“What do you think?”
It’s a phrase we often use with friends when checking an idea or seeking advice. And it’s the question our federal government is now asking us as it develops Canada’s climate action plan.
Our government will use this action plan to meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change. This global agreement aims to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.” It further commits us to pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”
To understand the value of the consultation process, we need to know how it works – and why it represents such a critical moment.
Across multiple levels of government, there is now an unprecedented convergence of attention on climate change as well as a new commitment to action.
Throughout the summer, working groups are exploring options in four areas. They will look at emissions reduction; clean technology, innovation, and jobs; the impacts of climate change; and carbon pricing. The groups are consulting First Nations and have invited municipalities, community organizations, and citizens to offer input.
Meanwhile, Members of Parliament (MPs) and community groups are encouraged to collect ideas as well. They can do this through community town hall meetings and by submitting them online. (A list of local events is available at cpj.ca/climate-local). Informed by the submissions received, the working groups will present reports to the federal, provincial, and territorial environment ministers in September. The ministers, in turn, will present recommended options to the prime minister and premiers for consideration in October. They will establish a pan-Canadian climate plan that will be put into effect in 2017.
These consultations offer a unique opportunity for all of us, as Canadians and as people of faith, to help shape climate policy. We have until the end of August to submit our ideas. Our next best chance is unlikely to come before the 2019 federal election.
We believe that God calls us to love and care for all the Earth; to respond to the human and ecological devastation of climate change with love and justice.
CPJ has submitted our policy brief, “A Public Justice Vision for Canada’s Climate Action Plan,” to Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. We’ve also created a tool that allows people of faith to easily engage in the consultation while reflecting on our place in creation. And we have developed an infographic, discussion guides, and worship resources. CPJ staff have participated in town hall consultation sessions and our Board members have been engaged in their communities. At CPJ, we’re committed to ensuring that the voices of Canadian Christians are heard.
By mid-June, over 250 people of faith submitted ideas using CPJ’s consultation tool. That’s almost 10% of the submissions recorded on the government portal.
The Value of Consultations
CPJ is actively promoting citizen engagement in the climate consultations because we think that climate change is the moral issue of our time and that people of faith have a particularly valuable perspective to bring to this discussion. We recognize that if citizens, churches, or anyone else fails to get involved now, they forego the right to criticize later. We also worry that without the participation of people of faith, offering good analysis and requesting ambitious action, any consultation conclusions may well be less than creation requires.
We extend this invitation to participate with our eyes wide open. This is a new government with a new style. They’re working to establish themselves as more open, transparent, and responsive.
Still, CPJ will be watching when the government unveils its new plan in the fall. We want to see how citizens’ concerns and recommendations for bold climate action are actually reflected. We want to know which emissions reduction mechanisms are accepted; the extent of investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and mass transportation; and how those vulnerable to both the impacts of climate change and climate action are supported.
Because here’s the thing: when a friend asks us, “what do you think?” we expect them to take our ideas and perspectives into account.
It is tremendous that our government is seeking the input of scientists, Indigenous peoples, faith groups, and citizens. And we hope that these consultations will prove to be meaningful.
“What do you think?”