Despite the rare summer heat last night in Halifax, when I walked into the climate consultation I got chills. I was shocked to see that 250 people crammed into a room at Dalhousie University to tell our new Liberal MP Andy Fillmore about the climate action we need from the federal government. It was also my first day as the regional organizing assistant for the Council of Canadians Atlantic Office, and I think a great way to dive right in the work!
We all attended this meeting to share our ideas about how Canada can contribute to tackling the climate crisis. We were organized into small groups and discussion was prompted by a few topics laid out by Mr. Fillmore’s team: renewable energy, climate adaptation, environmental assessment processes, habitat conservation, and so forth. The crowd promptly pointed out with poorly masked disappointment that these topics didn’t include the most obvious solution of all: keep fossil fuels in the ground.
What really impressed me about the consultation was the diversity of people who attended, the learned and lived experience they brought, and the passion with which our messages were delivered. We had academic experts, municipal staff, green business owners, divestment campaigners, climate justice organizers, and members of community groups from across the city. It was really stunning to see so many people out with so many ideas – brilliant ideas, at that.
A thought played in my head throughout the whole consultation: five years ago, this consultation would have been very different. Previous to being part of the Council of Canadians, I worked on several other climate justice campaigns: fossil fuel divestment, climate justice education for kids, attending the UN climate negotiations as a youth delegate, organizing PowerShift conferences for young people. It’s been a few years since I was really heavily involved in any of these efforts, so stepping back in to this climate consultation gave me some real perspective on how far this movement has come.
Yesterday the top recommendations were strong and clear:
- Keep fossil fuels in the ground: science has been saying for years that the only way to avoid a global climate catastrophe is to keep 85% of remaining fossil fuel reserves untouched.
- Invest swiftly and deeply in a 100% renewable energy system: this means shutting down fossil fueled power plants, aggressively improving energy efficiency, ending subsidies to fossil fuel companies, and ramping up renewable electricity production.
- This climate plan must be justice-based: building this renewable future must include green jobs for workers moving out of destructive industries, and reconciliation with indigenous communities who have been and are currently hit hardest by the physical pollution, social deterioration, and impacts of climate change associated with fossil fuel extraction and other unsustainable industries.
- Closer to home, specific demands were made to stop the Energy East pipeline and Alton Gas natural gas storage project, protect Nova Scotia’s coasts and communities from sea level rise, and give greater power to Mi’kmaq communities in decision making about how and when our environmental resources are used.
Our recommendations, and the whole feeling of the room, were rooted in an educated urgency about the climate crisis, a deep love for this planet and the people on it, and a righteous anger that drives this movement forward. I really noticed a deeper understanding that the transition to a renewable energy future is possible and is providing real opportunities for our communities and our country than I've seen in the past. Furthermore, the people who were giving these recommendations were not the regular crowd you would have seen a few years ago.
I left reminded that this movement is really gaining steam, and that we’re getting ever closer to a just and sustainable future. I can’t wait for many more days of this feeling, and working alongside these climate warriors of all stripes.