Editor’s Note: This article is part of our campaign for a Green & Just Recovery in Canada. Sign the call to action at the bottom of this article to show your support.
Look around the world. You will see the pope, the head of the UN, or countless other leaders in support of a unifying opportunity presented by COVID19: the chance to build back better.
Advancing a net-zero transition amid a global pandemic and economic recession may seem like a difficult task, but the conditions present an opportunity for a green and just recovery with countless benefits amid a pivotal point in the climate crisis.
Build Back Better: Building Back Better (BBB) is an approach to post-disaster recovery that reduces vulnerability to future disasters and builds community resilience to address physical, social, environmental, and economic vulnerabilities as well as shocks.
The Big Picture: Prior to COVID-19, the Canadian federal government committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Despite this, it is currently not meeting its 2030 Paris Agreement climate targets.
- The moment is urgent, but the popular support is there for Canada to make sure its pandemic recovery is a Green Recovery. By centring 5 key demands, we can build back better.
The moment to change our course of action to achieve our goals and ensure a just, healthy future is now.
The tragedy of this pandemic has created an opportunity. Today is when we build tomorrow. We cannot wait.
A moment of immense climate urgency is occurring simultaneously with an opportunity to create a new normal. Canada’s leading environmental groups are calling to take advantage of this crucial moment in history.
Groups such as the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD), Pembina Institute, Environmental Defence, and countless others – representing over two million people – have signed in support of incorporating “seven “green strings” into Canada’s recovery measures:
- Financial support to industry must include conditions for a zero-emission transition;
- Make sure funds go towards jobs and stability;
- Support a just transition that prepares workers for green jobs;
- Build up the sectors and infrastructure of tomorrow;
- Strengthen and protect environmental policies during recovery;
- Be transparent and accountable to Canadians;
- Put people first and leave no one behind.
It is not just environmental groups wanting a recovery that focuses on the climate, the Canadian public does as well:
- 61% of Canadians agree that “in the economic recovery after COVID-19, it’s important that government actions prioritize climate change,” according to a 2020 IPSOS’ global poll.
- 80% support a range of different policy ideas to achieve climate goals and improve well-being following COVID-19.
- 95% of Canadians are open to or supportive of the idea of: “improving broadband, transit and clean energy infrastructure to help attract companies to invest in Canada”, according to Abacus Data.
Add your name to our call to action for A Green Recovery – This will send an email to Canada’s relevant cabinet ministers showing your support.
What does a green recovery look like?
A green recovery is healthy
An extensive report by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) highlights the health importance to planking the curve of our carbon emissions and reaching net-zero by 2050 – stating:
“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”
A green recovery is equitable
Clean energy access for remote, Indigenous, and low-income communities should be prioritized with direct funding streams for indigenous communities.
- Over 438 civil society groups have signed the Principles for a Just Recovery, a set of 6 principles and recommendations for a Just Recovery that includes everyone, especially as health and environmental issues have illustrated the continued impacts of colonialism on Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
- The 7 green strings report by IISD calls for Canada to fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to achieve a Just Recovery and contains many other recommendations to achieve a recovery for all.
A green recovery is economic
It is critical that workers are supported for a Just Recovery, especially workers and communities transitioning from high-carbon sectors.
- A list of recommendations has been developed by the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and should be followed.
- The Task Force for Real Jobs, Real Recovery are currently developing recommendations to address this transition, while also providing a solution that does not have to remove all workers from natural resource jobs – but rather find sustainable solutions for all Canadians.
- The benefits of supporting green, youth jobs in parallel with reconciliation for Indigenous youth have been emphasized in the green strings recommendations by IISD.
A green recovery is resilient
At a time where Canadians are struggling to pay rent amidst climate risks and extreme temperatures, deep retrofits to create healthy, safe, affordable, and low-carbon housing are essential to building energy efficiency. Resilient infrastructure must be included.
- 22 recommendations for the next 1-5 years have been summarized in a report by the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery.
- The Green Budget Coalition, consisting of 24 Canadian leading environmental organizations, provides economic plans to take the new path in history’s crossroads and build back better. Their Recommendations for Budget 2020 recommend the following areas of investment:
- Green built infrastructure
- Further support is needed for electrified public transit, First Nations water infrastructure, and zero-emission vehicles;
- Natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions
- Areas include wetlands, grasslands, trees, and forests;
- Building energy efficiency
- Investing in training, innovative technologies, and retrofits;
- Renewable energy
- Mobilizing investment to finance community renewable energy projects, including in low-income and vulnerable communities.
