This Earth Day, and you can bet it will include all of the perennial park clean-ups, spring seedling swaps, and perhaps a renewed push for recycling at the local public school.
That’s all good, but this year Earth Day is different. It offers something more.
This year, April 22 marks a major moment in the global pursuit of climate action – and indeed in the history of constructive multilateral collaboration. That’s because on Earth Day this year, the Paris Agreement will open for signature at the UN headquarters in New York. Many of the world’s major political leaders, including Prime Minister Trudeau, will be on hand to sign this historic agreement (forged in December 2015 by the 195 member-nations party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).
By signing the agreement, they will signal their support for ambitious action to address climate change and limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C over pre-industrial levels. For all its shortcomings, the Paris Agreement marks an important step forward and today’s signing ceremony moves the global community closer to collaborative action.
And that’s not all.
The Government of Canada has just embarked on a national public consultation process to inform the development of a “pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change.”
For the first time in over a decade, the federal government is working with the provinces and territories to develop to address this critical issue. While in Paris, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna offered vocal support for an international warming limit set at 1.5°C. Since then, she has indicated that she wants a coordinated Canadian plan that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, establish a carbon price, create jobs “through clean technology,” and assist communities with climate change adaptation.
With the convergence of global, national, provincial, and local attention on climate change, these federal government consultations offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity for each of us, as Canadians, to help shape Canadian energy and climate policy.
Still, many Canadians continue to see climate change and its impacts as someone else’s problem – whether they be elsewhere in Canada or across the globe.
But everyone in Canada has a connection to climate change.
Each of us has a climate change story. Food prices, soil erosion, forest fires, unseasonable weather, refugees, asthma, agriculture, investments, permafrost, energy use, smog, jobs, wildlife breeding grounds, housing, hunting seasons, ice roads, manufacturing and many other matters all intersect with climate change.
Finding the best way forward means acknowledging our responsibility for our warming world, sitting with the ways we contribute to both the problem and solutions, and discerning how to shift the balance.
For just about all of us, our lifestyles – and our entire economy – are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Yet many of us are also actively engaged in seeking solutions and taking action to mitigate against the problem.
When I reflect on my own life, it is immediately clear that my story combines a lifestyle that continues to exacerbate climate change and determination to find a better way forward. I also find myself experiencing an oft-perplexing blend of fear and hope for my children’s future.
I know that there is a certain amount that I can do as individual, and within my family and community. But I also know that climate change is a large and complex issue, and as such beyond personal or local capacity.
That is why I am excited about the opportunity before us. The Government of Canada wants to hear from Canadians. Let’s take them up on that invitation. This should be a time for Canadians to share their stories of climate change.
By sharing our stories of impact, responsibility, and creativity, we can inspire others to discover their place in Canada’s climate conversation. This diversity of voices can then help shape ambitious and responsible government action on climate change.
So let’s work together, as citizens from coast to coast to coast, to reduce our emissions, to pay the true costs of carbon pollution, to help our neighbours, and to build a new low-carbon economy in service of the common good.
This year, as we celebrate Earth Day, let’s acknowledge our connections. Let’s imagine a better future. Let’s offer our ideas and insights, and help our government craft an ambitious, actionable Canadian climate plan.
This year, let’s make Earth Day count.