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COP 21: Thinking globally and acting locally

by Tom Hackney
Thursday, December 3, 2015

The COP 21 Convention on Climate Change in Paris this December could be one of the great turning points in history.

The Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992 was supposed to organize the nations of the world to reduce their carbon pollution and prevent harmful climate change from occurring. But national commitments and implementation fell short, as immediate economic and political concerns outweighed the long-term benefits of GHG reductions.

Fortunately, there is a growing sense of urgency in both developed and developing countries for serious measures to slow down the pace of global warming. A critical mass is building to support substantial climate action.

In November 2014, U.S. President Barak Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made an historic joint commitment to national action and strengthened bilateral cooperation on climate change. They reaffirmed the commitment this September, in a joint vision statement for progress at the Paris talks.

In May 2015, Pope Francis published a moral and religious plea for climate action. Other religious groups and leaders have taken similar positions.

In the world of business and finance, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has been publicizing the environmental concept of “unburnable carbon” (fossil fuel resources which cannot be burnt if the world is to adhere to a given carbon budget).

This November, some 400 investors with over US $24 trillion in assets have published commitments to fund a renewable energy transition and have called on governments to “develop an ambitious global agreement on climate change by the end of 2015.” Global philanthropist Bill Gates is expected to pledge $2 billion of his personal fortune toward zero-carbon energy technology.

Meanwhile, thanks to the October 2015 general election, Canada now has a federal government that has made strong promises that Canada will substantially boost its action on climate change. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is personally attending COP 21 in Paris, leading a large Canadian delegation that for the first time includes many of the provincial premiers.

And in BC, Premier Christy Clark’s government released in late November the consensus recommendations of a broadly based Climate Leadership Team. The group calls for BC to reaffirm its ambitious legislated GHG reductions target (80% below 2007 levels by 2050), to establish a 2030 target of a 40% reduction, and to substantially ramp up BC’s revenue neutral carbon tax starting in 2018 (with a corresponding reduction in the provincial sales tax).

In a bow to the government’s insistence that the climate measures must maintain a strong BC economy, the recommendations also include carbon tax “adjustments” for “carbon-intensive, trade-exposed industries” such as the Premier’s long-hoped-for LNG export projects. Still, implementation of the whole package of recommendations would nudge BC back toward a climate leadership track that began with the 2008 carbon tax but has faltered since 2012.

We urge our members to take action on climate change. A great way to do this is to tell the Premier to adopt the Climate Leadership Plan recommendations, but say that carbon-intensive industries should not be given special exemptions.

Feel free to cut, paste and personalize this sample email:


Dear Premier Clark (premier@gov.ca),

I support B.C. taking strong, effective action to do its share to reduce carbon pollution and to recover its position as a global leader on climate change.

I urge you to adopt the recommendations of the Climate Leadership Team, except that I do not support carbon-intensive industries being given special exemptions.


[your name and town/city]