350 Canada responds to the Alberta Inquiry

Albertans rally for climate action at the Legislature building in Edmonton. (September 2019) Photo Credit: Abdul Malik.

July 16, 2021

Dear Mr. Allan;

Thank you for the opportunity to formally respond to the allegations and accusations in your report.

In your report, you make a case that I and the organization I work for, 350.org, have engaged in activities you claim are “anti-Alberta”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The campaigns and organizing outlined in your report were in service of 350.org’s mission around the globe — to stop the climate crisis, stand with the frontline and Indigenous communities most impacted and guarantee a just transition for workers and communities.

In fact, the only way your argument could hold up would be if Alberta were somehow immune to the effects of climate change. Or were immune to the economic impacts of other jurisdictions taking action to tackle the climate crisis. Two things that are obviously impossible¹.

The Athabasca glacier could disappear within a generation². Prairie farmers are facing increasing heat and decreasing precipitation, risking major and persistent droughts³. Wildfires, like the devastating 2016 fire that tore through Fort McMurray⁴, are becoming larger and more destructive thanks to climate change. And, that’s just talking about the fires in Alberta, not the smoke that settles over the province every year from fires burning in BC, the north and across the United States.

These are just a few of the climate impacts happening in Alberta but as you surely know, carbon emissions don’t respect provincial, or national borders. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed this earlier this year stating clearly that “it is well established that climate change is causing significant environmental, economic and human harm nationally and internationally” in its decision on Canada’s carbon price earlier this year⁵. And so, what happens in Alberta has impacts across Canada and around the globe. Just as what happens across Canada and around the world has impacts in Alberta.

As a global organization, 350.org’s choices about where we focus our activities are based in peer-reviewed science and analysis. Our very name, 350.org, is a reference to the scientifically defined safe upper limit of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere⁶. To claim that our motivations are somehow anti-Alberta, would require Alberta to itself be anti-science, something I know for a fact is untrue. I first learned about climate change at Greenfield Elementary school in southwest Edmonton and built on that understanding over years of schooling in Alberta public schools. In fact, the two values that both I and 350.org hold dearest in this work — believing in science and a dogged determination to do what’s right, no matter the odds — are values that for me are inextricably linked to growing up in Alberta.

Climate science is clear that we need to limit global temperature rise to 1.5ºC to avoid the worst impacts of climate change⁷ ⁸. It’s also clear that doing this will require a rapid shift away from fossil fuels⁹. In Canada, this means one hard truth — that we cannot expand fossil fuel production, including in the Alberta oil sands, beyond a certain point¹⁰ ¹¹ ¹². But, it’s not unique to Canada or Alberta. The same thing is true around the world, which is why 350.org also campaigns to limit fossil fuel expansion to a climate-safe level around the globe¹³.

While you may accuse us of being ‘anti-Alberta,’ our campaigns are focused on doing what few elected leaders in Alberta have the courage to do — put forward a transformative vision of an economy that respects Indigenous rights and sovereignty, puts working people first and is finally free from the harmful boom-and-bust cycles that have afflicted the province for generations. As oil and gas companies continue to violate treaty rights¹⁴, risk public health¹⁵ and automate jobs out of existence, we are pushing for just transition legislation to support workers and communities, not fossil fuel billionaires¹⁶.

We know this is a vision Albertans are hungry for¹⁷. While we have helped mobilize over 10,000 Albertans to demand climate action at the steps of the Legislature, have organized hundreds of young people in Alberta to canvass their neighbours about a Green New Deal, and have filled town halls to fire-code capacity — the truth is our role has only ever been to channel the energy and ambition of everyday Albertans into concrete action. At the end of the day, 350.org is only a small part of a much larger mass movement, and everything we are credited for in this report would have been impossible without thousands of dedicated volunteers, many of them standing up and organizing in Alberta.

All of this is to make one thing clear: 350.org has never acted against Alberta or Albertans. We have acted in favour of climate science and a just transition that supports workers and communities. But, it’s also understandable that you may not have understood this as your report doesn’t include references to any peer-reviewed climate science or expert analysis of the impacts of acting in line with that science on Alberta, Canada and the world. That’s why in addition to this letter, we have uploaded a small sample of the information motivating 350.org’s work both in Alberta and across the world to the dataroom, and included in this letter. For your report to have any semblance of balance, we implore you to review these and include them in your analysis. Additionally, we would strongly suggest that you seek testimony from individuals with expertise in climate science and just transition policies as currently the absence of this from your report undermines the credibility of your findings.

350.org stands by the work we’ve done. This letter is less a defense of our actions and more an attempt to offer a clear explanation that our work is not anti-Alberta, but rather is in support of people and communities around the world and backed by the findings of the world’s best climate scientists.

Every day this summer, dozens of headlines are making it evident just how much of a clear and present danger climate change really is. As I’m finishing this letter, more than 300 wildfires are burning across British Columbia. Dozens more are burning in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Western Ontario. And floods are threatening entire communities across the Yukon. By the time you read this, Albertans will likely be looking up at hazy skies and breathing in the smoke from these fires. All of this can be linked to the extreme heat we saw earlier this summer, something that scientists determined to be “virtually impossible without human caused climate change”¹⁸.

So, I want to end with a final request. Even if you ignore this letter and throw out all the peer-reviewed science and data we have included with it, I want you to do two things. First, open a window, and second, turn on the news. The climate crisis is real, it’s here and as this letter makes clear, rising to that challenge is behind everything that 350.org has done and will continue to do in the future.

Thank you,

Cameron Fenton
Canada Team Lead

  1. Alberta’s Climate Future, https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/89a69583-a11b-4e31-a857-b311ab6563cc/resource/17ce2d24-ba7b-466c-acd9-33a2cf6beb69/download/aep-alberta-climate-report-arc.pdf

Pushing Canada to take real #climate leadership by freezing #tarsands and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. We're part of a global climate justice movement.