A Critical Time for Climate Policy in Canada

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In December 2015 Prime Minister Trudeau and the Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, attended the international climate negotiations in Paris. These talks resulted in “The Paris Agreement,” where Canada endorsed a 1.5°C limit on global warming, which led to a meeting with Premiers on March 3 to develop a pan-Canadian climate change plan.

Now the government needs to commit to an ambitious emissions reduction target that clearly establishes the federal leadership role and defines expectations for real action. On April 22, nations can officially sign on to The Paris Agreement, and Canada can come to the table as a leader – or once again a laggard - on climate action.

The topic of Climate Change is often a dinner topic in our home. How does a parent convince three young adults of Climate issues beyond the screens of their smart phones? Make it real! I challenge my family to simply calculate the carbon cost of all the food items on our table. We’re eating steak raised in Alberta, broccoli grown in California, potatoes from Prince Edward Island, grapes from Chile and coffee from Columbia. Count the miles our food has traveled to reach our table. It is remarkable and each has a carbon cost.

Our table talks continuously circle the idea that all our actions have repercussions. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, our daily travels, all have an impact on the energy we use and the carbon we collectively emit.  As a fellow Canadian, I challenge you to change your mindset. Look for ways to reduce your overall energy use and continue to encourage and persuade all levels of government to implement responsible climate change policy.  

In September 2015, 65 leaders of Canadian faith communities issued a statement “On Promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada." Faith communities (my Christian Reformed community included) want their federal government to establish more stringent GHG emission targets by including a price on carbon, promoting a renewable energy policy and job creation in this sector, ending subsidies to fossil fuel industries, and providing more adaptation and mitigation assistance to the poorest countries most affected already by climate disruptions.”  

First and foremost, our passion for responsible earth-keeping must come from within us. As Christians, God calls us to be “faithful stewards” of the earth given to us. Prior to the Paris Climate Summit, faith leaders from all of the world’s religions have called to their followers to respect and honor the earth. Even if religion is not part of your life, the scale and urgency of the situation cannot be understated. 

We are continually seeing the effects of Climate Change, not only in Canada but around the world. From the disappearing ice in our Canadian arctic to rising sea levels in South Asia, from extreme rain events over Great Britain to bush fires of Australia.  Hurricanes and tornadoes are stronger. Extreme precipitation, or lack of it, has become problematic. Days are hotter and nights are warmer. Science explains it as the cumulative result of the Greenhouse Effect which is directly affecting wind and weather patterns. 

The Paris Agreement has been forged to stop and eventually reverse the effects of Climate Change. This is not going to happen overnight. Moving forward, Canadians will need to adapt to the changes that have already occurred. Our additional challenge will be to support those most affected, either here in Canada or abroad. Only together, as Global citizens, with clear direction and leadership of our national and provincial governments, can we work towards a stable climate. We each have a part to play. Only then, can we tell our future generations that we seized our opportunity to change and did not stand idle. 

With the success of the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris, I celebrate the future of the earth for generations to come.  Now Canada needs to quickly turn these bold words into strong policies and concrete plans for action on climate change.  We urge the government to support ambitious federal legislative steps based on the principles of the Paris Agreement.

Canadians expect the Honourable Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to propose an ambitious national policy that clearly establishes the federal leadership role and defines expectations for federal, provincial, and territorial action. Let’s get it done!

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