Nobody really wants these federal elections. Not the family and friends I have asked this summer, not the experts who lament on the country’s opinion pages, not most of the country, if the polls are to be believed. And even though I didn’t want these elections, I think we need them. We need it because with the climate crisis looming over us, we need Canada to do much more than what our government is currently willing to do. This election could just be our chance to make that happen.
This summer, the types of climate impacts that have been landing for years in the Global South and Canada’s rural, remote and indigenous communities have spread nationally. We have seen unprecedented heat waves, record fires, and extreme floods across the country. And those places that have mercifully avoided direct hits have still been smothered by wildfire smoke like few have seen before. Then, last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report declaring a “code red for humanity” to act together to tackle the climate crisis.
To do this, Canada really needs to do two important things. First, we must stop expanding fossil fuel production. Canada is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters per capita on the planet for one main reason: we extract and export a large amount of fossil fuels. Oil and gas are one of the largest contributors to our emissions. The first step in controlling that is to impose a moratorium on the expansion of fossil fuels because, when you’re in a well, the first step is to stop digging.
But we must also keep our eyes clear on the impacts of a controlled decline in Canada’s fossil fuel sector. It’s going to have an impact on people and communities across the country, so we must Combine this fossil fuel freeze with strong transition policies that ensure no one is left behind.
Unfortunately, right now our government doesn’t seem serious about any of these things. Sure, the liberals have started the consultation process on a just transition, but implementing them just before the election is worthy of some skepticism, especially given that they originally promised just transition legislation during the 2019 election campaign and only began to act under significant public pressure.
But an election campaign could change that. First, an election could shake who is in the House of Commons. Across the country, continuing climate impacts have brought climate change back to the top of voters’ minds. At the national level and at the riding level, most voters see climate change as a top-vote issue. And, according to some recent surveys on the level of driving, at least one in three voters would consider changing his vote to endorse a climate champion.
Canada has the worst G7 climate record. Justin Trudeau bought and continues to power the Trans Mountain pipeline, while pumping billions in federal subsidies into the fossil fuel industry. Taken together, this means that liberals may have a hard time defending their climate record. And on key bypasses, this could be a major problem for the party.
But this climate reckoning won’t happen unless people push for it. Politicians are more accountable to voters during election campaigns than at any other time, so this is the moment when we must come together and demand climate action that truly meets the scale of this crisis.
If voters across the country concerned about climate change come together and commit to vote for true climate advocates, we can send a shock wave to Canadian politics. We started this in 2019 when the Climate strikes forced all political parties to campaign on the climate. But in 2021, we must take the next step and not only demand that they campaign on climate, but fulfill this moment by putting emergency-level response plans on the table.
Cameron Fenton is the leader of the Canada team with 350.org.
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