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Today Neil Young kicked off his Canadian Honour the Treaties tour in Toronto. The tour is raising support for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations (ACFN) legal defense fun. ACFN are asking Canadians to respect their Treaty 8 rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982:

Section 35:

  1. The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.
  2. In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit, and Metis peoples of Canada.
  3. For greater certainty, in subsection (1) “treaty rights” includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.
  4. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

The ACFN  drawing a line in the sand and arguing that unbounded growth of tar sands expansion is unsustainable. They are calling on industry to follow through on their promises to reclaim the land once it is mined instead surging forward unchecked. The ACFN are not calling for a shut down of the tar sands but rather want to see a more responsible path towards development and promised reclamation.

At 13:00 we held a press conference hosted by David Suzuki.  Neil Young, Chief Allan Adam, David Suzuki, Eriel Deranger and I each gave a short presentation.

Below is the text of my statement:

“In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted. Canada played an important role in negotiating the protocol and in 2002 ratified it. We committed to reduce our GHG emissions by 6% relative to 1990 levels by 2008-2012. While 192 nations are still parties to the Kyoto Protocol, Canada formally withdrew in 2012.

In 2007 the Harper government announced that it planned to develop a “Made in Canada” solution to greenhouse gas reductions — a 3% reduction of Canadian GHG levels relative to 1990 by 2020.”

Then in 2010 Canada announced that it would match US emission reduction targets. In the Canadian context, this meant increasing GHG emissions to be 2.5% above 1990 levels by 2020. This was in response to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord wherein nations submitted voluntary reduction targets with the goal of keeping global warming to less than 2°C above preindustrial levels.

But here’s the reality. The world has already warmed by about 0.8°C since preindustrial times. We are committed to a further warming of about 0.6°C as the climate system equilibrates to existing greenhouse gas levels, and about another 0.3°C this century through the permafrost carbon feedback. That’s a total if 1.7°C.

Even if every country met its voluntary GHG reduction target submitted to the Copenhagen Accord, we will almost certainly break the 2.0°C number with even odds that we’d break 3°C this century, with 4°C following shortly thereafter if emissions aren’t curtailed.

Without any doubt, there is a profound disconnect between science and policy.

The Alberta tar sands represent the fastest growing source of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions. We cannot hope to even meet our latest voluntary target unless continued growth in these emissions is curtailed.

In the process of trying to squeeze that last drop of oil out of the ground, we are going to greater and greater extents, with more and more profound environmental consequences. And the Alberta tar sands represent the poster child for environmental destruction and degradation that arises.

Canada is missing out on the next technological revolution — the clean tech revolution. Clean tech is the sector involved in the generation, transportation, storage and end use of renewable energy. While nations around the world are positioning themselves as leaders in tomorrow’s clean tech economy Canada is instead doubling down on yesterday’s economy — the economy of fossil fuels.

We’re entering an exciting age of innovation as we develop the means and ways of generating, transporting, storing and using clean, renewable energy. Let’s unleash our home-grown Canadian innovation. All the solutions to global warming are within our reach.”

One Comment

  1. Danny Harvey-
    January 14, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    “Curtailing” the growth of tar sands operations is not enough – basic math tells us that the growth in rate of extraction must stop, accompanied by a reduction in emissions intensity of 20-40% per barrel of bitumen extracted, followed in 20 years or so by a winding down of operations over the following 20 years. Anything less than that is inconsistent with what needs to be down to have a chance in limiting global mean warming to an already dangerous 2 C.