Canada gets the Yes Men treatment in climate talks

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2009 5:00 PM

The news release read too good to be true.

Canada, a laggard at these climate talks, was announcing a radical shift, ready to embrace a 40 percent cut in its emissions by 2020 versus its 1990 levels, and 80 percent by 2050 _ the toughest of any country.

The release looked official. It had the logo for Canada's environment ministry. It included a link to a mock Wall Street Journal article that said a walkout by developing nations at the U.N. climate talks led to Canada's more ambitious targets.

Until now, Canada has said only that it would reduce its emissions 20 percent from 2006 levels _ one of the lowest targets offered by rich countries.

These new targets? A mirage. A hoax perpetrated by pranksters who call themselves The Yes Men.

They told The Associated Press they wanted to expose what they said was Canada's failure to take tough action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"The idea was to confuse the Canadian government, which set up a war room to positively spin their position in the debate even though everyone here knows that their position is a cruel joke," said Yes Men member Mike Bonanno.

They also created a link to a video on a fake U.N. climate site in which a woman identified as a Ugandan delegate held a news conference praising the Canadian commitments.

The hoax was the talk of the Canadian media covering the climate talks in Copenhagen. When Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice arrived for a news conference, he found himself answering questions about the episode instead of speaking about his country's efforts to fight global warming.

"I'm aware that there was a press release that was a hoax that was sent out in the name of Canada that the government of Canada had nothing to do with," the stern-faced Prentice told reporters. "Certainly there are many things going on the periphery of the negotiations and some of them are undesirable and other things that will continue to happen that are undesirable including press releases that are a hoax."

The Yes Men, featured in the documentary "The Yes Men Fix the World," have become infamous for embarrassing climate skeptics and other industrial giants.

They grabbed attention earlier this year when they held a fake news conference, posing as chamber representatives at the National Press Club in Washington. They announced that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had reversed its position on climate change and would stop lobbying against the Senate's 800-page climate bill.

In a statement denouncing the hoax, the chamber said it "believes that strong climate legislation is compatible with the goals of improving our economy and creating jobs."

They also appeared on the BBC impersonating a Dow Chemical Co. executive, taking full responsibility for the Bhopal disaster _ one of the world's worst industrial disasters. On Dec. 3, 1984, a pesticide plant run by Union Carbide, which Dow bought in 2001, spewed about 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas into the air, quickly killing about 4,000 people.