Citizen Action Monitor

Group of Canadian organizations “champions” implementation of government climate change document

My letter to CEO of Climate Action Network Canada challenges the group’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Pan-Canadian Framework.

No 2068 Posted by fw, October 4, 2017

“Based on my selective critical analysis of parts of the Pan-Canadian document, I find it lacks the quantitative data to support the qualitative rhetoric. Moreover, crucial topics are missing altogether. It is, in my informed opinion, little more than a public relations tool, unfit for serious discussion. Your group’s letter to the government struck me as a rubber stamp of approval of the Pan-Canadian effort. What level of expertise, I wondered, did the signatories bring to a critical reading of the document?”Frank White, Citizen Action Monitor

Here’s an excerpt from the website of the Climate Action Network Canada that prompted me to write my letter challenging the group’s enthusiastic endorsement of the government’s Pan-Canadian Framework.

Ottawa September 14, 2017 — “Today a group of national organizations issued an open letter to the Canadian government championing the swift and uncompromising implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth. Signatories emphasize the comprehensive and interconnected nature of the Framework, which requires that each of its pieces be carried forward with the utmost integrity so that Canada stays true to its climate commitments and moves forward with just economic transition. Together, these organizations represent the diverse interests of millions of Canadians across the country, including workers, businesses, farmers, health professionals, people of faith, and civil society. Signatories include The United Church of Canada, the National Farmers Union, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and Climate Action Network Canada.

To read the group’s letter, click here.

Yesterday, I emailed a letter, copied below, to Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada to express my considerable disappointment in the group’s letter.

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National Groups Call for Ambitious Implementation of Canada’s Climate Framework, published by Climate Action Network Canada, September 14, 2017

Dear Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada

I am writing to express my considerable disappointment in the open letter from your organization, and other members of a group of national organizations, to the Canadian government “championing the swift and uncompromising implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth.”

As the publisher and editor of Citizen Action Monitor, a website that focuses considerable attention on the climate crisis, I have gained a responsible understanding of the impacts, challenges, risks, and proposed solutions to what some have labeled a “wicked problem.”

Based on my selective critical analysis of parts of the Pan-Canadian document, I find it lacks the quantitative data to support the qualitative rhetoric. Moreover, crucial topics are missing altogether. It is, in my informed opinion, little more than a public relations tool, unfit for serious discussion.

Your group’s letter to the government struck me as a rubber stamp of approval of the Pan-Canadian effort. What level of expertise, I wondered, did the signatories bring to a critical reading of the document?

To illustrate the seriousness of the kinds of choices we face – choices not mentioned in the government document or in your group’s championing letter — I refer you to the following brief section from the now classic study, Prosperity without Growth by Dr. Tim Jackson, British ecological economist and professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey.

Stark Choices (From Chapter 5, “The Myth of Decoupling” by Tim Jackson)

Playing with numbers may seem like dancing angels on the head of a pin. But simple arithmetic reveals stark choices. Are we really committed to eradicating poverty? Are we serious about reducing carbon emissions? Do we genuinely care about resource scarcity, deforestation, biodiversity loss? Or are we so blinded by economic growth that we daren’t do the sums for fear of revealing the truth?

The Paris Agreement was an extraordinary moment of unprecedented commitment to combat climate change. But our current direction of travel is entirely wrong. Emissions and resource use are rising not falling. The pace of decoupling is painfully slow by comparison with what is needed. And it’s become slower not faster over recent decades.

We can never entirely discount the possibility that some massive technological breakthrough is just round the corner. But it’s clear that early progress towards carbon reduction will have to rely on options that are already on the table: enhanced energy efficiency, renewable energy and perhaps carbon capture and storage. A massive uplift in investment in these low carbon technologies is absolutely vital.

In fact, it is this need for what we might broadly call ‘ecological investment’ which begins to transform the economics of the twenty-first century. Protecting, maintaining and enhancing the ecological assets on which our economy and our own wellbeing both depend turns out to be vital to the economics of a finite world.

There is no dispute at all that technological innovation is essential to change. And few would disagree that the technological opportunities are legion. We can look at Figure 5.6 as a stirring call to action rather than as a relentless impossibility theorem. The potential for change is massive.

But none of this will happen automatically. None of it flows easily from the logic of conventional economics. There is no simple formula that leads from the efficiency of the market to the meeting of ecological targets. Simplistic assumptions that capitalism’s propensity for efficiency will allow us to stabilize the climate or protect against resource scarcity are nothing short of delusional.

The truth is that there is as yet no credible, socially just, ecologically sustainable scenario of continually growing incomes for upwards of nine billion people. And the critical question is not whether the complete decarbonization of our energy systems or the dematerialization of our consumption patterns is technically feasible, but whether it is possible in our kind of society.

The analysis in this chapter suggests that it is entirely fanciful to suppose that ‘deep’ emission and resource cuts can be achieved without confronting the structure of market economies.

Jackson, Tim. Prosperity without Growth, 2nd Edition. Routledge, 2016/12/08.

As well, I refer you to the following selected articles from my website, articles that also challenge the government’s Pan-Canadian document and your group’s supportive letter.

Yours truly,

Frank White etc.

Selected Articles from Citizen Action Monitor

Our chances of avoiding climate crisis are slim to none, says leading climate scientist : Kevin Anderson explains why wealthy countries must be carbon free by 2035 or many people will die.

Growth of renewables hasn’t stopped rise in CO2 emissions, says Canadian expert : Rapid expansion of renewables no reason to be hopeful about curbing climate crisis.

World so addicted to fossil fuels, future global carbon emissions will continue to increase : Projected 16% increase in CO2 emissions by 2040 (from 2015 levels) risks putting us over Paris 2°C limit.

The demand for perpetual economic growth, and the madness it provokes, leads to environmental collapse : Environmental destruction is not a by-product of endless consumption – it’s a necessary element.

All major industrialized countries failing to meet their Paris pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions : Paris Accord allowed governments to set vague and unaccountable pledges.

Who to blame for a drowned Houston and a drenched Windsor? : There’s more than enough blame to go around. — My letter to the editor of the Windsor Star.

Evidence-packed article buries Trudeau, discrediting his pretence to care about climate change : Trudeau’s “climate action charade will fool Canadians for only so long”, says climate activist

The environmental movement failed because of our addiction to economic growth : We must either conquer this addition or face the failure of civilization, says Richard Heinberg

Policy makers seduced by economists’ claims that climate change can be fixed, economic growth can continue : Twenty-five years of failed UN-led climate change negotiating has brought humanity to a precipice. (by Tim Jackson)

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