Canadians need input on climate change

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It was an incredible night in Winnipeg at the town hall on climate change with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. I am so inspired by our city coming out in full force, with more than 300 people packing into the town hall, sitting at discussion tables, with another 75 people in an overflow room.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/05/2016 (2274 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was an incredible night in Winnipeg at the town hall on climate change with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. I am so inspired by our city coming out in full force, with more than 300 people packing into the town hall, sitting at discussion tables, with another 75 people in an overflow room.

Hosted by MP Terry Duguid, the town hall included a presentation by McKenna, who drew a laugh when she said: “So what has the government done so far on climate? Well, for starters, we believed it was real.” What a breath of fresh air, compared to the previous Harper regime.

I remember feeling disheartened as part of the youth delegation to the UN climate consultations in South Africa when the Canadian government pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol right after the island state of the Maldives spoke about losing everything due to climate change. It’s significant to see our political leaders caring about the climate and consulting people on the national plan.

However, an important question remains, as outlined by Andrea Harden-Donahue in an article on the first consultation held in Ottawa: “How exactly will the conclusions from the town halls influence the development of a national climate plan?”

We are part of the People’s Climate Plan delegation, a coalition of groups advocating for a climate policy that aims to keep fossil fuels in the ground, seeks a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050 and supports justice for indigenous peoples, workers and climate-impacted communities. Groups that make up the coalition include 350.org, Leadnow, the Manitoba Energy Justice coalition, the Council of Canadians and a wide range of people and climate leaders. The coalition hosted a series of meetings in the lead-up to the event to get prepared.

I was blown away by the climate leaders in the room. We were given a number of questions to answer per discussion group, and each group had one minute to report back. We were divided into tables. The four groups were: carbon pricing, renewable energy, mitigating climate change and preparing for the effects.

We heard inspiring and innovative ideas, including: rooftop gardens, the need to support oil industry workers in retraining (from groups such as Iron and Earth), supporting indigenous-led renewable energies (from groups such as AKI energy in Winnipeg), support for local renewable energy projects and a need for a national cycling strategy, to name a few.

It was clear there were shared views from much of the group. When Alex Paterson of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition asked, “Who here opposes the Energy East pipeline?” nearly the entire room stood up. The same happened when Sadie-Phoenix Savoie asked: “Who opposes the TPP?”

Expanding pipelines such as Kinder Morgan and Energy East are incompatible with the government’s 1.5 C target, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, as Molly McCracken of CCPA-Manitoba put it, is the exact opposite of the localization we need for just transition.

The evening ended powerfully when Mary Lemaitre asked whether our political representatives would say no to the Energy East pipeline and be brave.

We ask all MPs host a town hall on climate in their region. Visit the People’s Climate Plan website to find and prepare for a town hall in your region. If you have not yet, the government is accepting ideas for the national climate plan at letstalkclimateaction.ca/ideas.

We know the fossil fuel industry has a powerful lobby to promote its projects, so it is important we all put forward our views that we know we need bold climate action.

Sometimes, it is hard not to feel small in this defining challenge of our time — the battle against climate change — but at the town hall, we felt we are not alone. We are in this together.

Brigette DePape is the Council of Canadians’ Prairies regional organizer.

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