2014 – A good year for Climate Action

2014 was a good year for climate change action on the international front. It should leave us hopeful for further action in 2015 and it should encourage us in Canada to fight to get our own house in order.

China – US Climate Pact. Many commentators say that this agreement is no big deal, but the value of the two largest emitters agreeing to a program of reductions is huge. It virtually removes the frequently heard excuse that there’s no point in doing anything until China and US, the two largest emitters, have agreed to act. The pact will make it harder to hide behind this excuse at the upcoming Paris conference scheduled for December 2015.

Pope Francis has indicated in his lead up to a papal encyclical that he will pressure countries to commit to a strong climate agreement in Paris next December. His position emphasizes the moral grounds that it is the poorest countries that, having contributed least to the problem, will bear the brunt of the negative effects.

The Climate Change March in New York city attracted 400,000 people to demonstrate that they want the world’s leaders to pass effective policies to turn the tide.

New York State has banned fracking, mostly because of the local environmental damages to water and atmosphere systems. This action puts a lot of pressure on other jurisdictions to follow suit.

Public awareness in US and Canada of the nature of climate change and its human sources is increasing as showed by many polls. Public acceptance of the concept of implementing a Carbon Tax or Cap and Trade to put a price on carbon is also increasing. Movement on both issues is slow but inexorable.

The Lima Call for Climate Action was the result of the 20th annual UN sponsored climate conference. In the most positive outcome in years, all countries agreed to announce their emission reduction targets by next March. Importantly they need to explain how they will achieve these targets.

Divestment. The Rockefeller foundation gave credibility to the movement of organizations who are studying ways to divest from fossil fuels. The World Council of Churches, Stanford University are two of the well-known organizations that have made the decision. Many other universities and organizations, including Trent University are studying the option.

The United States EPA enacted regulations that require US power plants to reduce carbon emissions. This is expected to especially curtail the use of coal as an energy source.

Pipelines needed to expand the export of Tar Sands bitumen are all encountering huge popular resistance at every turn. Keystone XL has been blocked by the US, and President Obama has indicated that he will exercise his veto even if the new Congress passes it. The Northern Gateway pipeline is encountering opposition from native nations whose claims to sovereignty over the land have been upheld by the courts. And Ontario and Quebec have laid out the stringent conditions required before they will allow the Energy East pipeline to pass.

Renewable energy costs meanwhile are going down everywhere and there is increasing recognition that more jobs are created in the renewable energy and efficiency sectors of the economy.

So, let’s welcome 2015 with a resolution: to pressure all levels of our Municipal, Provincial, and Federal, governments to make enact the policies that we need. Then perhaps we can restore our pride as Canadians and escape from our dismal record as one of the worst Climate Change jurisdictions in the world.

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