Climate Change — One Step Forward

Peace and Environment News, May–June 2009
by Mike Buckthought

On April 1, Members of Parliament took a crucial step forward in tackling the climate crisis. The Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) passed second reading by a narrow margin, with 141 votes in favour and 128 against. Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs united to back the private member’s bill introduced by MP Bruce Hyer.

The Climate Change Accountability Act will ensure that Canada adopts firm targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, to avoid the most devastating impacts of global warming. It follows recommendations of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC urges developed countries to reduce emissions by at least 25% from 1990 levels by 2020, and at least 80% by the year 2050.

The Conservative government has set a target of a 3% reduction by 2020, with no legislation to get us there. Canadians take pride in protecting the environment, but our government has failed to show leadership. Other countries are doing much more.

The 27 members of the European Union are taking action. The EU has committed to reductions of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, with deeper reductions if developed countries match its commitment. Norway and Costa Rica have promised to become carbon-neutral by reducing and offsetting emissions of greenhouse gases.

In the United States, the Obama administration is investing billions of dollars in renewable energy, and a comprehensive climate bill promises to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. On March 31, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released the draft American Clean Energy and Security Act. It proposes deep reductions in emissions, equivalent to 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

Canadians can learn from the best practices of other countries. We need more incentives to encourage homeowners to install solar panels for heating hot water and generating electricity. We can invest in renewable energy and sustainable transport, to create thousands of green jobs and reduce our use of planet-warming fossil fuels.

With the federal government committed to inaction, it is up to opposition parties to pass legislation to tackle the climate crisis. Conservative filibustering delayed Bill C-377, an earlier version of Bill C-311. Although it was eventually passed by the House of Commons and referred to the Senate, Bill C-377 died on the order paper when an election was called in September.

With Bill C-311 having passed second reading, it will go on to the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee for further debate. With only months to go before climate talks in Copenhagen, Parliament has an historic opportunity. The Climate Change Accountability Act will ensure that Canadians do our fair share to stop global warming.

The costs of inaction are staggering. Unchecked climate change could lead to trillions of dollars in economic losses, and the loss of most of the world’s plant and animal species. Millions of people could be affected by droughts, famines, diseases and rising sea levels.

As Parliamentarians debate Bill C-311, they may think about how they will be judged by future generations. If they reject the bill, they will harm our environment and economic future. Supporting Bill C-311 will help set us on a path to a sustainable future.

What you can do: Contact Members of Parliament. Ask your MP to support Bill C-311, to take action on climate change.

For more information, visit Sierra Club Canada’s Climate Crisis Blog:

Mike Buckthought is Sierra Club Canada’s National Climate Change Campaigner.

Published in the Peace and Environment News, Volume 24, Number 3, May–June 2009, page 7.