Local greens go Copenhagen or bust

Halifax joins thousands of communities around the world calling for strong action on climate change.

"We're hoping to send the politicians a message," sayJannelle Frail, explaining this weekend's environmental gathering on the Common.

Frail is an organizer with the local branch of 350.org, an international group drawing attention to the need for strong results from the UN's Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December; "350" refers to the maximum concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere---350 parts per million---that climatologists say can be sustained without causing irreversible climate change. There is presently a CO2 concentration of about 385 ppm.

"Copenhagen is the last best chance we have to avoid irreversible climate change," says Andrew Weaver, Canada's most prominent climatologist and lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's reports examining the problem. "If we don't reach agreement in Copenhagen, we might as well forget it."

Saturday has been dubbed the International Day of Climate Action, an opportunity for regular people to express their concerns, and nearly 4,000 different community events in 163 countries are listed at 350.org. 350 events are also planned in Wolfville, Margaree, Bridgewater and Shelburne.

Locally, a wide range of groups, including all local environmental organizations, social justice groups and the labour council, are supporting the event. Church groups are also heavily involved---the interdenominational KAIROS group, the United Church and the Lutheran council are all co-sponsors.

"We're trying to make it so it's not the same people doing the same action, over and over again," says Frail. "We really want to get a variety of people in Nova Scotia showing what they're concerned about. It is a collective concern for future generations."

Festivities start at 2pm on the field next to The Pavilion. Music and speakers are planned---MP Megan Leslie and meteorologist Richard Zurawski have confirmed, and invitations have been extended to mayor Peter Kelly and premier Darrell Dexter.

Throughout, people will be asked to make signs. "One side of the sign will be what you're concerned about with climate change---your neighbour, or someone who lives on the coast or your favourite wilderness area," explains Frail. "On the back, they can write the solution to that. We're encouraging people to write '350,' and that will hopefully create awareness about 350 parts per million, 350.org, as the solution."

Those attending will also be invited to sign the Kyotoplus petition, which calls for the Canadian federal government to take a leadership role at Copenhagen and to set a national target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below the 1990 level by 2020.

At 3:50pm the assembled will be asked to stand in a formation spelling out 350, and at least 10 local churches will toll their bells 35 times each.

"We'll be putting pressure on the federal government to take action at Copenhagen," says Frail.

The Canadian government has been widely criticized for what Weaver calls its "inaction and obstruction" on climate change. At a meeting in Bali last year in preparation of the upcoming Copenhagen conference, Canada received the majority of the "Fossil of the day" awards for the country most dedicated to blocking progress in addressing climate change.

Along with the United States and Australia, Canada is one of the largest per-capita of greenhouse gas producers in the world, with about 20 tonnes emitted per person. Because most of the electricity in Nova Scotia is generated with coal, provincial per capita GHG emissions are even higher, at about 25 tonnes per person.

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