Monday, December 7, 2009

Fasting for the Copenhagen Summit

Today marks the start of the Copenhagen UN Climate Summit, or COP15. Leaders from 192 countries, including Canada, USA and China are planning to attend. Whether they can come to meaningful consensus on how to reduce world wide carbon emissions remains to be seen. In Canada and the USA, we must make some major changes. Currently we use about 22 bbls of oil/person/year to maintain our economy and our standard of living. At China's current level of economic development, they are using less than 2 bbls/person/day and India is about half that level. There is great pressure from the citizens of China and India to have a higher living standard, and if that were to occur in North American way, it would require increases in crude oil production that simply aren't available.
You'll notice that I switched from carbon dioxide emissions to bbls of oil/person/day. This was not an accident, as these two parameters are intimately linked. Countries, like Canada, with low levels of energy efficiency are also very high per capita CO2 emitters. Countries like Denmark, Germany and Switzerland who have attained a much higher level of energy efficiency in their economies are also very low CO2 emitters.
I bring this up because Canada, under the Harper government (although Cretian and Martin were not much better) is one of the worst countries for derailing consensus around climate change legislation. Prime Minister Harper, as echoing Alberta's Premier Ed Stelmach, claim that honouring legislation to reduce CO2 emissions would ruin our economy. If this were the case, why are the Western European countries so willing to commit to more aggressive cuts? Are they attempting economic suicide or have they experienced the energy security that comes from a more energy efficient economy? With all our fears about carbon taxes in Canada - which simply increase the cost of oil and other carbon-based energy sources, what will happen to us when oil prices really rise to $200? Certainly Denmark and Germany are far better prepared than we are.
Why are Harper and Stelmach so willing to keep Canada vulnerable to high oil prices and potential tariffs and sanctions for staying outside of international carbon trading systems? Is it really about the economy or are they simply catering to their corporate base of support?

In any case, all these questions won't find easy answers. In the meantime, Jan, Trevor and I are engaging in fasting and prayer over this week, asking that the national leaders will blessed with the wisdom and courage to do the right thing. We were inspired in this act by the Rev. Dr. Bill Phipps (former moderator of the United Church of Canada) who is fasting for this entire week as he posts vigil outside the Calgary offices of many prominent politicians and Darrell Belrose, President of the Community of Christ in Western Canada.

After all, social justice and stewardship of God's creation are primarily spiritual in nature.

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