New government faces climate challenges and opportunities

Our new government appears to be taking climate change seriously.

David Suzuki columnist

Our new government appears to be taking climate change seriously. With the UN climate talks starting in Paris on Nov. 30, Canada can play an important role in reducing greenhouse gases at home and helping others around the world do likewise. U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL oilsands pipeline reinforces the fact that we can’t continue burning fossil fuels at current rates.

Although Canada’s government is heading to Paris without a strong plan, it has indicated it’s ready to represent Canadians’ interests. One of the first encouraging signs is the new cabinet.

In the reduced, 30-member cabinet, equally divided between women and men, the minister of environment’s title has been expanded to include climate change, and we now have a minister of science and a minister of innovation, science and economic development.

I and others have been warning about global warming and its consequences for decades. I spoke to science writer Isaac Asimov about it in 1977 on CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks. In 1989, The Nature of Things did its first global warming program and I hosted the five-part radio series, It’s a Matter of Survival, in part about climate change. The David Suzuki Foundation has worked hard over its 25-year history to inform people about climate change and to research solutions, recently through the Trottier Energy Futures Project.

The UN climate conference, just weeks away, presents an immediate challenge for the government, but Canada is in an ideal position to make positive contributions.

Besides the new minister of environment and climate change and the prime minister, a cabinet committee on environment, climate change and energy will attend, headed by Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion.

Recognizing the role of provincial governments and other parties in addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also invited provincial premiers and other party leaders, including Green Party leader Elizabeth May, to the conference.

Given the ever-increasing urgency of the climate crisis, the UN process has been frustratingly slow and lacking in the kinds of concrete actions required to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2 C.

The goal of the Paris talks is for developed and developing nations to adopt a legally binding universal climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide financing for developing nations.

To help guide negotiations, the David Suzuki Foundation has offered recommendations to Canada’s new government. The first is to develop a national climate action plan that sets new, ambitious emissions-reduction targets. We agree with the Climate Action Network Canada that cutting carbon emissions by one-third within a decade, or 35 per cent below 1990 levels by 2025, would fit the bill, and that reductions should begin immediately with targets enshrined in law.

The Foundation also believes the federal government must work with provinces to set a minimum standard for pricing carbon emissions, through carbon taxes, cap and trade or both, reaching at least $100 per tonne by 2020, and applying targeted regulations or standards where carbon price alone is not enough to meet emissions targets.

We’d also like to see government move ahead with commitments to low-carbon infrastructure, including investment in public transportation, renewable energy and climate adaptation, as well as employing natural systems to reduce impacts.

Energy-efficiency standards for vehicles and buildings are also essential, as is a commitment to support the UN Green Climate Fund for developing nations.

We and other organizations will offer suggestions on a range of issues.

For us, these include species at risk and habitat protection, marine protected areas, environmental rights, natural capital evaluation and improved relations with indigenous peoples. We realize the new government faces numerous challenges and must deal with competing interests around falling oil prices, pipeline projects, missing and murdered aboriginal women, national security, international commitments regarding terrorism and more. It won’t be easy and they’ll have to hit the ground running.

As leaders from Canada and the U.S. head to Paris with real commitments to address climate change, there’s hope for progress. This government seems open to engaging in conversations with Canadians from all walks of life and all parts of the country, and to accepting our global responsibilities. I wish them the best.

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Just Posted

Somenos Marsh viewing tower near completion

October a busy month for the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society

Andrea Rondeau column: Reckoning coming on vaping

Those producing and selling vaping products have convinced a whole new generation to smoke

Popular Parkrun comes to Cowichan

Shawnigan Hills joins global phenomenon starting on Sept. 28

Midget Bulldogs beaten by North Surrey

Cowichan needs more ‘zip’ in practice

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Takaya, B.C.’s intriguing lone wolf, seen eating seal and howling away on Discovery Island

Fun facts about Takaya the wolf, like his a 36-hour tour around Chatham, Discovery Islands

Resident finds loaded shotgun inside a duffle bag in Kelowna alleyway

RCMP seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, clothing and other items

Graffiti, calls and Snapchat: RCMP probe string of threats targeting Kamloops schools

There have been nine different threats made to four different schools in the city

Most Read