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Council of Canadians protest as first ministers fail to take needed action on climate change

People's Climate Assembly
Twitter photo

The Council of Canadians Vancouver-Burnaby, Surrey-White Rock-Langley, Delta-Richmond and Mid-Island – Nanaimo chapters took part in a rally outside the first ministers summit on climate change yesterday.

The outreach for the rally noted, “Come join us in telling Trudeau, the Premiers and the nation about the ambitious national climate plan we need. A plan based on real justice for indigenous peoples, workers and local communities and keeping the oil in the soil.” The Council of Canadians had called on the first ministers to embrace the demands of the Leap Manifesto at their summit.

CBC reports, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the provincial premiers emerged from their meeting in Vancouver to say they are working toward a national climate change plan that includes an agreement in principle for a carbon-pricing mechanism — although they did not offer specifics on how it would work. …[Trudeau] said they have agreed to break off into working groups to study four main areas of the climate change file: clean technology, innovation and jobs, carbon pricing and mitigation. The working groups will report back in October and the findings of those reports will be used to create a ‘Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change’.”

That article adds, “The text of the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which outlines the consensus reached at the Vancouver meeting, indicates that when an agreement is reached on carbon pricing it will be ‘adapted to each province’s specific circumstances and in particular the realities of Canada’s indigenous peoples and Arctic and sub-Arctic regions’.”

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During the election campaign, the Liberals had promised, “A Liberal government is committed to attending the Paris climate conference, and within 90 days, holding a First Ministers meeting to work together on a framework for combatting climate change. Central to this would be the creation of national emissions reduction targets.” Yesterday’s meeting did not result in the “creation of national emissions reduction targets”, but the Trudeau government has now committed to “supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation through investments in green infrastructure, public transit infrastructure and energy efficiency, the development of regional plans for clean electricity transmission to reduce emissions, and other actions.

Most regrettably, tar sands pipelines have not been ruled out, in fact, quite remarkably, the prime minister has even suggested they could help pay for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The Calgary Herald notes, “[Alberta premier Rachel Notley] said she took advantage of the meeting with the premiers and prime minister to advocate strongly for expeditious approval of pipelines that Alberta needs to get its oilsands bitumen to new markets. …’I think there was truly no objection around the table when I made the point of the urgency of this.'” The Globe and Mail adds, “Notley said she was pleased that leaders recognized the ‘urgency of moving Canada’s resources to market in a responsible, timely, predictable and sustainable way’. She said she will be working with the Prime Minister, and premiers from British Columbia and Quebec, to win approval for oil pipelines to the west and east coasts.”

And while speaking at the Globe 2016 Leadership Summit in Vancouver the day before the first ministers meeting, Trudeau was asked if building the Energy East and Kinder Morgan pipelines was consistent with the goals set at the COP21 climate summit in Paris last December. Trudeau replied, “We want the low-carbon economy that continues to provide good jobs and great opportunities for all Canadians. To get there, we need to make smart strategic investments in clean growth and new infrastructure, but we must also continue to generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to a low-carbon economy.”

As noted above, the first ministers are expected to meet again in October. That will be just before the Nov. 7-18 United Nations COP22 climate summit in Morocco.

For Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue’s commentary on the summit as it was underway, please see her blog Breaking down the narratives around the First Ministers meeting on a National Climate Policy.

Photos: Twitter photos of the protest outside the Vancouver Convention Centre where the premiers were meeting yesterday.