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Stop Everything #10: An open letter to the Copenhagen climate delegates

darcy higgins

I came out of Tuesday night’s Munk Debate on Climate Change feeling kind of funny. Given that NASA scientists and others tell us we have about seven years to cap global greenhouse gas emissions before “runaway climate change”—and the next couple weeks may establish whether that happens or not—it strikes me that a debate about whether or not we must act is one that that should have happened 25 years ago. A strong summary of the debate was provided by Toronto Star columnist Tyler Hamilton. The event on location had an air of privilege, and so I am happy that many of you watched from locations across Canada and in your homes. There could be a lot more to say about the debate, but there’s much more to say about moving forward.

As our youth delegates head off to Europe, I wish to support them. Knowing Stephen Harper’s government has not changed its position as of yet, I share a call. I’ve written an open letter to world leaders and climate negotiators at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Please borrow this letter or write your own to other world leaders. Google and post their addresses—share, tweet and email away.

An Open Letter to the Copenhagen delegates:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I write you as a young citizen of Canada. It is a country which has contributed significantly towards a global view of human rights, peace and multiculturalism. Canadian governments of the past have led on environmental matters such as acid rain and ozone depletion. We have achieved much as a nation of modest population.

Today we head into one of the defining events of human civilization. You will choose actions which will mean the betterment of society, or which may imperil the lives of hundreds of millions globally. Your commitments will be important, and this time must be followed up by strong action to transform the sectors of energy, industry, transportation and agriculture, and be beneficial and just to the world’s marginalized citizens. Your nations have prepared for these meetings since last December at various conferences, and for many years prior. It is time for a strong, binding, global deal on climate.

You are aware of the position of the Government of Canada. I am writing to tell you that this position does not reflect my own. Leaders in nations including the United States, France, Maldives, China and Nigeria have spoken eloquently about the need for swift and strong action. Canada’s leadership does nothing of the sort.

Please: do not let my government slow you down.

Last year other nations made Canada withdraw its pressure to weaken deals. This year, leaders of the world’s developing countries walked out on Canada when our negotiators attempted to change the rules of the game.

Remain strong and forthright in your goals. My government advocates short-term profits over long-term sustainability. It was elected in the lowest voter turnout of any election since Canada’s confederation in 1867, with 22% of the voting population. Here we have no coalition government. This vote gave the Conservatives a majority. And these are not Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

As a young person, I don’t claim to have a stronger say than any other citizen in the selection of our government. But I do have a greater stake in our future. To show you what my generation and those younger than me are thinking, I show you a vote among over 500,000 students across Canada which gave the Conservative Party 25.6%, Green Party 23.8%, New Democratic Party 22.9% and Liberal Party 18.6% of the vote. All three opposition parties had, to varying degrees, commitments to act on climate change and discussed them widely.

I will be better represented in Copenhagen by the Canadian Youth Delegation than the Government of Canada. The Delegation will represent a cross-section of Canadian young people. I am glad they are there, and I ask you to listen to their views and the views of other youth delegations at least as strongly as you hear those of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

With faith in your better judgment,

Darcy Higgins

Toronto, Canada

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