Canadian Senators with a shared focus on climate change and the independence to do something about it can help build momentum toward evidence-based action and solutions, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Pauline Ringuette told the official launch of Senators for Climate Solutions (SFCS) Wednesday morning.
“We are seeing real death and destruction,” Ringuette told the group, which began meeting virtually during the pandemic and held its first in-person gathering in the Senate Lounge in Ottawa yesterday. “Look at the increased frequency and severity of wildfires in the west, the ferocity of post-tropical storm Fiona linked to increased ocean temperatures.”
But “a group such as this, taking the issue seriously, making it a priority, and searching for solutions brings great hope for or future,” she added. Senators “have more leeway to seek out our own path,” in counterpoint to elected MPs, and “it is of the utmost importance that we use our freedom and independence… to work together on this extremely important issue of climate change.”
That leeway was front and centre earlier this year when SFCS member Sen. Rosa Galvez introduced her Climate-Aligned Finance Act, Bill S-243. “We must face the elephant in the room: our financial system continues to fund activities that fuel climate risk,” she said at the time. “The only scenario in which our financial sector will thrive and prosper for generations to come is the one where we pursue a coherent and orderly transition.”
At yesterday’s launch, SFCS co-chair Sen. Mary Coyle said the group’s 44 members—more than 40% of the 105-member Senate—come from every organized group in the Upper Chamber and every region of the country, and they’ve all committed to climate action.
“We believe that by bringing together our collective grey matter, our diversity of experience, and the power and influence of our positions, we can collectively ignite positive momentum in addressing the climate crisis,” she told participants.
SFCS co-chair Sen. Stan Kutcher said societies are measured by two criteria that don’t always factor into day-to-day decisions.
History won’t remember today’s generation “for how great our GDP was. It will not remember us for the beauty of our architecture,” he said. “It will, however, judge us on how well we supported our most vulnerable and what kind of place we left for our children. Climate change will be the focus of that judgement,” and “we all have a part to play.”
Coyle acknowledged a team of interns from GreenPAC as “essential members of the team in getting Senators for Climate Solutions up and running.” GreenPAC Executive Director Sarah Van Exan said the Toronto-based non-profit assigned its first-ever Senate intern to Coyle’s office shortly after SFCS got off the ground.
“We saw the chance to lend critical capacity—with communication, coordination, and policy research—to help them get established,” she said in an email yesterday. “The group’s cross-partisan aim and determination to put a climate lens on legislation, advance climate solutions, and hold the government’s feet to the fire is exciting.”
“We all know that urgent action both domestically and internationally is required to address climate change,” said Canada’s 28th governor general, Rt. Hon. David Johnston. “Coming together to ensure the sustainability of a safe, prosperous, and healthy future for future generations is the responsibility of our generation.”
[Disclosure: The Energy Mix Publisher Mitchell Beer is a member of GreenPAC’s Council of Advisors.]