by Louise Comeau, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat canada
World leaders have been invited by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to New York on September 23rd for a Climate Summit. The one-day event is designed to bring momentum to global climate negotiations; Heads of State are being called to talk about the actions their countries are taking to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel powered economies and to bring momentum to finalizing a new international treaty in Paris in 2015. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not participate. It is sad to say, but we believe this is a good thing. Political leaders at this event want to advance climate protection. Since Prime Minister Harper has shown no interest is such an initiative, it is better that he stays home.
All Canadians should see this as a sad state of affairs. We have so much potential to be part of the solution and with so much at stake, one would wish that we had a Prime Minister who would not only attend, but who would seek to lead on this issue.
If we want to change this situation, then everyone, and especially we Baby Boomers, need to tell this government and all politicians — federal, provincial and municipal — that climate protection is a priority for us, now and when it comes to election time. We can start by showing that we care by taking to the streets in the upcoming Peoples’ Climate March planned for New York and around the world, including Canada, September 21. This will show world leaders that we are serious about them working on a global climate deal.
We need them to know that we are paying attention and that we want them to support the kinds of policies and targets needed to get the climate protection job done.
Examples of policies include leveraging the power of a market economy by supporting targets and market mechanisms that drive the innovation we need to do right for the world, including our children and grandchildren. We need to accept that phasing out fossil fuels and mobilizing capital toward a fully renewable energy system is part of this.
We need Canada to sign on to an international climate treaty with targets that prove to the world that we take this problem seriously and that we will do our part. At a minimum, to be worthy of a seat at international negotiations, Canada needs to announce at the next UN negotiating session in Lima, Peru this December the additional actions we will take to ensure we meet the 2020 target we set for ourselves in Copenhagen in 2009 – a target we are currently slated to miss by a large margin. Canada could have done this at this September’s Climate Summit in New York, but sadly we will miss that opportunity. The best we can do is encourage our government to tell the world how it will meet its 2020 target in Lima.
As part of the ongoing international negotiating process, countries are expected to announce ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions well in advance of the final UN negotiating session in Paris in December 2015. To ensure negotiations conclude on time, countries are expected to announce what they are prepared to commit to in early 2015. So by March 2015, Canada needs to announce its commitment and to indicate how it puts us on a track for the long-term goal we agreed was essential to keeping climate disruption within a risk-manageable range: 80 to 95% reductions by 2050. For the Paris Treaty, Canada’s target needs to be in the range of 35% below 1990 by 2025 and 45% below 1990 by 2030. And Canada also needs to commit to significant financial, technological and capacity building support for emissions reductions and adaptation in developing countries.
To get this done, we need federal policies that mobilize capital and direct it away from fossil fuel development and toward renewable energy and energy efficiency investments. To get there, Canadians, especially voting Baby Boomers, need to say yes when politicians propose using taxation and regulatory authorities to signal to the market that greenhouse gas pollution is not okay.
We have every reason to expect a federal government to support provincial efforts within the framework of a national and legally binding target. We have every reason to want a federal government that facilitates cross-Canada and cross-border collaboration, trading and investments in clean, renewable energy, so that we can move away from out-of-date fossil fuels. The longer we wait, the harder it will be.
We must tell our government that we want to show the world that Canada cares about climate protection. And we need to send this message loud and clear every way we can.
At Climate Action Network Canada our focus is on encouraging Canadians to say yes to climate protection. Progress has been slow, dangerously slow. It’s time to pick up the pace; we are resourceful, creative and skilled. We have the power to change. We just have to decide to do it.
Dr. Louise Comeau is Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac), a coalition of more than 100 organizations from across Canada that is celebrating this year 25 years of working together to advance climate protection and to promote sustainable and equitable development.