Canada is at risk of undermining its “historic reputation for environmental leadership” if it fails to match its words on climate change and an ambitious green recovery with action, former Irish president and United Nations human rights commissioner Mary Robinson writes in a post this week for the Globe and Mail.
“We need global leadership to address the climate crisis and build an economy beyond fossil fuels,” says Robinson, who’s now serving as chair of The Elders, an international group of global leaders. “Canada has an opportunity to lead from the front and show that climate considerations can and should be put right at the heart of government decision-making in these unprecedented times.”
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But that’s not the way things are going so far, she warns. The country devotes more public financing to fossil projects than any G20 country but China. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and provincial governments have so far committed US$12-billion in recovery funding to the fossil industry, compared to only US$1.5-billion for clean energy programming, despite public recognition of the climate emergency and “determined” green economy rhetoric from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
And “the Canadian government appears to have no plan to end or limit its support for fossil fuel companies,” she adds. “It has pledged only to phase out financial aid that meets its narrow definition of an ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidy.”
That’s not the profile Canada should be establishing for itself on the world stage, Robinson asserts.
“When I served as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, I often looked to Canada to help to advance the cause of global justice through its capacity for moral suasion,” she writes. “This capacity was exemplified at the Paris Agreement negotiations, where Canada was instrumental in securing ambitious targets.”
Now, the country “must continue to be a credible force for ambitious climate action. I hope Canadians will join me in calling on their government to align its policies with its climate responsibilities and demonstrate the exemplary global leadership it has shown in the past.”
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