Elizabeth May: Harper making Canada the North Korea of environmental law

By: Obert Madondo The Canadian Progressive:

(Credit: Lawrence Murray via Flickr)

(Credit: Lawrence Murray via Flickr)

Green Party leader Elizabeth May says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is turning Canada into a “rogue nation” and the “North Korea of environmental law”. The Saanich-Gulf Islands MP was reacting to Thursday’s shocking revelation that the Conservative government last week quietly withdrew from yet another important international body, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The  body fights drought – and its horrific manifestations, which include: malnourishment, child malnutrition, migration and refugees – around the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. The 1992 Rio Summit identified “desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity” as “the greatest challenges to sustainable development.”

May said:

The withdrawal came via a cabinet order that authorized John Baird, the minister of foreign affairs, “to take the actions necessary to withdraw, on behalf of Canada, from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, in those countries experiencing severe drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa”.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Conservatives were “increasing our isolation by doing this.” He also questioned why the Conservatives didn’t publicly announce the decision.

“The questions are Why are we doing this? Who is behind this? And it would appear they just got caught doing this. They didn’t make an announcement about this,” said Dewar. “Was this something they were hoping no one would notice?”

The Toronto Star’s Tim Harper sees “a direct link to important domestic policy” and the Alberta tar sands in the Conservatives’ decision. He says:

In making this decision — ferreted out by The Canadian Press — the Conservatives have given the back of their hand to their own base of support in Alberta.

At a time when a parade of federal ministers (including Baird) and provincial premiers, including Alberta Premier Alison Redford, have been invading Washington to tout this country’s supposed “green credentials” in a bid to win presidential approval for the final phase of the Keystone XL pipeline, a decision like this simply blows up all that work.

Walking away from a convention that is dealing with a problem that has been at least accelerated by climate change reinforces the world’s view, including a widely-held view in Washington, that the Harper government is all about resource development and exports, barely paying lip service to climate change.

It is consistent with this government’s view of the United Nations.

Canada ratified the agreement in 1995 under Liberal leadership Jean Chretien. The withdrawal makes Canada the only country outside the convention. Every UN nation — 194 countries plus the European Union — is currently a member.

The withdrawal is also another giant step back ward for Canada under the Harper Conservatives. Especially on environmental and poverty-related issues. In 2011, Canada left the UN Kyoto Protocol on the environment. Last year, the Conservatives cut funding cut funding to the the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. The Conservatives also announced plans to cut 7% out of Canada’s foreign aid budget by 2014-15.

The withdrawal also comes as governments, civil society and scientists prepare to meet in Bonn, Germany, in April, to “carry out the first ever comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of desertification, land degradation and drought”.