Drawdown Toronto endorses the letter prepared by the Canadian Climate Action Network, calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to implement a green and just recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. In line with our previous note, we believe a green and just recovery from the pandemic is critical. We have a once-in-a-lifetime to create a new social and economic foundation capable of meeting the climate challenge and ensuring our long-term prosperity.

Letter to the Government of Canada:

Dear Prime Minister and Ministers,

Imagine if,  when any person anywhere in Canada flicked a light switch, the electricity was clean, renewable and affordable. Imagine if,  when a person purchased a car or renovated a home, the options that produced the least amount of emissions were the most affordable. Imagine if Canadians could go through daily life with the security that their everyday actions will not perpetuate climate change, but rather are part of the solution. 

Imagine if Canadians young and old could see good paying, long term jobs that lay ahead of them, either as they graduate into the job market or shift jobs later on in life.

Canada has a once in a generation opportunity to stop imagining and start creating this future. With the massive economic stimulus and strategic policy decisions required to jumpstart our economy in response to the impacts of COVID 19, you are in the driver’s seat. This historic responsibility must be taken seriously.

The current trends for economic response are extremely worrying: research shows that Canada and its provinces and territories have pledged substantially more support to fossil fuels than clean energy during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are expecting your government to turn this trend around and lay out a vision for a truly transformative just and green recovery in your September 23rd throne speech.

This moment in time we are in – when people’s lives are so impacted by the pandemic and with climate impacts increasing – is not about staying the course of subsidizing major emitters while slowly chipping away at the edges of our emissions profile with less than perfect climate policies. This is the time to make the hard choices that pivot Canada towards exceeding the current 2030 target and on the path to zero emissions by 2050 while building jobs and opportunities for all Canadians. 

We expect your government to lay out a vision for a truly transformative just and green recovery in your September 23rd throne speech including a commitment to: 

1) Signal to the private sector and all Canadians that the commitment to reach zero emissions by 2050 requires immediate action today.

Focusing just on the 2050 timeline allows lagging companies, industry associations and other actors to promise strategies that are either rooted in technological optimism, depend on offsetting of emissions which will be of no value in 2050, or emphasize products such as natural gas (both domestic and for export) that are not compliant with the 2050 objective yet come at significant and often locked in, long-term cost. It’s like saying we’ll have zero cases of COVID-19 in 2050 and taking no immediate action to address the pandemic that’s killing people today.  

This government must demonstrate, through policies, legislation, and recovery spending, that the path to 2050 begins today. We cannot lock ourselves into fossil fuels and other industries that veer us off this path, nor leave the next generation with an unattainable task as a result of our delayed action. By contrast, increased climate ambition on our 2030 target in the short term will provide the private sector, the provinces and territories, and the public with the signals they need to spur widespread and critical climate action. This government should:

  • No later than the Fall of 2020, announce a new 2030 climate target and a plan to reach the new target;
  • No later than Fall 2020, appoint a diverse and justice-oriented Ministerial Advisory Board to identify the pathways to zero emissions by 2050;
  • Introduce legislation that holds this and future governments accountable for reaching zero emissions by 2050 by December 2020;
  • Introduce Just Transition legislation by December 2020.

2) Apply conditions and principles to all government departments that ensure economic recovery spending steers the economy towards zero emissions  by 2050

While there are myriad policies and regulations that will be required in the years and decades ahead to wean us off fossil fuels, right now your office needs to apply conditions and principles to all stimulus funding and response to ensure Canada is on the right path to recovery and to zero emissions. We urge you to adopt a whole of government approach and ensure all departments apply the seven conditions and principles outlined in the report Green Strings: Principles and Conditions for  Green Recovery from COVID-19. This report was co-signed by 14 of Canada’s major environmental organizations. The principles cover financial conditions, strengthening environmental policy, increasing equity and wellbeing, establishing transparency and accountability, and more. Support for low-carbon sectors and infrastructure must take precedence, and support to high carbon sectors must only occur with enforceable conditions to incent rapid reductions in emissions. 

3) Build public understanding of the pathway to zero emissions by 2050.

This government has shown leadership in responding to the pandemic. Decisive actions and critical information were communicated to Canadians through daily briefings which created confidence and calmness  at a time of deep social and economic upheaval. We need the same leadership and communications to change how Canadians engage with the issue of climate change, whose impacts will be greater and longer-lasting. Currently, citizens hear once a year through the media how close or far Canada is from some distant climate goal. Instead, as in other countries, a new approach can help Canadians better understand the richness of climate action taking hold across the country and how they can play a part in a national undertaking of great importance.Through regular monthly briefings you can update Canadians on steps taken to:

  • Reduce emissions from heavy emitters;
  • Make the cost of climate-safe products and services more affordable;
  • Help Canadians adapt to climate change;
  • Establish job markets for workers of all ages; 

You could also use this time to update Canadians on emissions trends in Canada and around the world.

Recovery and transition efforts by necessity are about making hard decisions: where funding is best spent and what policies are put in place to get us to the future we want.  Most Canadians want to be able go about their daily lives without perpetuating climate change and they want to know someone is at the helm steering us in that direction.  You can make that happen for them.
We ask for the opportunity to meet with you in the near future to discuss these recommendations and facilitate collaborative relationships moving forward.

Letter prepared by the Climate Action Network and endorsed by Drawdown Toronto.