Youth Activist Sit-In in Bella Center

At 5:00pm today, during the opening of the high level segment of this year’s international climate change negotiations, a group of approximately 30 international youth staged a sit-in, refusing to leave the talks until a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty was reached. The group included young people from both developed and developing nations, including 10 Canadians.

The young people gathered and initiated the sit-in at the main hall of the conference centre where more than 110 heads of government are expected in coming days. They immediately began to read the names of the more than 11 million people who signed a petition demanding the same fair, ambitious, and legally binding agreement that is needed to avoid dangerous climate change and usher in a global clean energy economy.

“Canada, along with many other rich nations, has played an obstructive role here in Copenhagen. Despite this, Presidents and Prime Ministers still have a chance to make the necessary commitments to keeping global warming as far below a 2 degree increase as possible in a legally binding, ambitious, and equitable way,” said action participant Alex Doukas from Calgary, Alberta. “Canadians are disappointed that our minority government has failed to play a constructive role in these negotiations that determine our future, and they have failed to represent the vast majority of Canadians who want stronger action on climate change.”

Canada has truly lagged in recent weeks. Leaked documents have revealed that the federal government had no intention of meeting its already inadequate emissions reduction target. They have pledged zero additional financing to help those nations who are already facing the impacts of climate change, focusing instead on investing in unconventional oil development in the tar sands. As the only party that will not meet its Kyoto Protocol commitments, and the developed country with the second worst climate commitment as ranked by Germanwatch in their Climate Change Performance Index, much is needed from Canada in coming days. “Reports suggest the minority government had secret plans to further weaken our already unacceptable climate plan in favour of handouts for the oil and gas industry. The Harper government continues to embarrass Canada on the international stage. Prime Minister Harper needs to lead at this summit, and if he doesn’t, Canadians need to hold his government accountable,” said Doukas.

The Canadian youth maintain that recent events have not lowered their own ambition. “Canada can still raise their targets; targeted assessments have shown that world-class, science-based targets will have a marginal impact on economic growth, and a positive impact on job creation in a clean energy economy. Canada can still pledge additional, sustainable, and predictable climate finance, in accordance with ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ and historical responsibility. Above all, Canada can be a leader on climate change; the defining issue of our time,” emphasized Joanna MacDonald, a youth from Guelph, Ontario.

For more information and to arrange interviews with Canadian participants, contact Taryn McKenzie-Mohr at tarynmm@nb.sympatico.ca, or +45 5399 3242

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