When the provincial premiers meet this week to discuss Canada’s response to climate change, we need to shout, march, and let them know we'll vote, to make our demands known: stop greenhouse gas emissions, adopt a comprehensive renewable energy plan, and stop the dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary Energy East pipeline.
More than 25,000 people took to the streets of Quebec City on Saturday 11 April to demand meaningful action by government at all levels and an end to the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands. Led by First Nations marchers from BC, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Quebec, the demonstration made its way through the streets of the capital. In front of the Quebec Assembly, thousands of people dressed in red formed a huge “thermometer” on the Fontain du Tourny, symbolizing that we and our planet have reached boiling point.
If you couldn’t make it to Quebec, you can still get involved with the campaign by making a “Stop the Pipeline” selfie and tweeting it to your provincial premier. Visit act-on-climate.ca for a list of the premiers' twitter handles. Use the hashtags #11avril and #ActOnClimate and send your pics to email@example.com. The Energy East pipe is proposed to run across Canada from Alberta to the St Lawrence, carrying combustible substances through many communities and ending in an area where beluga whales rear their young. There is no way that we should allow this pipe to be built.
The only way we can make a difference is by cooperating: just as no province can act alone to address Canada’s unique environmental problems, so Canada must return to her former, pre-Harper position as a leader in the global response to climate change. We must reform our current system, which makes energy policy a patchwork of federal and provincial responsibilities, in favour of an over-arching, national plan. The Conservatives, however, with their preference for government non-interference, are unlikely to adopt such an overtly socialist response.
The United Nations has called for strong action over the next five years, and in Canada we must address greenhouse gas emissions, in particular our fossil fuel industry, which includes fracking, the Alberta tar sands, and plans for oil drilling in the Arctic. As the global population is trying to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, there is no reason why Canada should be pushing ahead with these environmentally dangerous projects.
Last week’s oil spill in English Bay, off Vancouver, showed us a scary picture of life after Harper’s resource cuts. Fuel from a wheat tanker, not even an oil tanker, leaked into the water, endangering wildlife and popular swimming beaches, and yet the clean up response was far too slow in coming. Cuts to the Coast Guard service meant the boat that would have towed out equipment to contain the spill was gone, along with the coast guard station where it was housed.
And, six Greenpeace activists have spent the last week hanging onto the Shell oil drilling platform that is currently making its way up the North Pacific towards the Arctic. The very idea of Shell drilling for oil in the pristine waters of the Arctic is horrifying. But, in its arrogance, Shell is taking Greenpeace to court in Alaska to force the removal of the six from the rig.
The Energy East pipeline is a central part of Harper’s fuel plans. According to Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, it would allow a 40 per cent increase in this country’s oil exports. We should be moving away from, and not further towards, reliance on carbon-based fuels, both for our own energy needs and for export to other countries. Recently, US President Barack Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline, and there is no reason why Canadians should have another such pipeline running across our country.
“Twenty years ago, Canada was a leader on the climate change file,” James Meadowcroft, the Canada Research Chair in Governance for Sustainable Development, told DeSmog.ca “But today, our reputation on this issue is in tatters.”
Meadowcroft is one of sixty Canadian academics who wrote a report setting out a ten-point plan for Canada to adopt a sustainable energy economy. Individual provinces have enacted measures to combat climate change, including BC’s carbon tax, but the whole country has to be involved, and the premiers’ meeting is a good place to start.
In December 2015, energy ministers from around the world will meet in Paris to make firm plans for the global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, building on the Copenhagen accord signed in 2009. Canada has already fallen behind: nations were supposed to submit their plans by 31 March, but Environment Canada never intended to meet that deadline. It is unclear what plans, if any, Canada will bring to the table in Paris in December.
This kind of behavior is unheard of in this country. From our leading position twenty years ago, we have become one of the bad guys. Our scientists are being silenced and our environment is being sold off in pieces, to benefit Stephen Harper’s big business/ small regulations agenda.
Perhaps more worrisome is the recent cooperation between the US and Mexico (Canada’s two main NAFTA partners) on the subject of reducing emission targets without us. Mexico is notoriously polluted, with the smog sitting in the bowl around Mexico City causing huge problems for residents. Mexico, whose economy is still developing, is willing to address this problem on a national level. Canada, however, isn’t involved.
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq told Parliament that she was pleased that Mexico was following Canada’s lead in environmental cooperation with the US. Her parliamentary colleagues responded with groans.
All this is in spite of Stephen Harper’s claims that Canada can’t regulate its oil and gas sector without cooperation with the US and Mexico.
The report by Meadowcroft and others says that Canada could move to renewable sources of electricity by 2035 and eliminate 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Canada has many sources of hydroelectric power, and inter-provincial cooperation could result in huge energy savings. Seventy-seven per cent of our electricity is already produced without burning fossil fuels, and we can do more, says Catherine Potvin, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Mitigation at McGill, the lead author of the study. For example, Quebec, Labrador, BC, and northern Manitoba, where hydro is abundant, could supply the rest of the country with some improvements to the national grid.
The report is calling for a tax or a cap on emissions, a measure that Harper’s government has resisted. The NDP and the Liberals support such action, guaranteeing that it will become an election issue in the autumn.
The report also calls for an end to subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, something which Stephen Harper, who represents a riding in Alberta, is extremely unlikely to support.
And, finally, a statement by Inuit elders recently says that the Earth has shifted, or as they said, “wobbled.” They say the sky has “shifted” and it is no longer possible to predict the weather as they once could. This makes it difficult for them to read the sky because the Sun and the stars have changed their positions. The elders have said that this makes it more difficult for them to predict the weather and other natural conditions, and therefore it affects the hunt and their whole way of life.
Our friend Vanessa VanWyck reports that her smart phone star apps are no longer accurate: the Big Dipper is in the "wrong" place, and Orion is appearing long after he should have sunk below the horizon. And the Milky Way, which once plunged into Georgian Bay, is now floating over the hills to the south.
If people who live very close to the Earth are concerned, surely we city dwellers should start to take notice….