By: Joanne Light and Cathy Orlando
“Will going to this meeting make things better?”
So spoke the young son of Kathryn Ervine, assistant professor, International Development Studies at Saint Mary's University. This was in 2017 as his mother was leaving for the public launch of the “2030 Declaration,” an open letter to the government addressing Nova Scotia’s need to implement carbon reduction targets.
Children’s anxiety is front and centre in today’s climate saga. Many kids have stopped asking their parents the question that will most affect their lives and, instead, have mobilized by the tens of thousands to demand solutions to the climate emergency. When one of their oft-quoted leaders, Greta Thunberg, says, “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” -- it hits home among youth and sincerely concerned adults.
The myths of yesteryear’s false climate stories are now detritus. Remember the “job-killing carbon tax?” It never was true, but now it’s political flotsam. The cash rebates households are receiving from the collection of that fee at the federal and some provincial levels allows more jobs because of both the market and moral signals to transition to clean energy.
As a character in this story, do you believe in your heart we are in a global climate emergency? June 17 marked the day the House of Commons formally declared that we are indeed in one, and therefore we must meet our national emissions target commitment under the Paris Accord: holding global warming below 2 C and pursuing efforts to keep it below 1.5 C.
Do you also believe what climate scientists, who have spent their lives using empirical evidence in documents such as the IPCC 1.5°C Report and Canada’s Changing Climate report, have put forth in ever-increasing more dramatically urgent statements for decades?
If you do, you are no doubt in line with the climate emergency declaration and are surely on the right side of history.
The Conservative Party of Canada isn’t on board. Its MPs voted against the motion. Two days later, the party unveiled a widely criticized climate crisis election platform, which lacks targets and details.
Climate expert Mark Jaccard, speaking on CBC Radio’s The House program on June 28, suggested the Conservatives’ climate commitments were insincere: “There’s nothing there. Emissions may actually go up.” Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell, called the plan “a sop.”
Meanwhile, on June 18, for the second time, the Trudeau Liberals approved the Trans Mountain pipeline, demonstrating to the world Canada is a country divided by oil.
Cue up Mark Jaccard on The House again: “We have the regions and their political leaders, corporate leaders, individuals, who are still trying to defend and increase fossil fuel production and so, somehow, the government has to try to say we’re doing both of those things (supporting carbon reductions and production), and while I don’t agree with them approving that pipeline, I can sort of understand the challenge of governing a country that has such diverse interests, it’s going to (lead to) some apparent contradictions from time to time.”
The saga of progressive healings and nagging setbacks continued with the passage of other bills that same week, largely due to the legacy of division from former prime minister Stephen Harper, who pitted the environment against the economy.
After much wrangling by Conservative Senators and extensive lobbying by oil companies, important bills to protect the water, air, climate and soil, bills C69 and C48, became the law of the land, replacing the environmental laws shredded by the Harper Conservatives in June 2012 (Bill C38). The next day, Jason Kenney, Alberta premier and former Harper cabinet minister, filed a challenge to those bills.
Then on June 21, the last day of the 42nd Parliament of Canada, and on our National Indigenous People’s Day, a dagger was thrust into reconciliation efforts.
Conservative Senators filibustered and killed NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private member’s bill 262 to enshrine the United National Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) into law -- an act that would have helped the climate because Indigenous Peoples, as the experts they are and for which they should be acknowledged, having been successful stewards of these lands for millennia, would have assumed a stronger position on the fossil fuel industry’s and their cleaner alternatives’ projects on their lands.
Not having our climate targets enshrined under national law takes us back to a black period of our history: 2011 when the Harper Conservatives pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol. Canada, the only signatory to Kyoto to withdraw, went from environmental hero to zero. In that same period, the government cancelled the all-provinces-representative Round Table on the Environment, a nationwide network which, in many instances, was responsible for our long-lauded reputation.
The reality of our shining international reputation as an environmental leader became a myth. We should make up for that failure by writing, in permanent ink, the enshrinement of science-based targets under national law. Specifically, Canada should model our policy on the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Act (2008) which, by March 2019, resulted in the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions hitting their lowest levels in almost a century. Also, we should implement a transparent process for reporting GHG emissions and encourage cross-party co-operation.
We, the people of Canada no longer have time for partisan games, sagas involving protagonists and antagonists who never come to terms.
You can be part of the positive side of history by supporting our “We Don’t Have Time” campaign aimed at “Canada working towards the U.K. parliamentary model for the climate crisis.” Click on the "I Agree" button.
May this story end with the children of today -- the adults of tomorrow -- putting their children to sleep on a “happily ever after” note.
Joanne Light is Halifax leader, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada. Cathy Orlando is international outreach manager for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.