Elizabeth May: "It's not too late. It's 30 million to one."

Photo by BarrieGreens | flickr.com

Today, Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands and Green Party of Canada leader) delivered an inspiring and thought-provoking talk at Simon Fraser University, outlining what happened at the most recent Conference of the Parties (COP) in Durban, South Africa, and what to expect in Canada’s future.

She was prompted to open her talk with a not about Agent Orange and how Canada never actually banned the substance (rather, other countries were banned from selling it). As she fought this issue in the Maritimes, Health Canada frequently spoke in defense of the substance known to cause abnormalities in newborn children. The same has also been said for asbestos by the Canadian government, according to May. This only showcases her wonderful leadership that she builds upon through her example of Durban.

May moves on to talk about climate change, and how COP deliberations were set to fail from the start. Even before meeting in Durban, Elizabeth May was informed that unlike previous years, opposing parties were not allowed to come to COP as a Canadian delegate. Instead, she asked Papua New Guinea if she could come as one of their advisors. Although this restricted access to Canadian briefing rooms, it did allow her to enter the conference and hear what was going on. 

She then dived into conference deliberations, which showed the clearly deceptive intentions of our government officials. Peter Kent (Minister of Environment) told senior United Nations officials that everything would be alright, implying that Canada was, in fact, going to stay with the protocol. It was May that broke the bad news to officials in a candid, informal conversation.

Kent also made statements saying that they would not agree to a second commitment period of the protocol if China was doing the same. Ironically, China opened the conference (after hearing allegations that Canada was to back out), stating that they were willing to consider a second commitment period. Did this change Kent’s mind? As he simply put it, “No.” 

Interestingly, African nations did not want this protocol to fail on their own soil. As one representative mentioned, “If Kyoto dies… we die.” Gwynne Dyer (journalist) notes that although Kyoto is still alive, it is on a 'suicide path'. Waiting until 2020 for our second commitment period will be too late, and likely to cause a irreversible shift in our climate.

May illustrates the conference proceedings well (even as a Papua New Guinea advisor), and shows us hope for the future. She stresses the point that Canada has not officially withdrawn from Kyoto (the letter Kent sent to the UN asks for withdrawl in December of this year), and that there is still time to make a change. She points out Harper’s leadership, commenting that, “there’s 30 million of us and one of him. We shouldn’t be afraid of him. The odds are on our side.”