devoted over two full days to studying the issues of global warming and deliberating on a course of action for Canada.  In every dialogue Canadians underlined the urgency of the problem and recommended swift and decisive action by the federal government.  None of the participants suggested that Canada should wait until the United States set their targets before taking action, nor did they recommend undermining global efforts to reach an international agreement. So who does Prime Minister Harper speak for in Copenhagen?  Who is he accountable to at home?  And as the leader of a minority government, how has he involved other political parties in the formation of Canada’s position?

The reality is, is that our Prime Minister hasn’t consulted Parliament, the people of Canada or even the Canadian scientific community in formulating Canada’s position on climate change.  I expect if he did and he developed a position that Canadians could support, then I wouldn’t feel a need to be in Copenhagen this week.

But here I am squeezed up against my seat mate calculating the offsets I will need to purchase to counter the green house gases that will be emitted with this flight.  Now if I could only figure out a way to inoculate against the damage I fear our Prime Minister is going to do to Canada by continuing to defend our record as one of the largest per capita contributors to global warming. Perhaps it’s time for our country to look into purchasing diplomatic offsets.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jacques permalink
    December 8, 2009 6:22 pm

    I wish you the courage to be diplomatically bold. And have fun while doing it.

  2. December 8, 2009 10:56 am

    We’re behind you all the way, Shauna!

    This Prime Minister doesn’t give a moments thought to consultation, doesn’t care what Canadians think as long as convinces just barely enough of them to keep himself in power. No need to consult the masses for that…

    You might recall when first elected in 2006, there was genuine shock in this administration that Canadians cared about climate change and the environment. There was evidence they truly had blinders on in even knowing this was an issue.

  3. December 8, 2009 1:47 am

    Dear Shauna,

    You may can rest assured that many of us will forgive the increased ‘carbon footprint’ your mission entails. In this case it is justified. The more Canadians who speak out against our current government’s climate change delay tactics at the conference, the better. The world needs to know that, although Stephen Harper is indeed our Prime Minister, he must be seen for what he really is – a petro-partisan beholden to large Canadian business interests whose only goal is to undermine meaningful climate change legislation and maintain the emissions status-quo.

    Good luck on your trip. May circumstances allow you to speak truth to power at every turn with both clarity and conviction. And here’s hoping, indeed praying, that you are heard! Again, good luck.


  1. Canada and the World – II — Guerrilla Diplomacy

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