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Opinion: Facing two monsters in 2022, COVID-19 and climate change

Sudbury climate activist Cathy Orlando asks: Are you ready to face 2022? In 2022, we must face the COVID and climate monsters that we have collectively unleashed

Here we are back in COVID lockdown. COVID is not going away anytime soon because we are collectively too selfish to share, and a critical mass won't get the jabs. 

Face this COVID monster: We must have global vaccine equity and policies that protect us here in Canada.

The latest climate wake up calls in December were deadly wildfires in Colorado and deadly tornadoes in Kentucky. Face this climate monster: that heat dome that settled on Lytton, B.C. in late June, could have settled on a major city. What do you think would happen after three days of 45C-plus heat over any major city?

We must cut GHGs from fossil fuels and transform Canada's energy systems. We just need to follow the money.

Keep in mind, on Jan. 4, Canada's top 100 CEOs have already earned more money than the average Canadian worker will earn all year and dozens of the big companies headed by these top-paid CEOs collected COVID-19 government benefits.

There is no policy that comes close to knocking down fossil fuel use in an economically efficient and socially just way than pricing carbon pollution and giving the money back to the people. Happily, this is Canada's national backstop carbon pricing policy. Recent research published in Nature found that if all countries adopted the same tax on carbon emissions and returned the revenues to their citizens, it would be possible to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2C, while also benefiting well-being, reducing inequality and alleviating poverty. 

Thus, the government of Canada must continue to recycle revenue back to households and should also consider being more ambitious with the carbon price.

Let's keep following the money because taxing carbon pollution will not get us all the way to a safe climate future.

Private financial institutions with more than US$130 trillion in assets united behind a common goal at COP26 to accelerate progress toward a net-zero emissions future in the Global Financial Alliance for Net Zero. But there is a vacuum of responsibility that can delay or prevent the financial transition. The government has to create policies to steer financial institutions in the right direction. 

In April 2021, New Zealand introduced a law that will force financial firms to assess not only their own investments, but also to evaluate the companies they are lending money to, in terms of their environmental impact. Canada needs to enact similar policies.

We also need serious tax reform to pay for many things that we are going to need. The Parliamentary Budget Office has published a series of reports that we can draw upon:

  1. In 2020, they determined that the top one per cent of Canadian families possess more than a quarter of all wealth in Canada, whereas the bottom 40 per cent possess just 1.2 per cent of Canadian wealth. 
  2. In 2018, they calculated that Canadian corporations may have avoided $25 billion dollars or more in taxes through tax havens in one year.
  3. In June 2021, they determined that a one-time three-per-cent tax on Canadians with net wealth above $10 million, and a five-per-cent tax on net wealth above $20 million could raise up to $82.5 billion over five years.
  4. In December 2021, they reported that Ottawa’s tax breaks to the fossil fuel sector from 2015 to 2019 averaged $1.8 billion annually.

Please also carefully consider that men need to be more like women. Studies show women consume less GHGs and are more cooperative, which are both good things. As well, to help slow down human population growth give women choices. Educate girls and empower women to be active members of the economy. Studies show that women will produce less children if they are economically empowered. 

By facing the COVID-19 and climate monsters, we can create a better tomorrow with evidence-based and socially-just policies in 2022. If fear is the mind killer, then as the Beatles said, love is all you need. 

Cathy Orlando is the program director at Citizens' Climate International. She has been lobbying the Canadian Parliament since 2010, and U.S. Congress, the World Bank and IMF since 2011. She has been an observer at the IPCC, G7, G20 and UNFCCC COPs since 2017. In 2022, she will be a Women's W7 delegate at the G7 in Germany. She has conducted countless training sessions, organized 18 conference and lobbying days in Canada and supports volunteers in 76 countries to build political will for a climate safe future.