Thursday, 4 March 2010

Boycott My Country!

Even before Copenhagen, Canada already had a bad reputation around the world because of our attempts to sabotage climate meetings, our flouting of Kyoto, and our very poor emissions targets. Since the travesty of Copenhagen, we have actually reduced our emissions targets from previously announced levels. We are now committing to a small reduction that will leave emissions above 1990 levels. We have the worst emissions targets in the Western world.

Aside from the above, Canada is continuing to expand the exploitation of one of the dirtiest energy sources in the world, the tar sands, while increasing the devastation of the environment in Alberta, and poisoning native communities. As Naomi Klein pointed out in a recent speech on climate debt, Canada is the country that will be least impacted by climate change in the world, and in fact, it may actually benefit us, at least in the short term. We are profiting from the destruction of the planet, while others are suffering from that destruction.

As a result of all of this, we are seeing the beginnings of a global campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Canada. Several US firms have announced plans to boycott oil from the tar sands, including Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Whole Foods. Even the Pentagon is reducing its use of tar sands oil, in order to comply with US law. In the UK, British firms are under increasing pressure to divest from the tar sands.

Within Canada, there is other action. Climate Justice London is organizing a boycott of RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) with the aim of forcing them to divest from the tar sands and pay reparations to native communities. The Wet’suwet’en Nation is organizing a boycott against Enbridge in order to halt construction of a pipeline to deliver tar sands oil to the West coast. Naomi Klein, a prominent Canadian activist and writer, has called for a global BDS campaign against Canada.

Despite many protests and demonstrations in the year leading up to Copenhagen, nothing was accomplished, and Canada has not improved its policies in any way. Indeed our positions have worsened. There is also little reason to believe that we will meet even our meagre emissions targets. We signed Kyoto, a legally binding treaty, yet despite that our emissions have risen 35 percent above 1990 levels. We have completely failed in our treaty obligations, and even declared publicly that we will ignore them.

The only way Canada will change its ways is if it is pressured and forced to do so. The first demand has to be an immediate and permanent shutdown of all tar sands activity. The land must be restored, the pollution cleaned up, and native communities compensated. A global campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Canadian companies and institutions is the only non-violent method that can accomplish this goal. The international community needs to impose sanctions against us as a punishment for our treaty violations. We broke the law and must be held accountable.

This is just the beginning, and it is unlikely that the small boycotts now taking place will change Canadian policy. But global disgust over the tar sands is not something that is going away. More and more countries are denouncing Canadian policy, and more and more people are organizing against us. Nations won't act on their own, but as the pressure rises, they will react. The Canadian government has a chance to get in front of this, and restore their international reputation. Or they can hunker down and prepare for a long and bitter struggle. In the end, this is fight they can't win.

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