Ontario and 21 other state and regional governments closed out the Climate Summit of the Americas yesterday by signing a commitment to uphold existing greenhouse gas reduction agreements, support carbon pricing, ensure public reporting on their climate commitments, and pursue climate action in key sectors of the economy.
Signatories came from across the Americas, including Brazil, Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
“We know that climate change is already costing people of this province and around the world,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. “That cost will only mount without our concerted efforts. With global emissions continuing to rise, we need national leadership now more than ever.”
“Good climate policy is good economic policy,” the conference communiqué affirmed. “State, regional and municipal governments will work with their partners, including industries like the auto sector, environmental groups, and communities to help businesses stay competitive and improve our health and quality of life.”
But “achieving 2°C will require global emissions to approach zero by the second half of the century. This challenge requires all nations, states, regions, cities, businesses, Indigenous peoples, and civil society to play a role, bringing their respective strengths and capabilities to bear on the transition to a cleaner, more resilient future.”
During the conference, Climate Reality Project founder and ex-U.S. Vice President Al Gore told participants the efforts needed to address climate change could revive the global economy. “As we see the world’s leaders trying to figure out how to get the economy to get enough escape velocity to pull away finally from the Great Recession, wouldn’t it be great if we had a global project to mobilize people, to unleash extra human energy and innovation, to create lots of jobs?” he asked. “As we change, we can lift the global economy.”
From building retrofits to clean energy development, Gore said the transition is already beginning. “We’re seeing reductions in CO2 emissions, accompanied by economic growth surging,” Gore said. “All of the things that save money, increase efficiency, reduce emissions—they provide jobs, lots of jobs.
“This is not just an ideological assertion. Many of you have already seen it happen.”
Federal NDP environment critic Megan Leslie pointed to the “tattered international reputation” Canada has attained due to the Harper government’s approach to climate change. “I was dismayed to see that Canada’s environment minister, Leona Aglukkaq, refused to attend the Climate Summit of the Americas,” Leslie said. “Sadly, Minister Aglukkaq’s absence is not surprising given the Conservatives’ longstanding contempt for fighting climate change.”