The signing of the climate change agreement by 196 countries this month was hailed as historic. Canada’s new Prime Minister called it ‘ambitious.’
The actual agreement is only 31 pages long and the signatories agreed to a goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees or less above pre-industrial temperatures.
Living in Canada’s capital, where meteorologists are forecasting a green Christmas at 15 Celsius – which would mark the warmest Christmas on record for Ottawa – I have to wonder what the Paris signatories might actually be ready, willing and able to accomplish.
I have in the back of my mind the Kyoto agreement. Jean Chretien’s Liberal government signed on to the agreement in 1997, didn’t ratify it here until five years later and then failed to create any changes to help this country abide by that agreement’s targets before. The Liberals were then duly outraged when the Harper government when they pulled out of it in 2011 after announcing that Canada would not enforce any climate change regulations before 2015.
And here we are, in 2015 with a new government and COP21.
I first became concerned about Paris when word spread that the word indigenous had been taken out of the main text of the agreement. Indigenous peoples are now referred to only in the preamble and indigenous rights are not included in any of the legally binding text. This should be of great concern to Canada since our Inuit are the first and most affected by climate change.
Luckily it seems that Prime Minister Trudeau does understand the need to include indigenous peoples in climate change discussions, and hopefully he and his Minister of Environment and Climate Change will bring First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples into the conversation here at home.
You can read more about the basics of the COP21 agreement here. This article notes that the goal is a carbon neutral world sometime after 2050 but before 2100. So that’s a good long time but there are a whole lot of attitudes and behaviours to change. In fact, according to a Suzuki Foundation climate change policy analyst, it would require a change to around 100 per cent renewable energy in the next 35 years.
That switch would require major investment in greening the economy. There are almost 33 million vehicles registered in this country and the vast majority of those are not hybrid or electric. Most provinces and all three territories rely on non-renewables for electricity and heat, which are necessities in Canada. The territories, in particular, will need help transitioning.
And all of this in one generation.
Of course, the agreement allows for individual countries to set their own emissions targets and those targets are non-binding. But they will have to publish their targets and update them every five years, which allows citizens and NGOs to hold governments to account, but there is the obvious problem that governments can and will change over the next 35 years.
Like so many other things in politics, actions will speak louder than words.