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Summits could be wasted opportunities – Pembina Institute

The countries that have the credibility to lead on the world stage are the ones who are acting at home – Clare Demerse.

Countries gain credibility from what they do at home - Clare  Demerseby Ish Theilheimer

In the run-up the G8 and G20, Straight Goods News interviewed researcher Clare Demerse of the Pembina Institute about her organization's outlook on the summits.

Straight Goods News: What are your organization's biggest issues and concerns that may or may not be addressed at the summit?

Claire Demerse: We're concerned that Stephen Harper seems to be on track to waste the opportunity to make progress on climate change at this G8/G20 meeting.

If the government of Canada was willing to show leadership on this issue, Canada's summits could make a huge contribution to the global effort to tackle climate change.

As the world':s richest countries and the source of most of the pollution that':s causing climate change, G8 leaders have an obligation to providefinancial support to poorer countries as they cope with climate change. In Copenhagen last winter, developed countries made a specific commitment to provide (US) $30 billion over the next 3 years in new funding. We need to see that commitment fulfilled at Muskoka, and leaders need to ensure that their pledges represent new money (not shuffling dollars around or announcing older pledges). Canada actually announced its fast-start contribution today and on balance it':s good news, but with some question marks attached. The government $400 million for 2010, a contribution that we see as being Canada':s fair share. But they haven¹t yet explained where that money is coming from, so we can':t say if it':s new money or not. And they have not yet announced where the funding will be going. Turning to the G20: When G20 leaders met in Pittsburgh last year, they agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies ':over the medium term,': and they decided to discuss timeframes and implementation plans in Toronto. A strong G20 communiqué would include specifics about how the group will cut wasteful fossil fuel subsidies. Unfortunately, leaked drafts of the G20 communiqué show that the fossil fuel subsidy language has been watered down since last year ­ so we':re hoping that the final version moves forward instead of weakening an important commitment.Right now, our rough estimate is that Canada's oil and gas producers benefit from about $2 billion a year in tax breaks. We believe that Canada should lead by example by phasing those subsidies out.

SGN: Where does Canada stand on your issues and how does your organization feel about that?

Demerse: We were really disappointed to see the Prime Minister dismiss climate change as a sideshow to the "economic" G20 meeting last month. In our view, cleaning up our energy system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental economic issue. (Many G20 countries — including Canada's G20 co-host, South Korea — put investments in clean energy at the heart of their economic recovery plans.)

In recent weeks, the UN Secretary-General, leaders from the European Union and the President of Mexico have all called on Canada to raise its game on climate change. So have six Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Under pressure for downplaying climate change, Prime Minister has acknowledged that climate change is important enough for a place on the G20's agenda. That's a step forward.

We'll find out soon whether Canada will actually seize the change to make progress, or whether the climate conversation will be a token effort.

SGN: What are you doing to advance these concerns, and what kind of presence will you have at the summit?

Demerse: We've been tracking the G8 (and the G20) summits for three years now, and we've paid close attention to Canada's preparations. We've testified about climate at the G8 on Parliament Hill, and we've published a backgrounder to give people some more detailed information.

Pembina will have one person at the International Media Centre in Toronto for the G8 and G20 summits.

SGN: What is the hope of success in furthering your goals?

Demerse: The countries that have the credibility to lead on the world stage are the ones who are acting at home ­ and so far, we're not taking the steps we need to cut Canada's greenhouse gas pollution.

In the global race for clean energy jobs and innovation, Canada is falling farther and father behind. This week's summits are a chance to do better.

(Unfortunately, Canada has broken the tradition of convening a preparatory meeting of environment ministers in advance of the summit, and that lack of preparation won't help achieve meaningful progress at the leaders' meetings.)

So while it's certainly true that the government has downplayed climate change so far, other G8 ad G20 countries care about climate and want to see progress. There's no reason why Canada's summits can't succeed on climate change if governments — especially ours — show the political will to make it happen.

SGN: What can citizens do that would help?

Demerse: For the purposes of the G8 and G20, the most important thing citizens can do to help is to show the government that they want Canada to be a leader in tackling climate change. (In fact, poll results [attached] released this month show that Canadians chose climate change as the most important issue they'd like to see discussed at the G8 and G20 — so you'll have plenty of company if you do get in touch with your MP!). This will help politicians in Canada understand that reducing emissions and succeeding in the global race for clean energy jobs is a priority for voters.

SGN: Where can they go online for information?

Demerse: We've got a G8/G20 backgrounder posted, and we'll be blogging about the outcomes over the weekend.

Links and sources
  Climate Change | Pembina Institute -

Posted: June 24, 2010


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