Climate commitments & action in Canada
By Cathy Orlando, International Outreach Manager
While much of North America was probably fixated on the first U.S. presidential debate, there was a debate and then a surprise unanimous vote on Bill C-4 in Canada’s House of Commons, and an election averted. Could Canada finally turn on a corner on the climate emergency too?
Last week brought many new contributions to the climate conversation in Canada, after all. We had a Speech from the Throne which talked a lot about climate; Supreme Court of Canada hearings on the constitutionality of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act; Prime Minister Trudeau’s stark warning in his virtual address to the United Nations General Assembly; and a global climate strike spearheaded by youth in the Fridays For Future movement.
A climate-heavy Speech from the Throne
On September 23, the Speech from the Throne opened the new session of Parliament and outlined the government’s agenda. Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada, delivered the speech and identified four “foundations” for the government’s agenda. One of those four foundations is “Taking action on extreme risks from climate change.” Payette said, “Canadians know climate change threatens our health, way of life, and planet. They want climate action now, and that is what the Government will continue to deliver.” You can watch the speech or read a transcript here.
Since September 2010, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada has advocated for a price on carbon pollution with the money returned to the people. Thus, I was pleased to hear in this speech that “the Government will continue its policy of putting a price on pollution while putting that money back in the pockets of Canadians. It cannot be free to pollute.”
As one of over 500 signatories of the Just Recovery Principles, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada views the throne speech as the most progressive speech in a generation. In addition to affirming carbon pricing, there was a promise that “climate action would be a cornerstone to create one million new jobs,” a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, and a commitment to not only achieve Canada’s 2030 climate targets but exceed them.
Acknowledging the headwinds
Despite this encouraging speech, the new climate targets and plans are not yet law. Indeed, there are strong headwinds against climate action in Canada, including a pervasive climate disinformation campaign on the science of climate change and carbon pricing.
For example, on September 22 and 23, the Supreme Court of Canada held hearings on the constitutionality of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. The climate emergency requires a collective approach, yet the premiers of Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan oppose the federal carbon pricing policy. At stake is not just the carbon pricing policy, but the federal government’s ability to take strong and urgent national action to reduce carbon emissions and protect the health of Canadians from the dangerous effects of the climate emergency. We await the ruling, which is anticipated in a couple of months.
PM Trudeau understands the stakes and the need for bold action. On September 25, 2020, in his virtual address to the United Nations General Assembly, PM Trudeau warned of a “climate reckoning” and urged the shake-up of the global establishment.
Global climate strike
On that same day of PM Trudea’s speech, the youth of the Fridays for Future movement were demanding climate justice in 65 cities across Canada. These young people are watching closely what adults are doing, and they are demanding a just transition and for everyone to unite behind the science of climate change.
In Sudbury ON, for example, youth in a Zoom rally with over 400 students encouraged over 400 students to talk to their parents about the climate emergency and ask their parents to think before they vote.
This year, Canada’s parliamentarians have shown cooperation in dealing with the COVID pandemic. Truly, our country and our planet needs that level of cooperation for the climate emergency, too.