Tagged: Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Blame Canada?

What at first looked like the flip-flop of the century was soon revealed as a sophisticated ruse by a coalition of African, North American, and European activists including the Yes Men. The purpose: to highlight the most powerful nations' obstruction of meaningful progress at the UN Climate meetings in Copenhagen, to push for just climate debt reparations, and to call out Canada in particular for its terrible climate policy. Canada's breakneck rush to exploit the massive Alberta tar sands, one of the most energy intensive and carbon spewing projects on the planet, is the primary cause of Canada's outsize carbon footprint.

The elaborate operation to call out Canada's obstructionist ways was spearheaded by a group of concerned Canadian citizens, the "Climate Debt Agents" from ActionAid, art students from Denmark, and The Yes Men.

From deep inside an underground bunker in a secret location in Copenhagen, in a faux auditorium fashioned with cardboard boxes and pipe cleaners made to look like the UN climate conference center (Good COP 15), "Canadian government representatives" announced a bold new initiative to curb emissions and spearhead a "Climate Debt Mechanism" for the developing world. The ruse involved a flurry of press releases, announcements, retractions, and video footage of Canadian and African climate negotiators sparring over a number of contentious issues.

In the first release from "Environment Canada", Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, waxed lyrical. "Canada is taking the long view on the world economy," said Prentice. "Nobody benefits from a world in peril. Contributing to the development of other nations and taking full responsibilities for our emissions is simple Canadian good sense."

This was followed by a press release of the Ugandan delegation's supposed reaction, including a dramatic video, and a fake Wall Street Journal article about the whole thing. These releases were then followed by a supposed retraction. Out there in the real world, Dmitri Soudas, the Prime Minister's spokesman, went mental and was filmed screaming at a hapless Canadian ecologist, accusing him of having organized the whole thing. (Dmitri was sent home the next day).

Besides leaving Canada with egg on its face for its terrible climate policy, the point of this multi-media operation was also to highlight the concept of Climate Debt. While 75% of the historical emissions that created the climate crisis come from 20% of the world's population in developed countries (according to the UN), up to 80% of the impacts of the climate crisis are and will be experienced in the developing world, according to the World Bank. The developed countries got rich by endangering the developing ones—don't they owe them something?

 

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December 29, 2009

Canada Successfully Destroys Parody Websites
Climate policy remains deplorable

The government of Canada has used strong-arm tactics to shut down two parody websites criticizing Canada's poor environmental policy, taking down 4500 other websites in the process.

The two websites, "enviro-canada.ca" and "ec-gc.ca", are "directly connected to a hoax which misleads people into believing that the Government of Canada will take certain actions in relation to environmental matters," wrote Mike Landreville from Environment Canada in an email to the German Internet Service Provider (ISP) Serverloft.  "We trust you appreciate the importance of avoiding confusion among the public concerning Canadian governmental affairs and that you will assist us in preventing this hoax from spreading further."

In a remarkable overstepping of bounds, Landreville also asked the ISP to "make every effort to prevent any further attempts concerning other environment-related domains (enviro, ec-gc, etc.) originating from your servers."

In response to Environment Canada's request, Serverloft immediately turned off a whole block of IP addresses, knocking out more than 4500 websites that had nothing to do with the parody sites or the activists who created them. Serverloft was shown no warrant, and never called the web hosting company about the shutdown.

"We are sorry to see that the Canadian government will not 'take certain actions' that could help stave off catastrophic climate change," said Mike Bonanno of The Yes Men, one of the groups that performed the "sophisticated hoax" two weeks ago that involved the fake sites. "And we are also sorry to see that they don't care so much for free speech."

"Surely the Canadian government has better things to do than shut down thousands of websites, beg the US for photo opps, and berate NGOs for things they haven't done," said Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men. "They could instead figure out reasonable ways of responding to their growing legion of critics."

The websites that Canada shut down were part of an elaborate "identity correction" carried out by anonymous Canadian activists, the Climate Debt Agents of Action Aid, and The Yes Men. They used press releases and fake websites to announce that Canada would adopt science-based emission targets - reducing emissions by 40% over 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050 - and would pay the countries most impacted by climate change a proportional amount of the $600 billion total recommended by the United Nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They even used a replica of the UN conference center podium to show "Uganda" reacting with glee to the plan, before seeing their "tragic hopes" dashed.

Canada had prepared for just such an eventuality by creating a so-called "Climate Change War Room," a special office tasked with delivering rapid-response messaging to any negative media coverage around Canada's role at the Copenhagen climate change negotiations. Despite these efforts, last week's flurry of parody announcements, which the prime minister's office called a "childish prank," received enormous media attention across Canada and caused at least two embarrassing media moments for Canadian high officials.

Canada has been heavily criticized for its increasingly deplorable climate policy, and this year in Copenhagen was awarded the "Colossal Fossil" prize for worst behavior in the COP-15 negotiations. The group giving the award, the Climate Action Network, is a global coalition of more than 500 organizations working on climate change.

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Video at the bottom.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Copenhagen Spoof Shames Canada; Climate Debt No Joke
African, Danish and Canadian youth join the Yes Men to demand climate justice and skewer Canadian climate policy

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - "Canada is 'red-faced'!" (Globe and Mail) "Copenhagen spoof shames Canada!" (Guardian) "Hoax slices through Canadian spin on warming!" (The Toronto Star) "A childish prank!" (Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada)

What at first looked like the flip-flop of the century has been revealed as a sophisticated ruse by a coalition of African, North American, and European activists. The purpose: to highlight the most powerful nations' obstruction of meaningful progress in Copenhagen, to push for just climate debt reparations, and to call out Canada in particular for its terrible climate policy.

