Every election feels important, but this federal election is particularly critical. When Canadians head to the ballot box, they will elect the government that will lead us through 4 critical years in the very short window we have to tackle the climate emergency. While some politicians want to make it seem as though climate change is up for debate, climate science and Indigenous knowledge are clear: the climate crisis is a fact. We are in the midst of a climate emergency, where the most vulnerable are already feeling severe impacts, and we must reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 in order to remain under the 1.5 C of warming.
This means that every decision has to be made foregrounding the climate crisis. Are we going to build a more just, decarbonized future where all life can thrive? Or are we going to continue to let corporations under let fossil fueled colonial capitalism push us further into the sixth mass extinction?
Countries like Costa Rica, Belize, France and Ireland have put in place bans on the continued exploration of oil and gas. New Zealand has banned offshore oil exploration. The Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed to ban fracking . In Canada however, the federal government has continued to drive forth the lie that we can expand our fossil fuel infrastructure and decrease our carbon emissions. Shannon Daub and Seth Klein have labelled this the “new climate denialism”, where “the fossil fuel industry and our political leaders assure us that they understand and accept the scientific warnings about climate change — but they are in denial about what this scientific reality means for policy and/or continue to block progress in less visible ways.”
This election represents an opportunity to chart a new course forward. We have an opportunity to address the climate crisis not as a stand alone issue to be dealt with through a narrow set of policies that tinker at the margins of the system but as a crisis that intersects with all the issues facing everyday people and that have been raised in this election: reconciliation, the housing crisis, growing income inequality, racism and xenophobia.
That’s why young people across the country have been mobilizing for a Green New Deal in the run up to this election. We are bringing forward a positive vision for our future that can help address the roots of the vast social and ecological crises we face. Tackling inequity, in all its forms, is not only necessary to address the climate crisis, but is an opportunity for us to reimagine what our communities could look like if we prioritized healthy and thriving life and land for the many over profit for the few.
This means redressing our highly unequal society, where in the last twenty years only the top 20% of Canadians have seen their income increase, and where the 2 richest Canadians more wealth than the bottom 11 million Canadians.
Through making the richest 1% pay their fair share we can do things like invest in building hundreds of thousands of affordable, public, beautiful, no carbon homes that can create thousands of good jobs, and advance social, economic and racial justice.
This also means immediately halting all fossil fuel subsidies and instead investing that money to support a just transition for workers, and to support universal public services to citizens, residents and migrants in Canada alike like childcare, healthcare, dentalcare, post secondary education to ensure that everyone can lead a healthy and meaningful life.
Most importantly it means centering decolonization and reconciliation, including fully implementing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), giving land back, following Indigenous leadership, and working with Indigenous Nations as equal partners who are well resourced and supported.
While there is of course there is a lot of work to be done to turn these visions into realities, voting for the candidates in this election who best align with this vision- who recognize that to solve the climate crisis means upholding Indigenous justice, housing justice, migrant justice, racial justice, economic justice — is an important step that we cannot afford not to take.
Claire O’Manique is a political ecologist who lives and works on unceeded coast salish territories. She is passionate about climate justice and is currently organizing to make a Green New Deal for Canada a reality with Our Time and 350 Vancouver.