2015 Election Bulletin: Climate Justice is Public Justice

2015 Election Bulletin | Democracy | Poverty | Climate Justice | Refugees

More from CPJ on Climate Justice  in the 2015 Federal Election

CPJ.ca - "Divestment and Election 2015" by Laura Hamilton, September 30, 2015

CPJ.ca - "Degrees of Justice" by Miriam Mahaffy, September 16, 2015

The Huffington Post - "Your Vote Will Determine How Canada Takes on Global Climate Change" by Karri Munn-Venn

Prairie Messenger - "Thinking, acting and praying after Laudato Si’" by Joe Gunn, September 2, 2015

World Council of Churches - "Canadian Christians join in call for action on climate change" by Kristine Greenaway, July 9, 2015


Climate Justice is Public Justice Throughout the Bible, we read of God’s tremendous love for the earth. In Genesis, God declares the goodness of creation. In the Psalms, the trees themselves sing for joy. And in the New Testament, nature parables illustrate the interconnectedness of all systems and beings.

Yet creation is under threat. Our current path – one driven by frenetic fossil fuel and pipeline development – is leading us to devastating climate change. We can shift to a green economy now or pour billions into expensive and risky infrastructure development that locks future generations into a dirty development model. Without regulations or adequate fees on carbon emissions, industry and consumers are effectively allowed to throw their garbage – that is, their emissions – into the shared global atmosphere.

There is indeed already a cost to dispose of this garbage. Yet this cost is not charged to emitters. Instead it is borne by all of us, and predominantly by future generations and those living in the far North and Global South. It is these groups that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Many people of faith in Canada support their denominational international development agencies. These groups have warned us that climate change will hurt the poorest in the Global South most. Yet the poor have contributed the least carbon emissions. Our solutions must not further cripple their aspirations and development.

“Climate change, quite simply, is the issue of the twenty-first century. All of the other issues we care about – social justice, peace, prosperity, freedom – cannot occur unless our planet is healthy.”

—Sallie McFague

Indigenous peoples in Canada are also directly impacted by the effects of climate change. Inuit and northern communities are witnessing the migration of species, melting of permafrost, and changing weather conditions. Climate change affects the social and economic well-being of these indigenous communities and increases the risk of further marginalization and exploitation.

We’re already seeing species extinction, more frequent and more intense natural disasters, and threats to human livelihoods and health. Continuing down our current course will only make things worse. Such devastation can hardly be considered respectful of God’s beloved world and all life that God created.

Our economy, ecology, and society are interdependent. A public justice vision tells us that we need a more holistic approach, one that considers the health of the economy, to be sure, but also the well-being of plants and animals in the natural environment, as well as sustainable livelihoods, lifestyles, and health of individuals, families, and communities.

Responding to the call to be faithful citizens means that we take these concerns seriously. It means recognizing our own personal and collective contributions to these problems. It means accepting the responsibility to change our personal and collective behaviour.

In order to preserve the life of the planet, carbon consumption needs to be curbed significantly. Alternative approaches to energy development require new thinking and new investments. Our responses to economic, social, and environmental crises must be integrated.

Federal Climate Leadership is Needed

Federal Climate Leadership is Needed Carbon in the atmosphere has already surpassed the internationally agreed-upon “safe” level of 350 parts per million, first exceeding 400ppm in 2013. Based on World Bank data on 213 countries, Canada ranks 15th among the world’s worst per capita emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), releasing 14.7 metric tons per person, per year into the atmosphere. Among G8 countries, we rank third. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency, at least 66 per cent of known fossil fuels reserves world-wide – including 75 per cent of those in the Athabasca oil fields – must stay underground in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.

At the Copenhagen climate change negotiations in 2009, the Government of Canada committed to reducing our GHG emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. Environment Canada projections indicate that current measures will get us less than half-way there. The Federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, has said she is “concerned that Canada will not meet its 2020 emission reduction target and that the federal government does not yet have a plan for how it will work toward the greater reductions required beyond 2020.”

Canada recently announced new targets to reduce GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This target is the weakest among G7 countries. Meanwhile we still don’t have measures in place to meet it.

In the absence of federal leadership on climate justice, several provinces have stepped forward and are taking action (for example, the B.C. carbon tax, the phase-out of coal power in Ontario, and cap-and-trade systems implemented and planned in Quebec and Ontario). Still, the federal government must take action as national coordination is key.

Learn More

In 2011, CPJ was actively involved in the development and dissemination of the “Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change.” 

In 2013, we published “Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis,” a worship and action guide for Christians interested in delving deeper in creation care.

CPJ is producing “Living Faithfully into a New Climate” to encourage increased church engagement during the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris.

Canada needs a credible Climate Change Action Plan that includes:

A strong and predictable price on carbon pollution that is designed to increase over time to allow energy prices to better reflect true costs, drive sustainable innovation, and ensure that both industry and consumers make more efficient use of our resources.

QUESTION: Do you support putting a price on carbon emissions through a tax or fee sufficient to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2° Celsius?

Party targets of GHG emissions

Strict GHG emissions standards applicable across the entire oil and gas sector, without exception for subsectors such as the oil sands. Given that the oil and gas sector is the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Canada, it requires effective regulation immediately.

QUESTION: Would you implement strict GHG emissions standards across the oil and gas sector? If so, when?

An end to the over $1 billion annual federal subsidies and special tax breaks to the Canadian fossil fuel industry that encourage exploration, development, refining, and export of oil, coal, and gas. Our federal government committed to this in 2009 but still hasn’t taken firm action to end these subsidies.

QUESTION: Would you end all subsidies to coal, oil, and gas producers, including those through tax breaks or weak environmental laws? If so, when?

A national energy plan that ensures a sustainable and healthy future for Canada, including increased investments in cleaner, low-impact energy alternatives like wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal power.

QUESTION: What are the major components of your plan to promote the development of renewable energy in Canada?

Canada needs a credible Climate Change Plan Signing and implementing a binding international climate change agreement at the Paris Conference of Parties (COP21) that commits nations to reduce carbon emissions and set fair and clear targets to ensure that global average temperatures stay (at least) below a 2° Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels.

QUESTION: What would you do to ensure that Canada plays a constructive role at the international climate change negotiations (COP21) in Paris in December?

Support for the climate adaptation efforts of those facing the most significant impacts of climate change, particularly those in the far North and the Global South. This financing should be delivered to developing countries as new grants, rather than loans. Canada should increase its contribution to the U.N. Green Climate Fund from $300 million to $500 million.

QUESTION: What role would you propose Canada play in support of international climate change adaptation and mitigation financing?

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2015 Election Bulletin