After 6-minute press conference: no wonder
Canada has, in certain circles, been getting a lot of respect hereabouts. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer was quoted this week praising Canada for working “very constructively” during the talks and a Danish negotiator (to remain nameless) was positively fullsome on the level of ambition and quality of the contribution that individual Canadians have been making to the process.
Yet Canada is consistently derided by Environmental NGO’s monitoring the talks and it is a clear leader in the Fossil of the Day awards given to the country most guilty of obstructing the likelihood of a fair, ambitious and binding agreement.
A hint as to the reason for this apparent contradiction arrived today in the form of Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice. In a late-in-the-day press briefing COP 15 President Connie Hedegaard celebrated the early arrival of ministers from around the world, saying that, as the ministers arrive, so does the good will. Prentice may mark the exception. In a first press briefing of his own, he took three questions over an elapsed time period that might actually have been slightly more than six minutes. He reiterated the claim that Canada was working “in a constructive way.” He said the new texts that had been produced in the last few days offered “a useful basis to move forward.” And he said (in more, and slightly less specific words) that he had no intention of discussing exemptions for Northern Canadians now, or outside Canada. Then he left.
Canada’s position is problematic. All the world, save the United States, wants to renew and reinforce the Kyoto Protocol. Canada, which has blown disastrously past its Kyoto commitment level, is desperate to abandon it. Push will come to shove in the next six days and Canadians - whose reputation is currently being improved by a legion of professionial negotiators - could soon be personified by its Environment Minister and by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. If today’s demonstration is an example of what is to come, that won’t be pretty.