The climate talks in Durban, South Africa have been sleep-walking towards disaster, so we added a bit of positive energy today by staging a protest inside the conference. During the protest, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo (who is from Durban), accompanied Dr Mohaemmed Shareef Environment Minster from the low-lying island of Maldives that will be disappear beneath the rising ocean should we fail to stop climate change.

He was eventually escorted out by security, along with over a hundred people from many different groups including 350.org, Friends of the Earth, AVAAZ, but not before saying:

“We are here to stand with the most vulnerable countries whose basic survival needs have not been met by the men and women in that conference hall. We are here to call upon government minsters to listen to the people and not the polluters.”

That last line is one that our own Environment Minister has clearly failed to learn. When Peter Kent spoke on behalf of Canada, it was widely noted that his speech received less applause than did a silent protest by Canadian youth, which is the subject of this open letter signed by Kumi (who also had an op ed in a Durban paper today) and Greenpeace International’s Tzeporah Berman (who has an op ed in today’s Globe and Mail):

On Wednesday morning, six young Canadians walked out of Environment Minister Peter Kent’s plenary address to the United Nations climate negotiations. The six Canadian youth stood silently and turned their back on Kent for several minutes, before being escorted out by UN security.

We, the undersigned from across Canada and the world, support these youth for their bold refusal to let the Canadian government negotiate away their future.

On this issue, Canada is becoming a global pariah, standing alone as the only country to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and then refuse to honour it.

However, the Canadian government has not just been inactive. It has relentlessly pursued short term profits from the production of the dirtiest oil on the planet; the tar sands. It now protects the interests of corporations over the health and livelihoods of people. In the past year alone, the government lobbied for the Keystone XL Pipeline and sought to weaken fuel standards in Europe. The expansion of the tar sands spells “game over for the climate,” however, the Canadian Government has publicly stated that its priority was coming to the negotiations to defend the tar sands. Not only that, but the government has been accused threatening to withdraw aid money to coerce poor countries into arguing against a second Kyoto period.

For these reasons and more, we stand with these youth and their walkout of Canada’s address to the High Level plenary of the United Nations climate negotiations. We support their actions and so too demand that the Canadian government starts putting the interests of people before polluters. For too long our leaders have lobbied on behalf of the fossil fuel industry rather than protecting the future of its people.

Sincerely,

Dr. David Suzuki, Co-founder, David Suzuki Foundation, www.davidsuzuki.org
Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International

Judy Rebick, founder of rabble.ca

Bill McKibben, author and 350.org founder

Tony Clark, Polaris Institute

Jamie Henn & May Boeve, 350.org

Tzeporah Berman, Climate and Energy Campaigner Greenpeace International

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Indigenous Environmental Network

Roger Rashi, Alternatives

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance