In 18 days, I will be boarding a bus alongside 53 Ottawa residents (one of several Canadian buses) to join a historic people’s climate march in New York city.
The face of climate change is increasingly visible, with extreme weather events becoming regular news. Not only is this having serious environmental impacts, it is hurting people. Lack of access to water. Destroyed homes. Wilted crops and cracked earth. It is hurting our economies.
Low-income people and communities of colour are often the hardest hit by pollution and climate change as they lack the means to move away or adapt.
To change everything, we need everyone.
Yes, this means individual changes and choices, single and multi-issue campaigns, lobbying, non-violent civil disobedience, legal actions and more.
More importantly, it involves building strong, diverse and vibrant movements that hold our governments to account, including mass gatherings demonstrating our breadth and resolve.
Hundreds of thousands of people will be in marching in the streets of New York on Sept. 21 in support of a world safe from the ravages of climate change with good jobs, clean air, clean water, and healthy communities, powered by renewable energy.
Parallel marches, rallies and events will take place around the world in cities like Delhi, Jakarta, London, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Johannesburg and Paris.
Why New York, why now?
Government leaders will be meeting at the historic Climate Summit hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York City, just days after the mobilization. The task for government leaders gathering in New York is to signal their readiness for an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce climate change pollution.
Governments need to set the tone for next year when there will be two crucial milestones on the journey to create a fairer, cleaner, and safer world. In September 2015 world leaders will convene to agree on a new set of goals to end poverty and tackle inequalities worldwide — an impossible task without addressing climate change. Then in Paris, December 2015 a global action plan on climate change is due. This plan will collect together all the action already being taken, then build a platform pushing countries to do more — in line with the need to speed up the phase out of fossil fuel pollution.
Why is it important for Canadians to attend?
Our federal government has transformed Canada into a climate criminal.
Canada has the worst climate policy of all so-called developed countries — including no plans to curb emissions from the oil and gas sector, despite promising this for years.
Following the muzzling of federal climate scientists, media coverage of federal climate change research dropped 80 per cent.
On a per capita basis, historically and at present, Canada stands among the world’s top greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters.
The federal government has gutted long-standing environmental laws in the omni-budget bills and cut funding to programs supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency.
All of this reflects the intent of the federal government and several provinces hellbent on exploiting fossil fuel reserves to the fullest extent. Nowhere is this clearer than in Alberta’s tar sands.
The International Energy Agency has stated that two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.
To stay within the prescribed IEA scenario (based on a 50/50 chance of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees), tar sands production must not exceed 2 million barrels per day.
The tar sands are already producing 1.9 million barrels per day. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers expects the industry will surpass 5 million barrels a day by the end of 2030. The industry has disclosed plans to produce more than 9 million barrels of bitumen per day.
And there is good reason to believe the IEA’s prediction is in fact, conservative. Research by the Carbon Tracker Initiative suggests we must keep 60 to 80 per cent of fossil fuels in the ground to remain under 2 degrees of warming, meaning less then what is already produced in the tar sands is needed to avoid the worst of climate change. There are also nations, movements and climate scientists who warn that even 2 degrees of warming will have disastrous effects.
We can have a livable world or tar sands expansion, not both.
This is a key reason why the Council of Canadians and many others are targeting infrastructure –pipelines, rail, tankers — that will facilitate unacceptable expansion in the tar sands.
It is a key reason why we need to be present in this historic march, to represent the opposition that exists to the Canadian government’s complete failure to address climate change.
The Council of Canadians is also supporting this historic march as part of our ongoing work towards climate justice. Climate justice demands that we address the root causes of the climate crisis including unsustainable production, consumption and trade. Real solutions must be based on democratic accountability, ecological sustainability and social justice.
This work is tied to our campaign to stop TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, the largest pipeline proposed.
The tar sands are a climate and environmental justice issue. Downstream First Nations like the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Beaver Lake Cree First Nation are bearing the firsthand impacts of development, including increased rates of cancer. First Nations are also the frontlines of the fight back against tar sands expansion, including infrastructure, using their unique Indigenous and Treaty rights (for example) to protect their land, water and communities.
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