You may be surprised to hear what China's next president had to say about climate change this past September. According to the China Association for Science and Technology, while Vice President Xi Jinping was in attendance at the country's annual Science Popularization Day he told those gathered that, "The global climate change is deeply affecting human beings' living and development. Our country, now in a stage of fast industrial and urban development, is facing obvious environmental pressure. The whole society should continue to intensify the campaign of saving energy and reducing emission of greenhouse gases in a deep-going way and put into effect the national scheme for the climatic change." Party propaganda, or will deeds follow words?
Photo: POOL New/Reuters
David Cameron, Prime Minister, Great Britain
Britain’s Prime Minister seemed to be on the side of environmentalists when he was elected in May 2010. He called for political consensus on climate change and The Guardiannoted that the day after assuming office, “he declared his ambition to lead the ‘greenest government ever.’ ” But in an opinion piece published last month, The Guardian observed that, “Since then, though, the prime minister has said very little publicly either on climate change or on wider environmental issues. The vacuum left by his silence has been filled by others in his party who seem determined to manipulate the debate around climate and energy policy for their own political ends.” The newspaper called on Cameron to reassure the country that he hasn't gone cold on climate change.
Julia Gillard, Prime Minister, Australia
In September 2011, the Australian Prime Minister introduced the first of 18 bills to Parliament that she said would establish the government's carbon price regime. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, “Gillard said the Parliament had been debating climate change for decades and most Australians now agreed the world was warming. That was caused by carbon pollution and the best way to make the polluters pay was to put a price on carbon.” But in March of this year, Green Blog stated that, “Pro-coal, pro-gas Australian PM Julia Gillard has an appalling record of climate change inaction falsely dressed up as the opposite.” They then provided 16 reasons, which can be found here, to support their claim.
Photo: Damir Sagolj/Reuters
Jacob Zuma, President, South Africa
Speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in the South African coastal city of Durban in 2011, the country’s president said climate change is “a matter of life and death” for most people across the developing world and Africa.” The Environment News Service noted that Zuma went on to say, “Africa’s vulnerability does not only stem from climate change impacts such as the rise in the sea level, severe droughts and floods. Africa is more vulnerable because of poverty which limits the ability of most African nations to cope with the impact of climate change.”
Photo: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, Canada
Inside Climate News reported last month that Canada’s official position on climate change is that it’s real and requires an aggressive response. But they went on to note that Prime Minister Stephen Harper “has weakened some environmental regulations, including fast-tracking permit reviews of oil sands pipelines and mines.” And in October, The Vancouver Sunsaid that Harper’s newly-selected head for Environment Canada gave the following answer when asked by a parliamentary committee to explain climate change: “Wow. Umm. They didn’t tell me I’d have to answer questions like that when I took this job.”
Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters
Ricardo Martinelli, President, Panama
Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in September, Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli said that his country’s growth “is based on free market principles, respectful to the environment and to social standards as well as free enterprise initiatives, and has a strong commitment to social inclusion. This has allowed us to significantly reduce unemployment and extreme poverty, without compromising the richness of our environment...Panama will keep advocating that the international community work on an institutional multilateral structure that reinforces the right of all people to have a planet with an environment that allows the development of a healthful and peaceful life.”
Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
The German Chancellor delivered the keynote speech at the third Petersberg Climate Dialogue which took place in Berlin in July. Deutsche Welle reported that she said, “I emphatically believe in climate change.” They also noted that, “She does not want to waste time with various interpretations of various studies, time which could be better spent on discussions of climate change.” Merkel also called for clear goals in the reduction of carbon emissions, saying “There must be no more cheating.”
Photo: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Barack Obama, President, United States
While it's safe to say that environmentalists were cheered by the fact that the president won re-election, that's not to say everything is hunky dory. On December 6, various news outlets reported that former Vice President Al Gore criticized Obama's lack of action on the subject of climate change. "Our democracy has been hacked," said Gore. "And when the large part of polluters and their ideological allies tell the members of Congress to jump, they do say, 'how high?' And we need leadership in the executive branch as well."
Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com