Science shows rapid elimination of harmful fossil fuels critical to get “code red” climate crisis under control
OTTAWA | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE — The David Suzuki Foundation congratulates all newly elected and re-elected members of Parliament and urges the prime minister to waste no time in implementing his electoral platform commitments to address the climate emergency (see summary below).
“The climate crisis was a top issue for many voters,” David Suzuki Foundation executive director Severn Cullis-Suzuki said. “This summer in Canada, wildfires and extreme heat events were shocking. The town of Lytton, B.C., burned to the ground. Hundreds of Canadians perished from extreme heat. People in Canada want climate leadership, and this session of Parliament is the federal government’s opportunity to show a proper response to the climate emergency.”
UN climate scientists issued a “code red for humanity” last month with their latest global scientific assessment of the crisis. Their science shows the climate crisis is accelerating and, if left unchecked, could push average global temperatures upwards of 2.7 to 3.2 C over the next few decades (1.5 to 2 C is the critical threshold at which extreme weather events become more frequent and begin to jeopardize agriculture and human health). The assessment concludes that without immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions this decade, limiting heating to safe levels (1.5 C or 2 C by end of century) will be beyond reach.
“This is our last chance to implement the transformational change necessary to eliminate carbon pollution and save our communities and the ecosystems we depend on from the climate crisis,” said Ian Bruce, the foundation’s acting executive director during the election campaign, and former science and policy director. “Our government’s actions in the days and months ahead will determine whether Canada emerges as a climate leader in this global transition or gets left behind to grapple with devastating environmental, economic and health impacts.”
The David Suzuki Foundation calls on the federal government to accelerate work already underway and swiftly implement its electoral commitments to accelerate the shift to renewable energy and to eliminate the use of fossil fuels to power our industries, cars and transportation system, and homes and buildings, and advance other environmental priorities, including Indigenous rights and reconciliation. In the first 100 days of this mandate, this should include:
- Strengthen regulation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas for which cost-effective abatement solutions are available.
- Develop a plan to phase out all public financing of the fossil fuel sector.
- Introduce “just transition” legislation to support workers and communities in the necessary shift away from fossil fuels.
- Publish regulations banning non-essential single-use plastics.
- Reintroduce Bill C-28 with improvements, updating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, including meaningful recognition of the right to a healthy environment.
- Reintroduce Bill C-230, an act to address environmental racism.
- Apply critical habitat protection orders and other powers of the Species at Risk Act where it’s evident that at-risk species like caribou and orcas aren’t being effectively protected and recovered, as protecting and restoring nature helps reduce climate change and its impacts.
- Reach a nature agreement with B.C. to protect more of the province’s old-growth forests and expand protected areas on land and sea throughout the nation, ensuring First Nations, local communities and workers are partners in shaping the path on nature protection.
“We can no longer accept a weak response or continued political polarization on solving the ecological emergency we face, especially when the majority of Canadians are calling for bold action,” Bruce said. “Members of Parliament must put partisan differences aside and unite to make Canada a climate leader and ensure our communities and people are safe and healthy.”
“COVID-19 has shown that we can confront the climate crisis,” Cullis-Suzuki said. “We’ve learned that science is key to our survival, that we are all interconnected and that our government can act decisively in the face of an emergency. Our governments have the capacity to tackle crises of global proportions. Now we know what an emergency response looks like. We can’t accept anything less for the climate.”
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Summary of significant environmental commitments in federal government’s 2021 platform:
- Requiring oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions by at least 75 per cent below 2012 levels by 2030.
- Capping and cutting emissions from the oil and gas sector, Canada’s largest and fastest-growing source of carbon emissions.
- Developing a plan to phase out all public financing of the fossil fuel sector and accelerating Canada’s G20 commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from 2025 to 2023.
- Introducing a Clean Electricity Standard that will set Canada on a path to cut more emissions by 2030 and to achieve a 100 per cent net-zero emitting electricity system by 2035.
- Introducing a regulated sales requirement that at least 50 per cent of all new light-duty vehicle sales be zero emissions in 2030.
- Enacting “just transition” legislation.
- Launching a National Net-zero Emissions Building Strategy, requiring EnerGuide labelling of homes at the time of sale, and investing $250 million to help low-income Canadians get off home heating oil, among other measures to reduce emissions from buildings.
- Accelerating major transit projects and supporting the switch to electric buses.
- Finalizing Canada’s first-ever National Adaptation Strategy by the end of 2022, which will set clear targets and indicators to measure progress on — and strengthen the business case for — adaptation.
- Finalizing and applying a climate lens to ensure climate adaptation and mitigation considerations are integrated throughout federal government decision-making.
- Protecting 25 per cent of Canada’s land and water by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030, including 10 new national parks and 10 new national marine conservation areas over the next five years, and working with Indigenous communities on co-management agreements. Establishing 15 new national urban parks by 2030.
- Working to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 in Canada and achieving a full recovery for nature by 2050.
- Investing an additional $200 million in the new Natural Infrastructure Fund.
- Strengthening the Pest Control Products Act to better protect our health, wildlife and the environment from pesticide risks.
- Banning harmful, unrecyclable single-use plastics and other measures with the goal of eliminating plastic waste by 2030.
Environmental justice, environmental rights, well-being economy
- Passing a strengthened Canadian Environmental Protection Act and recognizing the “right to a healthy environment” for the first time in federal law.
- Introducing legislation to require the environment and climate change minister to examine the link between race, socio-economic status and exposure to environmental risk, and develop a strategy to address environmental justice.
- Moving forward with mandatory labelling of chemicals in consumer products, including cosmetics, cleaning products and flame retardants in upholstery, that may have impacts on our health or environment.
- Adopting quality-of-life budgeting as part of a broader transformation of economic purpose.
- Undertaking a comprehensive strategic policy review of government programs to examine how effectively each major program and policy contributes to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, improving fairness and equality, and promoting quality of life and well-being.