Dear national and provincial leaders from across Canada,
For the past two weeks, we, Canadian youth taking part in COP26, have been watching you.
We have seen you schmooze with industry. We have heard your dismissal of “fair share” emission reduction targets. And we have witnessed your self-satisfaction at half-measures that condemn young Canadians to the climate chaos of a post-1.5 C-changed world.
Now, six years after Paris, with little progress to show for all the time that has elapsed, we want you to know that we see what you are doing. You claim to hear us, yet you ignore our voices and our demands repeatedly.
So we are here, together, to sound the alarm.
You are holding our future hostage
In hostage situations, powerful groups deprive people of basic rights to autonomy in order to achieve a political objective.
You, fully aware that the youngest among us cannot vote, that many of us do not have direct representation in Parliament and that youth as a class lacks the resources to defend our fundamental interests, trade-in our right to a safe and healthy environment without our consent.
We have so much to lose
To say nothing of the impacts of the climate crisis globally, Canada is warming at twice the global average rate and Northern Canada is warming even faster, at nearly three times the global rate. The consequences of climate change are already here, and they are profound.
Opinion: Our lives and our collective future depend on the actions we take today, write Julie-Christine Denoncourt, Claire Warmels, Skylar Kylstra, and dozens of others in an open letter to politicians in Canada. #ClimateCrisis #COP26 #COP26xCNO
They include, but are not limited to:
- Food and water shortages projected for this century. With every year that passes, farmers see the impacts of more severe weather events on their farms and on the lands around them. Both farmers and Indigenous communities are witnessing these changes from the front lines. And both groups are warning of food security and food sovereignty crises — either to come, or already underway.
- From coast to coast, the hydrological cycle is changing as a result of climate change. Communities that were once water-secure are now projected to face water scarcity. For example, one in four Albertans is projected to face water insecurity by the end of the century due to melting glaciers and the associated impacts on drinking water supplies.
- Projected sea-level rise and floods, causing damage to property and displacement of people from their homes across the country.
- Heat waves and wildfires. This summer, we watched in horror as an entire community, Lytton B.C., burned to the ground. In that same 39-day period, 569 British Columbians lost their lives to extreme heat — a kind so unusual that it was deemed to have been statistically impossible without human-caused climate change. With the number, size, and intensity of forest fires increasing across the country, more Canadians than ever know what it feels like to choke on smoke, wake up to a red sky, and need to flee from our homes.
We do not suffer equally
Young people are not the only socio-demographic group that will be disproportionately burdened by our governments’ climate delay and denial.
By failing to take the necessary action on climate, you — our governments — betray First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, to whom you have promised reconciliation. You betray the poor, who do not have the luxury of a private adaptation fund. And you betray all those who are part of intersectionally marginalized socio-demographic groups made vulnerable to the personal, social, and economic upheavals that we are facing in a climate-changed world.
You say you are climate leaders. Prove it.
- An immediate policy pivot that treats the climate crisis like the emergency it is. That requires committing to a more ambitious climate target that reflects Canada’s “fair share” of emissions reductions and launching a just transition that doesn’t leave workers behind. This is the only way we, as a global community, can halve emissions by 2030 and cap warming at 1.5 C.
- A change in the “future discounting” culture that impacts parliamentary decision-making. Current generations have a duty to avoid policies that will destroy the basic necessities of life and health (e.g., clean air, arable land, and climate stability) for future generations. This is also known as the “Seventh Generation” principle, commonly attributed to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Nation.
- An immediate prioritization of Indigenous rights. This includes upholding Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, establishing nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous communities, and transferring land rights and governance back to Indigenous communities.
- Additional climate finance for adaptation, development, and loss and damage for developing countries. This is the only way to achieve climate justice on the global stage.
- The immediate end to domestic fossil fuel subsidies and finance, as well as a hard stop on all new oil and gas projects. The vast majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground if we have any hope of preventing the worst of climate change’s effects. Carbon offsets and unproven technologies such as carbon capture storage are not a substitute for the rapid phase-out of fossil fuel combustion.
- Fully transparent reporting and accounting of emissions by all sectors — including mandatory, robust emissions reporting standards for industry. Net-zero targets should not be a substitute for a concrete pathway leading to real zero emissions, and transparency is necessary to hold polluters accountable and ensure the protection of human rights.
- Inclusion of youth in the decision-making process.
To fellow youth
You don’t have to go to COP26 to make an impact. The actions we take beyond COPs are much more important. Here’s how you can contribute:
- Write to your representatives at all levels of government (municipal, provincial, federal), and ask to meet with your representatives at all levels of government (municipal, provincial, federal) to communicate your concerns. We believe in you. Your voice matters.
- If you are eligible, vote whenever you have the opportunity, read political platforms and vote for climate justice.
- Support Indigenous land defenders and front-line communities.
- Educate yourself about how climate change will impact your community, and have conversations about it with your family and friends. Some sources that might be helpful (as a start):
- CarbonBrief Map of Climate Change and Extreme Weather
- Canadian Climate Atlas
- Youth Climate Lab and Climate Caucus’ Infiltration Manual
- IPCC Summary for Policymakers 2021
Our lives and our collective future depend on the actions we take today.
Dr. Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Maheep Sandhu, Climate Reality Project Canada
Claire Warmels, Génération climat MTL / Climate Generation MTL
Aliya Hirji, Climate Strike Canada
Stuart Oke, National Farmers Union Youth President
Jessie MacInnis, National Farmers Union Youth vice-president
Sadie Vipond from LaRose v. Her Majesty the Queen
Élisabeth Sanscartier, Association des Étudiants et Étudiantes du Collège Gérald-Godin
Thule van den Dam
Anne Hamon Martínez
Oswaldo Andrés Paz Flores