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Council of Canadians comments on how we can achieve a low carbon society and economy

Today marks the launch of a new collection of texts, Acting on Climate Change, Extending the Dialogue Amongst Canadians, about how Canada can transition to a low carbon society and economy. 


The collection of texts brings together the experiences of 28 individuals and groups from a wide variety of viewpoints responding to a report released earlier this year by scholars which found Canada can achieve  100% low carbon electricity production in 2035.  


I was happy to work on a submission on behalf of the Council of Canadians. Our chapter looks at their report through a social justice lens, drawing on our experience understanding the connections between trade, water and climate justice. The chapter also focuses on the benefits of pursuing renewable energy under public and community ownership. 


The Council’s submission is joined by other notable texts including Decolonizing the Transition by Catherine Beland and Michael Ross of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute, Protecting the Environment by doing more work not less by Lana Payne and Jim Stanford of Unifor, and Envisioning a good green life in British Columbia by Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.


Excerpts from the Council of Canadians submission responding to the White Paper on Climate Change Action in Canada. You can read the full submission here:


The Council of Canadians has long advocated for a Canadian energy strategy that meets people’s needs, places meaningful regulatory limits on climate pollution and pursues a just transition to improved energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy. We see this as intimately linked to our call to oppose the free trade agenda of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), which undermines all levels of governments to regulate the sale or extraction of fossil fuels and promote renewable energy. It is also connected to our demand for a national water policy that recognizes water as part of the commons, a public trust and a human right, ensuring it is considered in energy sector decision-making and beyond.

Any meaningful climate policy must put an end to tar sands expansion.

We must also not forget about the role of direct regulation in achieving environmental goals. Too much focus in recent years has been on market-based solutions to the climate crisis. There can and should be room in our discussion for direct regulatory actions to reduce climate pollution and achieve broader environmental goals. Examples include a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Arctic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, federal regulation and oversight of fracking hard caps and timelines for phasing out all coal fire power, better regulation and enforcement of fossil fuel industries10, and a rejection of new nuclear developments. we add the importance of prioritizing public and community ownership of renewable energy projects. Public ownership models include crown corporations and public utilities.

Energy project decision-making must also respect the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples (FPIC), including the right to say “no.” This is implied in Sustainable Canada Dialogues’ key policy orientation #10, but needs to be clearly stated, despite the failure on the part of the federal government to acknowledge this internationally recognized right

There are distinct advantages of public and community ownership of renewable energy, including retaining economic revenues, maximizing social benefits, prioritizing conservation and ensuring energy security.

On integrating the energy sector into climate policies, we also agree wholeheartedly that the re-direct of fossil fuel subsidies to climate measures, including improving energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy expansion and public transit, is long overdue. We would add to the paper’s recommendations that Canada should support a financial transaction tax, or “Robin Hood tax”. This relatively simple measure has won support from diverse audiences. It is a small tax on all financial market transactions that could generate significant funds towards ending poverty and addressing climate change.