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Stop Everything #14: Renewing our own energy after Copenhagen

darcy higgins

Nicolas Sarkozy attends COP15 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen

We’ve marched, oh how we have marched.

The “get back to work” signs now find their place in the closet where dust has begun to flirt with the climate-themed “350” signs of October and December. The proroguing of Parliament has left the country with no ability to act on any sort of climate legislation (though that’s not so different than when it’s in session). We also now have the launch of a popular movement for democracy, based partly on a collective desire to deal with a whole raft of issues, the climate crisis being one.

A failure of international politics in Copenhagen and of democracy domestically has left a situation that is indeed bleak, though also provides time for activists, and all active citizens, to regroup. Journalist Murray Dobbin wrote last week: “These politically opportune moments do not arrive very often and it is incumbent upon existing organizations to rise to the occasion, support the nascent movement and begin gearing up their own machinery to take the fight to Stephen Harper and his government.”

We now have an election coming up—if not April, then at some point soon. But are we really that serious about firing Steve, as many rally signs had proclaimed?

Dobbin continues to ask if this democracy movement is about reform in itself or will it include the specific goal of ridding Canada of its current Prime Minister?

The big elephant in the movement is the political siloing of the non-Conservative activists. Diversity of voice often brings strength, but a split of support because of the partisanship of most of us in the movement continues to pose a problem within Canada’s electoral system.

The Conservatives’ drop in the polls due to shutting down Parliament and the prisoner abuse scandal has been sharp and pronounced. While without much in the way of advertised policy, the Liberals have managed an upswing in support, with the NDP, Greens and Bloc all down slightly in the New Year. The now two-party race for government is something to keep more than an eye on.

While progressives are split within many parties, the weakness in civil society institutions and movement organizations is also harming the cause. The environmental movement itself within Canada seems to have more and more organizations working on similar climate ends, and there even exists more than one coalition/umbrella type group that focuses on federal climate lobbying: Power Up CanadaClimate Action Network, Power Shift, and so on.

Perhaps this can be used to advantage. Three main strategies present themselves to guide us to the ultimate aim of reducing climate change emissions immediately and in the long-run.

  • Some organizations may wish to stick it out, putting continued pressure and policy work on the international negotiating system leading to Copenhagen 2: Mexico City.
  • Others must work on focused action that directs the removal of high-carbon sources to our atmosphere like coal plants, tar sands projects and industrial projects, which could reduce emissions quickly and may influence positive actions in other countries.
  • The remaining organizations can concentrate on lobbying and coalition-building that focuses MPs and political parties to bring the climate agenda far forward in preparation for legislative debate and the next election.

Organizations working on these three objectives should be ready to support each others’ goals, each with a focus that could bring results – a multi-pronged strategy that may well bring success in at least one area.

We have a unique opportunity.It is largely up to the size and tact of citizens movements whether we let the government keep pushing the climate around or we push the agenda over the top.

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