The elaborate intercontinental operation was spearheaded by a group of concerned Canadian citizens, the "Climate Debt Agents" from ActionAid, and The Yes Men. It involved the creation of a best-case scenario in which Canadian government representatives unleashed a bold new initiative to curb emissions and spearhead a "Climate Debt Mechanism" for the developing world.

The ruse started at 2:00 PM Monday, when journalists around the world were surprised to receive a press release from "Environment Canada" (enviro-canada.ca, a copy of ec.gc.ca) that claimed Canada was reversing its position on climate change.

In the release, Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, waxed lyrical. "Canada is taking the long view on the world economy," said Prentice. "Nobody benefits from a world in peril. Contributing to the development of other nations and taking full responsibilities for our emissions is simple Canadian good sense."

Thirty minutes later, the same "Environment Canada" sent out another press release, congratulating itself on Uganda's excited response to the earlier fake announcement. A video featuring an impassioned response by "Margaret Matembe," supposedly a COP15 delegate from Uganda, was embedded in a fake COP15 website. "Canada, until now you have blocked climate negotiations and refused to reduce emissions," said "Matembe." "Of course, you do sit on the world's second-largest oil reserve. But for us it isn't a mere economic issue - it's about drought, famine, and disease."

(The video was shot in a replica of the Bella Center's briefing room, at Frederiksholms Kanal 4, in the center of Copenhagen. Matembe was actually Kodili Chandia, a "Climate Debt Agent" from ActionAid, a collective of activists that push for rich countries to help those most affected by climate change for adaptation and mitigation projects. The "Climate Debt Agents," with their signature bright red suits, have been a ubiquitous presence in Copenhagen during the climate summit.)

Then it was time for Canada to react. One hour later, another "Environment Canada" (this one at ec-gc.ca) released a bombastic response to the original release. This one quoted Jim Prentice, Canada's Minister for the Environment, decrying the original announcement: "It is the height of cruelty, hypocrisy, and immorality to infuse with false hopes the spirit of people who are already, and will additionally, bear the brunt of climate change's terrible human effects. Canada deplores this moral misfire."

Because almost none of the resulting news coverage even mentioned Uganda or "Matembe's" response, a fourth release was sent from the second website (ec-gc.ca).

Meanwhile, in the real world

The real Canadian government's reactions were almost as strange as the fake ones in the release. Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for the Canadian Prime Minister, emailed reporters and blamed Steven Guilbeault, cofounder of Quebec-based Equiterre. "More time should be dedicated to playing a constructive role instead of childish pranks," said Soudas in a first email, while misspelling Guilbeault's name.

Guilbeault demanded an apology. "A better way to use his time would probably be to advise the Canadian government to change its deeply flawed position on climate," said Guilbeault. Soudas and Guilbeault were seen exchanging angry words in the hallway outside of Canada's 3:30pm press conference, which did not start until 4:30pm, and at which the Canadians refused to answer any questions about the flurry of false releases.

(Update: Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff has called for Soudas's dismissal over the incident.)

More raised voices were heard when Stephen Chu, the US Secretary of Energy, refused to pose for a photo with his Canadian counterpart, Jim Prentice. After Steve Kelly, Prentice's chief of staff, begged for 10 minutes, the US guy finally asked why a photo was so important. Kelly replied that "we were carpetbagged this morning by [environmental non-governmental organizations] with a false press release. I gotta change the story."

Why Blame Canada?

The only country in the world to have abandoned the Kyoto Protocol's emissions and climate debt targets, Canada also has the most energy-intensive, destructive and polluting oil reserves in the world. The Alberta tar sands, according to The Economist, are in fact the world's biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions.

"By not agreeing to emissions reductions, Canada is holding a loaded gun to our heads, and seems ready to pull the trigger on millions of us around the globe, " said Margaret Matembe aka Kodili Chandia of the "Climate Debt Agents." "They leave us no choice but to see them as criminal."

At last year's climate summit in Poznan, Poland, over 400 civil society organizations voted Canada worst of all nations in blocking progress towards a binding climate treaty. Will Canada take the dubious prize again this year in Copenhagen?

"The Canadian government is not listening to its citizens," says Sarah Ramsey, a resident of Alberta who has seen the destruction of the tar sands firsthand. Ramsey traveled to Copenhagen to give voice to a generation of young Canadians. "We are discouraged and demoralized by our government's position on climate change. We decided to lend our government a hand, and show them what good leadership looks like."

In solidarity with the delegates from the G77 Bloc of nations, today's intervention was also meant to highlight an issue at the heart of the ongoing talks—the issue of climate justice, and the climate debt that the developed world owes the developing world. Seventy-five percent of the historical emissions that created the climate crisis came from 20% of the world's population in developed countries, according to the UN, yet up to 80% of the impacts of the climate crisis are experienced in the developing world, according to the World Bank.

"I meant every word I said," says Kodili Chandia, a spokesperson for the Climate Debt Agents, who spoke out as a member of the Ugandan delegation. "This debate isn't just about facts and figures and abstract concepts of fairness—the drought we are seeing right now in East Africa is directly threatening the lives of millions of people, including farmers in my own family. We have not created this problem but we are living with the consequences. That's why I still say: It's time for rich countries to pay their climate debt."

(Hi-res download)

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