Dear friends of the David Suzuki Foundation,
Like all of us at the Foundation, you are likely heartbroken by our government's reckless decision to break its international commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Coming on the heels of Canada's attempts to scuttle the climate talks in Durban, South Africa, earlier this month, this decision may also leave you feeling angry and ashamed of our leaders. We feel that way, too.
We all understand that our future and that of our children and grandchildren hangs in the balance now and that the scales could be tipped by the resolve—or indifference—of the world leaders who recently came together, for the most part, to figure out ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. The world's scientists have been telling us this for decades, and the growing evidence of our warming biosphere, and its increasingly catastrophic impacts, are now the daily fodder of newscasts and weather reports.
The Kyoto Protocol was not perfect, but it was leading to progressive action on climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions have been going down in Europe, and many countries are shifting from polluting fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources. Awareness has grown worldwide about the threat of climate change. Successive Canadian governments, with their focus on a tar sands economy, ensured that we did not meet even the weak targets that they set. In fact, Canada's emissions have risen by 30 per cent over 1990 levels, leaving us way above our target of reducing levels by six per cent by 2012.
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And, make no mistake, the world has been watching.
Canada's poor performance at the climate talks in Durban and its decision to become the first country to pull out of the international legal agreement have drawn criticism from people worldwide—and rightly so. That our government would be willing to sacrifice human lives and our future for the sake of short-term profits from a polluting and non-renewable resource is a slap in the face not only to Canadians but to people everywhere.
This is not hyperbole. Climate change and its disastrous effects—droughts, heat waves, flooding, spread of disease—are already killing 300,000 people a year and driving many more into poverty. Hundreds of thousands are becoming refugees as such impacts make their homelands uninhabitable. Experts believe that up to a billion people could become refugees in coming years if the trend continues. Many plants and animals—crucial to our own health and well-being—are going extinct as climate change wreaks havoc on their habitat.
But Canada is much more than its federal government. And our economy is much more than just the oil industry. Canada is you and me and provincial and municipal government leaders. It is businesspeople and union members and retired people and children. It is all of us. And we are making a difference. Some provincial governments have implemented plans to reduce emissions, spur economic activity in the green energy sector and slow climate change. B.C. and Quebec have implemented carbon taxes, Quebec is planning to cap and reduce industrial emissions, and Ontario has its Green Energy Act, a game-changing piece of legislation. Some municipal governments are taking climate change seriously, too. Vancouver's Greenest City Action Plan includes policies to increase the number of people who cycle or use transit rather than cars and to make homes and buildings more energy efficient.
And you have worked with organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation to put the focus on knowledge and solutions. With your support, we've encouraged governments at the municipal and provincial levels to take action, and we've worked with opposition parties to speak up for the majority who want a cleaner and healthier future. We've also teamed up with the Canadian Academy of Engineering and a range of interested parties, for the Trottier Energy Futures Project—an extraordinary initiative to analyze Canada's energy sources and options and identify ways to slash emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, through wiser energy choices. And we've been working with a wide range of Canadians, including young people and new Canadians, reaching out in different languages to share new ideas and discuss solutions.
You've all been a big part of this work, through your amazing support. You've written letters, signed petitions, taken part in forums, volunteered, talked to each other, and donated money. Equally important, you've walked the talk—taking transit, insulating your homes, buying local, and modelling other behaviour attuned to a sustainable future.
Please stay the course with us.
Canada's government may be turning its back on the global fight against climate change, but that makes it all the more important for us to take up the slack. We know that reducing emissions and combatting climate change is not just about human health—although that's important, both from the standpoint of climate change and pollution. We know that our government's inaction on climate change means more missed opportunities to become part of the burgeoning global green economy, with its focus on clean energy technology and knowledge. And we know that if our government is not willing to listen to the majority—and yes, we are the majority—if it cares more about keeping its friends in the fossil-fuel industry happy, then we must do all we can to make a difference.
In the coming days and weeks, please take action to affirm your convictions. This will embolden others to express their views and act as well. For example, you could:
- Comment below on this letter
- Write to your elected representatives: municipal and provincial as well as federal, demanding to know "What is next?" in the wake of our withdrawal from Kyoto
- Deepen your connection to our efforts by becoming a monthly donor or giving what you can. Your donations help us press harder and speak louder.
- Talk to your friends and family about the Canada we envisage: one that acts on the understanding that we are interconnected and interdependent with nature
Together, we can mobilize many more Canadians in defence of our biosphere, and once again be proud of our country.
Thank you again,
David Suzuki, on behalf of the entire David Suzuki Foundation team