Earlier this month I hosted a town hall meeting in Rossland to let the public present their ideas about how Canada should tackle climate change.
Almost 100 concerned citizens attended the meeting and I was impressed at the range of ideas.
It’s clear why many citizens are worried about Canada’s plans regarding climate action. Canada pledged to cut emissions in Kyoto in 1997 and did nothing. We downgraded our pledges in Copenhagen in 2009 and did nothing. Last fall we sent a large delegation to the Paris climate summit and talked boldly of keeping global temperature increase below 1.5 Celsius, but the Liberal government is still using the weak targets of the previous government, which will ensure a temperature increase of 3 to 4 Celsius, and the government still doesn’t have a plan to reach even them.
The overwhelming consensus at the Rossland town hall meeting was that we must have science-based, enforceable emissions targets to meet the goals we agreed to in Paris.
How can we reach those targets? The audience had plenty of good ideas. Several people pointed out that solar panels are getting cheaper every year, and with the advent of new battery technology and affordable electric cars, the idea of gassing up your car from the solar array on your roof is no longer a fantasy. One participant mentioned that eating less meat—even eating one vegetarian meal per week — could have a significant effect on our carbon footprint.
However, to really succeed, participants agreed that governments must take the lead. We must stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and start providing meaningful incentives for the shift to renewable energy. We need to ensure that new trade agreements support climate action, not hinder it. And we have to act boldly, quickly and fairly to put a price on carbon. As vice-chair of the House of Commons Natural Resources Committee, I heard testimony from a number of oil and gas industry executives over the past six months, and they all stated that a price on carbon— preferably a carbon tax — was needed in Canada.
Several of the provinces have already put a price on carbon or have plans to do so. The federal government must ensure that these actions meet the minimum standards for our climate action pledges, and ensure that similar actions are taken in provinces and territories without carbon pricing.
Concerns around competition with the steadily decreasing number of countries without carbon pricing can be dealt with using border adjustments, and issues around regions or sectors that are unfairly impacted can be covered by any number of dividend systems. But we must send a strong market signal to every individual, agency, or corporation that creating a heavy carbon footprint will be expensive.
I will be holding another town hall meeting on climate action in Penticton on Aug. 15 (7 p.m., library auditorium). I hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, remember you can always reach me at Richard.Cannings@parl.gc.ca.
Richard Cannings is the MP for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.