What you need to know and ask about the biggest environmental issues in this election
Goals are great, but they don’t mean much without time-bound commitments. So don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
Last week, the world’s leading climatologists released a historic assessment of the direction our planet is heading, and the prognosis is, uh, grim. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report a “code red for humanity”. We have pumped so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, for example, that severe droughts, heat waves, forest fires and floods will only get worse over the years. next three decades, no matter what, while ocean levels will continue to rise for at least 2,000 years.
The authors of the IPCC have pointed out that there is still time – perhaps for the last time – to avoid a total climate catastrophe. But to do this, governments around the world are coming together to make (and demand) rapid, aggressive and widespread emission reductions, from this very second. That is why it is so important to know who shapes politics on Parliament Hill. And that’s why, after Justin Trudeau called an early election this weekend, Chatelaine thought we would look at some of the biggest environmental issues facing Canadians during this campaign.
Obtain greenhouse gas emissions waaaaay down
Let’s start with some positive news from the IPCC report: As climate change intensifies, we can prevent the planet from getting even hotter. “If we are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net zero, then it is quite possible to limit man-made global warming,” says Zafar Adeel, professor at the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering at Simon Fraser University. .
A quick aside on this human-induced part: the science is adamant that climate change is real and that it is unequivocally caused by our activities. So when a political candidate comes knocking on your door, Megan Leslie, former NDP politician and current president of WWF Canada, suggests asking them straight away if they believe humans are responsible for the evolution of our planet. . “If this candidate hesitates, even for a split second, then it’s a tough pass,” Leslie says. “You don’t want that person sitting around the caucus table. You want someone who will find solutions.
By signing the International Paris Agreement, Canada has pledged to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – and analysis shows that “Canada’s fair share in this emissions reduction challenge would be 60% below 2005 levels by 2030, ”says Lisa Gue, senior policy analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation. Right now, only the Green Party is committed to reducing that much. In April, Trudeau announced that Canada would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next nine years, while the NDP pledged a 50 percent cut. Erin O’Toole plans to stick to Canada’s original pledge in Paris: her Conservatives would cut emissions by 30% from 2005 levels.
But while the goals are interesting, they don’t mean much without time-bound commitments to implement the actions that will allow us to meet those goals. Look for them in a party’s platform and find out how each party plans to incentivize behavior change, whether through carbon pricing or tax breaks or perhaps not handing out. over billions in subsidies to the oil and gas sector. Finally, what are these parties doing not only to avoid the worst climate scenarios, but to adapt to the changes that have already happened? “No matter how excellent we perform in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we are still facing the impacts right now,” said Adeel. “So how do we prepare, especially for water extremes like floods, heavy rains and droughts? “
Register the right to a healthy environment
Over 100 countries around the world guarantee their citizens the legal right to a healthy environment, but Canada is not one of them. In April, the Liberals proposed a bill that would modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, a pollution law that has not been updated for 21 years, and that would also enshrine the right to a healthy environment. But when Trudeau called an election, C-28 died on the Order Paper and will have to be reintroduced.
The C-28 is not just symbolic: it ensures that all Canadians benefit from measures to protect the environment, because we know that climate change, pollution and environmental degradation disproportionately affect communities. racialized and low-income. “Right now the risks are being assessed for the general population, and when we do, we can miss the fact that some groups are more highly exposed,” says Gue. “So we need to take these inequalities into account when we assess risks and regulate them, in order to protect those who are most vulnerable. Candidates and their parties should have detailed plans (with specific dates in front of them) to protect every Canadian’s right to clean water, air and land.
Fight against the conservation and loss of biodiversity
When it comes to tackling climate change, nature-based solutions are very effective: according to research by Nature Conservancy, protecting and restoring forests, grasslands and wetlands would sequester enough carbon to bring in the world a third of the way to its Parisian objectives. . “Look, you can change any light bulb you want, but it’s important. It’s a huge win, ”Leslie says. “And these forests and wetlands are also habitat for wildlife at a time when populations of species are collapsing.” They are also collapsing hard: A 2020 WWF report found a decline of two-thirds of the world’s wildlife population, while species at risk in Canada have seen their numbers drop 59% in the past 50 years. Last month, a billion sea creatures were cooked to death off the coast of Vancouver due to the scorching heat.
“We have a dual crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss, so we need responses that tackle both crises at the same time,” Leslie said. “You have to look for engagements that see these two things together.” She suggests asking candidates about their plan to use nature to fight climate change and how this work includes a reconciliation perspective. “Supporting indigenous protected and conserved areas, supporting indigenous-led efforts to manage species, it all has to be part of the agenda. “
And when a candidate shows up at your door with polite arguments and vague promises, don’t be afraid to ask for details. In her former life as a politician, Leslie concedes that she too has had her vagabonds. “But when someone asked me when and where, why and how, those were the questions that made me sweat a little,” she says. “So tell the candidates what excites you. It’s up to them to figure out how to turn this into politics.