Leona Aglukkaq, the latest environment minister in Stephen Harper's government, arrived on Monday at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) in Warsaw. Forgive us for not feeling great about how the next week will play out. Here's why.
"Colossal Fossils" by the numbers
At each UN climate change summit, a coalition of environmental groups presents the Fossil of the Year Award, also known as the "Colossal Fossil," to the country that does the least at the negotiating table to tackle climate change. Canada has had a pretty bad run, winning the award every year since 2007.
Yes, that's right. Canada has won the Colossal Fossil six years in a row. The only silver lining? Last year, at the conference in Doha, Qatar, Canada shared the award with New Zealand for being equally obstructionist. Here's what Canada has done to earn these awards.
Canada has become known for its obstructionist role at the COP negotiating table. At the 2010 summit in Cancun, the government blocked progress on all fronts, actively working to kill clean energy policies in other countries to promote the tar sands.
The following year in Durban, Peter Kent, Aglukkaq's predecessor in the environment portfolio, called climate financing to developing countries "guilt payments," and pressed least developed countries into leaving the Kyoto Protocol.
Refusing to commit to new reduction targets
Canada was the only country to leave Copenhagen in 2009 with weaker greenhouse gas reduction targets than it had going into the talks -- and we're not even going to reach those, despite Aglukkaq's pronouncements. And at last year's conference in Doha, Canada, with the worst climate-change policy of all wealthy nations, was one of only a handful of countries that refused to sign onto a second Kyoto commitment period.
In Durban, Kent said that Canada was willing to "work hard and to work constructively toward new solutions and new approaches to deal with our climate change challenges." The day after the Durban talks ended, Kent announced Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. (Canada had pledged under the Kyoto Protocol that emissions would be at least 6% lower than they were in 1990 in the "first commitment period", namely 2008-2012; instead, emissions were about 25% above what they were in 1990.)
Wearing fossil awards "with honour"
Before getting turfed from cabinet (it wasn't because of his dismal performance as environment minister), Kent said these awards "are worn with honour" by the Conservative government. The mics in the House of Commons picked up this attitude in December 2011, when the Opposition pointed out that Canada had won a Fossil Award for the third day in a row at the Durban conference. Listen to cheers and applause from the government benches. We'll see if they cheer again this week if Canada picks up more awards in Warsaw.