Climate Criminals: Harper Misses Canadian People’s Climate March Caravan

by: Obert Madondo  | September 21, 2014

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Photo by Remy Steinegger/Wikimedia Commons

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Photo by Remy Steinegger/Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be among the 125 heads of state attending the United Nations Climate Summit, which will hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 23.

By skipping the summit, Harper is solidifying his place among the ranks of global climate criminals.

Harper missed the Canadian caravan of climate justice activists which left Ottawa on Saturday for the “biggest ever global demonstration for climate action in history,” the People’s Climate March. The march, which was expected to attract 100,000 people, took place in New York on September 21. The Council of Canadians and Ottawa residents had challenged the prime minister to join the caravan. The Council had even offered to pass by Harper’s official home, 24 Sussex Drive, to pick him up en route to the march.

Sujata Dey, the media relations officer at Council of Canadians, told me in an email that her organization received no response from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“We are saddened. He could have made new friends and shared in the positivity of joining the planet based consensus on trying to combat climate change. Before it’s too late,” said Dey. “But I guess he already has other friends in the oil industry.”

A statement released by the prime minister’s office earlier said Leona Aglukkaq, the Minister of the Environment, will represent Canada at the Climate Summit. Ironically, the statement also confirmed that Harper will take “part in the related dinner with the Secretary-General to discuss climate issues” in New York. Harper will also address the UN General Assembly for the first time since 2010, when, for the first time ever, Canada lost a Security Council bid. He will also take part in the Every Woman, Every Child event, which the UN Sec. General hosts on September 25.

RELATED: Elizabeth May: Join Me On Global People’s Climate March 2014

There’s still love for the United Nations among the Conservatives. Just not for climate and human rights-related issues.

Many Canadians are disappointed with Harper’s decision to skip the Climate Summit. Green Party leader and MP, Elizabeth May, who announced in August she’d attend the People’s Climate March, told Yahoo Canada earlier:

Ever since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, Canada’s position at UN climate conferences has been to undermine discussions, block progress and sabotage negotiations — that’s why we’ve received more Fossil of the Day awards than any other country.

Climate criminal

“It is scandalous that Canada’s Prime Minister is not attending this summit,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, the Council of Canadians’ energy and climate justice campaigner. “Canada has become a climate criminal, from the muzzling of scientists to the slashing of environmental protections and rubber-stamping of fossil fuel infrastructure. That’s why it’s so important for Canadians to be present at this march. We care, and we demand action, for people and the planet.”

Sierra Club Canada’s national program director, John Bennett, explained why he and other like-minded Canadians are attending the march: “I’m done waiting. 25 years of waiting is enough. We need action now!”

That leaves Harper on the side of global climate criminals – leaders whose countries contribute the most to climate change while they’re unwilling to act.

Think Progress reports, “Harper joins President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia in choosing to skip the summit. Jinping and Modi are leaders of the countries with the first- and third-highest levels greenhouse gas emissions, respectively, and Canada’s burgeoning tar sands industry has become a major topic of concern among environmental groups and those concerned about climate change. China’s vice premier will represent the country in the president’s stead, and it’s not yet been announced who will go in place of Modi.”

A few facts from Oil Sands Reality Check, a website created by a network of science-based environmental groups working with First Nations, explain how Harper’s pro-Big Oil policies are steering Canada into the climate criminals’ camp:

  • The tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
  • Oil sands production emits 3 to 4 times more greenhouse gases than producing conventional crude oil. This makes it one of the world’s dirtiest forms of fuel.
  • The exploitation of the oil sands is the primary reason Canada will fail to meet its own greenhouse gas reduction targets.
  • Carbon emissions from the production and processing of the oil sands have more than doubled in the last decade and are on track to double again.
  • Canada’s climate performance is the worst in the entire Western world.
  • The Canadian government has mounted an intensive lobbying campaign to weaken clean fuel standards that the European Commission has proposed to achieve its climate change targets.
  • More than 600 million cubic feet of natural gas are used per day to extract and upgrade the oil from the tar sands. That’s enough to heat more than 3 million Canadian homes every day – almost every house in Western Canada.
  • Oil sands production is set to expand from 1.9 million barrels a day to over 5 million a day. The International Energy Agency reports that this level of production fits global demand scenarios that will lead to a catastrophic increase in global temperature.

“Stephen Harper, at a joint news conference with visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, suggests other countries aren’t being frank about scaling back climate change policies to protect their economies. He suggests aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including a carbon tax, would harm the economy,” said investigative reporter Mike De Souza in a blog post published earlier this week.

In the post, De Souza, who specializes in energy and environment issues, gives a “historical timeline of some of the major climate change policies, statements and related decisions” the Harper government has made since being elected in 2006. These include Canada’s famous 2012 withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, then Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s 2013 climate change denial and the government’s recent admission that it’s “not ready” to regulate the oil and gas industry.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. He's the founder and editor of these independent publications: The Canadian Progressive, a political blog dedicated to progressive Canadian journalism; The Zimbabwean Progressive, a political blog dedicated to producing fearless, progressive, adversarial, unapologetic, and activism-oriented Zimbabwean journalism; and Charity Files, a publication dedicated to journalism in the charitable public's interest. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad