Prominent Canadian Academics Call Out Canada’s “Sustainability Deficit” Before Climate Summit

A group of prominent Canadian academics has signed a letter that says the nation is “running a sustainability deficit” when it comes to climate change.

“Unlike budgetary deficits, it does not seem to preoccupy our politicians,” said the letter, penned by at least 53 frustrated academics in advance of the People’s Climate March held in New York City and many other urban centres around the world on Sunday.

“Canada has repeatedly missed its own climate change emission reduction targets. Last January, Environment Canada acknowledged that Canada won’t meet its least ambitious target to date, proposed in 2009 as part of international climate negotiations coined the Copenhagen Accord.”

The academics said that, as researchers who study climate change and sustainability, they strongly support Sunday’s global mobilization, which will include events in numerous Canadian cities.

They pointed out that a U.S. climate action plan indicates that, unlike Canada, the United States will meet its Copenhagen commitment to reduce toxic greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. plan, they added, also emphasizes the positive legacies of confronting climate change including future job security, economic competitiveness, and overall well-being.

“Tomorrow is today; we can no longer wait to take up the opportunity to change course and begin to act. Countries must phase out fossil fuels to transition towards cleaner energy sources thereby guaranteeing both human and environmental well-being.”

The academics said they are cooperating to bring to public attention evidence-based research useful for developing constructive ambitious proposals that can deal with the consequences of global warming.

They also warned federal politicians that they need to start making laws and enacting regulations that reduce the continued growth of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

“In the upcoming 2015 [national] election, Canadians will have an opportunity to demand that politicians and parties protect Canada’s social well-being, economic competitiveness and extraordinary environmental assets by addressing climate change,” the academics said.

“Moving quickly and effectively on climate change will require a national conversation from all corners of society, a conversation we hope will benefit from evidence-based research on pathways forward.”

They said Canada’s current inaction on sustainability hinders the nation’s ability to play a positive role in the negotiations leading to the Paris climate change conference where more than 190 countries will meet in December 2015.

“We believe Canada should act as a leader rather than a laggard in this process,” the academics said.

One of the aims of the Paris conference is to produce an international climate change agreement that would limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius higher this century than pre-industrial temperatures in order to avoid potentially devastating consequences associated with global warming.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says, however, that the world is not on track to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.

IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in 2013 that an agency report indicates “the path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 °C and 5.3 °C.”

The academics’ letter added it is time to accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon society ensuring that the next generation of Canadians can inherit a productive economy with high social well-being standards, live in sustainable cities and enjoy Canada’s unique wildlife, pristine lakes and ice capped mountains.

“For that world to be ours tomorrow, we must act today.”

A list of the Canadian academics who signed the letter can be seen here.

The People’s Climate March takes place two days before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has invited Heads of State to a Climate Summit in New York City designed to generate momentum for acting on climate change.

Image Credit: James Rowe via Flickr

Chris Rose is a journalist and communications consultant. Born in Vancouver, his interests include politics, history, demographics, the economy, the…

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