Heard it said before that the job of a Prime Minister is to “appoint and disappoint”, yet Trudeaumania 2.0 is sweeping the land! Since his majority election win on Oct 19, Justin Trudeau has been saying and doing all the right things. And I must admit, I’m a fan (and not because he dressed up as Han Solo for Hallowe’en and took a family pic with the Delorean on Back to the Future Day…ok, not just because of that).

New Canadian Government Officials in Paris!

In addition to introducing gender parity in the new Canadian Federal Cabinet by appointing 50% of all Ministerial positions to women, Trudeau also changed the title of Environment Minister to Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, officially acknowledging the issue of climate change in the portfolio. Trudeau has also invited all Provincial Premieres to attend the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris (happening Nov 30-Dec 11) 2015. An invitation that all premieres (not facing an election campaign) have accepted. Trudeau has been quoted as saying,

I will be engaging with the premiers in the coming weeks to establish a strong position for Canada so that people know that Canada’s years of being a less-than-enthusiastic actor on the climate change file are behind us.

Canada’s Environmental Performance Track Record

Less-than-enthusiastic is right. A pioneering evaluation of Canada’s progress in achieving environmental sustainability by David Boyd (2001) found that Canada’s record was among the worst of developed countries, ranking 28th out of 29. Subsequent evaluations carried out by a research team at Simon Fraser University, using 28 environmental indicators to assess Canada’s environmental performance, found that Canada ranked 24th out of 25 developed countries. Canada’s lackluster performance was found not as a result of natural factors such as climate and geography, but due to poor environmental policies. (For the report click here) These findings, while a blemish on Canada’s reputation as a good global samaritan, are in fact good news for Canadians as they suggest our poor record can be improved with strong leadership, good management and meaningful commitments to sustainability.

Canadians Want Tougher Anti-Climate Change Action!

The political will for more meaningful action on climate change exists in Canada. In a recent survey by the Environics Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation (2015), Canadians were found to express increased support, if not expectations, for government leadership and concrete policy actions to address the growing challenge posed by global warming. Responses indicated a

“rising majority voice support for Canada to participate in a new international agreement on climate change, even if this might result in some job losses in some industries or higher costs to consumers. A significant proportion (four in ten) feel strongly enough about this to say they would be upset if their country does not follow through on such a commitment. It is widely assumed that Canadians will not accept climate policies that will cost them directly, but there is growing public support for carbon pricing as an appropriate response to the climate challenge.”

(Read full report here).

Urgency is Building for Strong Climate Change Policy

With an expanding number of extreme weather events (e.g. the low rain and water restrictions experienced here in BC this past summer and the multi-year drought in California and other parts of the western US), climate change appears to be reemerging as a global priority. Unprecedented new agreements on emissions targets between the US and China, and statements by Pope Francis regarding the pressing need for climate mitigation are contributing to fresh momentum for a new global pact at this year’s international climate summit in Paris.

Matching the Global Commitment

The Liberal party did not lay out its plans for GHG reductions in their platform, stating that they would determine appropriate action based on scientific evidence and according to provincial economics. To match global commitments and to attain the target (I would call them essential) reductions recommended by the IPCC, aggressive strategies must be employed (Read more here). New trade and energy systems devised. New behavior and new ways of thinking embraced. But resilience and innovation have always been Canadian strengths.

Obi Justin Kenobi, YOU’RE OUR ONLY HOPE! We don’t have a time machine to go back and fix our mistakes.

Instead of “appoint and disappoint” I want our new PM to be a “starting point and reference point”. #RealChange and #EarthtoParis are not just slogans, they’re a necessity. Please Mr. Trudeau, make it happen in Paris 2015.

For another perspective on the upcoming Paris Summit, see this week’s David Suzuki Foundation Science Matters article. ow.ly/37LQF6 

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