AuthorMay, Elizabeth

Thank you Dean, thank you Jane, thank you all for being here, and to the First Nation on whose territory we find ourselves tonight, the Wolastoqiyik, I say woliwon, or thank you, for your generosity and hospitality.

I'm really enormously honoured to be invited by my alma mater-m the sense that I was so very honoured to have received an honourary doctorate from the University of New Brunswick--to be invited here by the Law Faculty to speak on a topic which is on my mind pretty much constantly. That is, what we are facing in terms of the climate crisis, climate emergency, climate break down. We are still quite honestly searching for the right language.

I titled this talk "1.5 to Stay Alive" many, many months ago, but we have just seen the IPCC report come out, it was October 8th, 2018 that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report, (1) special in the sense that they have been asked to prepare it by the negotiations and the negotiators in Paris in 2015. We had negotiated a Treaty which set 1.5 degrees Celcius as the global average temperature increase above which we must not go. (2)

So, the Paris Agreement says that the world's nations, working together, will reduce greenhouse gases to the level to ensure that we don't go above 1.5. This is a terrible target. This is how long it takes to just say the minimum target: we will not go above 1.5 degrees Celcius global average temperature increase above the global average temperature that existed before the Industrial Revolution. If you say anything less than that, you haven't explained your target, and the Paris Agreement also said or as far below 2 degrees as possible. And at that negotiation, the world governments also asked the scientific advisory body to all governments (that is what it is--the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, created in 1988 to advise policy makers about the evidence as it came forward) what we needed to do to avoid climate disaster.

The phrase "1.5 to Stay Alive" came to me when I was looking at the IPCC Report, because that is literally what they told us. But the first time 1 heard that phrase was in 2009 during the negotiations that failed--the negotiations in Copenhagen where we had gathered to negotiate the successor agreement to Kyoto. (3)

(By the way, Kyoto didn't fail. Most of the governments that took on commitments under Kyoto achieved their targets or exceeded them. It is only in Canada and the US that Kyoto is routinely dismissed as though it wasn't successful. But most nations kept their commitments under Kyoto.)

In 2009 we were gathered in Copenhagen to negotiate what would follow because Kyoto's targets ended in 2012, and we obviously have to continue to reduce greenhouse gases. Kyoto was referred to as a "down payment" on future action.

Now, going way back to the first United Nations conference on the environment. To get a sense of the North-South dynamic, I want to take a big broad sweep of this in terms of how the world negotiates when we face global problems. The first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was away back in Sweden, in Stockholm in 1972. A Canadian (Maurice Strong) was the Secretary General of the Conference. But Stockholm is largely remembered for the fact that, in 1972, it was very hard to convince developing nations that a concern for the environment was anything other than a rich country's issue and not meaningful to them. Most of the global south boycotted the Stockholm 1972 Conference. Indira Gandhi was one of the only leaders of a developing country to attend and there was a very clear North-South divide about "we are struggling to feed our people; we are not willing to worry about your problem."

Now, by 1992 at the Earth Summit, (4) there was a very marked change. Number one, it was a conference on the environment and development. That is an important aspect; it was framed around sustainable development goals and the environment. A country that had boycotted 20 years earlier hosted, so Brazil was hosting a gathering of nations to talk about the environment and development and these twin threats. It was at Rio, in June 1992, that the fundamental legal document--the international treaty within which all our other actions have been framed--was signed. (5)

But there was also something called the Rio Bargain, and it was very quickly violated. The Rio Bargain was this: all the legally binding treaties were negotiated around environmental issues--a treaty to protect global biodiversity, a treaty to respond to the climate crisis. And then there was a large parcel of non-binding promises by the rich countries to, for instance, "end poverty". We had the recommitment of nations from the donor countries to the 0.7% target. (This was developed by the way, by Lester B. Pearson, but not in his role as our former Prime Minister. He was on a UN Commission that decided the best way to actually end global poverty would be if the wealthy nations would take just not even 1%, but 0.7% of their GDP and provide it in development assistance.)

So that was the Rio Bargain that buttressed the fact that every nation on earth came and signed onto the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. There was that sort of arc of global negotiations, that now we had a deal. Developing countries were on board for climate targets just as they had been on board for protecting our ozone layer in the 1987 Montreal protocol, because we recognized that there was a pact to be made, that the issues for North and South were different.

Now all that changed for me in a moment in Copenhagen in 2009 when I first heard the chant "1.5 to Stay Alive." The negotiations in Copenhagen were typified by bad faith bargaining--back room elite gatherings that excluded the world's developing countries--and also a breakdown of the faith that had developed over many years in a UN system of consensus negotiations in a multilateral context, in front of everybody. So, in Copenhagen you had the big countries go behind closed doors and say, "Here is the deal" and bring the text back. This was a bad situation. And the text said, "2 degrees will be good. 2 degrees global average temperature increase is what we will strive to avoid."

(That is one of the problems with setting targets that are limits that you don't want to hit. They suddenly become...

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