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What Does British Columbia Have To Do With COP22?

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Most people agree that there is a clear connection between tackling sustainable development and tackling climate change. We know that we will not solve climate change without addressing the key contributing issues of energy, food security, water, and poverty. We also know that the impacts of climate change could wipe away any progress toward achieving gains in those same areas.

So how do we as British Columbians tackle all of these issues in a meaningful and timely way?

As a first step, we may use the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) laid out in the United Nations Agenda 2030 as a useful framework for addressing the root causes of environmental, social and economic inequality in an integrated way.

Launched in September 2015, Agenda 2030 is the first agreement of its kind to call for a country to achieve a set of goals within its own borders as well as abroad, in effect linking international and domestic policy and making it necessary to encourage implementation at regional levels. Of the 17 goals, however, space was left in SDG 13 (climate action) to incorporate any future global climate commitments.

Just a few months later, Canada -- along with 174 other countries -- signed the Paris Agreement, a compact to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

But now we have two standalone frameworks that must work together to address common global issues. How this integration plays out is in part what BCCIC hoped leaders from around the world would discuss when they gathered at the Conference of Parties (COP22) earlier this month in Marrakech, Morocco. After all, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - the governing treaty of the Paris Agreement -- explicitly states that the parties must cooperate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy, transport, industry, agriculture, and forestry sectors.

These actions directly correspond to SDG 7 (clean energy), SDG 11 (sustainable cities), SDG 9 (industry and innovation), SDG 2 (zero hunger), and SDG 15 (life on land). Furthermore, the treaty links action on biomass, forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems to SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land). The opportunity to connect the dots between the sustainable development objectives of Agenda 2030 and the climate action objectives of the Paris Agreement -- both within Canada's domestic and international policies -- seemed ripe.

Unfortunately, we heard little talk of the SDGs at COP22 and only some discussion of what provincial engagement in an integrated framework would look like. So if our leaders on the global stage are not going to work toward a cohesive climate and sustainable development policy, then we should look to our province for leadership on the issue.

We already know that many of the natural resources that come into play in Canada's fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are found in British Columbia and therefore fall under provincial jurisdiction. From the world's largest remaining temperate coastal rainforest to our hundreds of rivers and lakes, British Columbia's responsibilities to its landscapes and its people are clear and must be managed carefully.

How do we balance proposed carbon sequestration plans as a means of moving toward a low carbon future with creating a sustainable community and healthy forest? What about meeting clean energy targets through hydropower while taking into account diminishing water availability throughout the province?

Meeting these global commitments has real provincial impacts and these decisions should not be made in a global vacuum. Make no doubt, we want to be sure that British Columbia is contributing its fair share toward Canada's national and global climate commitments, but in order to ensure it's done in a responsible way, B.C. must become an equal partner in achieving its climate and sustainable development goals.

Such a partnership will require political will from British Columbians and bold leadership from our elected officials. With provincial elections just months away, it is time to call upon our representatives to take up the mantle of making British Columbia a leader on climate change and sustainable development. We should call on our candidates to explain how they plan to address these global issues for B.C., Canada, and our global community.

It is a challenging task, but as Ban Ki-Moon said at COP22, the Paris Agreement and the SDGs have paved the way for a just equitable transition to a better future. Making them a priority on BC's agenda is good for our land, our people, and our economy.

Deborah Glaser is the Senior Policy Analyst at the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) and Founding Secretary of the Mediterranean Cities Climate Change Consortium (MC-4), an international network for building resiliency to climate change among cities in the five Mediterranean-climate regions.

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