The Hoax: a "childish" prank, or brilliant media stunt?
Breaking news from Copenhagen: Canada becomes a leader on climate change?
I'm afraid not.
In the span of a couple of hours, the biggest news coming out of the Copenhagen negotiations was that Canada was going to drastically change its position on climate change, and commit to a 40% cut from 1990 levels, leaving everyone in shock, even the negotiators themselves.
The Canadian government it seems, became a victim of the a well-orchestrated Yes Men stunt, involving a fake press release, website and Jim Prentice twitter account. Read the Star article about it here.
The Yes Men, a known group of political and business pranksters is said to have organized the stunt. The stunt was so elaborate, that it even had delegates in Copenhagen scratching their heads trying to discern truth from fiction.
The purpose of today's hoax was to clearly highlight Canada's unambitious targets that it has held onto for two years with no concrete plan to achieve them and the "non-negotiating" role it has been taking during the Copenhagen negotiations.
So was the stunt a success, despite Dimitri Soudas, spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling it "childish"? I would say resoundingly, it was.
Currently the story is on the front page of all the major Canadian news websites, including the Toronto Star, CBC, Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail, and will surely hit the papers tomorrow. But most importantly, it has pushed the Canadian government to defend its climate policy. Though the stunt has given Canada the opportunity to reiterate its line in the media that it is being 'constructive', it has sparked dialogue both within Canada and amongst international delegates in Copenhagen about looking closer at Canada's real position on climate change, which is certainly not something to brag about.
In fact, many delegates and NGOs through mechanisms such as the Fossil of the Day have been trying to highlight that Canada is really not punching its weight on the international stage and this action only served to do it again on a much larger, much more effective stage.
Furthermore, and maybe more importantly, the effect of the stunt has given Canadians a taste of what Canada's climate policies can be, instead of holding the reputation of the international pariah the country has acquired at these negotiations.
Potential draw backs? Pushing Canada into a corner to vigorously defend its weak targets in response to the stunt might make them even less likely to warm up to the idea of pushing for ambitious targets and comprehensive planning to achieve those targets, and deal with such sticky issues as the tar sands.
The lasting effects of this over the next few days, especially concerning Canada's position in Copenhagen remains unclear. What remains clear now though, is that many more Canadians, and certainly many delegates here after the Germanwatch report (which ranked Canada 56/57 countries on climate action just ahead of Saudi Arabia), are now waking up to the fact that Canada is flagrantly lacking an effective climate policy, and that Canada' international reputation is certainly taking a hit.