An oil well is seen near Ponca City, Okla. A new IPCC climate report reiterates that we need to end our dependency on fossil fuels. CNS photo/Larry W. Smith, EPA

‘Bold action’ urged in wake of UN report on climate change

By 
  • October 18, 2018

OTTAWA – Bold action on climate change is needed in the wake of an ominous report by the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change, says Development and Peace.

“The report states that, in essence, we have 12 years to drastically reduce global emissions so that we can limit the temperature rise to 1.5C,” said Serge Langlois, the executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace Caritas Canada. “The alarm can’t get much louder than this.”

Development and Peace has joined other Catholic development organizations around the world and the Caritas federation in calling “for governments to take bold action” in the wake of the Oct. 7 UN report. The document said that even a half degree over 1.5C would would mean increased risks of drought, floods and threaten the planet’s ecosystems.

The groups issued a joint statement calling for phasing out fossil fuels and moving towards renewable energy systems. The statement urged reconsidering current levels of energy consumption, a shift to organic agriculture, a change in diet to reduce dairy and meat consumption and re-localizing food systems to build food sovereignty and reduce food loss.

Langlois said Development and Peace is urging Canada to put in place climate policies to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target and to set new GHG targets for 2025 and 2030. 

Development and Peace also wants a “ban” on all infrastructure projects dependent on energy that is polluting, including oil and gas pipelines, as well as an end to hydraulic fracturing projects, Langlois said. The Catholic NGO also wants Canada to contribute to public financing of projects to help the Global South adapt to climate change effects.

Mark Cameron, executive director of Canadians for Clean Prosperity, a think tank that takes a market-based approach to climate change and the environment, said he is “concerned” about the “rhetoric of churches, including the Catholic Church” that is “anti-fossil fuel per se,” and “anti-capitalism and anti-technology.”

“You have to address climate change using the market, not opposing the market,” Cameron said.

While he acknowledged there are replacement technologies coming, “it’s going to take a long time,” and they are “not cheap.” 

“Realistically, Canada is an oil and gas, resource-based economy,” he said. “We need to focus on as sustainable and clean a resource-based industry as we can, not trying to end it.”

Cameron said he was surprised at “how dark a picture” the IPCC painted of the consequences of a 1.5-degree rise in temperature.  “The implications of trying to achieve a 1.5-degree goal are extremely challenging, and not realistic.”

To meet the IPCC’s goal would involve “cutting our emissions in half in the next 10 years,” Cameron said, describing that as “virtually impossible.”

Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, said he was concerned that media reports about the IPCC document were sensationalized.  “The public reaction can be, ‘Omigosh, we’re burning, and there is nothing we can do about it,’ ” he said.

“That’s not a good message.  We know we have to act as individuals and we have to act in public policy areas,” he said. “For Canada, we do not have a climate plan that has reduced our greenhouse gas emissions to date, and yet, if Canada was to meet the 1.5-degree target that is in the IPCC report, we need to slash emissions by almost half in 12 years.

“We need to move beyond pious statements of resolve to action strategies as churches,” Gunn said. 

Meanwhile, federal plans to bring in a price on carbon seem to be in disarray as new provincial governments object to a carbon tax. Ontario is dismantling the cap and trade carbon pricing system put in place by the previous Liberal government, and several other provinces also oppose a carbon tax. 

Cameron predicts the Trudeau government will bring in a federal carbon tax if the provinces do not bring in their own, and the federal law will take precedence over provincial legislation.

The federal Conservative Party under Andrew Scheer is on record opposing any carbon tax. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has weighed in against a carbon tax, saying he opposes tax increases on principle and that carbon taxes are ineffective in reducing carbon emissions unless they are prohibitively high.  

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