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Thea Whitman Post Copenhagen Debrief

Kings County Activist Thea Whitman offers her thoughts and feelings on the weeks that were at the Copenhagen climate conference

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I asked Kings County activist and member of the Canadian Youth Delegation Thea Whitman for her post-Copenhagen thoughts. What were her feelings about the conference and the outcome, and what's next for the climate movement? Here is Thea's response:


I am disappointed - you might even say devastated - to see this as the result of 15 years of negotiations since the first COP [conference of the parties]. Since the Bali action plan was developed two years ago at COP13, leaders had a clear timeline to create a strong post-2012 plan. Instead, time was wasted in Poznan, Poland, last year, waiting for the new US administration to take over before acting. Games of cat and mouse were played in the lead-up to Copenhagen rather than laying the framework and building the trust that would have been necessary to achieve a significant result here. Instead, we have been left with what could be called a greenwash at best and a failure at worst.

The "Copenhagen Accord," thrown together over the last days of the conference, is an insult to those who believe in an open and transparent process that includes the voices of not only those who are inflicting the most harm, but also those who will suffer the most from climate change. While the accord cites a goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees, the actions pledged by all countries virtually guarantee that we will bypass this goal.

Although COP15 is over, the negotiators' job is not done. Countries need to work as hard as it takes to finalize a strong agreement over the next 6 months. Already, this failure is a costly delay, measured in human lives and in dollars, as we lock in more climate change and delay the investments in clean energy that can drive our global economy, bringing jobs and prosperity in every country. As a young person looking at how these negotiations will affect my future, I am outraged, frightened, and ashamed at what my country is doing.

I do have some hope. Some countries are taking very significant steps, both on mitigation and on financing adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. Although Canada is lagging behind on both these counts, provinces, cities and towns, and individual Canadians are taking big steps. Most Canadians want stronger federal climate policy and for Canada to return to its role as a world leader on the environment, and while these calls to action seem to have fallen on deaf ears in this government, Canadians will not stand for this for long. The climate movement is growing, to the point where it will one day not even be called a movement, but rather be the new way of seeing the world, just as the civil rights movement or women's rights movements took over our national consciousness. Still, just as neither of these issues has been "solved," we will need to continue to fight for climate justice. This fight has been the most inspiring thing I saw at this conference.

The actions of young people at the conference, such as the sit-in in the final days, the tens of thousands-strong march on Saturday, paired with thousands of actions all over the world and hundreds at home in Canada, the sit-ins that have taken place in ministers' offices all across the country (most recently, in Stephen Harper's) and other creative actions before and during the conference, and the actions and lobbying that I am certain will continue post-Copenhagen, all show me that this is a movement that cannot be stopped.

I have been honoured to work with the talented, dedicated, passionate, and brilliant people on the Canadian Youth Delegation and am hoping to dedicate all I can in the coming months and years to join the millions of people across the country in pushing us toward the advent of a new era of climate change action in Canada.

If those inside the conference will not take leadership, we will. If those negotiating our future will not use principles of climate justice and human rights to guide their decisions, we will not stand for it. And when our political leaders are ready to take the necessary action to prevent dangerous climate change, we will welcome them to join us.

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