Protecting land defenders crucial to Canada’s next steps on climate ambition

Published by Brent Patterson on

Toronto Star columnist Heather Scoffield writes that Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for treasury secretary, “comes with solid climate change credentials”.

Scoffield then notes: “An initial building block to push Canada to a net-zero economy by 2050 came last week with proposed legislation for accountability, requiring the government to state how it will reach interim five-year targets starting in 2030.”

And she draws the comparison that while “Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is also expected to name an advisory panel any moment now that will act as a foil [it] won’t be the independent body with teeth that Yellen and [United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance Mark] Carney have urged.”

Scoffield further notes: “On Monday [November 30], [Finance Minister Chrystia] Freeland … will likely signal [in her economic update] that there’s funding on the way for retrofitting homes and for eco-friendly job creation, and perhaps some green infrastructure money too, as highlighted in the throne speech in September.”

“Wilkinson will follow up with draft rules to curtail pollutants in fuel. And, importantly, he’ll also roll out a detailed plan for how Canada will cut its emissions between now and 2030, making up for a long-standing gap between aspiration and action.”

Significantly, Scoffield concludes her column with the crucial point: “Now, as the United States is poised to leapfrog us to a low-carbon economy, will Ottawa focus on how to make sure the energy sector comes along for the ride? Retrofitting homes is one thing. Cutting back on emissions in the oilpatch are another.”

We would add that recognizing climate breakdown as a human rights catastrophe, using the 1990 baseline for climate targets, and upholding the rights of frontline Indigenous land defenders and water protectors is also crucial.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has stated that the world has never seen a threat as big in scope to human rights as climate change.

And while Canada has committed to cutting emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, Greenpeace Canada has noted the more commonly used international baseline of 1990 equates to a comparatively weak pledge of just 14 per cent by 2030.

We would also highlight that Global Witness has documented that on average four land and environmental defenders have been killed every seek since the Paris climate agreement was reached at COP21 in Paris in December 2015.

More than one-third of those fatal attacks have been against Indigenous land defenders and water protectors.

Given this, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed this resolution explicitly calling for the protection of environmental human rights defenders due to the crucial role they play in protecting vital ecosystems and addressing climate change.

We are asking that those who share these concerns send Prime Minister Justin Trudeau an email through this online Urgent Action form.

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