The season of Lent is once again upon us. For some, it is a time of sacrifice and repentance, while others use it as a nudge to get back on track with New Year’s resolutions.
When we first began to develop Give it up for the Earth! – CPJ’s Lenten climate campaign – it prompted me to think seriously about my personal Lenten journey. Despite having worked in environmental law and policy on and off for over 20 years, reflecting on my carbon footprint in the context of Lent led me to a deeper sort of engagement.
In 2017, I decided to “give up” overpackaged goods, and, as much as possible to purchase food in bulk, using reusable jars and bins. Over the last year, I’ve managed to maintain this practice to a large extent. Doing so fed into a larger conversation in our home about “stuff” – how much we have, where we get it, and what kinds of practices our purchasing supports.
Increasingly, I’m prioritizing quality over quantity, adopting a “buy it once” sort of philosophy when it comes to clothing and household goods. I also make a lot of things myself, and when I do, I endeavour to only create with ethically-produced, sustainable materials.
All of this comes from an understanding of integral ecology – the interconnectedness of all things – and a recognition that as humans we are a part of the Earth community. Our well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of the planet.
The way we spend our money reflects what we deem important. What we buy and where we invest are a reflection of our values and priorities.
This type of values discussion informed the divestment movement in recent years. It has led to university divestment campaigns and sustainable investment decisions taken by diverse faith communities.
It follows that if our spending reflects what we value, the same is true of government spending.
Since the climate summit in 2015, our federal government has repeated declared it commitment to climate action. True, some steps have been taken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but there are still problems with Canadian climate and energy policy. Among the most egregious are the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
Through a series of tax breaks and direct grants, the federal government continues to provide $1.6 billion in public funds to oil and gas companies each year.
Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand notes that, “inefficient subsidies to the fossil fuel sector encourage wasteful consumption, undermine efforts to address climate change, and discourage investment in clean energy sources.”
Canada has repeatedly promised to end these subsidies; our government knows that it is the right thing to do. Now it’s time for Canada to follow through and make financial decisions that move us closer to our national emissions-reduction goals. It’s a tremendous opportunity to better align Canadian policy with the Paris Agreement and to provide climate leadership on the world stage.
That is why Give it up for the Earth! is calling on the Canadian federal government to end all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry right away. The $1.6 billion saved annually can then be invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and skills development for workers currently employed in the oil and gas sector. This would help put Canada on course for a just transition to clean energy by 2050.
It is critically important that we, as citizens and people of faith, think long and hard about how our day-to-day decisions affect the fate of creation. At the same time, we need to recognize that broader changes are needed to achieve the scale of emissions reductions required to address climate change.
This Lent, I hope you’ll join me in calling for more federal climate action through Give it up for the Earth!
It isn’t too late to join Give it up for the Earth! Visit www.cpj.ca/pledge to make your commitment to reduce your personal GHG emissions and urge the government of Canada to end all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and set our country on a course for a just transition to clean energy by 2050. Over 130 faith communities across Canada are already participating.