From April 11-14, climate change took centre stage in Québec City. I was pleased to be there representing CPJ at the #ActOnClimate march, the #ActOnClimate forum, and the Green Church conference that coincided with the premiers’ meeting on climate change.
25,000 March for Climate Action
The #ActOnClimate march of environmental groups, organized labour, students, community organizations, First Nations’ networks, and others, had a clear set of messages for Canada’s provincial leaders: yes to climate protection, no to pipelines, yes to renewable energy.
Organizers had expected to draw 8,000 to 10,000 people. But the people just kept pouring in: the final tally was over 25,000.
It was a beautiful show of solidarity. Individuals and families, activists and the elderly, Aboriginal people, environmentalists and people of faith, all came together to say, “we need action to address climate change.”
There was a shared knowledge that what we do as individuals, neighbourhoods, and communities of faith is not enough. In order to address the far-reaching consequences of climate change we need structural change. We need government action. And, in the void that has been left by our federal leaders, we need our provinces to step forward.
150 Discuss Climate Change Policy and the Transition to a Green Economy
If Saturday’s march was the outward call to action, Sunday’s #ActOnClimate forum was about the nuts and bolts of how a policy shift should and could take place.
Beginning with the Canadian climate policy landscape, scientists, policy analysts, trade unionists, and community organizers shared their in depth knowledge about both the necessity and the feasibility of transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
Making this case, panelists shared large volumes of data, including several research projects and reports:
Climate Justice Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Green Jobs Report, Sierra Club Prairie, Greenpeace, and The Alberta Federation of Labour, 2009.
Across various topics, presenters repeatedly returned to the critical importance of citizen engagement. We all must stay informed, vote, and remain politically engaged beyond election time.
York University professor Tzeporah Berman synthesized the situation well, saying:
“The world is changing. And it will change by default or design to a post-carbon economy. If we allow it to change by default, there will be far more casualties.”
75 Pray for a Climate of Hope
Set long before news of the Premiers’ Climate Summit, and the #ActOnClimate march and forum, church leaders and lay people also convened for the Green Church Conference.
Together we explored how we can create a climate of hope, and take actions towards a healthier future for the churches, and all of humanity.
The keynote address, presented by atmospheric researcher, Dr. Alan Betts, contained slide after slide of data analysis showing increasing global temperatures, declining levels of sea ice, and ever-more frequent and intense natural disasters. The real key to his message, however, was this:
“Climate change is no longer a scientific problem, it is a moral problem.”
Though few of the day’s workshops went beyond personal and church greening, the Common Declaration that emerged at day’s end was clear,
“We question our energy overconsumption and our dependence on oil, which drives industry to meet this demand, pushing it to encourage such highly polluting operations as tar sands. We are concerned about the growth of transportation of fossil fuels over vast territories, which is becoming a serious threat to the habitat and well-being of wildlife and flora and to the food sovereignty of human populations. … We pray for the courage to ensure a sustainable environment for future generations. …Confronted with this ecological crisis, we will strive to create a climate of hope.”
9 Gather for a Climate Change Summit
The Québec City Summit on Climate Change was a critical piece of the climate justice gatherings. The premiers’ meeting is, after all, what motivated much of the civil society action that preceded it. And the outcome, a concise declaration on climate change and the necessity of moving away from the status quo, is something we should be pleased with. (It speaks to several of the issues we raised in our January letter). It isn’t perfect, but it is certainly a step in the right direction, a move towards “transitioning to a resilient and lower-carbon economy by 2050.”
1 Federal Government Absent on Climate Action
At the end of the day, the Government of Canada remains absent on climate action – or worse, continues to promote and encourage activities that drive carbon emissions upwards and contribute to the escalation of the climate crisis.
Still, as we were reminded by the faithful gathered at the Green Church Conference, we must hold on to hope. The events in Québec City this week mark a new beginning for the Canadian climate justice movement. They offer a model for the way forward: speak out, propose solutions, pray, and continue to #ActOnClimate.