Canada’s PR nightmare in Copenhagen

The Toronto Star “Summit Insider” blog reports that U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu snubbed Canada’s Environment Minister Jim Prentice out of a photo op on Monday at the Copenhagen climate talks.

On Monday, Toby Heaps, a Canadian magazine editor, was handed a Canadian delegation press release about a photo-op with the two officials occuring outside a briefing room. When Heaps showed up, he saw Prentice’s chief of staff arguing with Chu’s entourage about the photo-op.
“The problem was the U.S. delegation hadn’t given the green light for a photo-op, just for closed bilateral meeting between the two,” Heaps writes.

More from Heaps:

Over the course of 10 minutes, Kelly repeatedly asked the U.S. delegation official to reconsider, to which the U.S. delegation official replied, negative. When Kelly asked for this to be taken up the chain of command, the U.S. delegation official replied “it came from pretty high up. It’s not going to happen.”


The U.S. official said he didn’t understand why the photograph was so important, to which Kelly replied “we were carpetbagged this morning by (environmental non-governmental organizations) with a false press release, I gotta change the story.”


The carpetbagging Heaps refers to is the stunt by the Yes Men, a notorious group of pranksters, who created a mirror image of a Wall Street Journal blog and falsely reported the Canadian delegation had suddenly changed its emissions targets and strategy at the talks. (Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men told HuffPo Green Editor Katherine Goldstein “I think Stephen Harper is so mad that he will personally sue us. And yes, so will the Wall Street Journal.”)

Heaps says eventually another U.S. official came by with a compromise: The photo could be taken, but it could not be used for promotional purposes.

I verified the story with Liberal MP David McGuinty who confirmed that indeed the “the minister’s chief of staff got into a very heated exchange with Steven Chu’s officials yesterday,” and that the Canadian delegation has been “positively despondent” ever since.

Keep in mind, McGuinty is not an official member of the Canadian delegation as a elected member of the Liberal party, the official opposition to the Conservative Party that heads the Canadian negotiating team.

Members of the Canadian youth delegation I spoke with said that Canadian circles have been a-buzz with rumors about the snub. “Basically Prentice showed up to speak to Chu and the Canadians said “now for the photo-op!” and the staff said ‘whoa whoa whoa, we didn’t talk about this,’ Thea Witman, a Canadian youth leader says.

But what’s bad for Prentice’s P.R. has been a boon to the Canadian youth delegation. “Even the Americans don’t want to be associated with Canada,” Witman says. “We’re trying to capitalize it and further push action at home and sway public opinion.”

Check back soon for more reports from Copenhagen.

Liana B. Baker, a former intern with the magazine, is a Canadian Geographic climate policy correspondent in Copenhagen

[Reposted from Canadian Geographic Compass Blog]


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