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Dispatch from Copenhagen: The Hon. Paul Martin on Climate Change

December 14, 2009

(I’m going to impose on my hosts here a bit and post an item from my two young friends Ashley Bigda and Matt Juniper, who are in Copenhagen this week as Liberal Youth delegates. I may be posting more highlights as the week progresses, but you can follow all their adventures at their blog: Halton Does Copenhagen.)

While we wait for the mess to get sorted out at the Bella Centre, we wanted to talk about something a little more inspirational. Our former Prime Minister Paul Martin took some much appreciated time out of his schedule to sit down with the Young Liberals and Canada (and a few of our foreign colleagues) to discuss issues related to climate change.

Mr.Martin is an extremely intelligent and well-spoken individual and it was a treat to get time to talk with him in a more intimate environment. Mr.Martin had just returned from discussions with environmental ministers of the Congo-basin African countries regarding climate change. These are countries with both enormous resources and enormous poverty. An interseting point: Mr. Martin believes that if given a choice between the resources of the Congo and the resources of Canada – one would choose the Congo, yet there is an enormous gap between the two countries economically.

There is tremendous opportunity to benefit from these resources in more ways than simple deforestation. Currently however, without a carbon market these trees are worth more dead than alive. Charcoal, wood, etc. are the primary resources these trees are currently used for through ’slash and burn’ methods. A carbon market can actually create opportunity both for developed and developing nations – credits purchased from developing nations give value to these forested areas. Carbon sequestration is just one of the many benefits a preserved and sustainability forest can bring to the Congo-basin.

Mr. Martin’s discussion helped put this climate issue into perspective – that it is a truly global issue. The fact remains that climate change is a issue created by the developed world that is currently affecting the developing world in a disproportionate way. We recently travelled to Tanzania, Africa and witnessed first hand the fear that the melting of the polar ice caps on Mount Kilimanjaro is causing over fresh water reserves. The people understand the importance of conserving their resources and are not oblivious to their changing environments that threaten their livelihood. However, the solution must be global – an already poverty stricken region can not do this without contributions from all who are benefiting from their resources. Africa’s forests provide value not just to the local people but to the rest of the world, which is something we do not recognize and is something the locals are unable to take advantage of at this point.

We keep on hammering away at our key point: that this agreement needs to be global. Not just focused on the developed nations.


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