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Monday, September 29, 2014

The ocean needs a climate leader

By Karen Wristen

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s address to the Climate Summit in New York last week was poignant:
“Climate change is a defining issue of our age, of our present. Our response will define our future. To ride this storm we need all hands on deck. We need a clear vision. The human, environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable. We have never faced such a challenge, nor such an opportunity...”

Laurent Fabius, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Ban Ki Moon and Ségolène Royal join an initial count of 310,000 people marching in New York city to demand action on global warming ahead of the Ban ki Moon climate summit. Photo: Greg McNevin.
Ban brought world leaders together at this Summit to encourage a display of the kind of leadership he speaks of when he calls for “all hands on deck.” And displays there were: the summit is knee-deep in celebrities and former politicians urging a legally binding deal to be struck at the next major UN climate negotiations in Paris in 2015. Days before the Summit, more than 340 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets called on government leaders to provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment, and to end fossil fuel subsidies. Leaders in both developed and developing nations acknowledged the economic loss that inaction will bring and embracing the stimulus of greening the economy.

Missing from the action was Canada’s Prime Minister. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq attended in his place, announcing (to a nearly empty room) new regulations to curb emissions from vehicles and the electricity sector. She made no mention of Canada's oil and gas sector, now responsible for one-quarter of the nation’s emissions and two years overdue for the promised announcement of regulations.

The current federal government pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol in December 2011, shortly before embarking on the most comprehensive dismantling of environmental legislation in the history of the modern world. Meanwhile, the ocean continues to absorb much of the carbon in the atmosphere, but at tremendous cost. By 2100, it will be more acidic than it has been in 20 million years.

The next major UN climate negotiations are scheduled for December 2015. The next federal election is scheduled for October 2015. The ocean needs us to send a climate leader to Paris and it needs us to make a legally binding commitment to carbon reduction.