Canada has the world’s worst record on climate

Award-winning environmental journalist Stephen Leahy tells Toronto meeting that Canada is now “simply written off in climate discussions”

by Rosemary Williamson

Stephen Leahy, co-winner of UN Global Media prize

Stephen Leahy, co-winner of UN Global Media prize

“Canada, ranked for four years as the country with the worst climate change record, is now simply written off in climate discussions,” international environmental journalist Stephen Leahy told an East Toronto community audience March 11.

“There must be an 8%-10 % yearly reduction in greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to avoid the point of losing control of the climate,” Leahy says. “But Canada’s emissions are not declining but growing. Climate change is getting worse and speeding up, with 2% of the world experiencing extreme cold while 98% are suffering from excessive heat.

“The period before the next global treaty on climate change in 2015 is crucial for countries to make commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

And Canada? The morning after Leahy’s talk, the Toronto Star reported that Environment Canada will eliminate more than 75% of its spending on climate change programs over the next two years.

Leahy, co-winner of the 2012 UN Global Media prize for climate change coverage, spoke to forty concerned residents March 11 at the invitation of Toronto East End against Line Nine. This group was formed over a year ago in response to Enbridge’s proposal to reverse the flow of an existing 38 year old pipeline which runs from Sarnia to Montreal so it can carry tar sands bitumen.

Despite the efforts of many communities to block this potential hazard to our environment and water sources; the National Energy Board last week announced their approval of the project. There will be a year for Enbridge to meet certain conditions before the project will be launched. These conditions do not begin to address the major threats posed to our health and welfare and that of the environment.(For a detailed account, see “Nine Reasons to Reject the NEB Decision and Continue Opposing Line 9” by Jesse McLaren.)

What a delight it was to see so many new people attend the meeting! Perhaps it was eagerness to hear an international environmental journalist of Stephen Leahy’s stature – or maybe the decision of the NEB drew others.

Leahy spoke of the characteristics of a petro state: decline in democracy, inflated unstable currency, increasing inequality of citizens, and over-dependence on one product. All these are now evident in Canada.

A recent International Meeting of Indigenous Peoples on the Environment stated that, “No more new fossil fuel sources should be extracted worldwide.”

Progress has been made in some countries. In Iceland all home heating is supplied by deep thermal energy. In other countries local communities have wind turbines which supply their own energy needs and they sell the excess. Solar panels have become less expensive and are used in Germany and other northern hemisphere countries.

Most compelling of all was Stephen’s personal commitment to pursue a career in environmental journalism, despite the financial constraints, in order to alert and mobilize people to respond to climate change.

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