Climate Action Momentum is Building

The world could use some positivity and hopeful signals about what the future holds for people and planet Earth.

It is beyond time to make meaningful, far-reaching, transformational change at every level on behalf of ourselves, young people and for the generations to come.

As Canada’s Throne Speech stated on September 23rd, “This is our generation’s crossroads.”

We could not agree more.

Gatineau, Quebec Fall Trees Photo Credit Alexandra

First, we want to highlight some related positive news reported at the international and local levels, before focusing on pieces from Canada’s Throne Speech. All combined, we feel that these are the kinds of necessary positive signals at all levels (international, national, local) that give rise to our cautious optimism that, indeed, momentum is building for our generation to choose the path toward a more sustainable future.

Let’s start with some local good news, from Sudbury.

CEEP – Community Energy and Emissions Plan

CBC reports that on September 23rd (National Tree Day), Sudbury city council unanimously approved its CEEP (Community Energy and Emissions Plan).

The CEEP “will guide the city toward its goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

“The commitment means that by 2050, the city would produce no more greenhouse gas emissions than it is able to offset through other measures, such as reforestation.”

What this will look like in terms of the city’s actions and priorities for the coming decades includes “…significantly decreasing community water use, retrofitting buildings, electrifying the city’s bus fleet and increasing reforestation efforts.”

To echo the Throne Speech theme of “our generation’s crossroads,” Sudbury Councillor Geoff McCausland says, “This is the most important thing, dealing with climate change, that we will likely deal with in our entire lifetimes.” Full CBC article at: https://bit.ly/2GdEoPL

Jasper, Alberta Fall Trees Photo Credit Lucy

Significant International Signal

Last week’s climate change news also included a major announcement from China, which is a highly impactful development toward reaching the global target and commitments to curtail greenhouse gas emissions and keep rising global temperatures below 2C. All the more important, given China’s current status as the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.

China Commits to Carbon Neutrality by 2060

On September 22nd, China’s President Xi Jinping made a video address to the UN General Assembly announcing two major goals and commitments on climate change. The country now aims to peak its carbon emissions before 2030, and to become “net zero” by 2060.

As the Economist reports, “In climate-change jargon, this means achieving a balance between carbon emissions and carbon reduction both technological and natural, such as planting trees. For China to succeed, it must descend from its emissions peak far more rapidly than any other major economy has either succeeded in doing, or has pledged to do. It will be a huge challenge.” [For the full Economist article: https://econ.st/3n1USLo]

We learned much from this informative CBC article on China’s announcement: https://bit.ly/3idZoCY

The positive benefits associated with China moving up its timeline to peak emissions before 2030 are explained in the article by MIT’s management professor John Sterman.

“Carbon dioxide’s more than 100-year lifetime in the air makes earlier emission cuts more effective than promises in the future, he said.”

“Emissions that don’t happen between now and 2030 are going to reduce warming a lot more than the same emission reductions after 2060.”

The CBC article also noted that with this announcement, China joins 29 countries (including Canada) that have pledged to reach net-zero emissions under the 2015 Paris Accord, with many other major emitters such as the European Union on earlier timelines of 2050 to meet their goals.

Algonquin Park, Ontario, Fall Trees by MaryAnn

A few things from this article have contributed to our sense that momentum is building and that there is evidence for cautious optimism about the future.

One, is this fact statement – “With China, the 30 countries that have some kind of carbon neutrality pledges, account for about 43 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.” That’s close to half the world’s carbon dioxide emissions now being targetted.

The second are the messages cited from prominent international leaders that show us that, at least in words, there is emerging alignment on policy stances that approach the pandemic recovery plan and action on the climate crisis as one inter-related challenge, rather than an either-or choice about where to set national investment priorities.

“Calling for a ‘green revolution,’ Xi said the coronavirus pandemic had shown the need to preserve the environment.”

” ‘Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of nature,’ he said.”

“Frans Timmermans, who leads the EU executive’s efforts on climate change, welcomed Xi’s announcement.”

” ‘We need decisive action from every country to keep temperatures under control, tackle climate change and keep our planet inhabitable,’ he said.”

[For the full CBC article, and to learn which of the largest polluting countries have yet to make carbon neutrality pledges: https://bit.ly/3idZoCY]

Edmonton Fall Photo Credit Lucy

Canada

Last week we shared positive (leaked) news that Canada will become an e-vehicle player as a result of $500M in federal and provincial investments in support of Ford auto’s announced plans to invest $1.98B and re-tool its Oakville Ontario plant to produce five electric vehicles. According to this CBC article, Ford plans to start rolling electric vehicles off the line at the Oakville plant beginning in 2025, and with potential for new jobs at the Windsor plant too for engine production. https://bit.ly/2G8WxhC

Progress on getting more clean energy e-vehicles made here and  onto the roads in Canada is good news.

Adam Radwanski underscores the positives, writing, “Suddenly, Canada has a foothold in one of the world’s fastest-growing and most pivotal clean-technology sectors…..The Ford announcement could one day stand as the moment that kicked all these discussions into high gear. One of the Detroit Three making EVs in Canada will be impetus to develop other parts of the supply chain, which could lure other EV-making giants, and so on.” [Globe and Mail article: https://bit.ly/3cLNkHZ]

Hopefully more choice and access to competitively-priced e-vehicles for consumers will lead to greater uptake here in Canada, with adoption being accelerated by the related infrastructure investments that were announced in last week’s Speech from the Throne.

