Are we going to live up to our Paris commitments and act decisively to stop climate change? If the recent meeting of environment ministers is any indication, it depends on whom you ask.
Federal minister Catherine McKenna clearly understands that urgency and opportunity have converged to create a potent moment for reducing carbon emissions, while her Nova Scotia counterpart Margaret Miller carries a less encouraging message. Actually two: 1. We are doing enough already. 2. We can’t afford strong emissions targets. With due respect to minister Miller, who is new, in 2016 it is messages like these that we can’t afford.
It’s time we owned the truth about climate change.
Truth number one: Old rules don’t apply. We have a tried-and-true method of solving shared problems. We gather around a table, share perspectives and find a compromise. While this works with most issues, climate change is different. It is physics—and physics doesn’t compromise. Either we use the science to make the necessary emissions reductions or we dance around it and reap the consequences.
Truth number two: There’s a new bottom line. We already have the tools. One of them, carbon pricing, may well be the key to a sustainable future. It works within a market economy, using a rising price on high-carbon energy sources to replace them with low-carbon alternatives. And, contrary to what you’ve heard, it’s not just another tax. Carbon pricing can generate revenues to reduce existing taxes, help local businesses transition, support the less well off and fuel creation of new technologies, industries and jobs.
There will be challenges aplenty—progress comes with costs. But here’s the bottom line: The value of a livable climate is far greater than the cost of achieving it. Minister McKenna and our federal government get this and will introduce a Canada-wide carbon price this fall.
Sadly, our provincial government resists joining them. Minister Miller and her colleagues still see environment and economy as adversaries. Their thinking, like the economy they seek to protect, reflects a past that is long gone. In its place a sustainable future, both economically and environmentally, is taking shape. Visionary thinking and smart carbon pricing can help Nova Scotia thrive in it.
Truth number three: It’s for our children. There is a deeper reason to act. Whether we’re parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or neighbours, we love our children. We show it in 1,000 ways—providing sunscreen in summer and warm coats in winter, helping with homework and cheering achievements, offering guidance and readying for adulthood. It’s what grown-ups do.
Some acts of love require joining together in common cause. Our forebears stood up against aggressors abroad, wove an inclusive social safety net and gave us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now it’s our turn. We can give our children something even more precious: A stable, nurturing climate.
Truth number four: We can do it. As beneficiaries of modern life we’ve helped create this massive challenge. Putting things right will require the best in us—the Canada that seeks to model peace and justice in the world and the Nova Scotia that cherishes its natural heritage. It won’t be easy. But if we own the truth, demand more from our leaders and remember whose future we hold in our hands, we can succeed. Let’s get going. It’s time.