MPs hold emergency debate on climate change in wake of UN report

Photo by the Vancouver Sun

MPs spent their first day back in Parliament after their recent break debating the perils of climate change.

According to the Canadian Press, the emergency debate was granted by House of Commons Speaker Geoffrey Regan just a week after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire global warning of a looming climate catastrophe.

The report says the world will be facing unstoppable climate change sooner than expected and that urgent government action is needed now.

The article notes that “the world has already warmed up about 1 degree C compared to the mid-19th century and is experiencing the effects of that, including more violent storms, more frequent flooding, longer droughts and more forest fires.”

“Each 0.5 C degree of warming raises those risks significantly, with entire ecosystems possibly being eradicated, parts of the planet becoming too hot to sustain life and island nations getting drowned out entirely by rising sea levels,” it adds.

Canada would need to cut its annual emissions almost in half from current levels within 12 years - by 2030 - to do its part to stop the Earth’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degree C. Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction goals are nowhere near that, and its actual achievements are even further behind.

According to Canadian Press, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said last week her plan is to implement the existing climate framework and reach the current targets before looking at more ambitious measures. In other words, Canada won’t be taking any immediate or urgent action in light of the UN panel’s report.

"We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and we're the last generation to be able to act," she said during the emergency debate.

"If you have a child who is 10 years old today, we're talking about catastrophic impacts in 30 years, when they're 40 years, if we don't take action."

MPs from the NDP, Liberal and Green parties all the emergency debate on the UN report – the Conservatives did not.

“New Democrats and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May argued the Liberal government hasn't done enough to meet its emission reduction targets, let alone meet the more stringent reductions required to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees C. They urged the government to take a new leadership role at the UN climate change meeting in Poland in December by ramping up its efforts,” the article noted.

"Preventing a single degree could make a life or death difference," said New Democrat MP Guy Caron.

May said the UN report is telling humanity: "You've got one chance to protect your kids' world, you've got one chance, and it's expiring in about 10-12 years, to hold global average temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees and if you miss that ... you end up in a situation where the worst case scenario isn't bad weather, it's the collapse of our civilization and the extinction of millions of species, potentially including us."

The Council of Canadians is part of a global movement that is calling for urgent and immediate action on climate change. We are at the forefront of climate fights to stop massive energy projects that will mean more emissions, more fossil fuels and increased climate change. Instead, we are calling on the provincial and federal government to commit to the changes that are needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground, reduce emissions and invest in renewable energies for a safe and sustainable future for us all.