35 years ago, I was not yet born.
That year, John Lennon was assassinated, the rubik's cube was launched internationally, the global population was 4.5 billion, and the words climate and change were never used in the same sentence.
Fast forward 35 years and 'Imagine' still chimes out of happy afternoon radio stations, and a few persistent folks are still struggling to solve the rubik's cube (most likely in app form), but the world population is now 7.3 billion and the words climate and change now go together like salt and pepper.
Except, of course, it is not such a desirable combination. Glaciers are melting, sea-level is rising, forests are falling, coral reefs are crying, droughts are spreading, floods are raging, people are scrambling and natural disasters are taking no prisoners.
And so, to solve this gawking mess, we hold climate negotiations. Well, they are called climate negotiations, but sometimes they are a bit more like people-in-fancy-suits-talking-in-circles-about-promises-they-are-reluctant-to-make. As Naomi Klein stated in her recent book This Changes Everything, quoting young climate activist Anjali Appadurai: "You have been negotiating all my life." And for us 90s babies, this is indeed sad but true.
In another 35 years, the big 2050, who knows where we will be. So instead of daydreams and what-ifs about this faraway time, when current politicians will be filling retirement homes and the yet to be born babies will be running the world, we need to ace the upcoming climate negotiations like MJ rocks his slam dunks.
So this means Paris in December is going to be a really big deal. For two weeks, it will be the headquarters of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as CoP21. The Kyoto Protocol, an international climate agreement that commits member parties to emission reduction targets, will come to a close in 2020, and CoP21 decides what happens next.
Throughout the year, developed and developing countries have been submitting their post-2020 climate action pledges known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs. What do these look like? Well currently, a mix of climate action commitments that reflect unique national circumstances, priorities, emissions profiles, capacities and responsibilities (available here).
The INDCs will serve as the backbone for the 2015 climate agreement. Next month, these national climate submissions will be reviewed by the UNFCCC, who will publish a synthesis report on the overall impact of the INDCs globally.
Canada has put forward an emissions reduction target of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, comparable to the pledges of other large economies such as Australia and the United States. However these proposed commitments trail far behind that of the European Union who has announced a binding target of 'at least a 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2030.'
Across Canada, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise annually, as reported by Environment Canada. As the oil-happy government continues slashing boreal forests, pumping crude, fracking away and drooling over pipeline expansion, Canada remains far from its' initial pledge of reducing emissions 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. In the thick of this mess, Canada steals the climate negotiations shame show.
Since the Conservative Party came to power in 2006, Canada has won five consecutive Colossal Fossil of the Year Awards, given to the country who most obstructs progress at the international climate talks, receiving strong criticism from the global climate community. In 2009 Canada became the only country to weaken its emissions reduction targets following CoP15 in Copenhagen. In 2011 Canada formally abandoned the Kyoto Protocol. In 2013 Canada received the Lifetime Unachievement Award at CoP19 in Warsaw for continuously disrupting and blocking advancement in United Nations climate negotiations, referred to as the 'absolute worst country at the [climate] talks.'
Meanwhile, last year was the hottest on world record, and floods, droughts, cyclones, wildfires and their gang of climate disasters are coming down with no mercy. But this is no time for sloth speed. Canada's negotiators need to become the Donovan Bailey's and Usain Bolt's of the climate movement and mirror the progress being demanded everywhere else: renewable energy investments are skyrocketing, provinces are implementing cap-and trade systems, carbon taxes, coal cuts, and record-breaking masses are taking to the streets for climate justice.
The time to make our voices heard could not be better. During the upcoming elections we can decide to keep falling chaotically into the climate hall of shame, or we can support alternatives that will ring us into Paris' CoP21 with the sounds of fossil fuel cuts, renewable energy investments and low carbon climate resilience. We decide. But one thing is clear. Climate change is not the type to linger politely at the door until we negotiate proper action. So we better hurry.