Policy Statements: Ecological Justice

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Want to understand how Christian values can translate into responsible climate change policy?

CPJ’s ecological justice and climate change positions are rooted in an understanding that our economy, ecology, and society are interdependent.

Canada's Current Action on Climate Change: In December 2015, the historic Paris Agreement on climate change was established based on a global consensus – informed by the international scientific community – that all nations must work together to "strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change ... [by] holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” (striving for 1.5°C). It was recognized that going beyond this range risks triggering abrupt and irreversible changes in physical landscapes or ecosystems like strong sea level rise or the collapse of marine ecosystems.

The government of Canada has committed to reduce GHG emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 (to 524 megatonnes-Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent-CO₂e emissions annually) and in December 2016 released the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (PCF), which outlines a series of measures aimed at achieving this target. Among other things, they promised to:

  • Introduce a national price on carbon in 2018 – set initially at $10 per tonne, and scheduled to rise $10 per year to reach $50 per tonne in 2022. 
  • Phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030 and transition electricity production to 90% non-emitting sources.
  • Apply performance standards for natural gas-fired electricity generation.
  • Facilitate, invest in, and increase the use of clean electricity across Canada.
  • Reduce methane emissions by 40-45 per cent by 2025.
  • Regulate the phase down of use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  • Develop a clean fuel standard to reduce emissions from fuels used in transportation, buildings, and industry.
  • Implement increasingly stringent standards for emissions from light-duty vehicles, update emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles, and develop a Canada-wide strategy for zero-emission vehicles by 2018.
  • Double investments in clean energy research and technology development over five years.
  • Make significant investments in public transit, social infrastructure, transportation that supports trade, Canada's rural and northern communities, smart cities, and green infrastructure.
  • Develop renewed "nation-to-nation" relationships with Indigenous peoples.

Some progress has been made in the implementation of measures included in the PCF, but as of mid-2018, Canadian GHG emissions have yet to decline. What is more, key pieces of the plan -- such as the carbon pricing back-stop and the development of the clean fuel standard -- have faced delays and been subject to changes that will weaken their effectiveness. And, of course, in May 2018, the Government of Canada bought the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

As Canadians of faith we have a responsibility to protect the earth and care for and all of creation. 

CPJ is calling for follow-through on Canada's commitments to climate action and additional, ambitious measures that clearly establish the federal leadership role and builds on the principles of the Paris Agreement to:

Establish a responsible emissions reduction target

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the earth’s temperature must not rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. For the protection of least developed nations and small island states, this warming must be limited to just 1.5°C, a limit which was endorsed by Minister McKenna at Paris climate negotiations in December 2015.

Scientists have used modeling to estimate the amount of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) we can emit under 1.5 or 2°C of warming. Now policy-makers must help our societies set ambition, and "budget" these emissions carefully and wisely. To maintain a safe operating space for humanity, we must decarbonize our economies by 2050 at the latest.

Even modest estimates suggest that the minimum required by the Paris Agreement would see Canada aligning with the IPCC recommended reductions of 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. Canada's current target translates to only about 14 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Canada should establish a new emissions reduction target that takes scientific estimates of the global GHG budget seriously, and contributes equitably towards a 1.5°C limit on global warming.

Learn more:

Put a price on carbon

Carbon pricing internalizes many of the environmental and societal costs related to the production and consumption of carbon intensive goods and services, so that industry and individuals become cognizant of the fossil fuels they use and have a financial incentive to lower their carbon emissions.

Canada should put a strong and predictable price on carbon of at least $30/tonne CO2 (eq), with planned regular increases to at least $160 by 2030. This increase over time will allow energy prices to better reflect true costs, drive sustainable innovation, and ensure that both industry and consumers make more efficient use of our resources.

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End subsidies to the fossil fuel industry

Currently, the federal government provides over $1 billion annual subsidies and special tax breaks to the Canadian fossil fuel industry that, contrary to our stated climate change goals, encourage the exploration, development, refining, and export of oil, coal, and gas.

The federal government should follow-through on its repeated promise to phase-out these subsidies, and it should do this immediately.

