Canadian Youth Delegation Says Their Government Ignores Them, But Not Big Petroleum, at COP21
Real News correspondent Dimitri Lascaris talks to Atiya Jaffar of the Canadian Youth Delegation at the COP21 conference in Paris
DIMITRI LASCARIS, TRNN: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting from Paris, France, for the Real News. I’m here at the Climate Change Conference 2015 of the United Nations, otherwise known as COP 21. The event was kicked off on Monday of this week, November 30, when some 150 leaders from around the world came to make, to varying degrees, impassioned pleas for dramatic action on climate change. One of those leaders was Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who took the opportunity to proclaim to the world that when it comes to the question of climate change, Canada is back.
And let’s take a moment and hear some of the things that Prime Minister Trudeau had to say.
CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Canada is back, my good friends. We’re here to help. To build an agreement that will do our children and our grandchildren proud. Merci beaucoup.
LASCARIS: Well, we’re now three days into the conference, and accompanying the Canadian delegation were a group of Canadian youth known as the CYD, or the Canadian Youth Delegation. And they’ve had an opportunity to gain a sense the progress that is not, and is not being made here, and the role that Canada is playing within the negotiations at COP 21. And today they took it upon themselves because of their concerns about the process and the direction that the negotiations are heading, to stage a climate action right outside one of the plenary halls here at the Le Bourget, where the COP 21 is being held.
And I had the opportunity to be there for the climate action and to speak to one of the delegates for the reasons it was being staged. And here is what happened.
LASCARIS: What has happened, in a nutshell, since you arrived at COP 21 with the delegation?
ATIYA JAFFAR: Well, it’s felt like a really long time, but I guess we’ve only been here for four days at COP 21. Quite a bit has happened, so the prime minister was here on the first day along with 150 other world leaders. And we requested to meet with him, we were very active on social media with support from back home to meet with the prime minister, but didn’t get the chance to do so. We have–but we did have a presence. We were in his press conference in the first row with clean energy and justice now stickers. We’ve gone to the public consultations with the minister of environment and climate change, and we’ve also had a chance to speak to our premiers. And we find it very interesting that the minister has offered to take a picture with us twice, but hasn’t actually been able to meet with us yet.
So this, this action is really to demonstrate that we are here to be heard and not seen. We’ve already declined two opportunities to take a photo with the minister just because we don’t think that that’s really meaningful when the government isn’t actually listening to us.
LASCARIS: And one of the demands you’ve articulated here today in this action is freezing of the tar sands. What’s your understanding of the government’s position with respect to a tar sands freeze?
JAFFAR: Well, it seems as though the government is in support of the expansion of pipeline projects, and Stephane Dion, the foreign affairs minister, is actually support–in favor of the Energy East pipeline before it’s even gone through review. And Prime Minister Trudeau articulated that he was upset, or he was disappointed, that Keystone XL was rejected. So clearly this government does support the expansion of the tar sands, which the science tells us is not compatible with an increase of 2 degrees, compatible with keeping the climate below a 2 degree rise in temperature, which we know would result in catastrophic climate change.
So we need to keep 85 percent of the tar sands under the ground, and that’s just what the science of climate change tells us. And it seems that the government so far has not been in support of this demand that we’re putting forth today.
LASCARIS: And prior to the COP 21 commencing, Catherine McKenna, the new environment minister, indicated that she had met with representatives of the fossil fuels industry. Do you know whether that’s–there have been any such meetings with representatives of the industry here, if they’ve played any role in terms of the Canadian delegation’s positioning, and so forth?
JAFFAR: We know that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is here. And we actually staged an action yesterday, it was a social media action that we did along with folks at home, which was raising our hands in support for zero by 2050. So the government’s supporting that demand in the legally binding agreement that will result from COP 21. And this was actually in retaliation to something that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was doing, where they were asking folks to raise their hand in support for jobs in the oil industry. So we kind of co-opted that action in order to make our voices heard and our message for climate justice heard.
Yeah. And yeah, of course, the minister meeting with oil companies and not yet meeting with youth or front line communities is quite problematic, because these are companies that are profiting off of the climate crisis. And for the minister to say in her tweet that we’re all in this together, that’s not true. We’re not all in this together when there are companies like Shell, like Suncorp, that are profiting off of the climate crisis.
LASCARIS: Thank you very much for taking my questions. Bye-bye. See ya.
And this is Dimitri Lascaris for the Real News.
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