Our letter (pdf)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper,
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister;
Members of ClimateFast are fasting on parliament hill this week as a statement of our deep concern about the energy policy in Canada. We are well aware that the objective of your government is to promote a tripling of current levels of production in the oil sands and the piping of dilbit to all of the West Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the East Coast for export to the United States, China, and Europe. We believe this policy is disastrous for the future well-being of our children and grandchildren all over the world. Our vision is to convert, as quickly as possible, to a renewable energy-based economy.
Today we will receive the summary of the next IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report after seven long years of study. It will tell us that everything scientists have predicted is true, and that, if anything, changes in the climate and their outcomes are moving faster than expected. We particularly see this in the speed of melt of the arctic ice. We fear that the time is just around the corner when there will be no snow cover reflecting sunlight back into the atmosphere and instead the sea will be absorbing more heat, the tundra will thaw, and tons of methane gas will be emitted into the atmosphere causing an exponential increase in global warming. "We have five minutes before midnight," warns Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC since 2002.
According to Bill McKibben, as a world we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere and stay below the 2 degree warming target we currently now hope for. We currently have enough reserves around the world to emit 2,795 gigatons of C02 into the atmosphere. We can’t even afford to use what we already have if we are to keep to the 2 degree target. It is unconscionable to be spending valuable world resources on expanding the oil sands, building pipelines, and exploring for oil in the arctic when that money could be invested in the solution to global warming – renewable energy.
We understand that it will be very difficult, both politically and technically, to make the aggressive transition to renewable energy we need to make. The general population is complacent and does not understand the urgency. There are many big money interests involved who would have to change their own investment direction to make this work. But we believe if we all work together, fostering our creativity and hard work in this direction, we can do it. But to do this we need your leadership. We believe three structural policy elements would go a long way to getting us started on the right path:
End all fossil fuel subsidies. We know that you have begun to do this and we thank you for that. Keep going. Oil companies do not need to feed from the public trough.
Put an effective price on carbon. We would support a revenue-neutral carbon tax but we would also support a fee and dividend approach or even cap and trade if it is designed to make the polluters pay. The BC model of an escalating tax over several years was very effective in helping people to plan and make adjustments and they experienced a 17% decline in their emissions as a result.
Support the development of a renewable energy plan for Canada and around the world. Third world aid programs should be aimed at implementing renewable energy infrastructure so they can build an economy and work their way out of poverty. In Canada programs to support energy conservation including retrofitting old buildings and energy efficient building codes would be important. Can we not support the auto industry to get on with the electric car? Provinces need to invest in smart, flexible electric grid systems that can take power from many sources and can ramp up and down as demand rises and falls. We need to develop all the sources of renewable energy and the capacity to store energy when it is not needed. If we do this we will build an energy infrastructure that will make us competitive in the twenty-first century. If we don’t, Canada will be a dinosaur.
We know that the need for effective climate change policy is urgent. “We have five minutes to midnight.” We can still do it! But if you meet your current objective over the next ten years, we won’t be able to stick to the two degree goal (agreed to be all world leaders including yourself). We will likely be looking at 4 or even 6 degrees. From what we know now, that would be disastrous to the world’s coastlines, where most of humanity lives. How will we pay for the extreme weather events and their consequences? It is reported it will cost $5 billion dollars to rebuild after the Calgary floods this year alone. How can you, in good conscience, continue with the goals of building Canada’s economy based on expansion of the oil sands when there are better, safer, less expensive, and more sustainable alternatives?
Last year 103 MPs - NDP, Liberal, Green, and Independent MP’s and 13 Liberal senators pledged to work for these changes. No Conservative MP’s signed the pledge. Would you consider being the first? We would be very pleased to attend a meeting in your office at your convenience to talk more about the most important issue of our times, and to offer you an opportunity to sign the pledge.
Lyn Adamson, Rita Bijons, Frances Deverell, Sylvia Grady, Amelia Rose Khan, Margaret Rao, Dewan Afzal, Nadine Hawkins, Patricia Warwick, Betty Muir
The Climatefast Team