Climate Action Plan Needs Transparency

December 13, 2016 will mark the one year anniversary of the conclusion to the United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris where Canada promised to become a leader in promoting tougher action on climate change at home and abroad.

As an organization inspired to uphold the integrity of creation and promote public justice in Canada, CPJ has added our voice, along with 27 other environmental and faith organizations, and community leaders from across Canada, to a letter addressed to Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna. This letter calls on the Minister to acknowledge and incorporate the voices of Canadians, heard through the climate consultation process, in the development of the federal government's Climate Action Plan. It also urges the pursuit of more open and transparent governance.

Letter: Climate Action Plan Needs Transparency

Dear Minister McKenna,

As we approach the anniversary of the United Nations climate summit in Paris, the Canadian government has some big decisions to make.

Authentic public engagement is crucial to gaining social license for successful implementation of Canada's climate plan. If Canada is to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, your government must ratify a plan with targets based on the best available science that moves Canada to a 100 per cent renewable energy economy by 2050 and that upholds Indigenous and workers' rights.

Signatories to this letter, representing a cross-section of the Canadian climate community, are keen to see Canadians' voices, which were heard and recorded at nearly 100 town hall events across the country, incorporated into the federal plan.

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to be released this fall will define the government's leadership and make good on the promise that "Canada's is back." Will changes to the status quo be superficial or transformative? The climate community's collective membership, spanning the country geographically and demographically, is positioned to help raise ambition and implement policies that will promote a more secure, just and sustainable future for all Canadians. Solutions exist, but we and you understand that they will require political courage to implement.

The nationwide public engagement on Canada's Climate Action Plan concluded on September 27. It has been refreshing to see your government respond to popular demand by extending the engagement period several times, more than doubling its original duration. Nearly 4,000 citizens have posted more than 13,000 comments and ideas on the "Let's Talk Climate Action" online portal. More than 7,500 citizens turned up to town hall events organized by Liberal, New Democrat, Conservative and Green MPs across the country.

Members of Canada's climate community, under the banner of the People's Climate Plan Coalition, helped volunteer riding leaders mobilize their communities' involvement in town halls, and the results were impressive. Citizens from all walks of life showed up with their own reasons to want strong climate action, with thousands voicing support for the plan's three pillars:

·         Science-based policy that keeps the majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground;

·         A transition to a 100 per cent renewable-powered economy by 2050; and

·         A plan that enshrines a just transition for workers and justice for Indigenous communities.

While we welcome the effort your government is making to engage Canadians, the process by which our voices are informing the Climate Action Plan content is not in line with the ideals of open, transparent governance that you were elected to uphold. Shifting timelines, opaque methodology, inadequate site planning and non-transparent submissions make it more difficult for civil society to participate effectively in the process.

We hope some of these shortcomings will be addressed in the upcoming panel review of the environmental assessment process. The commitments to publish all submissions online and transparently document citizen input in public sessions are welcome evolutions. Ultimately, authentic and effective public engagement requires best practices to be institutionalized, not improvised.

Following the coalition's presence at 88 town hall events, the organizations named below call on your government to heed citizen voices and ratify a strong science-based climate plan. We stand ready to help build the base of enthusiastic support necessary for Canada's new Climate Action Plan and an ambitious energy transition, particularly as crucial decisions are pending this fall regarding oil and gas infrastructure that could lock Canadians into high-carbon pathways for decades to come.

In concrete terms, this means we need a clear, transparent, independent environmental assessment process applied to existing and future projects that takes downstream emissions into consideration. It means honouring Indigenous rights and treaties while ensuring adequate retraining for fossil fuel workers. It also means setting updated, science-based emission-reduction targets and fixing an effective price on carbon that internalizes an increasing percentage of its true cost while leveling the playing field for emerging renewable energy innovations.

We implore you to stay true to your word. When you proclaimed that "Canada is back," the world took notice. Now it's time to follow through.

See list of signatories here.