People of faith across Canada are increasingly speaking up about the urgent need for climate action. Christians and faith leaders are recognizing that the world as we know it is changing. Many are starting to take bold steps to restore a sense of shalom in creation as an indivisible part of their faith convictions.
The range of climate change impacts for Canada’s far north and coastal regions is striking: glacial melt, flood risks, seasonal shifts, more snow and rain in winter, and hotter, dryer summers. Still, no part of the country is immune. Earlier this year, communities in several provinces and many First Nations experienced extensive flooding. An intense annual wildfire season in British Columbia is becoming the new normal. The March 2019 “Canada’s Changing Climate Report” indicated that a warmer climate will “increase the severity of heatwaves and contribute to increased drought and wildfire risks.” At the same time, “more intense rainfalls will increase urban flood risks.” Around the world, famine and natural resource wars threaten food and water security and contribute to increases in migration.
Climate change is leading to crisis, after crisis, after crisis. Those who are already socially and economically marginalized are the most vulnerable.
Climate change refers to the human-induced increase of atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations beyond normal levels of variation. Although earth’s climate has always fluctuated, the average surface temperature has increased dramatically – by roughly 1°C – due to human activity since the industrial revolution.
Climate change is an issue that reaches to the core of who we are as people of faith and how we are to live in God’s world. As people of faith, we are called to respect the dignity of every human being as image-bearers of God. We all have a rightful claim to live in dignity, be respected by others and have access to resources needed to live out God’s calling. We also have a duty to act justly, care for creation and work for peaceful relations within society.
This must inform the way we live, work, and play. Future generations have a right to the abundance of creation; we cannot over-consume and deny our children’s children a healthy and secure life.
Indigenous peoples, leaders from low-lying island states, and youth around the world have stressed the moral imperative of taking far-reaching action. We must move away from a model that supports the devastation of the Earth and brings hardship upon the world’s most marginalized.
In a statement at the 2018 UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, the World Council of Churches declared, “our faiths demand that we act for the protection of the vulnerable and as caretakers of Mother Earth.”
Learn More: Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis is a faith-based learning tool for Canadian Christians trying to live out the justice mandate to care and advocate for creation. Read "Living Ecological Justice"
Ambitious action on climate change is not optional. A complete suite of federal measures is needed to address the climate crisis and set Canada on a path towards decarbonization by 2050. Canada's future must be built on green energy.
To start, the federal government must implement measures that will meet Canada’s emissions-reduction target. Then, it must increase national ambition to a level consistent with no more than 1.5 C over pre-industrial levels.
The urgency of the situation requires that we use all the tools available.
Follow-through on longstanding commitments to end inefficient fossil fuel subsidies
Estimates of Canadian subsidies vary widely, ranging from$1.5 billion to tens of billions of dollars.
Regardless of the figure, research by the office of Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development revealed that “inefficient subsidies to the fossil fuel sector encourage wasteful consumption, undermine efforts to address climate change, and discourage investment in clean energy sources.”
Strengthen and expand Canada’s carbon emissions pricing mechanism beyond 2022
2018 Nobel Prize winner, William Norhaus, highlights four objectives achieved by carbon pricing. “It sends signals to consumers about which goods and services are more carbon-intensive; it sends signals to producers about which activities are most carbon-intensive and which are less carbon-intensive; it sends signals to propel innovation to find new, affordable alternatives; and finally, pricing is the best means to convey these signals within well-functioning markets.”
“The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”
– 16-yr-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg
Establish a national just transition strategy
Central to Canada’s way forward is a just transition towards a decarbonized economy. In a just transition, the weight of change that benefits everyone is not borne disproportionately by one group of people. It includes significant investments in low-carbon energy development and energy efficiency, as well as funding for skills development and retraining for workers. As such, it reduces emissions, creates good jobs, and supports communities. A just transition in-corporates a robust Employment Insurance program to assist those who find themselves temporarily out of work. It gives protection to the most vulnerable and increases social justice for all.
Canada has taken some important initial steps with the work of the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities. In order to meaningfully reduce Canada’s emissions, it is essential that the lessons of this work – and corresponding resources – be expanded upon and applied to the oil and gas sector.
A shift to clean technology development, promises tremendous economic and health benefits to Canadians. Research by the Conference Board of Canada highlights Canada's "competitive edge" in wind and solar power, energy-efficient turbines, and waste management. The United Nations Environment Program predicts that “green trade” internationally will grow to at least $2-trillion (U.S.) by 2020.
Working as an International Community
In October 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) signalled the scientific imperative of transformational climate action, with the release of their landmark report on the implications of allowing global temperatures to rise 1.5 C over pre-industrial levels. Their research shows that the global community has less than a decade to dramatically change course and avoid catastrophic climate consequences.
Specifically, the IPCC says, “climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5 C and increase further with 2 C.”
Echoing the IPCC’s clear and urgent call to action, “Canada’s Changing Climate Report” lays out, in no uncertain terms, that Canada must immediately invest in a just transition towards a decarbonized economy.
For the Love of Creation
Policy consistency, transparency, and accountability must be brought to bear as Canada adopts an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing this global crisis.
Our economy, ecology, and society are all wrapped up in one another. We need to take a holistic approach that respects the rights of Indigenous peoples and considers both the health of the economy, and the well-being of plants and animals in the natural environment, as well as the sustainable livelihoods, lifestyles, and health of individuals, families, communities, and future generations.
It is abundantly clear that all of us need to do things differently. We need to consider how we consume, waste and navigate our landscape. We must also acknowledge that the scale of the climate crisis requires a collective response. It is no longer a question of what needs to be done, but rather how quickly we need to do it.
Learn More: On Earth Day 2019, Christian leaders from across Canada joined together to issue a call to climate action. Created by CPJ, the Canadian Council of Churches, and KAIROS, the #ForTheLoveOfCreation video collaboration highlighted the need for urgent action by Canadians – and the Canadian government – on climate change. View the video at cpj.ca/for-the-love-of-creation
ASK FEDERAL CANDIDATES:
- How will you ensure the development and implementation of a just transition strategy for Canada? How will you approach the development of green jobs across Canada? Through what mechanisms will you support workers (and their communities) through this transition?
- Will you end all public financing of the fossil fuel industry? If so, when?
- How will you enhance Canadian climate and energy policy to align with the scientific imperative of limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5 C?
- How will you assist Indigenous and northern communities, coastal regions, and other vulnerable populations to adapt to the new realities of their local environments? How will you support them in the face of negative health impacts from climate change?