Canada ‘fiddles while planet burns’, says Councillor David Cadman at Durban climate talks

Published in the Vancouver Observer news site  |  December 2, 2011  |  Circulation: 100,000 average monthly readers.

It’s Day Five of global climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa — and while hopes are fading for a binding international treaty to tackle one of the greatest crises of our time, outgoing Vancouver councillor David Cadman is there pushing for immediate action on the issue.

This morning, Cadman offered a keynote address in Durban at a parallel climate conference of local governments in his role as president of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), a global organization representing 1,200 cities in 72 countries worldwide.

The ICLEI will spend the next several days drafting the Durban Charter on Adaptation, a template for global municipal partnerships envisioning a “climate smart” world – one which tackles inequality and climate injustice. The Charter will be presented to the United Nations climate conference, COP17.

“Here in Durban,” Cadman told the Vancouver Observer by email, “we are once again pulling together cities from around the world to adopt the Durban Charter on Adaptation.

“Fundamentally unlike the nations of the world we are committed to action and a future for humankind. While the nations of the world like Nero fiddle while the planet burns, cities and millions of their citizens are doing the right thing and urging the nations of the world to come off this precipice that big oil gas and coal have taken us on to.

Cadman pointed to disasters and extreme weather as irrefutable proof that climate change is escalating.

“We know the polar caps are melting, we know the glaciers of the world that hold 80 percent of the earths fresh water are melting,” he said. “One need only look at Bangkok or the flooding in Pakistan and Nigeria or the forest fires in Russia to know that the earth is experiencing profound weather shifts. The last decade we have experienced the hottest decade ever recorded.

“Canada consistently is awarded the daily fossil as being the most regressive country on climate change,” he added. “Just when you think they cannot besmirch our image any more they do. We have fallen a long way in the eyes of the world from a once respected voice on global matters.

“We are thinking globally and acting locally.”

The ICLEI gathering aims to foster municipal action to tackle the climate crisis, a need that is particularly pronounced in light of Canada and other wealthier countries’ reluctance to sign a binding new convention at this gathering.

Cadman addressed more than 200 delegates – including mayors, scientists and civic officials – on a plenary panel alongside South African president Jacob Zuma, Durban mayor James Nxumalo, and Manguang, South Africa mayor Thabo Manyoni.

The panel emphasized the “pivotal role” of municipalities in tackling climate change, a message Cadman and other municipal leaders from across the globe have attempted to interject into stalled global negotiations since Day One on November 28, in which ICLEI called upon world leaders to “reinforce the need, and seek increased recognition for the pivotal and urgent role of cities and local governments in the implementation of immediate, up-scaled local climate actions.”

In an interview earlier this year on Climate Change TV, Cadman said that global leaders intransigence on giving climate change treaties any teeth has pushed municipalities to fend for themselves and focus on adaptation to climate change.

“Because world governments have not come to a reasonable way to stop the increase in CO2 emissions, we’ve now decided that we have to focus on adaptation, because adaptation is coming – we’re seeing it in our cities,” Cadman said. “So we have no choice.

“The problem we have right now is because there’s no cap on greenhouse gases, we don’t know how big that problem’s going to get. Therein lies the real problem. (…) You have to deal with the problem as you see it emerging. It’s kicking the can down the road and hoping that it’s not you that has to bear the consequences.”

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