If we asked a child of the next generation to look back at vintage footage of Canada’s 2020 throne speech, from the era of pandemic and wildfires, what would they need to hear?
This week’s throne speech will set the course for our country at an unprecedented time of economic and climate instability. Thus far, this government has shown commitment to advancing climate solutions including pricing carbon pollution, investing in energy efficiency, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and taking action on methane management, clean fuels, and vehicle and building efficiency standards. This year also marks the establishment of LC3, with a $40 million contribution from the federal government to TAF, and climate action endowments for Canada’s six largest urban centres. Although the provinces have a more direct role on energy, federal funding and policy action shapes our global competitiveness and relevance, and has an important impact on our cities, from the air we breathe to the jobs we need here in the GTHA.
As we listen to the words spoken by the Governor General, remember that throne speeches are about setting direction and vision, not detailed policies and programs. With a crucial, closing window to meet 2030 and 2050 carbon reduction targets, TAF wants to hear a course that is clear and unequivocal. Now is not the time to please everyone with vague, middle of the road commitments – most Canadians want climate action. Industry and markets across the globe have acknowledged climate change as a qualified risk. To reduce emissions and get Canadians back to work right now, the government must focus aggressively on widespread clean electrification, building retrofits and carbon-neutral construction, and active and zero emission transportation. If the throne speech puts equity and carbon reduction firmly at the core of its policy and investment strategy, the federal government can use its leadership and collaboration with local governments, business and civil society to create healthier, more affordable homes, more access to employment for women and racialized communities hardest-hit by the pandemic, and reduced carbon in urban regions like the GTHA.
Opportunities like this won’t happen again — we are at the starting line of what is likely the biggest government stimulus package of our lifetime. As climate change fuels more forest fires on the west coast (this time to the point that smoke is reaching Ontario), and more carbon targets are missed, we can’t afford to take our focus off the climate crisis any longer. When the Prime Minister announced COVID-19 funding to the oil and gas sector focused on cleaning up abandoned wells leaking methane last spring, he said “we can’t ignore the climate crisis just because we have a COVID crisis.”
We need that logic to prevail again. We hope you — our readers and followers — will share these sentiments with our leaders, and then be ready to work hard with us on the fair, low-carbon society the next generation could be proud of.