Stephen Harper to skip UN Climate Summit, attend dinner instead


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hosting a major climate summit in New York on September 23, “to mobilize political will” towards reducing global emissions.

U.S. President Barack Obama will be attending, as will U.K. Prime Minster David Cameron.

In fact, 125 heads of state will be there.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, will not.

In a statement released by the Prime Minister’s office on Wednesday afternoon, spokesperson Jason MacDonald said that Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq will attend the summit in his stead.

"The Prime Minister will take part in the related dinner with the Secretary-General to discuss climate issues," noted the statement.

Incidentally, Harper will be in New York that week to attend the Every Woman, Every Child event hosted by the Secretary-General on September 25th and to address the UN General Assembly

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The climate summit is not an official negotiating summit but comes one year ahead of a 2015 meeting in Paris where world leaders are aiming to a achieve a new legally binding and universal agreement on climate change — the first one since Kyoto.

Ban Ki-Moon hopes the summit on September 23 will be a catalyst towards that deal.

"Time is running out. The more we delay, the more we will pay," he wrote in an op-ed for the Huffington Post last week.

"Climate change is accelerating and human activities are the principal cause, as documented in a series of authoritative scientific reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The effects are already widespread, costly and consequential to agriculture, water resources, human health, and ecosystems on land and in the oceans. Climate change poses sweeping risks for economic stability and the security of nations.”

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Green Party leader Elizabeth May says that she’s disappointed that the prime minister isn’t attending.

"Ever since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, Canada’s position at UN climate conferences has been to undermine to undermine discussions, block progress and sabotage negotiations – that’s why we’ve received more Fossil of the Day awards than any other country,” May told Yahoo Canada News, through a spokesperson, referencing a mock award presented to the countries that do their best to block progress at the UN climate change negotiations.

"Given that it is not a negotiating session, there would be no formal process for him to sabotage, and this would probably be a good opportunity for him to learn about the innovative climate solutions being proposed by other countries."

Harper has been chided in the past for not pulling his weight with regard to climate change on the the world scene. Critics have derided his government’s withdrawal from the Kyoto accord in 2011 and for not participating in a 2009 UN Climate summit ahead of the Copenhagen talks.

For their part, the Conservative government has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 with a sector-by-sector approach.

Not many scientists or environmentalists, however, think that’s realistic.

[ Related: Tories appear to be rebranding Stephen Harper as ‘the environmental prime minister’ ]

Harper isn’t the only world leader skipping the summit.

According to Bloomberg, President Xi Jinping of China and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will send government representatives in their place.

The Harper government has insisted that any new international climate agreement must include all major emitters, including China and India.

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)

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