Top 5 Actions for a National Climate Plan

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First Ministers are meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau in Vancouver March 3 to launch climate talks that will lay the groundwork for Canada to meet its obligations under the global Paris Climate Agreement.

This is a critical meeting when our leaders need to make tough choices to ensure we are on a path towards doing our fair share in addressing the growing crisis of climate change. As it stands, we are far off course with emissions set to rise above even above the weak climate targets set by the Harper government. Without additional action, there will be a strong emissions growth in the fossil fuel sector, the tar sands will lead the way.

Here are my top 5 actions for an effective national climate plan. 

Freeze fossil fuel expansion and related infrastructure

We have reached a point when it is abundantly clear that more production, particularly of extreme forms of energy (extreme in their impacts on land, water, climate and communities) like the tar sands, fracking and offshore drilling, must end. We must say no to projects like the Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipelines. Filling the Energy East pipeline could spur an up to 40 per cent increase in tar sands production and generate up to 30 to 32 million tonnes of carbon pollution. Along with Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, 45.4 million tonnes could be unleashed annually. This is more than the annual climate pollution of eight provinces and territories. We can help reach this end to expansion by ensuring that the review of energy projects effectively incorporates their upstream and downstream climate impacts in the context of Canada’s pledged support to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While the Trudeau government has promised to include a climate test for pipelines, it also continues to state that oil needs to get to tidewater. We need to hold our government to account for an effective and fair climate test and pipeline reviews.

A clear plan towards a 100% clean energy economy by 2050 

Not only is this necessary, it is entirely feasible to have 100% renewable energy by 2050. This means more renewable energy from solar and wind, wave, geothermal and tidal power.  This expansion is best under public and community (or collective) ownership, ensuring public benefits are maximized, and the respect of community input. It means dramatically improving efforts to conserve energy and a universal and accessible programme for new energy efficient buildings and retrofitting homes. More affordable and effective public transit, including high speed rail. Better energy and electricity sharing across borders and improving our electricity grid.

Recent promises for federal infrastructure spending must be used for these opportunities, not further entrenching our fossil fuel economy or falling prey to false climate solutions. In other words, we need money for renewable energy, public transit and retrofits, not more pipelines and highways.

How can this all be financed? Making good on Canada’s promise to eliminate subsidies to fossil fuel industries (averaged $2.9 billion over 2013 and 2014) is a good start. The Leap Manifesto also calls for a progressive carbon tax, for more on this, see Brent Patterson’s recent blog. There is also military spending that could be redirected, higher corporate taxes, fines from effective corporate regulation, higher royalty rates and a global financial transaction tax (Robin Hood tax).

All plans must respect the inherent rights and title of Indigenous communities

Fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) would go a long way in mending the very broken relationship in this country between settlers and Indigenous communities. While the Trudeau government has recognized the need for improved relationships, questions regarding whether free, prior and informed consent, as enshrined in UNDRIP, will be respected, remain .

Just transition and prioritizing equity measures

Critical to this plan will be the need to support workers and communities affected by the transition from fossil fuels to a clean economy by 2050. What does this look like? Measures like job training and other resources for workers in the coal industry (that should be fully phased out by 2030) into the clean energy economy. Putting Indigenous and low income communities at the front of the line for building retrofits which will help lower energy costs. As the Leap Manifesto highlights, “Indigenous Peoples should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects. So should communities currently dealing with heavy health impacts of polluting industrial activity.”

$4 billion a year for climate adaptation and mitigation measures in the Global South.

Those countries that have historically contributed the most to climate change, must be responsible for helping contribute both to the adaptation (dealing with unavoidable climate impacts) and mitigation (transition off of fossil fuel reliance) costs of the Global South, being hit hardest by the ravages of climate change. As highlighted in this joint open letter endorsed by 55 Canadian organizations including the Council of Canadians, Canada’s fair share of the US$100 billion promised in the Paris Decision document requires a contribution of $4 billion a year by 2020. This is based on precedents where Canada has contributed 3% to 4% of multilateral funds.

The Leap Manifesto outlines a number of other clean priorities that relate to, and compliment these actions in setting us on a path to greater climate justice which include:

  • investments in decaying public infrastructure to withstand more frequent extreme weather events
  • more localized and ecologically based agricultural system, which can include better reflecting on the climate impacts of food in our eating choices
  • end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects
  • demand immigration status and full protection for all workers
  • expand sectors that are already low carbon such as care giving, teaching, social work, the arts and public interest media.
  • vigorous debate on a universal basic annual income
  • a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns 

Useful resources and links: