Canada’s winter athletes asking Harper to help find climate solution

Sara Renner is worried there won’t be enough snow for her to ski a World Cup cross-country race in Rogla, Slovenia, next week.

CALGARY — Sara Renner is worried there won’t be enough snow for her to ski a World Cup cross-country race in Rogla, Slovenia, next week.

The Olympic silver medallist from Canmore, Alta., says her sport is a canary in the coal mine for climate change.

Renner is one of 20 athletes, including Olympic gold medallists Hayley Wickenheiser, Jennifer Heil and Beckie Scott, who have signed a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging him to support a binding agreement at the ongoing UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

Renner’s husband Thomas Grandi, a former Olympian and skier on the national alpine team, hand-delivered the letter to Harper’s constituency office in southwest Calgary on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, Renner doesn’t know where she’ll travel next week to race.

“There’s not enough snow and they’re making the decision tomorrow as to whether they’ll be able to host the event or whether they’ll have to change it,” Renner explained Wednesday from Davos, Switzerland.

“This is an issue that is affecting freestyle skiing who now have had a World Cup cancelled in France and used Finland as a replacement site. This is a reality for our sport. It’s reality becoming more and more common.

“It might be minus 30 in Canmore or Calgary, but it’s definitely not here.”

Speedskater Kristina Groves, freestyle skier Kristi Richards and alpine skier Shona Rubens are also among the winter athletes who signed the letter.

The athletes are asking Harper to help find a solution at the summit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are winter sports like skiing and snowboarding in peril, they say, but iconic Canadian activities such as ice fishing and pond hockey.

“I’m really disappointed we have such weak leadership on this issue,” Renner said.

“We live in such an amazing country, with such amazing natural resources and at the same time we’re completely failing in our responsibility to the world. It’s disappointing we’ve lost this reputation that we had. We have to be accountable for that. We really do have to take a strong stand.”

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office would not comment on the letter. She said Harper would attend the leaders’ round at the end of the Copenhagen summit next week.

Renner says Canada’s environmental record will be under the microscope in February when it hosts the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

“The world will be looking at Canada in February,” she said. “We have to decide what we stand for as a country. Do we care about the environment and are we willing to be an example or are we a country that in 50 years, we look back and historians say when the world was in trouble, Canada sat down and did not stand up?

“I hope the world holds us accountable in Vancouver and I hope they ask the hard questions that would be very hard for us to answer if we do sit down in Copenhagen.”