The People’s Climate March is this Sunday, September 21 in New York City and in cities across Canada. I am going to be in New York, along with hundreds of thousands of other people representing over 1000 organizations. Why?
As the leader of an organization dedicated to nature and the people whose lives depend on it, making a statement collectively that we need action on climate change now is essential. Climate change is the biggest single threat to nature caused by humans today. Because of climate change, warming oceans are altering critical habitat and affecting highly migratory species including tuna and whales. Because of climate change, melting Arctic sea ice is the biggest threat to the health and long-term survival of polar bears and other ice-dependent species. Because of climate change, the Great Barrier Reef is threatened by ocean acidification.
Sadly, national governments have been unable to reach agreement on an effective strategy to address climate change and blunt its impact on people and nature. Some governments – Canada’s included – have even gone backwards. The Canadian government pulled out of the Kyoto accords in 2012, a sad but clear statement about our lack of commitment to taking action on this issue. That’s why – in New York and Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal and across Canada – we need to send a clear message to our governments. The message is: we need action today!
For me, the most frustrating thing is that we know what to do but we aren’t doing it. We know that we need a strategy to transform our economy and create new jobs by moving to a clean energy economy, and we have seen countries around the world, like Germany, take strong steps in that direction. Even China, often criticized for its reliance on coal-fired plants, has increased investment in renewable energy significantly.
In addition to fostering clean energy growth, we need to put a price on carbon emissions. This type of pollution – to which no fee is currently attached – has a massive impact on all of us, including the huge cost of increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather events, like the debilitating storms we seen in Calgary and Toronto last year. Without a price on carbon, there’s no incentive for major emitters to clean up their acts.
Where we have seen success is in leadership by city governments around the world. Studies for the C40 cities show that most greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to cities and the activities needed to support them, particularly electricity generation, transportation, and heating/cooling buildings. Several Canadian cities – including Edmonton and Vancouver, both Canadian winners of WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge – are making major strides in reducing their emissions from these sectors. Toronto, due to plans adopted in 2007, is 15% below 1990 emissions levels, well ahead of Kyoto targets.
We’ve also seen several provinces take promising steps. From the carbon tax in place in B.C. to Ontario’s Green Energy Act to Quebec’s commitment to electric vehicle infrastructure, the momentum is growing. We’ve even seen a recent agreement to move forward with a national energy strategy from Canada’s premiers.
These actions set the stage for bold action from our national governments – in Canada and around the world – today. But we need to make our voices heard, our calls for action strong, to push for big commitments and hold governments to them.
If we believe in nature and people’s place in nature, we need to solve these problems. The good news is we can. Solutions are there today, we simply need the leadership to make them happen. This is why I’ll be in New York on Sunday with thousands of people from around the world at the People’s Climate March. If you can’t get to New York, I hope you can go to an event in your city or neighborhood to march. Our message is simple and clear: the time for talking is over. Let’s take action, today.
To change everything, we need everyone: join your local People’s Climate March to protect our future.
Tell us why you are marching on Sunday: #climatemarch
Watch this trailer for Disruption, a movie for the climate movement, featuring WWF and other climate experts.