Addressing environmental crises will require full backing of prime minister and new cabinet
OTTAWA | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE — The David Suzuki Foundation congratulates the prime minister on appointing a cabinet that includes key ministers well-positioned to accelerate action on the twin crises of the climate emergency and biodiversity loss. The appointments of Steven Guilbeault, Jonathan Wilkinson and Joyce Murray — to lead Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, respectively — create a strong team. They must lead an emergency response with support from the prime minister and full cabinet to put Canada on the path to nature and climate recovery.
All three ministers now leading federal environmental portfolios know the subjects well. They’ll be able to hit the ground running. Hopefully, their appointments mean a “green light” from the prime minister to drive the climate and environmental agenda forward urgently and ambitiously.¹
The federal government promised climate will be a top priority this session of Parliament. The election platform made significant commitments on the environment, and this government can’t count on more than two years to implement them. We’re encouraged that Steven Guilbeault — a well-respected leader from the environmental movement — will assume a pivotal role in delivering this agenda. We’ll be looking to Minister Guilbeault to act quickly, with the support of his cabinet colleagues.
At COP26 next week, we’ll see to what extent Canada is willing to show concrete leadership. Will Canada join the new Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, spearheaded by Denmark and Costa Rica, committing Canada to a managed and just transition away from oil and gas production to maintain a stable climate? Will Canada increase its contributions to support developing countries in meeting the climate challenge? Will the new ministers announce clear and ambitious timelines for domestic emission reduction measures promised in the government’s electoral platform, and a path to increasing Canada’s climate ambition in line with what the science calls for?
We hope Jonathan Wilkinson, with his knowledge and history of leadership on climate and nature, will be able to pivot NRCan away from a focus on oil and gas production and intensive industrial logging to help lead the transition to a net-zero emissions, nature-positive world. NRCan also has a lead role in creating and executing a national strategy for climate adaptation and has begun consultations on a just transition strategy, to support workers and communities as the world builds a low-carbon economy. The government should move forward quickly with just transition legislation, as other leading countries have. Minister Wilkinson is well-placed to lead this process, which will be key to Canada’s climate success.
The appointment of Joyce Murray as Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard brings a voice with long experience in environmental issues, community engagement, and government and private sector sustainability to a challenging file that must address sustainable practices in the ocean economy and resolve the urgent issues of Indigenous rights, title, access and governance of fisheries. The department is critical to restoration and management of land and water habitat that supports fisheries, at-risk species, resistance to increased storms and long-term carbon storage.
It’s encouraging to see a number of other voices for the environment return to cabinet, because we need teamwork to put Canada on the path toward a resilient and sustainable future with a stable climate, and position this country to be a global leader in the rapidly emerging clean economy.
We need the full cabinet — and all MPs — to treat climate as the emergency it is, with a full emergency response. We’ve seen governments move mountains in emergency mode through the past 20 months of this pandemic response. Our political leaders must now step up and do the same for the planet.
¹ The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change science is unequivocal: Without immediate, rapid, large-scale greenhouse gas emissions reductions, limiting global heating to safe levels (1.5 C or maximum 2 C) will be beyond reach. We’re running out of time to implement the transformational change necessary to significantly reduce emissions and limit the catastrophic effects of climate change.
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For more information or a media interview, please contact:
Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org, 604-356-8829