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On Monday night, June 17th, the Parliament of Canada held a last few hours of debate on the Liberal motion that Canada accepts that we are in a climate emergency. The original motion had been tabled on May 16th. As Minister Catherine McKenna spoke in the chamber that day, I launched the Green response to the national clamour for a Green New Deal. Paul Manly (Green MP from Nanaimo-Ladysmith) and I launched Mission: Possible, calling for the complete elimination of fossil fuel use by 2050, slashing dependency by 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
We can see no other way for Canada to pull our fair share of the weight to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change imperative that we must adhere to our Paris Agreement goal of holding global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees C.
Failing to meet that target, even allowing the global average temperature increase to reach 2 degrees C, will create unacceptably high risks that we will pass a point of no return. Human civilization and the extinction of millions of species requires that we take the climate emergency seriously.
It will not be easy, but we know it is possible.
The May 16th climate emergency debate was adjourned. It did not surface on our agenda again until the night of June 17th, with a time limited opportunity to consider the matter.
I addressed a nearly empty chamber.
All the other leaders were in Toronto for the Raptors Rally. That is not something I would criticize. The national Raptors reverie has been good for our spirits. We want to celebrate.
But why did the government pick that night for debate?
And, much, much worse, after passing a motion that we are in a climate emergency, why did they - the very next day - commit billions of federal public dollars to build a pipeline?
That pipeline will violate indigenous rights, threaten every waterway it crosses, the Salish Sea through which tankers will navigate and, at the same, time increase our climate warming emissions. It is reckless.
Worse, given the scale of the threat of climate breakdown, it borders on the criminal.
On Wednesday, in a big week for climate talk, the Conservatives announced their plan. Like the Liberals, they want to conflate the old Harper target – 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 – with the Paris Agreement. Much of our media obliges by making the same mistake.
The inadequate target, which can now be called the Harper-Trudeau-Scheer target – was the one Canada had in place at the time of the Paris negotiation. It was never revised to meet the higher ambition of meeting the 1.5 degree goal of the treaty. It is approximately half of what we must do.
And the Liberals are not yet on track to meet that weak target.
The Conservative approach is even worse. It will likely increase emissions as it wants us to ignore Canada’s role in global warming, embracing a national identity of irrelevance.
Scheer would have us accept that we are too small to matter so should send our fossil fuels around the world, expanding production because our oil sands and LNG are “clean.” Most people understand the nonsense that bitumen could ever be considered clean. It is very carbon intensive.
Some, including the BC NDP, want us to treat LNG as if it is not a fossil fuel. The truth is Canadian LNG, derived from fracked gas, has the same carbon footprint as coal. The process of fracking releases vast amounts of methane and it is that fact that makes LNG a climate warming villain.
The Conservative plan is not without some good ideas. It includes programmes to encourage homeowners to retrofit to enhance energy efficiency, although strangely only for the duration of a two-year period. It calls for investments in green technology, but picks large-scale losers like Carbon Capture and Storage and, as mentioned, LNG.
What is needed is Mission: Possible. Our firm commitment to Just Transition protects workers’ rights, while our commitment to Guaranteed Livable Income ensures that equity is part and parcel of climate action. Mission: Possible also commits to meeting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
A weird week indeed. We declare a climate emergency and then ignore it.
In my speech I called for a climate strike, heeding Greta Thunberg’s call for a general climate strike for September 20th. I added what we must do in Canada. The United Nations is holding a critical climate summit on September 23rd. Our prime minister is not planning to attend due to the election call. That is usually the appropriate decision. Election campaigns are not a time for the prime minister to make large policy announcements.
But what if we declared a National Climate Campaign Strike? What if all leaders agreed to stop campaigning so that we could all go to the United Nations to announce Canada is committed to going off fossil fuels, that we want to pull our current weak target of 30 per cent reductions, and replace it with what is required – 60% cuts by 2030, leading to zero emissions by 2050.
We are in a climate emergency.
Status quo behavior is our enemy.
It is time for us to step up and do what is required.