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Climate Summit: All Nations Must Act

The UN Secretary-General’s climate meeting took place this week in New York. Last week, a report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate warned that countries and companies that rely heavily on investments in fossil fuels such as coal and oil sands bitumen, might find themselves stranded in the marketplace as the world moves toward low-carbon practices. It also stated that saving the climate need not destroy the economy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not attend the summit, sending Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq in his stead. His absence runs in line with the fact he is no longer promising new regulations for the oil and gas sector, regardless of the increase in greenhouse emissions produced by Canada’s booming oil sands production. The Harper government has adopted a few climate measures including phasing out coal fired electricity and changing standards regarding fuel efficient vehicles. Many feel that for Canada, as a major contributor to climate change, that is not enough.

“Canada, and specifically Alberta, is falling way behind in its approach,” said Chris Vilcsak, President and CEO of Solution 105. “The head of our government chooses to sit on the sidelines while the rest of the world leaders gather to talk about the single biggest threat to our planet.”

Harper seems to portray climate action as a trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth. Alberta relies on its oil sands expansion to drive its economy. The co-chair of the Global Commission, Felipe Calderon, commented that it is possible to get economic growth and tackle climate change at the same time, but it will require big structural changes in the coming years.

At the climate summit UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned that “the human environment and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable.” Tackling the global impact of climate change can only be achievable if the big emitters take responsibility. Every country must act.

“We can only succeed combating climate change if we are joined in the effort by every nation. Nobody gets a pass,” President Obama said at the summit. The United States is the second largest emitter in the world. China is the largest and has a goal to cut carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020.

All countries will have to present their plans for emission reduction by March next year. There will be an international agreement made at the climate summit in Paris in late 2015. Maybe Canada’s Prime Minister can attend that one.

Solution 105’s Take

Should we (Canada) have a rising cost of carbon? Yes. Should we be investing in energy efficiency rather than transmission lines? Yes. Should we get our heads out of the sands and into solar and wind? Yes.

It’s very simple. We have to do better!