Countdown to Copenhagen: Canada's reputation called into question
Canada's reputation is taking a bit of a pounding in the final weeks before the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen. While that reputation may not prove to be particularly material in the coming weeks, it may again be relevant in future negotiations.
In its analysis of countries to watch at the negotiating table, the UK's Guardian newspaper said yesterday, "in stark contrast to its cuddly international image, Canada is the dirty old man of the climate world." George Monbiot, an outspoken climate change activist and columnist for the Guardian, followed up by saying that Canada "is now to climate what Japan is to whaling."
Similarly, a coalition of scientists and environmentalists from developing countries petitioned to have Canada suspended from the Commonwealth, on the basis that "countries that fail to help [tackle global warming] should be suspended from membership, as are those that breach human rights" (Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa have all been suspended in the past for electoral or human rights reasons). However, there have been no reports of the petition having been accepted at the meeting of the Commonwealth last weekend.
Even the Edmonton Journal conceded that, "the Guardian's article might be a simplified view of Canada's record on the climate change portfolio but it is also a measure of how far Canada's reputation has fallen in the eyes of the world, especially to those who look to us for leadership."
Overcoming this new reputation may a high hurdle for Canada in Copenhagen. However, if the Canadian government is able to execute its strategy of following the lead of the U.S., Canada's reputation in the next couple of weeks may be of relatively minor importance compared to that of President Obama. Nevertheless, it would be in Canada's interest to take every opportunity in Copenhagen to restore its once sterling reputation, as it may be relevant in future international negotiations where Canada has to "go it alone."