Hope and Love and Climate Justice

Hope. Peace. Love. Joy.

I think that the world is especially ready for Christmas this year. Many struggles are ongoing, and traditions are being interrupted. Still, collectively, we welcome a moment to pause, to reflect, and to celebrate.

Though far away and long ago, we return to the birth of the Christ child every December with good reason. The miracle of the virgin birth in a humble stable. The star in the east—visible again this year for the first time in centuries—that guided the wisemen to the newborn baby. The mystery of Jesus. And the promise of peace, love, and joy.

After the year that has been, perhaps the most poignant element of the Christmas message is hope.

Hope that the loss of life and livelihood that has been so pervasive in 2020 offers insights on how to better care for one another. Hope that the lessons on how to come together in a time of crisis are applied to the climate emergency. Hope that we use this moment of unprecedented disruption to reimagine a way of organizing society that is centred on the flourishing of all creation.

We know that our current circumstances will not be transformed in one day, and yet, as we turn the page on 2020, there is a desire that we are moving towards something better. This is powered in part by the recent acquisition and early distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Hope is key.

Greta Thunberg has said, “instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.”

And we have seen some important action in Canada.

The final weeks of 2020 saw the introduction Bill C-12, “Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act” and a $15 billion commitment to Canada’s updated climate plan, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy.”

Both received mixed reviews as many raised questions about the scope, the scale, and the speed of action. Still, they were understood as critical steps on the path to climate justice; steps that can be built upon to achieve the change required.

  • Bill C-12 is a significant milestone in the development of Canada’s climate policy, linking Canada’s domestic reporting schedule with the reporting timelines set by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It requires Canada to establish a new 2030 emissions reduction target within six months of the bill becoming law and sets critical interim targets on the path to 2050. Greater effectiveness (and support) would certainly be achieved if the first target were advanced to 2025 at the latest.
  • A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, in turn includes measures that together will meet and exceed Canada’s “Paris target” by reducing emissions 32% to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. At the heart of Canada’s new climate plan is a commitment to gradually increase the carbon price so that it reaches $170 per tonne of carbon pollution in 2030, with low-income families receiving more money back as the carbon price rises. There is also a strong emphasis on the good, green jobs critical to an economy-wide just transition. Still, there is the persistent disconnect between Canada’s “Paris target” and what is required to achieve the Paris temperature goals.

The recent legislative session also saw the introduction of C-15, “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.” The bill sets the Government of Canada’s intent to align all legislation with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and legislates the co-creation of an action plan with Indigenous Peoples. It also includes important new references to addressing systemic racism and the impacts of climate change on Indigenous Peoples. Of course, serious questions remain about how this intent will be translated into action. And there is opposition from significant Indigenous movements that want to see the Declaration become law but point out that by subjugating the Declaration to Section 35 of the Canadian constitution, Indigenous rights remain supressed.

Still, we are seeing movement on issues that are critically important to enacting climate justice. And this is good.

As we move into 2021, let us hope that our government extends the generosity and love shown at Christmas into the future by following through on commitments to honour Indigenous rights and achieve climate justice.

And let us work to make it so.

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