June 22, 2016

Conversations about Climate Change: Share your Climate Solutions with the Federal Government

What have been your own experiences with the impacts of climate change?

What are the solutions to reducing greenhouse gasses that you would like to see governments, businesses and communities implement?

What can Canada do to better adapt to impacts of climate change and support affected communities, including Indigenous communities?

These were some of the key questions that were explored at a Climate Change Town Hall attended by OCC staff this past Friday. It was hosted by The Honourable Chrystia Freeland (Member of Parliament for University-Rosedale), Julie Dabrusin (Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth), and Arif Virani (Member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park). Ministers Catherine McKenna and Glen Murray were the stars of the evening who helped to set the context for the discussions that took place at the town hall and provided some food for thought going forward.

Following the context-setting by Minister McKenna, we had the opportunity to break into groups and discuss some key questions – the conversations around these questions will be used as feedback for the federal government on Canada’s approach to climate change. During the discussions, each group identified a “leader” who reported back to the broader audience on the key highlights of the discussion which were captured by event organizers as they were being presented. As we were listening to the highlights being presented, a number of prominent themes came forward that linked the conversations together.

“We can start now. We should have started yesterday, but we can start now.”

– Member of the Public on Climate Action

For example, a number of group leaders highlighted the need for the federal government to engage with indigenous peoples effectively. We’ve come to a point where we need to get beyond rhetoric, engage with indigenous peoples, and ensure that voices are being heard by taking the time to incorporate the comments brought forward during consultations into outputs (e.g. reports) and outcomes (e.g. a change in policy direction) as the opportunity arises. In other words, we need to get away from simply conducting consultations to check off an item on a to-do list.

There were also a number of conversations about the relationship between the environment and economy that were brought forward during the key highlights. Attendees were asked about their ideas for growing the economy while also reducing emissions at the same time. This question assumes continuous growth of the economy which is an unsustainable concept given that the planet has already exceeded its carrying capacity. We know that continuous economic growth is not viable so we need to evaluate where we draw the line between economic growth and environmental degradation.

A very prominent theme that linked the group discussions was the discrepancy between the federal government’s commitment to address climate change in its platform while also committing to the expansion of pipelines. An important point that came up related to this in our group’s discussion was that the creation of infrastructure assumes a certain return on investment (ROI) – as a result, it is very likely that communities that have been created around oil and gas will cry foul if we try to relocate them once the infrastructure is in place and fully functioning. It’s for this very reason we need to think about the investments we make into infrastructure and ensure that they are being made wisely given the priority that has been placed on climate change action.

Overall, we can certainly say that everyone in the room was passionate about taking action in the context of climate change and rallied around the idea that there is an urgent need to do this. As a member of the public put it while summarizing her group’s discussion, “We can start now. We should have started yesterday, but we can start now.”

Are you interested in taking action and being part of the broader discussion around climate change in Canada? Consider hosting your own town hall – visit the Government of Canada’s interactive website for more information and resources.

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