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Global Climate Accountability

Summary of Elizabeth May’s Zoom Presentation to the World Federalist Movement Canada, Toronto Branch on May 18, 2021

Watch the recording of the Zoom event

Her presentation was about a tale of two treaties. The first was the 1987 Montreal Protocol limiting threats to the earth’s ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbons in refrigeration appliances and products like aerosol cans. It is a treaty that worked because it incorporated a clear effective enforcement mechanism of foreign trade sanctions against delinquent countries, and had its most stringent requirements on wealthy countries.

The second treaty was the 1997 Kyoto Protocol under the 1992 Rio Summit’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). That framework committed states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific consensus that human-made CO2 emissions are driving global warming. The Kyoto Protocol was ineffective at least partly because it did not apply the trade sanctions architecture of the Montreal Protocol. In 1994 the World
Trade Organization (WTO) had agreed on ‘Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights’ (TRIPS). TRIPS removed the option for Kyoto to include trade sanctions which would have violated protection of intellectual property.

The alternatives to trade sanctions include group shaming during global stock taking. Such general approbation is ineffective because Ministers of Finance (and civil servants) are unprepared to actually meet targets when there are no immediate term penalties.

Canada’s Bill C-12 (An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, adopted by the House of Commons on June 22, 2021) is a joke because it only involves reporting of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions relative to target (i.e. public shaming). C-12 does not have enforcement penalties and procedures. May concluded that there is no political will in Canada to enforce the Paris agreement. The biosphere is at grave risk and will be unlivable if the 1.5 C degrees target is not met (we are currently on track for 3.0 C to 4.0 C degrees). There is a very
significant risk, almost a certainty, that human civilization will not be able to withstand the number of changes that will occur in our environment.

For effective GHG management accountability at the world level, we need enforcement penalties and procedures such as dismantling TRIPS and reconfiguring the WTO as the ‘WTEO’ (World Trade and Environment Organization). Its purpose would be to stop the consumption of
fossil fuels to enable a shared responsibility for a future that we can live with. May concluded that such action would bring to an end the profit and greed of multinational corporations at the expense of the environment and excessive climate change.

Download PDF of event summary

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