When I was in high school, my least favourite class was English. It wasn't my teacher's fault; it was just that, somehow, the lessons of ancient literature did not resonate with my teenage mind. But I've come to appreciate the relevance of the life truths buried within those classic writings we were obliged to study years ago.
If the Canadian government wants to make real change then it needs to figure out the most we can achieve and then commit to doing so. Empty symbolic gestures will certainly garner praise from activists and make for good headlines but it won't convince the premiers to get in line. We need the federal government to be practical and pragmatic and set achievable goals and then work hard to achieve them. Let's stop with the empty symbolism and start doing the groundwork to build the foundation for real change.
Canada, taking sixth place, ranks only above Korea, Japan, Australia, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia in the 2016 Climate Change Performance Index. Even though Canada's position remains low, it represents a slight improvement from last year, when the country came in last out of 58 nations profiled in a 2014-2015 report.
For more than two decades, Mark Jaccard has been penning "report cards" about Canada's environmental track record. The results haven't been pretty. His annual evaluations were harnessed in the mid-2000s by Stephen Harper as arguments for why the Conservatives deserved a shot at governing the country. Jaccard's latest report card, released on October 6, concludes the Conservative Party has since "implemented virtually no policies that would materially reduce emissions" despite making significant emissions pledges for 2020 and 2050. Jaccard concludes the absence of such actions shows "they must have had no intention" of dealing with climate change.
Alberta is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada and the oilsands are the country's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Growing emissions from the industrial sector are the reason Canada will not meet its emissions reduction target under the Copenhagen Accord, according to Environment Canada.
By now, it's an almost entirely predictable routine: a celebrity takes a tour of the Alberta oilsands for a day or two and quickly harnesses apocalyptic rhetoric in press conferences to detail the experience. Chagrined industry spokespeople lash out. News coverage dissipates after a few days. Rinse and repeat.
Whenever I meet a Hummer, tension rises in my chest, unkind thoughts develop in my head and my hands tighten and tremble, as if they want to signal something. I've long wondered why that happens, and I think I've finally figured it out. It has something to do with a song, economics and the courteous way to walk your dog.
At the premiers' climate summit last week, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall brought up a statistic that has received a fair amount of attention lately: Canada's emissions account for fewer than two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. He's not wrong, but Canada is also a heavy emitter per capita.
When former federal cabinet minister David Dingwall was questioned about a generous buyout package he received in 2006, his oft-quoted reply was, "I am entitled to my entitlements." It caused much outrage. But as the biblical expression goes, let whoever is without sin cast the first stone, because perhaps we're all a bit guilty of entitlement.
Canada's negotiators are working hard to sidestep the issue of the country's growing greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector while simultaneously keeping quiet about the oilsands as nations come up with their "intended nationally determined contributions" in the global climate agreement.
Once the carbon bubble, like the tech or housing bubble, pops it would bring dramatic re-evaluation of oil companies, resulting in massive layoffs and major industry restructuring. In Canada, the oilsands represents two per cent of the country's GDP and 90 per cent of the economic benefit goes to Alberta.
Facing criticism in the lead up to the U.N. Climate Summit, which prime minister Stephen Harper did not attend, the Harper Government released a new public outreach campaign through Environment Canada. Already critics are pointing to the apparent disparity between the Environment Canada campaign and Canada's waning reputation on the international stage.
There are a group of people often overlooked in the fight against climate change and they can be one of our greatest allies as we figure out how to limit the damage from extreme weather, rising seas and threats to food security. They are the millions of indigenous people who live in the world's remaining forests. Often overlooked, ignored, marginalized and attacked, they stand at the heart of a global solution on climate change that all of us, whether we live in big cities or remote villages, can benefit from.