New Fossil of the Day Award: Canada back in climate bad books

Canada is once again in the climate bad books, winning a so-called "Fossil of the Day Award" at the climate talks in Paris, a prize long associated instead with the days of the previous Conservative government.

Canada shares 'prize' with U.S. for rejecting appeal from developing countries

Canada has won a Fossil of the Day Award along with the U.S. at the Paris climate summit over the issue of compensation for vulnerable countries. The awards are given by the Climate Action Network, which represents nearly 1,000 environmental groups around the world. (Nahlah Ayed/CBC)

This story is part of CBC News special coverage of climate change issues in connection with the United Nations climate change conference (COP21) being held in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

Canada is once again in the climate bad books, winning a so-called "Fossil of the Day Award" at the climate talks in Paris, a prize long associated instead with the days of the previous Conservative government.

The Climate Action Network handed out the award today to Canada and the U.S. for refusing to support a discussion on compensating poor countries vulnerable to natural events caused by climate change.

Under Stephen Harper's government, Canada was once a recipient of not one, but two special editions of the award: the Lifetime Underachievement Award, and the Colossal Fossil Award, for getting in the way of a climate deal.

Canadian Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said Tuesday in Paris she is still confident a climate change agreement will be reached. She is one of 14 international ministers to serve as facilitators at the COP21 climate conference. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Compensation for countries on the front lines of climate change, and the question of liability, are some of the most hotly contested matters in the final days of negotiations of a deal on fighting climate change.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Canada's chief negotiator addressed the question in a press briefing earlier Wednesday.

Outside agreement

McKenna said the issue of loss and damage sustained by those countries is "something really important. We recognize that it's important for the less developed countries."

But Louise Metivier, Canada's chief negotiator, said it should be dealt with outside the agreement.

"It's just that it can't be present within an agreement about climate change," said Metivier.

There is a concern among several parties that including the mention could eventually expose other countries, including Canada, to legal action.

"The U.S. has put it out as something of a red line," says Dale Marshall, of Environmental Defence, which is a member of the Climate Action Network.

'Incredible to us'

"Remember this clause is about having a discussion over the next few years about how to deal with loss and damage … it doesn't commit any party to anything but discussion."

"It's incredible to us before these discussions even started, that the U.S. with support from Canada are taking options off the table."

Meanwhile, the question of how to divide climate-fighting obligations between developed and developing countries remains the biggest obstacle so far to a Paris agreement, says McKenna.

"We're working to ensure everyone is at the table," she said.

"But what it means for countries to have common but different obligations is playing out throughout the agreement. So we're working on it."

Her comments came shortly before the release Wednesday of a new, shorter draft of an accord to fight global warming that removes many previous questions but leaves several key issues unresolved. The new draft document is 29 pages, down from a 48-page version released Saturday.

Overall global temperatures

It doesn't resolve the question of the long-term goal of the accord — whether it is to remove carbon emissions from the economy altogether, or just reduce them.

Nor does it resolve whether governments are aiming at reducing overall global temperatures by 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times or closer to two degrees.

There are about 100 places in the draft where there are decisions still to be made — either showing multiple options in brackets, or just blank spaces.

The deadline for producing an agreement is 6 p.m. local on Friday.

McKenna is still upbeat about the prospects of making it.

"I am confident our work will pay off, and we will reach an agreement by Dec. 11."


Nahlah Ayed

Host of CBC Ideas

Nahlah Ayed is the host of the nightly CBC Radio program Ideas. A veteran of foreign reportage, she's spent nearly a decade covering major world events from London, and another decade covering upheaval across the Middle East. Ayed was previously a parliamentary reporter for The Canadian Press.

With files from The Associated Press