Climate Change, brought about by global warming, is an international problem requiring national action by every country in the world. Every country burns fossil fuels that emit CO2 (carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere, causing a build up of CO2 over centuries. It is this slow but continuing increase in CO2 that has resulted in global warming.
Climate Change impacts all countries although not to the same degree. Developed countries (who are principally responsible for the present problem) have the financial resources and technical knowhow to reduce these impacts while developing countries do not.
As it has done for previous environmental problems on a world scale, the United Nations has established an international forum to develop measures that all countries should adopt to limit global warming.
The Federal Government participated in the formulation of these measures and under our Constitution must now determine how Canada can discharge its international obligations.
Regrettably, until the last UN Conference (Paris COP 21), few countries, Canada among them, had “voluntarily” taken appropriate steps to limit global warming and its effects. At COP 21 all countries accepted the responsibility to act. Whether the total reductions in CO2 from all countries will be sufficient is doubtful. Further, the mechanism to determine individual country obligations is far from being finalized. Still, regardless of the inadequacies of the COP 21 mechanism countries must reduce emissions now and, in addition, establish policies that will lead to zero national CO2 emissions this century.
Although it has the constitutional right – and some would say duty – to take the steps necessary to implement COP 21, the Federal Government has chosen the route of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Conferences to build a national consensus on the action to be taken. The first such Conference was held last March and the next is scheduled for this fall.
The choice of Conferences to work out Canada’s response was motivated by political considerations. Canadians are divided over the cause and seriousness of climate change. The economy of several provinces depend upon the performance of the fossil fuel industry. These provinces are concerned how the industry that has contributed so much to Canada’s prosperity can be preserved.
There is no consensus on the measures to be taken to discharge Canada’s COP obligations. For example, economists consider that putting a price on carbon is probably the best way to reduce CO2 emissions. Yet some provinces have spoken out against such a measure, or wish concessions to take into account their particular situation. These concessions would undermine the national effort,
In summary there are many areas of potential conflict to be overcome. Admittedly this situation also existed when the Federal Government established a national health care plan. But can consensus emerge in time to assure compliance with the COP 21 committments? The first target to which Canada has committed is slightly more than three years off.
Taking action that will create a national consensus is realistic although inevitably longer term. Voter resistance to the necessary measures can be overcome with education, starting with today’s school students. The Federal Government should promote this option at the next Conference.
The Provinces ought to contribute to a national curriculum on climate change that would cover:
1. The scientific foundation for attributing global warming to CO2 emissions.
2. Canada’s progress (or insufficient progress) towards limiting our emissions.
3. The international measures in place and Canada’s contribution to reduction of CO2 levels
4. The development of renewable energy in Canada and the adoption of these sources to fulfil energy needs
5. Climate Change denial and disinformation
6. Intergenerational equity
Remember the 4RG motto: our legacy – their future! We can contribute to that future by educating Canadians now!
Toronto high school students are ready to “Speak up for the Planet”. We think that students across Canada are ready to do the same!