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Miller: World’s Leading Cities Show How Canada Can Take Action on Climate

Both veteran legislators and newly-elected Members of Parliament would have stood to learn a great deal from the recent C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen, where participants shared best practices for fighting global warming while ensuring that workers whose livelihoods depend on fossil fuels aren’t left out in the cold, former Toronto mayor David Miller writes for the Globe and Mail.

Miller’s two takeaways: Canadians “are deeply worried” about climate change, after spending the last year watching children march in streets around the world, and cities are proving that large-scale action on climate change can succeed.

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Although Canadian voters and their children “want and expect leadership and action” on the climate crisis, Miller says, “as a country, we are stalled,” with the result that “inaction is the order of the day.” The C40 summit brought home that that’s not the way it has to go: more than 30 world cities have already peaked their emissions, he writes, thanks to technology upgrades and regulatory shifts focused mainly in their power, building, and transport sectors.

Canada can become a part of that transition, he adds, “simply doing what works somewhere, everywhere.”

Miller points to two stumbling blocks to greening Canada’s electricity system that might be solid ground for an incoming minority government in Ottawa: the political will to connect provincial grids, and setting a course to phase out the use of fossil fuels.

As well, every Canadian municipality could mandate all new buildings “to dramatically increase energy efficiency on a path to being carbon neutral by 2030,” as Vancouver has done, while following New York in insisting that existing structures “dramatically reduce emissions by the same date.” Action on that scale would “have the added benefit of creating significant numbers of jobs.”

As for clean transport, Canadian cities can learn from places like Los Angeles, London, Milan, and Shenzhen, China, all of which have “made massive progress on electric buses—part of a change movement that has led to more than 66,000 electric buses in international markets from a handful five years ago.”

Miller urges Ottawa to mandate that all public fleets convert to electric vehicles, noting that “there are thousands of General Motors workers in Oshawa, Ontario who would love the chance to build those vehicles.” If it turned out that General Motors “won’t retool its plant to take advantage of the highly skilled and productive work force there,” he adds, “the federal government should lead the effort to ensure that the electric buses, vans, and cars we need are built there by another manufacturer.” More broadly, Miller places a just, realistic job transition for fossil industry workers at the centre of any climate plan: “People in affected industries need jobs where they live,” he writes. “They have significant skills. and the government must lead the creation of new work in those communities.”