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Copenhagen provides opportunities, says Streicker

The stakes are high at the Copenhagen climate change conference, says climate change specialist John Streicker, and yet Yukoners still don't what their government will be talking about when they're there.

The stakes are high at the Copenhagen climate change conference, says climate change specialist John Streicker, and yet Yukoners still don’t what their government will be talking about when they’re there.

This weekend the Yukon will be flying 10 representatives to the climate change conference in Copenhagen, including Environment Minister Elaine Taylor.

Until now, Taylor has dodged questions in the legislature about what exactly her purpose will be while she is in Copenhagen from December 12- 18. While there, Taylor will be joined by Liberal MLA Eric Fairclough, NDP MLA Steve Cardiff, youth representative Amber Church and a handful of bureaucrats from the Yukon executive council office and the department of the Environment.

“Canada has to be more ambitious when it comes to setting targets for the country,” Taylor stated last week. But she did not specify exactly what those targets were or what sort of communication she has been having with the federal government regarding climate change.

The Canadian government is currently being criticized for its anemic emissions target.

Governments have gotten stuck on whether or not they can actually achieve those targets and spend more time talking than actually doing anything, said Streicker.

At the Montreal climate change conference in 2005, Dennis Fentie, environment minister at the time, signed a treaty calling on governments to set achievable short- and long-term targets and objectives for overall emission reductions. Those reductions were to be met through market mechanisms, improved energy efficient buildings and new technologies.

Little action has been undertaken to tackle emissions since that conference.

Streicker was at the climate change conference in Montreal but won’t be at the one in Copenhagen.

However, he says he has ideas for what he would do if he were there on behalf of the government.

“I would be networking to find people who are creating interesting technology,” said Streicker.

“I would be seeing what other regions and other jurisdictions have done and what has been successful for them and why.”

He would tease out ways that the Yukon could best put together its independent power producer policy, which the government is currently in consultations on, he said.

“I would be talking to other jurisdictions about what went on with their IPP policies and how they were shaped.

“I would in particular be looking for solutions that work for both the environment and the economy.”

He also believes that Yukoners should be talking not only about mitigating climate change but also how to best adapt to what is already occurring in the North.

Talks often focus on one or the other element, but they need to look at both at the same time, he said.

While at the Montreal climate change conference, Streicker averaged about six hours of sleep a night.

The rest of the time he was listening and talking to researchers and policy people at the conference.

“It was intense, and this conference in Copenhagen will be even more intense.”

He likens the climate change conferences to being “a little bit like Las Vegas” for people in the climate change industry.

In addition to the core negotiations regarding the wording of the treaty, there are large exhibitions of new technology and research that happen on the side.

The Council of Yukon First Nations, on behalf of the Arctic Athabascan Council, will be at one of these side events drawing people’s attention to the plight of northern caribou.

Although the conference draws scientists and government officials from all over the world, Streicker has little confidence that Copenhagen will achieve what it needs to.

What is significant is not that the Yukon is sending 10 people to the conference, it is whether or not they will be effective, he said.

Contact Vivian Belik at