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Feds poised to declare national climate emergency

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna is seen speaking at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., on March 7, 2019.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna is seen speaking at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., on March 7, 2019. - John Lucas/Edmonton Journal

Government motion tabled Thursday

“We can no longer rely on incremental climate action.”

            -Emma Norton, Ecology Action Centre

OTTAWA - Canada could be the next country to declare a climate emergency if a government motion tabled Thursday passes.

Following countries like the U.K. and Ireland, as well as municipalities like Halifax, a motion tabled by environment minister Catherine McKenna is calling on the government of Canada to declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency, and to go above and beyond its Paris Agreement obligations by pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

That magic number, 1.5 degrees, has become a global benchmark since this fall when the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that global warming must be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius or risk catastrophic effects.

Halifax MP Andy Fillmore. - File
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore. - File

Halifax MP Andy Fillmore spoke on the motion Thursday in the House of Commons. Speaking with SaltWire, Fillmore said being from a city like Halifax makes the threat of climate change all the more tangible.

“Halifax is on the leading edge of so many of these challenges, the rate of sea level rise in Halifax is increasing by the year dramatically, we stand to lose quite a lot to sea level rise,” he said.

Fillmore said passing the motion would send out a strong signal to Canadians and to the rest of the word that Canada is joining a growing coalition of countries that are declaring a climate emergency and will be moving forward in ways that prioritize mitigating climate change.

“We're putting a flag in this mountaintop saying the era of equivocation over whether there's a climate emergency and whether Canada needs to take action on climate change is over. Once this motion passes this is going to be the position of the House of Commons and the Parliament of Canada, so that is going to then cascade into all kinds of actions.”

On Wednesday, following McKenna’s announced intentions to table the motion, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh tabled their own climate emergency motion that was defeated in a vote Thursday afternoon. The NDP motion contained similar language surrounding the Paris Agreement and keeping climate change below 1.5 degrees, but also included additional points calling on the government to prioritize reconciliation with Indigenous people and ensuring workers don't get left behind when implementing its climate change strategy. The NDP bill also called for immediately ending all fossil fuel subsidies and axing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Emma Norton, Energy Conservation Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre. - Ecology Action Centre.
Emma Norton, Energy Conservation Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre. - Ecology Action Centre.

Emma Norton with the Halifax-based Ecology Action centre said while the motions are meaningful, actions are key.

“It’s very exciting to see two motions put forward in one week to address the fact that we’re in a climate emergency,” she said. “But these declarations do not change policy.”

Norton signalling Canadians and to the international community that climate change is a priority is only meaningful if there are corresponding measures that enact the change necessary to mitigate that emergency and hold the federal government accountable to its climate change goals.

“We can no longer rely on incremental climate action,” she said.

The government motion is set to go to vote early next week.

agunn@herald.ca

Twitter: @notandrea

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