Dr James Hansen summarised the danger posed by extracting oil from toxic tar sands when he said, “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.”
So, with bold announcements about being “back” we should be seeing some bold moves outlawing tar sands oil extraction, yet when the issue was raised in with Minister McKenna she sent out a more cloudy message starting with: “Oil sands are important to the Canadian economy and its important to the Alberta economy”
Binding or non-binding, that is the question?
In the international context of reaching a global deal on limiting emissions that are accelerating climate change Minister Mckenna made the following statement: “We need an agreement that is going to be legally binding.” she then goes on to say, “there will be some parts, you know, to reflect the reality, that some countries have concerns with all aspects being binding, that maybe all aspects won’t be binding.”
The Minister starts off by stating the need for binding agreements that force countries to take the necessary action to try and limit the changes in climate that are affecting billions of people around the world. She then, in the same sentence, acknowledges that those countries who have concerns will not have to be bound by the terms. Which is it?
In so many areas where global policy is set, we see laws enacted and enforced, punitive measures inflicted on those countries that break the rules. The difference is that these kinds of agreements are usually to do with trade, or in other words, money. When it comes to setting real policy to safeguard human, as well as many other species lives, the agreements are non-binding. They simply have no teeth.
Time to put the pressure on
The COP21 talks are destined to be a sham if agreements are non-binding. We will see world leaders standing together smiling and shaking hands at the end of the conference and yet they will have achieved nothing for humanity in real terms. The conference will be over and legacies of failure set in stone.
Now is the time for the public all over the world to stand up and demand that these agreements become binding and that those who break the law are punished. There is no option now. We are not solving climate change, we are trying to limit the damages that we know are coming towards us. Everybody has a role to play in this.