Will this be the tile that sets off the domino effect?

Yesterday, another domino tile fell, adding momentum toward meaningful action on climate change. And that falling tile has already brought new impetus to countries around the world – but how will Canada respond?

climate change
More than 400,000 people joined the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014 © WWF-US

The announcement, of a secretly negotiated bilateral commitment to new emissions reduction targets between the world’s two largest carbon emitters – China and the US – is a powerful political signal that evading action on climate change is no longer credible. Building on September’s People’s Climate March at the UN Climate Summit in New York, where over 300,000 people marched to demand action on climate change, this announcement challenges other countries to come to the game with their own commitments to global climate negotiations.
To be sure, yesterday’s announcement doesn’t change the fact there is still a tremendous challenge to cut global GHG emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. But agreement and cooperation between the two largest emitters was widely seen as a pre-condition for ambitious action – an early domino that must fall to set into motion progress on global agreements.
What does this mean for Canada? This momentum for global climate negotiations exposes our own federal government’s reluctance to take action. Why should we act, the logic went, when the biggest emitters won’t? (Ignoring, conveniently, that Canada is one of the top ten global emitters of GHG’s, both per capita and in total.) While not exactly a visionary sentiment, this was the crutch we leaned on. And yesterday’s announcement has kicked this crutch out from under us.
Here in Canada the recent report of the Federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development found that we are currently failing to achieve our existing climate commitments. Even more worrisome, we still do not even have a plan in place for how we will achieve our national target. Delayed regulations (such as those promised for the oil and gas sector), a lack of assessment of how current programs are working, and a lack of coordination with provinces and territories, are all contributing to the evidence that our “growth in emissions will not be reversed in time and that the target will be missed.”
Many believe there is no such thing as a coincidence. In the spirit of this thinking, today also brought the release of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook which identified political will as THE key barrier to taking action on climate change and called on political leaders to act now to prevent high risk global warming. Without clear directions from global climate negotiations in Paris in 2015, they said, the world will be in line with warming well above our globally agreed upon 2°C goal.
With the world’s biggest emitters making commitments, citizens demanding action, businesses taking action, and energy agencies showing the way, it is time for our federal government to join the momentum.
The next tile is firmly in their hand.