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      System Change Not Climate Change!
      Why the COP21 Agreement and Justin Trudeau Will Not Save the Planet

      By Thomas Davies

      A few recent developments before we begin to discuss the current state of the environment:

      - A new NASA report found that a massive melting of polar ice sheets attributed to human caused global warming has led to a “dramatic” shift in the way Earth rotates on its axis

      - “The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for March 2016 was the highest for this month in the 1880–2016 record, at 1.22°C (2.20°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F)... Overall, the nine highest monthly temperature departures in the record have all occurred in the past nine months.” - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

      - The Associated Press reported that 300 people died recently in South Asia due to an extreme heat wave, and the hottest months are still to come

      Those reports, and many more, highlight the increasingly dangerous state the planet we all live on is currently undergoing. It was under this context that Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau recently travelled to New York to sign the COP21 United Nations Agreement on Climate Change, along with 174 other countries and the European Union. The assembled diplomats congratulated themselves for the largest signing of an international agreement in one day, and Trudeau also had proud words for those attending, “Today, with my signature, I give you our word that Canada’s efforts will not cease....Climate change will test our intelligence, our compassion and our will. But we are equal to that challenge. I encourage other signatories to move swiftly to follow through on their commitments.”

      But do the COP21 Agreement and Justin Trudeau’s climate plans really live up to their own hype?

      We detailed the COP21 Paris Agreement when it was first presented last year in Fire This Time Volume 10, Issue 2. We pointed out the obvious: it looks great that so many countries are signing on to an international agreement whose goal is to limit greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C by 2100 (with an ideal target of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C). However, there is absolutely nothing binding in the agreement, and many scientists have pointed out that even if all the countries fulfilled their voluntary targets global temperatures would still rise over 2°C.

      The significance of 2°C is a broad scientific consensus that any warming beyond this would trigger imbalances in the planet so severe that the possibility of supporting life becomes improbable. That means if we go there, humanity is likely not going to survive. Even a 1.5°C increase would cause massive and unpredictable damage.

      What about Canada and the New Prime Minister?

      First, the new Liberal majority government did not change the emissions target set by the previous Conservative government. It’s exactly the same!

      Second, the government’s own recently released data shows that if we continue at current levels of activity, it will be impossible to meet that meagre goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. In fact, emissions will jump to 815 megatons - much higher than the goal of 524 megatons.

      No wonder a new report from the Conference Board of Canada ranks Canada 14th among 16 peer countries when it comes to environmental performance, with only the United States and Australia doing worse.

      Pipeline Contradictions

      “I have been crystal clear for years now on pipelines. One of the fundamental responsibilities of any Canadian prime minister — and this goes back centuries, from grain on railroads to fish and fur — is to get Canadian resources to international markets...But what the Conservatives still refuse to understand is that in order to get our resources to market in the 21st century, we have to be responsible around the environment. We have to respect concerns that communities have and we have to build partnerships with indigenous peoples.” - Justin Trudeau

      Trudeau has been promising it all – to build the pipelines, create the jobs, respect indigenous rights and save the environment. Sounds nice, but it’s not possible to do all of those things at once. John Stone, a former climatologist with Environment Canada, and vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II laid out the facts simply, “If you build a pipeline, you’re going to fill it with tar sands that’s going to increase our emissions and that’s not going to allow us to meet our climate change commitments.”

      Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip had this to say about the government’s supposed new relationship with indigenous nations and pipelines,“Like everyone else, we’re monitoring these touchyfeely public statements [from governments] that are floating around. But to my knowledge, there isn’t an emerging groundswell of support in First Nations communities, or anything of that nature. Premier Clark and Premier Notley are talking to each other and [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau is talking to Notley, but they don’t want to talk to the indigenous people who are standing in opposition to these projects. They want to dismiss and ignore the opposition and the concerns that underline that opposition”

      So how does Trudeau plan to “respect the concerns” of indigenous nations about the pipelines when so many echo the sentiments of Serge Simon, Grand Chief of the Mohawk Nation in Kanesatake, “I would rather starve before I took any money [for allowing pipelines]. My grandchildren would curse me for leaving them with that legacy.”

      Keep Your Promises

      Some people’s grandkids are already old enough to figure out the flaws in Trudeau’s promises. On the same New York trip he was questioned by students a New York University as to how it’s possible to support, “still putting money into dirty oil sands” and claiming to be working towards a sustainable environment. Trudeau completed his answer with, “Do I agree that in the future we’re going to have to get off fossil fuels? Absolutely. Is that future tomorrow? No, it’s not.”

      He’s deliberately avoiding the question though. You don’t build a pipeline across the country and use it for one day. Building pipelines from the oil sands in Alberta involves a decades long commitment to a resources extraction and energy utilization process which guarantees that Canada continues along the unsustainable path which is putting the planet and life in such a dangerous position in the first place.

      Nobody is blaming Trudeau for creating the problem, but when you campaign on a slogan of “Real Change Now” and you start making promises left right and centre – it’s fair to question how you uphold those commitments.

      System Change, Not Climate Change! Learn from Cuba!

      A research paper published by Oxfam, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 percent in 2016. So let’s not get confused and start fighting amongst ourselves for where the responsibility for our current environmental and financial crisis comes from.

      In her remarks on the signing of the COP21 agreement, Cuba’s Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Mrs. Elba Rosa Perez Montoya quoted Cuban President Raul Castro on the broader forces of economy and inequality at play when it comes to discussing the environment, “… We believe that the cooperation framework agreed upon after the Paris Summit on climate change remains limited by the persistence and imposition of irrational production and consumption patterns, inconsistent with the preservation of the human species. ”

      In other words, as long as we prioritize corporate profits above the lives of over 7 billion people and the planet we live in on, any agreement no matter how many important people sign it will fall short. We don’t need any more hot air, either in the atmosphere or coming out of the Prime Minister of Canada’s mouth. We cannot wait for Trudeau to save us from an environmental or economic catastrophe. Capitalism is the problem. Poor and working people need to work together to expose these false promises and propose real solutions based on dignity, sustainability and social justice. We must demand, “System Change Not Climate Change!

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      Read the Statement by the minister of Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba, Mrs. Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya to the special signature ceremony of the Paris Agreement on climate change. New York, April 22, 2016 here

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