Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/6/2016 (350 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In Manitoba will benefit from Ontario’s climate policy (June 7), Scott Forbes weighs in on the debate over climate change policy and the Leap Manifesto. What we need is not more vitriol. We need solutions that make our community better prepared to weather the storms of climate change — because the carbon clock is ticking.
This conversation has to be based on a rigorous analysis of the International Panel on Climate Change 2014 Synthesis report. The report demonstrates we have only 5.2 years left to bend the curve on average emissions to still have a reasonable shot at keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
That was the goal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed the country to at the Paris climate conference last winter. This means Canada must eliminate at least 90 per cent of its emissions by 2030. If we eliminate emissions, we get more time to transition. If we use more fossil fuels, the clock speeds up, giving us less time.
Acting to ensure that warming doesn’t increase beyond 1.5 degrees is crucial to protecting many Pacific islands and coastal cities from rising sea levels. Although some flooding is inevitable even at the 1.5-degree target, it is catastrophic at two degrees.
And it matters in Manitoba, where increases in Interlake flooding and drought will be measured in the billions, if not trillions, of additional infrastructure and disaster-relief dollars.
Science is telling us is we have to jump — "leap" — into the renewable energy economy in order to prevent permanent damage to our economy, and to the very existence of coastal cities and countries. Forbes talked about climate refugees coming to Manitoba after the economy in Ontario fails, but he fails to recognize that half of the population of Bangladesh lives within five metres of sea level and some First Nations in Manitoba have already been flooded off their land.
If we want to keep warming below either 1.5 or two degrees, we have to keep more than 80 per cent of the proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground; Ontario and Manitoba will have to stop relying on natural gas. Manitoba Hydro needs to be weaned off natural gas in the next 15 years.
It also means no new oilsands pipelines and reducing current production levels. Ontario’s policy, just like the Leap Manifesto, is based on the scientific evidence that we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
The Leap Manifesto tries to establish targets for transformation and still have a society based on equality and fairness through that energy transition. For example, the starting point is promoting indigenous rights. The manifesto argues for supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and honouring treaties. It argues the transition must be based on a just relationship with indigenous peoples. In Manitoba, this would mean respecting free, prior and informed consent on all resource and development projects in Manitoba.
One of the other cornerstones of the manifesto is maintaining social ownership. This is something some Manitobans hold dear: social ownership means Manitoba Hydro belongs to Manitobans. Even the new Conservative government has pledged to keep it a Crown corporation. It understands only well-financed public infrastructure can help us weather the storms of climate change. But that infrastructure cannot be dependent on fossil fuel infrastructure expansion.
Further, Leap argues indigenous communities should receive immediate support to transition away from fossil fuels. We could use Manitoba Hydro to support them in building solar, geothermal, wind and kinetic hydro projects in their communities. The manifesto argues for us to support social ownership on First Nations.
Rather than trashing the Leap Manifesto, we need to have a real and honest conversation about how social ownership can help address climate change. The carbon clock is ticking.
Alex Paterson is a community organizer with the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition.