Ecological Justice

CPJ works on ecological justice issues

Research | Policy Statements | Resources for Faith Communities | Take Action

Climate change is the issue of the twenty-first century. It is not one issue among many, but, like the canary in the mine, it is warning us that the way we are living on our planet is causing us to head for disaster.

— Sallie McFague, Vancouver School of Theology

The biblical foundations for creation care unite spirituality with scientific, ecological, and political insights. Through a sense of wonder with creation we are invited to seek God’s will for a flourishing ecological community. In the face of climate change, this need has never been more urgent.

Climate change is already causing the extinction of plant and animal species, the melting of northern glaciers, rising sea levels. As a result, we are now seeing conflict over natural resources, threats to agrarian and fisheries-based livelihoods, large-scale migration, and poverty.

A just transition towards a sustainable economy is needed urgently.

Building on a significant history of environmental engagement, CPJ urges the governments in Canada to adopt better federal climate change policy. Through research, analysis, partnerships with groups like Climate Action Network, and government engagement, CPJ raises awareness about the urgent need for action.

More: What We Do on Ecological Justice

Research

CPJ contributes unique research to the climate policy dialogue in Canada. Read CPJ’s latest research to learn more about a public justice perspective on climate change.

Human activity is causing climate change

  • The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that 78% of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions observed between 1970 and 2010 can be attributed to increased combustion of fossil fuels and industrial processes driven by economic and population growth.
  • Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by over 0.85°C since the industrial revolution. This is concerning because although earth’s climate has always fluctuated, the rate of climate change has increased dramatically due to human activity as societies have industrialized.
  • Read CPJ’s Climate Change 101 factsheet to learn more about the causes of climate change.

Climate change is a justice issue

  • Climate change is already causing the extinction of plant and animal species, the melting of northern glaciers, rising sea levels, and correspondingly, conflict over natural resources, food insecurity, large-scale migration, and poverty.
  • Developed nations have contributed the majority of cumulative GHG emissions to date by using industrialization as a vehicle for national wealth. These emissions have placed pressure on insecure economies, largely nations in the Global South and communities in the far north, as food and water security are increasingly threatened by rising temperatures.
  • For more details, see CPJ’s infographic, Living Faithfully Into a New Climate.

Current Canadian action is not enough

  • Prior to Paris climate negotiations in December 2015 (COP21), the government committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • The Paris Agreement (drafted at COP21) opens for signatures on April 22, 2016. Canada will sign, but won't yet have a climate change policy in place.
  • In March 2016 the federal government met with provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples to begin work on a national climate action plan. This plan will be finalized in fall 2016 and implemented in early 2017. This plan needs to legislate a roadmap for ambitious climate action in Canada, because even if all current provincial GHG emissions reduction targets were met, Canada would still fall short of its international emissions reduction commitments.

Change is possible

  • Canada can turn the challenge of GHG emissions reductions into an opportunity to grow a more diverse and sustainable economy while making sure that those currently employed in carbon-intensive industries are supported. The Green Economy Network finds that “by investing up to 5% of the annual federal budget in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and public transportation, over five years Canada could create one million new jobs while reducing our annual greenhouse gas emissions by 25-35%.”
  • A properly designed and implemented carbon tax would benefit all Canadians by providing a cleaner environment, thus providing health benefits, increasing public security from catastrophic weather events, and allowing us to respect our international commitments.
  • Read CPJ’s backgrounder on Carbon and the Common Good for more information.

More: Research on Ecological Justice

Policy Statements

CPJ’s ecological justice and climate change positions are rooted in an understanding that our economy, ecology, and society are interdependent. As Canadians of faith we have a responsibility to protect the earth and care for and all of creation.

CPJ calls for a pan-Canadian framework on climate change that clearly establishes the federal leadership role and builds on the principles of the Paris Agreement to:

Establish a responsible emissions reduction target

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the earth’s temperature must not rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. For the protection of least developed nations and small island states, this warming must be limited to just 1.5°C, a limit which was endorsed by Minister McKenna at Paris climate negotiations in December 2015.

Scientists have used modeling to estimate the amount of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) we can emit under 1.5 or 2°C of warming. Now policy-makers must help our societies set ambition, and "budget" these emissions carefully and wisely. To maintain a safe operating space for humanity, we must "decarbonize" our economies by 2050 at the latest.

Canada should establish a new emissions reduction target that takes scientific estimates of the global GHG budget seriously, and contributes equitably towards a 1.5°C limit on global warming.

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Put a price on carbon

Carbon pricing internalizes many of the environmental and societal costs related to the production and consumption of carbon intensive goods and services, so that industry and individuals become cognizant of the fossil fuels they use and have a financial incentive to lower their carbon emissions.

Canada should put a strong and predictable price on carbon 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.

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End subsidies to the fossil fuel industry

Currently, the federal government provides over $1 billion annual subsidies and special tax breaks to the Canadian fossil fuel industry that, contrary to our stated climate change goals, encourage the exploration, development, refining, and export of oil, coal, and gas.

The federal government should follow-through on its repeated promise to phase-out these subsidies, and it should do this immediately.

The resulting increases in federal revenue from these initiatives should be used to make investments in people (i.e. job creation, education, and removing barriers to workplace entry), an initiative that will lead to economic recovery and growth, and enhance the common good.

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Regulate the oil & gas sector

Canada needs strict GHG emissions standards applicable across the entire oil and gas sector (responsible for 25% of Canadian GHG emissions in 2013), 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.

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Invest in a green economy

The federal government has expressed a clear intent to invest in depleted infrastructure across the country, and it has the opportunity to do so in a way that meets the service needs of communities, while simultaneously addressing economic and environmental challenges. Research by the Green Economy Network indicates that “by investing up to 5% of the annual federal budget in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and public transportation, over five years Canada could create one million new jobs while reducing our annual greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 35%.”

Canada should increase investments in cleaner energy alternatives like wind and solar power. If, as recommended above, Canada were to phase-out the over $1 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies, we could re-direct this money to a “green” job strategy that would create thousands of new jobs and promote environmental responsibility.

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Anticipate the need for adaptation

Along with the reduction and prevention of GHG emissions, which is known as climate change “mitigation,” the fight against climate change must also include “adaptation” to the impacts of climate change that have already, and will continue to, challenge life. Climate change most negatively affects those who are already socially and economically marginalized--especially those in the Global South and the Far North.

Domestically, Canada should support the development of infrastructure and communities that are resilient to a changing climate, especially in northern and coastal areas.

As a developed nation with historical responsibility for emissions that have contributed to current climate change trends, Canada has a responsibility to help fund adaptation and sustainable development in less developed nations that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Canada should allocate generous funding for climate adaptation efforts abroad.

Learn more:

More: Policy Briefs | Letters and Statements on Ecological Justice

Resources for Faith Communities

Worship Resources for Faithful Climate Action (Online)

Do you want to bring climate justice themes into worship at your church? Wondering how to start or continue difficult conversations about climate change in your church community?

Use CPJ’s faithful climate action worship resources to engage creation care and climate justice with your church community. Resources include climate justice sermons, prayers, hymns, and activities. All are centred on responding to God’s call to faithfully support the flourishing of creation.

Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis (Book)

Looking for an inspiring, relevant, and practical resource on ecological justice?

Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis ​is a faith-based learning tool for Canadian Christians trying to live out the justice mandate to care and advocate for creation. Issues are explored through scripture with reflections, discussion questions, activities, and prayers by Canadian Christians from the Anglican, Catholic, Christian Reformed, evangelical, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, and United church traditions.

More: Church Resources on Ecological Justice

Take Action

CPJ is calling for a Canadian climate action plan based on an ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target that is consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels.

Join us! Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna, has announced public climate consultations. Submissions are requested before June 1, but will be collected throughout the summer. Share your personal stories and recommendations for climate action, and help our government craft an ambitious climate action plan.

More: Take Action on Ecological Justice

News

CPJ contributes op-eds and policy analysis to the mainstream climate change dialogue. Read the latest articles written by CPJ staff on climate change and ecological justice.

Blogs

Keep up with the latest ecological justice news and views from staff at CPJ.

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