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Dal students at UN negotiations

Climate change on the agenda

Dal's CYD team. Photo by Sarah Mateshaytis
Dal's CYD team. Photo by Sarah Mateshaytis

Two Dal students, two King’s students and a recent Dal grad are traveling across the world at the end of November to attend the UN Climate Change Negotiations in Durban, South Africa.

These students were selected as members of the Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD), which is made up of 18 youth from across Canada who go to the annual negotiations to “represent the demands of an entire generation working to create a just, safe, and livable future for all people,” according to the CYD website.

Sonia Grant, a fourth-year international development studies student and one of the delegates explains her involvement. “I’m thrilled to be on the CYD to help bring the voices of young Canadians to these negotiations, which will inform our future and the future of the planet as a whole,” she says.

“Climate change, among other things, is about inter-generational justice. Youth from around the world must be provided with a genuine space to represent themselves at COP 17, and during domestic policy discussions. Unfortunately what we have been seeing is the Canadian government negotiating on behalf of polluters.”

A report last year from the International Institute for Sustainable Development showed that Canada subsidized the oil and gas industry by more than $1 billion per year. Additionally, through the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance (ACCA) program, Canada gives a 100 per cent tax break on capital spending to tar sands developers. On top of that, this fall, Canada has been lobbying in the European Union against their proposed fuel standards that would rank tars ands oil as highly polluting.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying that “having a measure that provides for more onerous treatment for the oil sands relative to other crudes which haven’t been analyzed is discriminatory and it potentially violates the European Union’s international trade obligations.”

He believes the fuel standard is discriminating against the tar sands because it singles them out as having higher carbon emissions without any sound scientific studies examining the emissions from the conventional oil the EU imports.

Robin Tress, a recent Dal grad, says, “We cannot allow this to be Canada’s perspective going into this year’s negotiation. There are a variety of ways in which Canada needs to show strong leadership. Primarily, they need to negotiate for stronger targets among industrial countries that will peak average global temperature increases at 1.5 degrees Celcius. I am a recent grad and I am upset that the Government is investing in dirty industries instead of green jobs.”

A recent report by the Pembina institute has shown that if instead of investing in the tar sands, Canada invested in climate-friendly projects including technology and renewable energies, building retrofits and green transportation infrastructure, there would be much better job prospects for young Canadians.

The United States saw the growth of nearly 18,000 jobs since 2009 in the solar energy sector alone. The renewable energy economy requires lots of employees—particularly in manufacturing and services—whereas the fossil fuel industry requires investment in machinery and infrastructure.

In contrast, the mountain pine beetle epidemic of British Columbia, a problem that has been linked to sustained warmer winters from climate change, has forced 20,000 people out of work in the forestry sector according to Natural Resources Canada.

The Pembina study calculated that if the federal government had devoted 100 per cent instead of 8.3 per cent of its stimulus spending on infrastructure to clean energy investment, nearly three times as many jobs would have been generated, for a total of over 238,000 jobs, compared to the actual total of 84,000 jobs.

CYD delegate Emilie Novaczek explaines: “The jobs in the tar sands are concentrated in a few regions. Employment in the renewable energy sector would create jobs across Canada. There is tremendous opportunity for jobs in research and development, engineering, planning, sales, manufacturing and installation across the country. When I graduate I want to work in Atlantic Canada in a job related to my sustainability and biology degree.”

In a July press release, Environment Minister Peter Kent said “The oil sands represent a significant, long-term economic advantage for the people of Alberta, and all Canadians.”

Kent said last week in a radio interview on CBC’s The Current that Canada’s global contribution to climate change is “very small” but we must still play a part and that “there is a significant imbalance in the focus on only the oil sands.”

Before leaving for Durban the delegates are working in Halifax to mobilize the community by hosting workshops, trainings and events. The next workshop is Nov. 16 in the Mona Campbell building where participants can expect to plan for domestic action during the climate negotiations.

Kaleigh is a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation.

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