October 9, 2015

Sustainable Canada Dialogues – Extending the Dialogue Launch Event – October 8th

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD) new report Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians at University of Toronto’s Hart House. The report is a follow-up to SCD’s March 2015 Acting on Climate Change report, which presented a consensus view on the path forward for Canadian climate policy from a group of 60 prominent academics from across disciplines, and across the country.

Recognizing that the scholarly view presented in the first report was in some ways limited, this new report, Extending the Dialogue, presents a collection of texts representing contributions from a spectrum of First Nations, business, NGO, union, and other stakeholder groups to expand the discussion. The report presents a collection of voices, not all of whom necessarily agree with each other. It is this kind of dialogue, between different sectors and perspectives that we need in order to elevate Canadian public discussion around the complicated issues surrounding climate change and ultimately drive forward on a pathway that responds to the desires of Canadians for the future of themselves, their families and their communities.

The launch featured a panel of speakers representing some of the contributions to the report, and was a fascinating look into some of the key debates facing Canada as we move forward with the low carbon transition. For example, Philip Raphals presented a paper submitted by the Helios Centre which challenges the conventional wisdom in environmental circles that 100% renewable electricity is a critical element of the climate policy package. He argued that a devoted push for renewable energy in the near-term to 2035 would necessitate a massive expansion of hydro-electric resources, which would be both very costly, diverting investment away from other low carbon solutions, and environmentally damaging (BC’s Site C dam was cited as an example).

Another point of debate emerged around how best to frame the problem of climate change to the public. Ralph Torrie presented his paper which critiques the current climate change policy response as being too narrow and focused on policy prescriptions that are either infeasible or politically unpopular. He argued that we need to “increase the solution set” by broadening our focus beyond engineering and technology solutions. Looking at transportation, he cited the increasing focus on mobility solutions as a good example, as it brings urban planners into the mix as climate policy makers. Finally Ralph argued that we need to change the question that we pose to politicians and the public from, “how can we reduce emissions in our city”, to “how can we build a low-carbon sustainable city”. While a subtle shift, the second question is framed much more positively and can engage a wider audience into defining solutions.

There were a number of other panelists presenting equally interesting perspectives, but I will leave it to you the reader to take a closer look at the essays found in Extending the Dialogue and, more importantly, to engage in the dialogue yourselves with your friends, family and colleagues. We are, after all, in this together.

Happy thanksgiving.
Ian McVey, Project Manager, Research Mobilization and Communication, Ontario Climate Consortium

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