Canada’s approach to climate change would look a lot different if it were modelled on the all-in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, five of the country’s leading climate advocates argue this week in an opinion piece published simultaneously in The Hill Times and La Presse.
“Simply talking about carbon neutrality by 2050 is like saying we want zero cases of COVID-19 in 2050 and then failing to take immediate action,” write Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network-Canada, Julia Croome of Ecojustice, Dale Marshall of Environmental Defence Canada, Caroline Brouillette of Équiterre, and Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law. “How would Canadians react if, during the Prime Minister’s daily press briefing, that was the goal put forward without clear and concise action?”
But instead, “imagine a world where the federal government regularly holds press conferences with scientists and experts,” they add. “Together, in front of a phalanx of reporters ready with tough questions, they present in detail the most recent data and research related to carbon emissions and climate change in Canada. They highlight the successes and shortcomings in recent months in the fight against climate change and identify which measures will be implemented in the short term for Canada to get on track to meeting our emission reduction commitments.”
That’s the reality in the age of COVID-19, they write: “the scientific tracking of infections, regular updates on and adjustments to the policy response from our governments, and the reassuring sight of our leaders and scientists working hand in hand.” An effective response to climate change would rely on the same recipe: listening to the experts, setting clear targets and timelines, testing and measuring to assess progress toward those goals, developing and executing an action plan, and recalibrating the plan as new data become available.
“Putting these ingredients into one law is the best way to achieve our climate goals,” the five authors write, citing a submission to the federal government from their own organizations along with the Pembina Institute. “Well-designed legislation is one of the most powerful and effective tools that we can use.”
But to get it done, “Canada needs to abandon its practice of setting and missing distant targets and adopt concrete, detailed, and specific action plans that we rigorously follow and track.”