Climate deal must be fair, ambitious and binding

Developed countries including Canada and the U.S. have benefited tremendously from fossil-fuel exploitation

Developed countries including Canada and the U.S. have benefited tremendously from fossil-fuel exploitation.

Resources like oil, gas, and coal have allowed us to industrialize and to expand our economies, making life easier for citizens in so many ways.

Just as developing nations started to follow suit in raising their living standards, though, we began to realize that our current fuels and technologies come at great cost to the world. And even though developed countries have reaped most of the benefits of fossil fuels, developing countries, which have contributed least to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, are feeling the brunt of the consequences.

Droughts, severe weather events, food shortages, and waves of refugees are just some of the burdens climate change is forcing on people who were already facing incredible challenges brought on by poverty and a lack of infrastructure for things we take for granted, such as clean air, water, and food.

At the same time, these countries are being told that they can no longer rely on the fossil fuels we have used to bring about prosperity.

In other words, the countries that have been least responsible for global warming are being most affected by its impact.

In Canada, our government believes that developing nations need to aim for the same targets we are expected to meet to fight global warming.

Even though some of the larger developing nations, like China and India, have overall levels of greenhouse gas emissions that are higher than Canada’s, their per capita emissions are a fraction of ours. It’s not fair.

World leaders have a great opportunity to correct this imbalance when they meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, from Dec. 7 to 18 to work out an agreement on how best to deal with climate change.

Many organizations from around the world are calling on our leaders to sign a fair, ambitious, and binding deal.

A fair deal would put much of the onus for reducing emissions that contribute to global warming on the developed nations that are mainly responsible for the problem. Scientists agree that developed countries need to reduce their emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020.

Developed countries must also help developing nations with financial and technological support so that they can adapt to the worst consequences of climate change, reduce their emissions, and benefit from emerging renewable-energy technologies.

A fair deal would also compel rich nations to protect poor and marginalized people in developed and developing countries.

The call for an ambitious deal reflects the urgency of the situation. We have already dumped so much heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that it will take ambitious global efforts to stall the most severe consequences. That means ensuring that global greenhouse gas emissions peak no later than 2017 and then go down quickly after that so that concentrations in the atmosphere are reduced to less than 350 parts per million.

An ambitious agreement would also ensure that the world takes advantage of the numerous opportunities to create clean jobs and clean energy, which will strengthen global economies. We must also create conditions that will allow people, plants, and animals to survive in a sustainable manner.

For an agreement to be effective, it must be legally binding, with mechanisms in place to make sure that countries are meeting their obligations and to enforce those obligations.

This all may seem overly ambitious and overly expensive – but the alternative, doing little or nothing, could be catastrophic.

Consider also the speed with which countries such as the U.S. were able to come up with trillions of dollars to bail out banking systems that were largely the authors of their own troubles.

The world is facing many challenges, of which climate change is just one symptom. The benefits of an agreement in Copenhagen that is fair, ambitious, and binding go beyond simply reducing the severity of global warming.

Clean-energy technologies, more attention to the plight of the world’s poor, and recognition of the true value of natural systems and the plants and animals that share this world all provide opportunities to create a sustainable and prosperous world.

There’s little time to lose. We must tell our leaders that we expect them to support a fair, ambitious, and binding solution in Copenhagen in December. Everyone’s future is at stake.

This column is co-written by scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki and Faisal Moola, a scientist.

Just Posted

Red Deer area businesses recognized at Business of the Year Awards night

“It’s an honour just to be nominated.” The popular words echoed throughout… Continue reading

Child sex offender should get 12 years: Crown prosecutor

Stuart Peter Hunt has pleaded guilty to 10 child sexual exploitation and pornography charges

Legalizing cannabis cost estimate for Red Deer just under $400k

Although the province of Alberta has announced $11.2 million for cannabis legalization,… Continue reading

WATCH: Every square tells a story: Edmonton expert is exploring Red Deer’s quilting history

Community members can bring in family heirloom quilts for documentation

Red Deer-area dads going through divorce are invited to Man Up

Support group formed to focus on positive activities, networking

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

PHOTO: Say goodbye to City Hall Park flowers

A sure sign that winter is on its way is when City… Continue reading

PHOTO: Chew On This! campaign draws attention to national poverty

Lunch bags were being handed out in front of The Hub downtown… Continue reading

Wickenheiser, Pegula reflect NHL’s trend toward diversity

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With a laugh, Kim Pegula’s competitive nature kicked in… Continue reading

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

DUBBO, Australia — The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were jokingly thanked… Continue reading

TV Review: A Roseanne Barr-less ‘The Conners’ is a triumph

NEW YORK — Can there be a “Roseanne” without Roseanne? The answer… Continue reading

Canadian manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent in August: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent to… Continue reading

Brian Mulroney joins board of directors of New York-based pot company

NEW YORK — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is joining the board… Continue reading

Canadians waking up to legalized cannabis: ‘My new dealer is the prime minister’

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Canadians across the country woke up to legalized… Continue reading

Most Read