In early December, local activists in Nelson, B.C. tackled the question of “what is the Green New Deal?” in a voting action evening held in the Nelson United Church Hall.
The one-page statement included seven parts agreed to after a ranked vote process. While the Nelson Statement cannot define the Green New Deal since it is a national initiative, it does represent the priorities of the Nelson group of over 30 people, most of them climate activists.
Eighteen propositions drawn from lists created by Green New Deal town halls held across Canada and in Nelson were voted on at the meeting. “Uphold Indigenous Rights” took the most votes, followed by “Keep it in the Ground.” Third-ranked was “Protect Biodiversity and Nature.”
Voting did not go entirely smoothly at the event. “This isn’t fair,” one participant said. “I want to vote for all of them.” In the end the group decided to blend several of the propositions together and increase the total to seven including:
1. Uphold Indigenous rights
Fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, recognition of Indigenous title and rights. Implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
2. Keep it in the ground
Freeze construction and/or approval of all new fossil fuel extraction and transportation projects. Stop all fossil fuel subsidies from federal or provincial governments.
3. Protect biodiversity and nature
Enact laws that grant personhood protections to our forests and bodies of water, and create an environmental bill of rights, stop the dumping of waste into bodies of water, enshrine the right of all people to clean air, clean water, healthy food, and a safe environment, protect at least 30 per cent of land and waters by 2030.
4. Massive investment in green energy, transit and housing
Ensure sustainable, financially and physically accessible public transportation for everyone. Make massive investments in infrastructure to build a 100% renewable economy including food justice, public transportation and public housing. Use free public education to make change, teach simple living and outdoor enjoyment. Retrain workers in unsustainable industries including oil and gas.
5. Real emissions reduction targets that will keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius
Legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets with specific actions, time lines and metrics used to monitor progress.
6. Carbon tax and cut military spending
Substantially increase the carbon tax/carbon price using a fee and dividend model, much like the federal plan, with 10 per cent going to green infrastructure upgrades. Cut military spending and waste. Warfare is extremely energy intensive and polluting and cannot be exempt from climate change treaties.
7. Wealth redistribution and limit corporate power
Eliminate huge economic inequality. Higher taxes on the wealthy. Tax large Inheritances. Universal basic income. Curb corporate power. Expand democratic power with proportional representation. Use taxation to check corporate wealth and power, close tax loopholes, limit and regulate lobbying.
The final statement was endorsed and signed by almost all of the participants. Some joined in a letter-writing exercise to federal and provincial politicians asking that the bold Green New Deal plan be acted on quickly to address the climate emergency.
“A one-page statement cannot be a complete plan for transitioning our economy and way of life to a survivable future,” said Keith Wiley, a Council of Canadians volunteer and one of the meeting organizers. “But, it does paint some broad strokes on a big picture way to go forward and actually confront the climate crisis,” he added. “The Green New Deal is about winding down our devastating impact on the planet, and doing it in a way that provides the most security and well-being for everyone.”
This blog was submitted by Keith Wiley of the Council of Canadians Nelson Chapter in British Columbia.