This just in:
Global coalition demands Canada's suspension from the Commonwealth on climate grounds
26 November 2009 – A coalition of prominent figures from the developing world have joined a former UK development minister, a UN scientist and British environment and development groups to demand the suspension of Canada from the commonwealth for its record on climate change.
The groups claim that Canada's lack of action on climate change is contributing to droughts, floods and sea level rises in small island states and vulnerable commonwealth countries such as Bangladesh, The Maldives and Mozambique. Canada's emissions have risen by 26.2% between 1990 and 2007. A recent report puts Canada at the bottom of the G8 league table for action to tackle climate change.
The Commonwealth allows for member countries to be suspended for Human Rights abuses, but ignores the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on some of the poorest countries in the world. This week, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Kamalesh Sharma said: "I would like to think that our definition of serious violations could embrace much more than it does now."
The organisation has acted before against members. It was a prominent opponent of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and suspended Nigeria for three years after the 1995 hanging of the activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Zimbabwe was suspended in 2002 and withdrew altogether a year later.
Canada's government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, continues to support for the extraction of oil from tar sands in northern Alberta, a process which scientists say is three times as damaging to the climate than extracting conventional oil (3).
Reacting to the news, Greenpeace UK Executive Director John Sauven said:
"Individual countries are rightly suspended from the Commonwealth for human rights abuses, but the Canadian government is contributing to what is arguably the greatest human rights scandal of all time. Extracting millions of barrels of dirty oil from tar sands and abandoning the Kyoto treaty is not the behaviour of a responsible commonwealth member, and Canada should be suspended immediately."
Saleemul Huq, Senior Fellow on Climate Change and a lead author of the IPCC fourth assessment report said:
"My country, Bangladesh, is already suffering the effects of climate change. Canada's complete failure to cut its emissions is making the global situation worse. If the Commonwealth is serious about holding its members to account, then threatening the lives of millions of people in developing countries should lead to the suspension of Canada's membership immediately."
Former UK International Development Secretary Clare Short said:
"It is important that the Commonwealth works to reduce global warming, which will devastate many of its members. Countries that fail to help should be suspended from membership, as are those that breach human rights. A process should now begin to consider suspending Canada."
Tony Clarke, Director of the Polaris institute in Canada said:
"The Canadian government's ongoing support for the Alberta tar sands is giving Canada a black eye on the international stage," "Unless our Government is willing to stop blocking international climate negotiations through its continued support for the tar sands, Canada should get out of the way and stop sitting at the Commonwealth table".
Deborah Doane, director of the World Development Movement, who is Canadian, said:
"I am deeply ashamed of the Canadian government's appalling record on climate change. Canada consumes far more than its fair share of carbon, and, like all rich nations, owes a debt to developing nations for the impact of its emissions on the climate. Canada's policy on tar sands extraction means than Canada's reputation as a leading global citizen promoting social and environmental justice is now completely tarnished.
"People in developing countries of the Commonwealth, like Bangladesh, are right to be angry that Canada is getting away with climate crimes that are destroying their homes and livelihoods. The Commonwealth should hold Canada to a higher standard, and not accept their stance from the sidelines. Just because they're not using arms, doesn't mean they're not causing harm on a grand scale."