What at first looked like the flip-flop of the century was soon revealed as a sophisticated ruse by a coalition of African, North American, and European activists including the Yes Men. The purpose: to highlight the most powerful nations' obstruction of meaningful progress at the UN Climate meetings in Copenhagen, to push for just climate debt reparations, and to call out Canada in particular for its terrible climate policy. Canada's breakneck rush to exploit the massive Alberta tar sands, one of the most energy intensive and carbon spewing projects on the planet, is the primary cause of Canada's outsize carbon footprint.
The elaborate operation to call out Canada's obstructionist ways was spearheaded by a group of concerned Canadian citizens, the "Climate Debt Agents" from ActionAid, art students from Denmark, and The Yes Men.
From deep inside an underground bunker in a secret location in Copenhagen, in a faux auditorium fashioned with cardboard boxes and pipe cleaners made to look like the UN climate conference center (Good COP 15), "Canadian government representatives" announced a bold new initiative to curb emissions and spearhead a "Climate Debt Mechanism" for the developing world. The ruse involved a flurry of press releases, announcements, retractions, and video footage of Canadian and African climate negotiators sparring over a number of contentious issues.
In the first release from "Environment Canada", Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, waxed lyrical. "Canada is taking the long view on the world economy," said Prentice. "Nobody benefits from a world in peril. Contributing to the development of other nations and taking full responsibilities for our emissions is simple Canadian good sense."
This was followed by a press release of the Ugandan delegation's supposed reaction, including a dramatic video, and a fake Wall Street Journal article about the whole thing. These releases were then followed by a supposed retraction. Out there in the real world, Dmitri Soudas, the Prime Minister's spokesman, went mental and was filmed screaming at a hapless Canadian ecologist, accusing him of having organized the whole thing. (Dmitri was sent home the next day).
Besides leaving Canada with egg on its face for its terrible climate policy, the point of this multi-media operation was also to highlight the concept of Climate Debt. While 75% of the historical emissions that created the climate crisis come from 20% of the world's population in developed countries (according to the UN), up to 80% of the impacts of the climate crisis are and will be experienced in the developing world, according to the World Bank. The developed countries got rich by endangering the developing ones—don't they owe them something?