- Financial support to help renewable energy and clean technology companies survive the COVID-19 economic slow-down and maintain momentum.
- Green built infrastructure
How is Canada planning today to support future sustainable, equitable initiatives?
- COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
- $1.72 billion to clean up orphan and inactive oil and gas wells.
- $750 million for a new Emissions Reduction Fund that will support workers and reduce emissions in Canada’s oil and gas sector, especially for methane reductions.
- $685 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities.
- $9-billion COVID-19 response for students, including $15.8 million to create green jobs and training opportunities for Canadian youth.
- Canada’s Long-Term Infrastructure Plan
- More than $180 billion over 12 years is to be invested in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, as well as Canada’s rural and northern communities.
- Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change
- This is Canada’s long-standing, extensive federal-provincial agreement to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
- The extensive plan was developed in consultation with Indigenous peoples and has 4 main pillars with over 50 measures:
- Pricing carbon pollution;
- Complementary measures to further reduce emissions across the economy;
- Measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience;
- Actions to accelerate innovation, support clean technology, and create jobs.
As shown through Canada’s plans, the Canadian government is addressing climate change in many ways.
However, Canada has yet to further develop a plan with stimulus packages to build back better amidst a pivotal point in climate risk and economic energy opportunities.
Canada isn’t alone. Across the world, governments are announcing major recovery packages and plans to transition from fossil fuels:
- European Commission: A €750 billion ($1.137 trillion) recovery fund announced to steer the continent toward carbon neutrality by 2050. [Announced on May 27th]
- United States: The Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, presented a $2 trillion plan and campaign promise to reduce fossil fuel usage and reach net-zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050. [Announced on July 14th]
- For further green stimulus packages and plans across the world, Carbon Brief has been actively tracking the world’s green recovery plans.
Despite the promising stimulus packages for a green recovery across the world, loans and various bills for oil and gas reliant services and infrastructure are occurring simultaneously – at times, larger in scale.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
While Canadians battle the economic and social impacts of a global pandemic, many government bodies in Canada are passing environmentally damaging decisions:
- Bill 197: COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act (Ontario): The omnibus bill amends 20 existing laws and makes major changes in schedule 6 specifically to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA).
- Greenpeace Canada, Ecojustice, and 10 other environmental groups launched a lawsuit on August 10th against the Ontario government due to their lack of consultation prior to major changes to environmental laws, which ultimately amend the Environmental Bill of Rights.
- Bill 22: Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act (Alberta): The omnibus bill proposes amendments to 14 legislations and most notably, cuts “red tape” to make oil patch projects easier to approve.
- Less than a month prior to the bill being introduced, Alberta Energy Minister, Sonya Savage, said “now is a great time to be building a pipeline, because you can’t have protests of more than 15 people,” in a podcast interview with Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors.
- Energy Policy Tracker: Fossil Fuels vs. Clean Energy Policies (Canada).
- Since the beginning of COVID19, at least $12.15 billion USD have gone to supporting fossil fuel energy through 51 policies in Canada – that’s roughly 83% more funding through policies supporting fossil fuels than clean energy to date since COVID-19 began, according to the Energy Policy Tracker.
The lead author of the IISD report containing the seven green strings for a Canadian green recovery, Vanessa Corkal, mentions an important takeaway:
“Rather than seeing green strings as red tape, we should be seeing it as a way to maximize our recovery and ensure that the economic returns we get from recovery spending benefit Canadians in the best way possible, not only through jobs, but through a healthier environment, less pollution, and through healthier ecosystems that allow Canadians to thrive in the future.”
The next five months are crucial in preventing a carbon rebound and will determine the state of the climate crisis for decades to come, warns the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) – the agency with the world’s top energy analysis reports.
The Bottom Line:
With plans shifting into place for a new normal, and the recent departure of Canada’s Finance Minister, one who had a history of holding back on spending for the environment and COVID relief, the time to push support for a green and just recovery is now.
Governments must ensure a recovery addresses the changes required, in line with Indigenous sovereignty, a climate-resilient economy, and a just-transition for high-carbon workers by centering the following themes:
- Strengthen, develop, and protect existing environmental policies and plans;
- Support to build Canada’s low-carbon, clean and affordable energy – especially for workers transitioning from high-carbon jobs, as well as for remote, Indigenous, and low-income communities;
- Focus and develop sustainable relief efforts and stimulus packages in partnership with communities and for communities who are structurally oppressed by existing systems;
- Invest in energy-efficient buildings, building retrofits, and climate resiliency;
- Allocate funding towards youth organizations and launch national challenges to co-create solutions.