The resulting increases in federal revenue from these initiatives should be used to make investments in people (i.e. job creation, education, and removing barriers to workplace entry), an initiative that will lead to economic recovery and growth, and enhance the common good.

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Regulate the oil & gas sector

Currently, GHG emissions are being addressed through a sector-by-sector regulatory approach. By 2018, heavy duty vehicle emissions will be substantially reduced to meet North American standards, and by 2025, passenger vehicles and light trucks will emit about half as many GHGs as 2008 models. But the oil and gas sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of Canada’s GHG emissions. Given the massive proposed expansions of the Athabasca oil sands activities, this percentage can only be expected to rise. This leaves Canada in need of urgent action if we hope to reach our stated GHG reduction targets.

Canada needs strict GHG emissions standards applicable across the entire oil and gas sector, without exception for subsectors such as the oil sands. Given that the oil and gas sector is the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Canada, it requires effective regulation immediately.

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Develop a low-carbon economy

The federal government has expressed a clear intent to invest in depleted infrastructure across the country, and it has the opportunity to do so in a way that meets the service needs of communities, while simultaneously addressing economic and environmental challenges. Research by the Green Economy Network indicates that “by investing up to 5% of the annual federal budget in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and public transportation, over five years Canada could create one million new jobs while reducing our annual greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 35%.”

Canada should increase investments in cleaner energy alternatives like wind and solar power. If, as recommended above, Canada were to phase-out the over $1 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies, we could re-direct this money to a “green” job strategy that would create thousands of new jobs and promote environmental responsibility.

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Provide justice for those most directly impacted by climate change

Along with the reduction and prevention of GHG emissions, which is known as climate change “mitigation,” the fight against climate change must also include “adaptation” to the impacts of climate change that have already, and will continue to, challenge life. Climate change most negatively affects those who are already socially and economically marginalized--especially those in the Global South and the Far North.

Domestically, Canada should support the development of infrastructure and communities that are resilient to a changing climate, especially in northern and coastal areas.

As a developed nation with historical responsibility for emissions that have contributed to current climate change trends, Canada has a responsibility to help fund adaptation and sustainable development in less developed nations that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Canada should allocate generous funding for climate adaptation efforts abroad.

Learn more:

CPJ joins call for Ontario climate action

August 8, 2018
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CPJ joined Climate Action Network Canada and colleague organizations to call on Ontario Premier Doug for to publicly commit to achieving Ontario’s existing legislated emissions reduction goals, and; table a detailed, scientifically sound plan to meet these legislated goals as soon as possible.

CPJ joins call to halt Kinder Morgan pipeline project

May 2018
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CPJ joined with friends and colleagues from community groups, environmental organizations, coastal businesses, and Indigenous networks to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to step away from the contentious Kinder Morgan pipeline project. The letter was signed by over 70 civil society organizations from across Canada.

Letter: Canada should phase out fossil fuel subsidies

December 2017
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CPJ joined our partners from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Environmental Defence, Oil Change International, Équiterre, the Climate Action Network Canada, and others to write a letter calling on Canada to take action on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. The letter was addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, and Minister of International Trade François-Philippe Champagne.

With Canada taking on the G7 Presidency in 2018, now is the time to commit to end federal fossil fuel subsidies.

Beyond Productivity: Promoting the Well-being of Canadians

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations
August 2017
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Focusing the budget discussion narrowly on productivity and competitiveness diminishes Canadians to our economic “value” as workers. This framework fails to account for personal fulfilment, community well-being, and ecological integrity. And, it ignores the importance and benefits of connection, culture, and creativity. Drawing on CPJ’s recent submissions to consultations on climate change, housing, and poverty reduction, and our work on refugees, CPJ hase developed a number of recommendations for Budget 2018 focused on human and ecological flourishing.

Climate Action Plan Needs Transparency

October 2016
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Along with 27 other environmental and faith organizations, and community leaders from across Canada, CPJ has called on Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna to include the voices of Canadians in the federal government's Climate Action Plan.


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