Letter to Premiers: Call for federal leadership on climate

Photo: Martin Lopatka/Flickr

Canada’s Premiers are preparing to discuss climate change and energy policy at two upcoming meetings of the Council of the Federation, first in Ottawa on January 30, 2015, and then in Quebec City on April 14. Recognizing climate change as the issue of the twenty-first century, CPJ has written to the premiers urging them to make climate protection a priority in their deliberations, and in their ongoing work as provincial and territorial leaders.

 

Letter

January 28, 2015

Dear Premier:

On behalf of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) and its members, we urge you, and all premiers, to make climate protection a priority for your January and April meetings as the Council of the Federation.

Climate change is considered by many as the central issue of the twenty-first century. As a national organization inspired by faith, CPJ believes that caring for creation is an intrinsic and constitutive element of economic and social justice.

Any discussion of a Canadian energy strategy must be informed by the implications for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the potential for accelerating the transition to a clean energy system.

We are at a critical juncture. 2014 was the warmest year on record. With melting glaciers and rising sea levels, the livelihoods and lifestyles of those in Canada’s North are under threat. In the Global South, the shifting climate is resulting in more frequent and severe floods and droughts, as well as hunger, poverty, and conflict over threatened natural resources.

Fortunately, we know what needs to be done.

At the heart of it, we need to respect that there are limits to how much carbon pollution we can put into the air. And, in acknowledgement of these limits, we must transform our energy system, change the way we build our communities, adapt manufacturing processes, and shift our natural resource development approaches. In brief, we must develop a green economy – fuelled by the sun, water and wind – that ensures a sustainable, equitable and healthy future.

In December 2009, Canada signed onto the Copenhagen Accord, committing to reduce its GHG emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. Unfortunately, according to the Federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, “Environment Canada lacks…an effective planning process for how the federal government will contribute to achieving [our climate] targets.” And as a result, she says, “Current federal measures will have little effect on emissions by 2020.”

Again, we know what needs to be done – and we have the means to do it. We strongly believe that the federal government must take action; national coordination is key. Given the current void, however, we must look to our provincial and territorial leaders for both moral and pragmatic leadership. Your commitment is critical to advancing national action. As you prepare to discuss climate protection and the Canadian energy strategy at the upcoming Council of the Federation meetings, Citizens for Public Justice offers the following recommendations:

  1. Press the federal government to (a) commit internationally to an ambitious and credible climate change action plan to reach their stated target; and, (b) submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by the March 2015 deadline. Canada’s Climate Change Action Plan should include:
  • A strong and predictable price on carbon pollution that is designed to increase rapidly over time to allow energy prices to better reflect true costs, drive innovation, and ensure that both industry and consumers make more efficient use of our resources.*
  • Strict GHG emissions standards applicable across the entire oil and gas sector, without diluting regulations for subsectors such as the oil sands. The federal government has often promised to bring in such regulations, but has not done so. Given that the oil and gas sector is the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Canada, it requires effective regulation immediately.
  • An end to the over $1 billion annual federal subsidies and special tax breaks to the Canadian fossil fuel industry that encourage exploration, development, refining, and export of oil, coal, and gas. Commitments to phase out these subsidies were announced in three of the last seven federal budgets. Now, firm follow-up and a definitive schedule to end these subsidies are needed.
  • A national energy plan that ensures a sustainable and healthy future for Canada, including increased investments in cleaner, low-impact energy alternatives like wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal power.
  • Spending on preserving water resources and migratory bird habitats, and establishing new national parks.
  • Support for the adaptation efforts of the most vulnerable, particularly those in the far North and the Global South who are facing the most significant impacts of climate change.
  1. Accelerate your territorial commitment to climate protection and meet your 2020 GHG reduction targets to contribute to global efforts.

As you will have surely noted, a number of our recommendations for a federal Climate Change Action Plan also have a provincial and territorial application. We urge you therefore, as you work in your own jurisdiction and alongside your provincial and territorial counterparts to put a price on carbon, to regulate all emitting industries and invest in renewable energy and nature conservation. We also ask that you provide assistance to those most vulnerable to climate change and the associated costs of adaptation.

Premier, thank you for your leadership. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues to advance effective climate protection efforts across Canada. We trust that you will join us in supporting policies and practices that allow the flourishing of all God’s creation.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Gunn

Executive Director

We commend those provinces that have already implemented carbon pricing regimes and are pleased that others, like Ontario, will likely soon follow.

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