By Cathy Orlando
From November 26-29, 53 Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers lobbied on Parliament Hill for improvements to Canada’s national carbon pricing policy and experienced their most productive week of lobbying to date in their six-year history in Canada. They lobbied 40 Members of Parliament (MP) and one senator in face-to-face meetings, as well as the staff of six parliamentarians. Included among the group were three volunteers from the U.S. and three from First Nations.
Prior to lobbying, volunteers spent two days learning more about climate change and the political realities of creating change. Ottawa City Councillor David Chernushenko welcomed attendees to Ottawa and highlighted some of the main climate protection efforts in Ottawa and described the difficult balance of holding close to the perfect ideal of what needs to get done and the political reality of getting re-elected. The Honourable Mary Polak, Environment Minister for the Province of British Columbia, also spoke. She rightly and proudly described the success of BC’s carbon pricing policy and the accolades it has received internationally.
On Saturday, keynote speaker Renee Lertzman helped the volunteers bring emotional intelligence to the tough communications surrounding carbon pricing. One new CCL volunteer after the training said, “I now know that I need to listen carefully and not give politicians all the climate change information that is in my head.” Sunday’s keynote speaker was Glen Hodgson, the newly appointed Senior Fellow and former Vice President and Chief Economist at the Conference Board of Canada. He reinforced why a national and revenue-neutral carbon price is best for Canada.
Conference attendees and those watching virtually also dove deeply into the wonky world of border tax adjustments with an expert panel, unraveled Canada’s subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and received the latest on the carbon pricing developments at the international level.
While lobbying on Parliament Hill, Parliamentarians from all parties showed interest in learning more about carbon pricing, border tax adjustments and fossil fuel subsidies. Especially compared to lobbying efforts federally in 2014, it seems that Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy is well underway.
Celebrating & improving Canada’s carbon pricing policy
On October 3, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will establish a floor price on carbon pollution of $10 a ton in 2018, rising to $50 a ton by 2022. Canada has turned a corner on climate action. The reality is Canada’s current greenhouse gas emissions targets are still woefully inadequate, and the current carbon pricing plan needs improvements and more details. While CCL was on Parliament Hill, the government of Canada approved two pipelines, adding to the concern that climate change is not being taken seriously by the government.
Volunteers at the conference acknowledged that Canada’s climate targets are currently inadequate and that there is a grave risk of losing the political resolve on the gains Canada has made to secure a healthy climate in the lead-up to next federal election in 2019. Thus, they made the following pledge:
“I want to live in a democracy where all politicians of all political stripes can get elected for pro-environmental policies, not in spite of them. Thus, in my riding, I pledge to generate the political will for a livable world. Specifically, I pledge to do my best to keep the discussions around climate change and carbon pricing factual, respectful and non-partisan in my local media, while doing community outreach and communicating with local leaders. All politics is local, after all.”
To date this year, CCL Canada volunteers have documented 157 face-to-face meetings with federal parliamentarians specifically to discuss Canada’s national carbon pricing policy. Thus, 2016 will be their biggest year yet of lobbying federal parliamentarians—and now they’ve pledged to keep the momentum going.