What you need to know and ask about the biggest environmental issues in this election

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Goals are great, but they don’t mean much without time-bound commitments. So don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

Vancouver on a hot June day, during a period of extreme heat in western North America scientists said was “virtually impossible without man-made climate change.” (Photo: Don MacKinnon / AFP via Getty Images)

Last week, the world’s leading climatologists released a historic assessment of the direction our planet is heading, and the prognosis is, uh, grim. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a “red code for humanity”. We have pumped so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, for example, that severe droughts, heat waves, forest fires and floods will only get worse over the years. next three decades, no matter what, while ocean levels will continue to rise for at least 2,000 years.

The authors of the IPCC have pointed out that there is still time – perhaps for the last time – to avoid a total climate catastrophe. But to do this, governments around the world are coming together to make (and demand) rapid, aggressive and widespread emission reductions, from this very second. That is why it is so important to know who shapes politics on Parliament Hill. And that’s why, after Justin Trudeau called an early election this weekend, Chatelaine thought we would look at some of the biggest environmental issues facing Canadians during this campaign.

Obtain greenhouse gas emissions waaaaay down

Let’s start with some positive news from the IPCC report: As climate change intensifies, we can prevent the planet from getting even hotter. “If we are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we are able to achieve net zero, then it is quite possible to limit human-induced global warming, ”says Zafar Adeel, professor in the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering at Simon Fraser University.

A little aside on this human-induced part: science is adamant that climate change is real and that it is unequivocally caused through our activities. So when a political candidate comes knocking on your door, Megan Leslie, former NDP politician and current president of WWF Canada, suggests asking them straight away if they believe humans are responsible for the evolution of our planet. . “If this candidate hesitates, even for a split second, then it’s a tough pass,” Leslie says. “You don’t want that person sitting around the caucus table. You want someone who will find solutions.

By joining internationally Paris Agreement, Canada has pledged to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — and analysis shows that “Canada’s fair share of this emissions reduction challenge would be 60 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, ”says Lisa Gue, senior policy analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation. At present, only the Green Party is committed to reducing so much. In April, Trudeau announced that Canada would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next nine years, as the NDP promises a 50 percent off. Erin O’Toole plans to stick to Canada’s original Paris pledge: Conservatives would cut emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels.

But while the goals are interesting, they don’t mean much without time-bound commitments to implement the actions that will allow us to meet those goals. Look for them in a party’s platform and find out how each party plans to incite behavior change, whether through carbon pricing or tax breaks or maybe no longer distribute billions in subsidies to the oil and gas sector. Finally, what are these parties doing not only to avoid the worst climate scenarios, but to adapt to the changes that have already happened? “No matter how excellent we perform in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we are still facing the impacts right now,” said Adeel. “So how do we prepare, especially for water extremes like floods, heavy rains and droughts? “

Register the right to a healthy environment

More … than 100 countries all over the world guarantee their citizens the legal right to a healthy environment, but Canada is not one of them. In April, the liberals offers a law that would modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, a pollution law that has not been updated for 21 years, and which would also enshrine the right to a healthy environment. But when Trudeau called an election, C-28 died on the Order Paper and will have to be reintroduced.

C-28 is not only symbolic: it ensures that all Canadians benefit from measures to protect the environment, since we know that climate change, Pollution and environmental degradation disproportionately affects racialized and low-income communities. “Right now the risks are being assessed for the general population, and when we do, we can miss the fact that some groups are more highly exposed,” says Gue. “So we need to take these inequalities into account when we assess risks and regulate them, in order to protect those who are most vulnerable. Candidates and their parties should have detailed plans (with specific dates in front of them) to protect every Canadian’s right to clean water, air and land.

Fight against the conservation and loss of biodiversity

When it comes to tackling climate change, nature-based solutions are very effective: according to research of Nature Conservation, protecting and restoring forests, meadows and wetlands would sequester enough carbon to bring the world one third of the way to its Paris targets. “Look, you can change any light bulb you want, but it’s important. It’s a huge win, ”Leslie says. “And these forests and wetlands are also habitat for wildlife at a time when populations of species are collapsing.” They crash too hard: a WWF 2020 report find a decline of two-thirds of the world’s wildlife population, while species at risk in Canada have seen their falling numbers by 59% over the past 50 years. Last month, a billion sea creaturesis cooked to death off the coast of Vancouver due to the scorching heat.

“We have a dual crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss, so we need responses that tackle both crises at the same time,” Leslie said. “You have to look for engagements that see these two things together.” She suggests asking candidates about their plan to use nature to fight climate change and how this work includes a reconciliation perspective. “Proof Indigenous protected and conserved areas, supporting Indigenous-led efforts to manage species, everything needs to be part of the agenda.

And when a candidate shows up at your door with polite arguments and vague promises, don’t be afraid to ask for details. In her former life as a politician, Leslie concedes that she too has had her vagabonds. “But when someone asked me when and where, why and how, those were the questions that made me sweat a little,” she says. “So tell candidates what excites you. It’s up to them to figure out how to turn this into politics.


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