Fall Trees Jasper, Alberta, photo credit Lucy

September 23 Throne Speech

The Throne Speech acknowledged the prime focus on addressing the pandemic, while at the same time looking to the future. Its theme is “Building a Stronger and More Resilient Canada,” framed around the four foundations of:

a) fighting the pandemic and saving lives;

b) supporting people and businesses through this crisis as long as it lasts, whatever it takes. Effectively dealing with the health crisis is the best thing we can do for the economy;

c) building back better to create a stronger, more resilient Canada; and,

d) standing up for who we are as Canadians.

Highlights below related to climate change are taken directly from the Throne Speech:

“To keep building strong communities, over the next two years the Government will also invest in all types of infrastructure, including public transit, energy efficient retrofits, clean energy, rural broadband, and affordable housing, particularly for Indigenous Peoples and northern communities.”

“Climate action will be a cornerstone of our plan to support and create a million jobs across the country.”

Autumn Trees Edmonton, Photo Credit Lucy

“This is where the world is going. Global consumers and investors are demanding and rewarding climate action.”

“Canadians have the determination and ingenuity to rise to this challenge and global market opportunity.”

“We can create good jobs today and a globally competitive economy not just next year, but in 2030, 2040, and beyond.”

“Canadians also know climate change threatens our health, way of life, and planet. They want climate action now, and that is what the Government will continue to deliver.”

The Government will immediately bring forward a plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal. The Government will also legislate Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

“As part of its plan, the Government will:

  • Create thousands of jobs retrofitting homes and buildings, cutting energy costs for Canadian families and businesses;
  • Invest in reducing the impact of climate-related disasters, like floods and wildfires, to make communities safer and more resilient;
  • Help deliver more transit and active transit options;
  • And make zero-emissions vehicles more affordable while investing in more charging stations across the country.”

“A good example of adapting to a carbon-neutral future is building zero-emissions vehicles and batteries. Canada has the resources – from nickel to copper – needed for these clean technologies. This – combined with Canadian expertise – is Canada’s competitive edge.”

Edmonton Alberta Fall Colors, Photo Credit Lucy

“The Government will launch a new fund to attract investments in making zero-emissions products and cut the corporate tax rate in half for these companies to create jobs and make Canada a world leader in clean technology. The Government will ensure Canada is the most competitive jurisdiction in the world for clean technology companies.”

“Additionally, the Government will:

  • Transform how we power our economy and communities by moving forward with the Clean Power Fund, including with projects like the Atlantic Loop that will connect surplus clean power to regions transitioning away from coal;
  • And support investments in renewable energy and next-generation clean energy and technology solutions.”

“Canada cannot reach net zero without the know-how of the energy sector, and the innovative ideas of all Canadians, including people in places like British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador.”

“The Government will:

  • Support manufacturing, natural resource, and energy sectors as they work to transform to meet a net zero future, creating good-paying and long-lasting jobs;
  • And recognize farmers, foresters, and ranchers as key partners in the fight against climate change, supporting their efforts to reduce emissions and build resilience.
  • The Government will continue its policy of putting a price on pollution, while putting that money back in the pockets of Canadians. It cannot be free to pollute.
  • This pandemic has reminded Canadians of the importance of nature. The Government will work with municipalities as part of a new commitment to expand urban parks, so that everyone has access to green space. This will be done while protecting a quarter of Canada’s land and a quarter of Canada’s oceans in five years, and using nature-based solutions to fight climate change, including by planting two billion trees.
  • The Government will ban harmful single-use plastics next year and ensure more plastic is recycled. And the Government will also modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
  • When the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration was closed by a previous government, Canada lost an important tool to manage its waters. The Government will create a new Canada Water Agency to keep our water safe, clean, and well-managed. The Government will also identify opportunities to build more resilient water and irrigation infrastructure.
  • At the same time, the Government will look at continuing to grow Canada’s ocean economy to create opportunities for fishers and coastal communities, while advancing reconciliation and conservation objectives. Investing in the Blue Economy will help Canada prosper.”
Fall Colors in Alberta, Photo Credit Jim

For the full text of the Throne Speech to open the second session of the 43rd Parliament on September 23, 2020: https://bit.ly/2HHMu3H.

Last Words Go to the Trees, Nature and Hope

The Throne Speech re-affirms the government’s commitment to plant two billion trees as part of its climate action plan.

We end today’s blog post with this Nature imagery on resiliency and hope, taken from the opening section of the Throne Speech:

“Like a reed in high winds, we might sway but we will not break. Because our roots are firmly in place, our goals clear, and because we have hope – the hope that lifts the soul on dark days and keeps us focused on the future.”

“Canadians have lived through uncertain times before and have always prevailed because determination, concern for others, courage, and common sense define our nation.”

“We must bring all those qualities to bear once again and continue to work for the common good, and for a better, safer, and more just society.”

“This is who we are and what will see us through to brighter days.”

Hope Matters

Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis, published recently by environmental scholar Elin Kelsey.

Judith Pereira writes in the Globe and Mail about how Kelsey’s new evidence-based book aims to “shift the narrative on climate change.” Full article: https://tgam.ca/3n1Zt0i

GoodReads review: https://bit.ly/3jjUjug

We All Make A Difference

” ‘If you’re thinking of being a small fish in a very large global problem, I think it’s helpful to think about it this way: everyone’s actions are required,’ [Sudbury’s] Grant said.”

” ‘If we don’t do our part, we will fail. Everyone needs to do their part, big and small.’ “

https://bit.ly/2GdEoPL

Bobcaygeon, Ontario Fall Trees by MaryAnn

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