Wonderful, Wonderful Hopenhagen

There is a funky website at hopenhagen.com that is aimed at inspiring hope about the December climate change talks that will be held in Copenhagen. A neat little trick is that visitors to the website can put in a quick saying about what gives them hope.

There is a funky website at hopenhagen.com that is aimed at inspiring hope about the December climate change talks that will be held in Copenhagen.

A neat little trick is that visitors to the website can put in a quick saying about what gives them hope.

The saying is added to all the others that have been submitted and all can be viewed as they scroll down the computer screen.

It is cute, and it is inspiring.

All this makes one wonder what exactly are the Copenhagen talks.

The formal name is the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Understandably this is sometimes shortened to COP15.

Even at that, the more common term being used is Copenhagen.

The talks are being held in the Danish capital in early December.

Copenhagen is the successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol refers to the 1997 negotiations that were aimed at getting countries to sign onto an agreement to reduce their respective greenhouse gas emissions.

As the reader may be aware, it was not exactly successful.

Canada had a Kyoto target of reducing its emissions by six per cent below its 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

Unfortunately, Canada is currently about 30 per cent above its 1990 levels.

Other countries are also failing to meet their targets.

Given the realization that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced, the Copenhagen talks will provide a way to move beyond the Kyoto Protocol, portions of which end in 2012.

The tricky bit is that not all countries are volunteering to reduce their own emissions, but are rather keen for other countries to do their bit.

Even within individual countries there are certain regions that take issue with the fact they might have to reduce their emissions.

A certain province of Canada called Alberta does come to mind.

Even the Yukon is conflicted on this issue.

The Yukon is being affected by climate change, caused by the greenhouse gases that are released when fossil fuels are burnt.

Yet the Yukon encourages fossil fuel development, be it oil and gas exploration or the construction of large-scale natural gas pipelines such as the one proposed from Alaska to Alberta.

The Yukon is also currently dependent on fossil fuels for transportation, for heating and for some electrical generation.

This conflict between protecting the ecosystems that sustain the planet as humans know it and the desire for fossil-fuel-related economic development is not isolated to just the Yukon or even Canada.

Countries all over the world are grappling with the issue.

That is why governments from all over the world will be gathering at Copenhagen.

The Federal Government of Canada will be there, as the treaty that will hopefully result from the conference is between nations.

Other levels of government such as the Yukon territory will be in attendance as observers.

The implications for the Yukon from the Copenhagen talks will be important.

To deal with the impacts of climate change humanity will have to reduce its consumption of fossil fuels.

This is going to affect the quality of life in the Yukon, and change the way governments and corporations consider economic development.

But this is not necessarily negative.

Things will just have to be done differently.

Less emphasis on fossil fuels for energy generation will mean greater emphasis on hydro-power, and perhaps wind and solar energy initiatives.

Better building design will mean less energy, whatever its source, is needed to heat homes. This will have the added benefit of reducing utility bills.

Transportation will switch to hybrid and electric vehicles. The trick will be to ensure that the power source to charge them is fossil-fuel free.

The one thing the Copenhagen talks will not change is the current impacts of climate change.

What is being experienced now will continue for at least a century, even if by some miracle greenhouse gas emissions are reduced far below 1990 levels tomorrow.

The planet is stuck with climate-change impacts for the next century or so no matter what the outcome of the talks.

Copenhagen might be about hope, but in this case the hope is that these talks must succeed.

Otherwise things are going to get very bad indeed for the Yukon and the rest of the regions that constitute the living surface of the Earth.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

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