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If nations will not, provinces will fight climate extremes

Feb 02, 2013

Minister of International Relations, La Francophonie and External Trade, Quebec, Canada, Jean-Francois Lisee who was in Delhi to attend the TERI-organised conference, the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit-2013 (DSDS), tells OneWorld that leading by example is the key to ensuring every nation takes climate change seriously.

Jean-Francois Lisee

Just last September, in 2012, we saw that the arctic ice had shrunk. Anyone who doubts the immediacy of climate change must look into natural disasters such as these. If this is not climate change, then what is?

The Americans have been very skeptical but with the extreme weather conditions they have faced in the last few years, like Hurricane Sandy, it changes the story. So, if we want to have real impact, especially for those who are most vulnerable, including the South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Maldives and the others, we must break the political deadlock.
To bring about a major change, we need the political will of the United States of America and the political will of China.

Now, we know that the Chinese are saying that they will not move until the Americans do and the Americans say they won’t move if the Chinese don’t. Such situations are of course different but they are interlinked, and if these two major players do not make substantial changes, then what different countries like Bangladesh or others can do will be fruitful but marginal.
In North America, Quebec often faces a deadlock in Washington, but what we are doing is that we are leading by example and making joint actions with other states of the US which are willing to move even if Washington does not.

We did that a few years back with car emissions. California and Quebec might be on different sides of the continent, but seeing our initiative, other states and provinces followed. In the end, both nations decided to apply the standards which we had decided. So, in this case we took the leadership.

Now, we are taking the leadership once again, through the California and Quebec cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We hope that other states and provinces will follow through. And, at some time we want to build up the pressure within the United States and within Canada so that the two national governments will follow through.

And if these countries do that, well, they both commit to carbon emissions reduction and we can tell the Chinese that look we have committed. There are a lot of people at the base who want environmental change, it is just that they don’t have the political will in Washington and other parts of the world.

As told to Ashok Kumar

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