Welcome to The Future We Choose, a series of monthly articles on climate change and what we must do about it. While our attention is on COVID-19, the frequency, duration, and intensity of global extreme weather events—heat domes, droughts, wildfires, atmospheric rivers and flooding—has increased dramatically. Climate scientists tell us that we have eight short years to limit global warming to 1.5 C. We are already at 1.2 C. We must invest in an immediate and massive effort to fight climate change. The alternative is unthinkable. We must all become active agents in the future we choose.
In 2019, Parliament declared a national climate emergency, noting that climate change is an “urgent threat” to our environment, health, economy, and future. In 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada backed the federal government’s constitutional right to impose a national carbon tax noting that climate change is “an existential threat to human life in Canada and around the world” and that it would lead to “irreversible harm” if Parliament was blocked from addressing these human-caused emissions.
Good steps, but not nearly enough. The federal government must mobilize on a scale that is greater than our response to COVID; we require the massive and sustained undertaking that enabled Canada to punch way above its weight during the Second World War.
The following actions serve as a starting point.
- Establish a new cross-ministry climate change agency to implement an effective and multipronged strategy to fight climate change;
- Ensure a just transition for all Canadian workers as well as for the Global South;
- Eliminate all taxpayer-funded fossil fuels subsidies, starting with substantial cuts in next month’s federal budget. Further, the oil companies must not be given an additional subsidy for carbon capture and storage. This very expensive and technologically unproven strategy is nothing more than a ploy to keep on digging up fossil fuels;
- Shut down the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines immediately. Stop pouring gasoline on a fire we seek to extinguish. The pretense of creating revenues to fight climate change is obscene. Use the billions saved to directly fight climate change;
- Put in place an immediate and progressive emissions cut on fossil fuel production. Canada is not a climate champion; it is a laggard. 2022 is expected to herald our highest production ever;
- Invest in already existing technology that will significantly reduce carbon emissions in heavy industry, particularly the manufacture of steel and cement;
- Block Ontario’s plans to expand the power generated from natural (fossil) gas by 600 per cent. This dangerous plan undermines the federal goal of a net-zero electricity grid by 2035;
- Ban all fossil fuel advertising. This includes ads for oil companies as well as for internal combustion vehicles. If the future is supposed to be low carbon, present this vision everywhere and now;
- Increase incentives on electric vehicle purchases and expand charging infrastructure;
- Mandate all future construction to be net zero. Incentivize net-zero building retrofits, both commercial and residential;
- Incentivize small farm regenerative agriculture practices that keep much more carbon in the soil;
- Lower the voting age to 16. Teens are perfectly capable of making informed and critical choices. They deserve the right to influence their future.
Back to our series title: we choose a healthy and sustainable future by convincing our elected officials to take these steps. Please speak up. Contact your MP (openparliament.ca/politicians) so they know we are all ready to make necessary system change. There is no time left to blame, lament, or hesitate.
Grant Linney is a climate activist living in Dundas.