Copenhagen Laggin’

The UN conference on climate-change is now unfolding in Copenhagen. This is the next key step in a process that has been in motion since the early nineties, and which earlier produced the Kyoto Accord. It is the culmination of enormous global effort in the decade-plus since Kyoto was signed. We hope that a successor to the Kyoto Accord, to build upon its achievement and refine and refocus a coherent international response, will come from this.

Once, we were instrumental in this process and the world looked to us for leadership. Once, we had climate-change programs of our own well in place, and were well placed to meet our international commitments and demonstrate this leadership. Once, we were a respected voice helping to bring the world together, to work effectively on this critical global challenge.

Mr Harper changed that. For more than four of the not-quite five years in which Kyoto has been in effect, Mr Harper and his government have been in office. As soon as they took office they actively set about to sabotage these efforts both at home and abroad.

It took at least a year of this before they saw that there was adverse domestic political fallout, and they brought back wan and sickly versions of some of the programs they’d scuttled, never missing a chance to re-brand them as their own. But this was only window-dressing; they’ve never, even now, addressed this challenge in a sincere, substantive way. Internationally, they continue to be sand in the gearbox.

Their current position is that we’re so deeply connected to the larger US economy that we can do nothing until they do.

Yes, we are indeed deeply linked, and we must of course remain firmly aware of this. But this does not mean that we cannot facilitate the dialogue, or start transitioning our society and our economy to take advantage of the great opportunities this challenge presents and to avert the harm that will ensue if we fail to act.

It certainly does not mean that we must sit idle until they do something, and then follow along like puppies. (As long as we merely lurk beneath the table in fawning contentment with whatever the US does, scraps are the best we can expect.)

This position is just another shrug, another attempt to placate Canadians about an issue that the government itself doesn’t actually take seriously.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so, too, does the world. Canada needs leadership here, not the manipulative vacuous harping of this government. In this matter, as for many other issues of global import, we have moved from being respected players in our own right to being scorned and isolated, and dismissed as clumsy but cute and cuddly lapdogs at the beck and call of the US.

Copenhagen is upon us. We have here a critical opportunity to take meaningful and real action to address a problem that is a significant threat to us all, to stand-up for the world, and to stand-up for Canada. We have here an opportunity to again speak in our own voice, and to again establish ourselves as progressive, fair dealers, and a positive force in meeting the economic and environmental challenges ahead.

If we’re going to resume our role as responsible, respected world citizens, now is the time.

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