Skip to content
A future we can win

A future we can win

When it comes to the climate, the news is rarely good. A prolonged drought has left many European rivers at lows not seen for 500 years, China’s record-breaking heatwave finally abated in some places, only for the rains that followed to lead to mass evacuations, and more than 1100 people in Pakistan have been killed in devastating monsoon rains that have left one-third of the country under water. And despite these ever-increasing disasters, we still see high-income countries like Canada blocking treaties to protect our oceans and delivering climate plans that don’t address the root causes of the crisis or provide a real pathway forward. 

It’s critical to “tell the truth about the severity of the crisis and the measures necessary to combat it,” and that can mean eco-grief and eco-anxiety, real phenomena that impact our ability to function and to fight the battle at hand. We can combat that despair with hope – none of it has come easy, but there have been wins in the fight against climate change, and if we can continue to organize, there are more wins in the future. 

A just transition is winnable.

When we’re consistently up against powerful fossil fuel corporations and governments that subsidize fossil fuels and put fighting for pipelines ahead of fighting for a livable future, it’s easy to lose hope that we can ever win. But while we can never underestimate the formidable opponents we’re up against, or the work that remains to be done, progress towards a just transition for all workers has been made in Canada and around the world. 

The Council of Canadians, and its members and chapters have participated in and contributed to many of these wins, from our years-long campaign against the Energy East pipeline to joining in protests against Keystone XL in Washington to our ongoing Flood Parliament campaign, which has seen our members and supporters apply sustained pressure to MPs to pass just transition legislation. We’re proud of the work we – and you – have done to fight for a just and sustainable future and to build people power across Canada.  

Win! At the community level 

The fight for a Green New Deal – a radically transformative social project that recognizes and addresses the enormity of the climate crisis and the economic and social injustices that preceded and accompany it – is still ongoing at a federal level, but at least 15 communities in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom have tabled or implemented Green New Deals on a municipal level. These local wins are huge, especially in Canada, where municipalities have control over 44 per cent of emissions in the country.  

Win! At Keystone XL 

Despite the attempts of the Alberta government, the Keystone XL pipeline is officially dead (RIP). Although more work needs to be done to ensure that when fossil fuel projects like Keystone are crushed, workers aren’t crushed with it, the death of Keystone XL was a monumental victory, and a result that was never a given. It took more than a decade of protests, legal battles, and immense pressure to put a stop to the pipeline.  


And the end of Keystone wasn’t the only win against fossil fuel companies to take place in Canada in the past couple of years. In January 2022, BP and Equinor formally abandoned their remaining offshore exploration leases in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia), leaving no active offshore oil and gas projects in the province. It was a hard-won victory that took place after years of sustained efforts from Mi’kmaq land and water protectors, the Council of Canadians, and the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia. This was the final victory in a years-long fight that included the end of the Goldboro LNG pipeline and the Alton Gas natural gas storage project. 

Win! At the institution 

There has been a growing international movement to pressure universities, pension funds, and other institutions to divest from fossil fuels. Canadian institutions that have committed to divest from fossil fuels include, but aren’t limited to, Laval University, Concordia University, the Universities of British Columbia, Ottawa, Victoria, Toronto, and Waterloo, the Canadian Medical Association, numerous faith-based organizations, and, of course, the Council of Canadians. According to the Global Fossil Fuel Commitments Database, more than 1500 organizations have fully or partially divested from fossil fuels to date.  


There have been precedent-setting legal victories, too.  

In March 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government’s carbon pricing plan was constitutional, preventing the provinces from opting out of a federal climate plan. It was an important legal victory, one that saw the Supreme Court acknowledge that climate change is real and “poses a grave threat” to our future on this planet. And outside Canada, climate lawsuits have been ramping up against governments and fossil fuel companies, revealing a pathway to accountability that may hold much promise. 

What these wins have in common is that they came after many years of hard work, of organizing across communities, and pressuring governments and institutions to do the right thing. They took sustained effort – and in many cases, they require continued efforts to ensure the powerful are held accountable and don’t back out of their commitments. These wins are important, both in and of themselves as progress towards a just and sustainable future, and for what they symbolize. They show us that when we organize together and work in community with each other, we can fight – and we can win.

Alex Birrell

Alex Birrell is one of the Council of Canadians Communications Officers, specializing in Research and Analysis.

Make a donation to help realize the better Canada we want and know is possible!