UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
European leaders say they favour a tax on international transactions as a way of supporting poor countries and achieving a climate change agreement. Courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Copenhagen Days Six and Seven

Thinking the unthinkable

By David MacDonald

While marches and ecumenical services were the order of the day this past weekend, behind-the-scenes hints began to surface at how dramatic an occasion this conference might prove to be. Weekend newspapers reported that there might be real progress on the critical issue of the tens of billions of dollars that need to flow to poor countries as part of any new agreement.

It is helpful to compare what is happening here to what did not happen at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. While Rio did produce agreements on sustainable development as well as biodiversity and climate change, it did not come up with the financing needed to make things happen. Indeed, the fundamental failure of Rio was the reluctance of wealthy nations to finance a global bargain.

This time, an idea which has been around for many years is getting serious consideration. It’s the so-called Tobin Tax. It was first proposed by Nobel economist James Tobin in the early 1970s as a small tax be levied on all international financial transactions. The money would be used to finance development in poor countries. It’s a simple concept, but until recently it has been viewed as utopian and unlikely ever to happen. Now, in the wake of the recent global financial crisis, European leaders such as Gordon Brown of Great Britain and Nicholas Sarkozy of France are suggesting this might be the way to achieve a climate change agreement most could support.

The major public events last weekend were in marked contrast to the informal meetings that have been taking place behind closed doors. Saturday saw a big march and — predictably — lots of arrests. Public presentations in a church square followed on Sunday. Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged everyone to seize the moment and give the world hope. Later, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to a packed cathedral.

One of the most moving moments came as prayers were offered for the planet’s recovery. A South Pacific Islander held up a piece of bleached coral. A Zambian displayed some dried maize and a Greenlander a rock uncovered from a melting glacier.

All of these were reminders of the full impact of global climate change. Now the final days have begun and there is much anxiety and anticipation. By Tuesday, we will be into the most serious and difficult negotiations. No one can predict the outcome.

There is only one human family here, but it has yet to find common ground.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image


Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image


June 2018

The moment the Pope asked me to pray for him

by Miriam Spies

A United Church minister on the impact of a simple gesture from a powerful man.


July 2018

Best self-care tips for caregivers

by Kate Spencer

Counsellors, teachers and ministers share what it looks like for them.


July 2018

Meet your 2018 moderator nominees

by Mike Milne

Later this month, General Council commissioners will choose the United Church’s next moderator. As of press time, 10 leadership hopefuls had been announced. We asked each of them to sum up their pitch in a tweet.


July 2018

A fond farewell to presbyteries

by Steven Chambers

They will likely be eliminated this year as the United Church restructures. Steven Chambers celebrates the end of an era.


July 2018

Instead of retirement, these two nurses are battling Vancouver's opioid crisis

by Roberta Staley

At age 71 and 65 respectively, Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles embrace their unconventional work in the Downtown Eastside.


June 2018

I hate you, Canada, for teaching people to treat me like this under your name

by Zach Running Coyote

A Cree actor says he blames our country for the racist comments recently directed at him in a McDonald's restaurant.

Promotional Image