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Audit exposes Canadian climate failures

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Scientists, academics, environmentalists and communicators have urged governments to take the climate crisis seriously for decades. We've outlined the overwhelming evidence, generated discussion and offered myriad solutions.

We've confronted politicians who refuse to accept that a problem exists, or that we can do anything about it if it does. That's frustrating and disheartening, especially for those of us with children and grandchildren, and more so for people who are children and grandchildren. It's even more frustrating to deal with politicians who claim to take the matter seriously but whose actions belie their words.

We're failing to take the necessary steps to confront or adapt to global warming. The current U.S. administration is going in the opposite direction. In Canada, despite hopeful rhetoric after the 2015 federal election and leading to the Paris climate summit, neither the federal nor provincial governments are doing enough to indicate they even understand the severity of the crisis.

Federal Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand and auditors general in nine provinces conducted an audit of climate change planning and emissions-reduction programs between November 2016 and March 2018. They concluded, "most governments in Canada were not on track to meet their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and were not ready for the impacts of a changing climate."

They further reported, "Most Canadian governments have not assessed and, therefore, do not fully understand what risks they face and what actions they should take to adapt to a changing climate."

Only two provinces, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, are on track to meet their emissions-reduction targets, and federal, provincial and territorial governments are using a mishmash of approaches, targets and measurements. "As a result, it was unclear how the federal, provincial, and territorial governments would measure, monitor, and report on their individual contributions to meeting Canada's national 2030 target."

Meanwhile, the federal and some provincial governments bizarrely argue that the best way to confront climate change is to continue expanding the fossil fuel industry and its infrastructure, with increased oilsands and liquefied natural gas development and more pipelines.

Last year, this column's authors wrote a book, Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do, with the hope of offering the public and politicians a readable guide to the science of and solutions to climate disruption. If politicians don't have the time or inclination to read it or any of the other excellent books on the subject, we hope they would at least listen to the many experts in government, academia and elsewhere who have clearly outlined the crisis, evidence and solutions.

Instead, through lack of imagination and foresight and because of election cycle constraints and misguided priorities, many have chosen to continue serving the fossil fuel industry.

The audit is clear that Canada's climate is "becoming warmer and wetter, and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. Climate change impacts are felt across Canada and pose significant risks to Canadians and the economy." Costs are mounting in the face of increasing and more intense floods, forest fires, heat waves, melting sea ice, rising sea levels and thawing permafrost.

Gelfand told Canadian Press that the federal Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, released in December 2016, is a positive step but that its proof will be in its implementation. Saskatchewan has yet to sign on to the framework and is opposing the requirement for provinces and territories to introduce carbon pricing, an effective and necessary tool to fight climate change.

Had governments, industry and the public recognized and started acting on the problem decades ago when it became clear that failing to do so would lead to catastrophe, we might be much further ahead, without the disruption that acting so belatedly will entail. We'd also be able to focus more on reducing the problem than finding ways to adapt to its consequences.

Many systemic problems are contributing to the climate crisis and other ecological challenges, including outdated economic systems based on constant growth and consumption. We must address those, but we at least need to start by living up to national and international climate commitments and acting quickly to implement the many known solutions and plans that will put us on track to a cleaner, healthier future.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Image: Backbone Campaign/Flickr

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