Trudeau’s time to leap

The federal Liberals need to step up their environmental game

To many, the environmental policies of Prime Minister Trudeau are a step in the right direction. But Trudeau’s policies ignore the UN’s urgent 2050 deadline to reduce greenhouse gasses (GHGs) and to stop the greatest global climate crisis in history. 

Trudeau’s carbon tax, emissions-reduction measures, and administrative propositions aimed at raising the eyebrows of the professional middle-class seem to be framed in the spirit of this year’s G7 Summit in Germany – which under Stephen Harper, only committed to phasing out fossil fuels by 2100. 

Surprisingly, China, the worst GHG polluter of all, is a good example to follow. While it has set to cap emissions by 2030, it is also investing $80 billion in green energy, which is larger than the investments of both the U.S. and Europe combined according to the International Energy Agency. 

Meanwhile Germany has set a new record by producing 78 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources. Canada is 11th on the 20 largest GHG emitter countries list and has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol (an international agreement that addresses climate change). 

In the global effort to raise consciousness about the threat of global warming, even voices such as that of multibillionaire Bill Gates have made it clear that “the climate problem has to be solved in the rich countries.” We currently sit near a CO2 level of 400 parts per million and need to return to below 350 ppm. 

It is in this context that Naomi Klein and others put together the Leap Manifesto, which is an overall vision for Canada that includes a proposition to source all of Canada’s electricity from renewable resources in 20 years and achieve a totally clean economy by 2050. 

“This is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go, so we need to leap,” says the Manifesto. 

As of now, we as society should be talking loud and wide about a comprehensive plan to phase out oil production and consumption to become 100 per cent renewable. Cap-and-trade policies may be popular and cost-effective, but Canada needs to go beyond this. It’s time to start cutting down our dependence on oil, and to use one of Klein’s favourite terms, this is completely “doable.” 

When Trudeau phoned David Suzuki – an endorser of the Leap Manifesto – earlier this year to ask for his endorsement for the Liberal environmental policy, Suzuki told him that about 80 percent of the tar sands oil will have to stay in the ground if we are to stay within two degrees of global climate change. Trudeau allegedly responded: “I don’t have to listen to this sanctimonious crap.” This answer clearly shows where the new Prime Minister stands now. 

Nevertheless, we can only hope that Trudeau recognizes the real challenge his government is facing once he attends the UN Paris Climate Change Conference this December. 

Let’s hope that Trudeau makes the leap, and if he doesn’t, we will repeat Klein’s words: “a huge and growing movement of Canadians is determined to give our young prime minister the best gift any new government can receive: relentless pressure from below.” 

Reinaldo Contreras is a second year student in the University of Winnipeg’s Urban and Inner City Studies program and former director of El Latino Newspaper of Alberta.

Published in Volume 70, Number 9 of The Uniter (November 5, 2015)

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