Last week’s news was dominated by the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Rightfully so, as climate change is the biggest issue every single human being has to face from now into the future. We’re all on this planet together and our climate is changing in a way that forces our daily lives to change — so the media attention is warranted.
The conference’s goal is to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve already warmed our habitat by one degree Celsius and the results are notable: disappearing glaciers, rising sea levels, more violent storms, forest fires and longer droughts that cause famine and deepen poverty. Anything above one more degree, and we are in extreme danger of massive habitat destruction — so two degrees is a very important number.
This past summer, B.C. news channels were covered with stories of forest fires and water restrictions and warning us that these extreme shifts in weather are our new normal. Imagine, all that smoke we were breathing all summer and the floods and mudslides from 2012 are normal everyday weather!
So what’s happening in Paris to make sure things don’t get worse? We’re learning that despite all the talk about reducing emissions, that there are plans to build another 2,440 coal-fired power stations before 2030. If that takes place, there is no way we will limit global warming to two degrees. We’re learning that our leaders have to do more than talk. They need to walk the talk when they get back home.
At home in B.C., we have so much potential to generate a clean energy plan for the future. Leading up to the Paris conference, New Democrat Leader John Horgan launched our vision called Power BC. Rather than flood an agricultural valley that we need to balance the loss of farmland elsewhere, we have a 21st century energy plan that creates jobs in communities and focuses on conservation and renewables.
Retrofitting hospitals, schools, offices and homes now so that they stop wasting energy combined with upgrades on existing hydro dams and broadening solar and wind power will allow us to meet future needs here and in western North America. For every $1 million we spend doing this, we create 16 community-based jobs compared to the three camp jobs produced by building a 1950s dam that destroys 8,000 hectares of food-producing land and the agricultural jobs that go with it.
We also need to invest in public transportation and alternatives to carbon pollution. New Democrat Premier Rachel Notley is leading the way in Alberta with plans to end all coal-generated power by 2030 and replacing two-thirds of it with renewables like solar and wind. She’s also implementing a carbon tax, but unlike Christy Clark, will use the revenue to invest in green infrastructure like public transit.
These are the actions that experts agree need to take place now, and New Democrats in Western Canada are leading the way. Not surprising conference attendees in Paris are taking note. We are demonstrating that walking the talk in a collaborative way is possible.
My hope is that world leaders are inspired and they begin to take meaningful action when they return home. “Why use coal when we can use wind and sun?” they will say. “Let’s develop resource jobs sustainably with communities.” We’re all in this together, and while things look pretty scary on the current trajectory, a brighter future is possible. Let’s put it into action.
Michelle Mungall is the member of the legislative assembly for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding, and is the Opposition critic for social development.