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LETTER: Canada can show leadership with all-party climate emergency cabinet

A passionate advocate for climate action and women's rights urges Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to engage all Canadians in tackling 'the most urgent challenge we face'
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This is a copy of a letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (which has been edited for brevity).

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Congratulations on your re-election as the leader of our incredible country! 

With your newly elected minority government, there is such a great opportunity before you to re-build Canadian unity around the most urgent challenge we face. An All- Party Climate Emergency Council is needed now. Its work could start immediately on many fronts, even as the most comprehensive Emergency National Action Plan on Climate is being developed. After such a divisive campaign, many Canadians would welcome such a positive focus that can take us away for a time from the energy tug-of-war while building on your important pledge to “do more”. 

You must recognize it is increasingly clear from the scientific reports that the mitigation measures required in reaching the Paris Accord may not be enough. We are not even on track to reach that and, with the climate crisis here, we must capitalize on full use of every tool in our environmental tool box.

In Project Drawdown, scholars and scientists from 22 countries mapped, measured and modeled the best ways to drawdown and sequester carbon — the most effective route to reversing global warming. The Drawdown research gives strong validation to all Canada’s pioneering work internationally to educate women and girls and to support women’s choices in family planning. In fact, those two action areas combined produce the most effective way to reduce global warming, according to the study.

Furthermore, while the sustainable energy initiatives are absolutely critical, it was surprising to many of us that plant-based eating and elimination of food waste were found to be two of the top five most effective ways to drawdown carbon. This Drawdown research gives an excellent foundation for immediately beginning to build more sustainable ways to help feed all the hungry Canadians — a great starting place for the new Cabinet’s work.

We can exponentially increase access to sustainable harvests with a massive expansion of hydroponic and vertical gardening across the country — in containers, on rooftops, in unused federal building space, on other unused public lands and with private owners. Using new technology, these super gardens could provide nutritious food to our remote northern communities, as well as to all the many food insecure Canadians. Partnering with schools, these gardens would give a ‘fertile’ base for students’ experiential learning — in science, health and nutrition, math, and marketing. 

Canada’s food waste is distressingly staggering. Laws like those in France to eliminate food waste by retailers coupled with expansion of food diversion programs like Second Harvest would help the planet and feed our hungry. There is so much we can do. Federal support for the development of robust municipal zero waste programs and other sustainable pilot projects to reduce food waste and support plant-based eating would help shrink this pollution.

Too many Canadians are now feeling disempowered and climate stressed. Many also feel disengaged at a time when we need ALL Canadians involved. A national public education campaign — think Participaction on Steroids! — based on Drawdown research could empower Canadians by providing so many positive starting places for individual and community action. Indigenous partnerships would enrich as well as help lead in this process that would include building connection to our carbon footprints. 

The new Council’s work could strongly encourage Canada’s recognition for the basic human right to a safe environment for all that includes the right to safe drinking water. The time is long overdue to establish a federal Ministry of Water before we squander more of our most precious gift. We need a comprehensive federal plan, including the mapping of all of our aquifers and a multi-year strategic action plan to more effectively and fully protect Canadians’ public access to healthy water. 

With time so precious, work at the national level through the new Cabinet could more efficiently support and coordinate public private partnerships to ensure faster reduction of harmful practices such as single-use plastics when voluntary compliance is not enough. To witness our boreal forests being destroyed in 2019 to produce toilet paper and printer paper when recycled paper is available is just untenable. 

There is such untapped potential for harnessing Canadian environmental expertise, as well as engaging businesses and institutions that have already embarked on sustainable initiatives for replication projects. Partnerships with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the C40 Cities project would ensure greater connection to all the important work to reduce pollution being done by municipalities when partisan politics are set aside.

The move to zero emission transportation for all government fleets could be accomplished sooner with federal support for production of the vehicles to be made in Canada. Strong fiscal support is also needed for expansion of the exciting sustainability research now underway in a variety of fields. National action, needed in so many areas, will include, of course, work with the provinces on methane reduction.

There are striking parallels between the high levels of tolerance of gender-based violence that I have been working against for over half a century and the high tolerance we have for polluting our planet — even when the consequences for our communities are clear. Twenty-six years ago, I was co-author of the world’s first national action plan to end violence against women — also evidently Canada’s first ever national action plan. Last fall, I proposed creating an Emergency National Action Plan on Global Warming for Canada that would include transparent, effective accountability mechanisms such as annual reporting to Parliament on the progress made.

More than ever before, Canada and the world need bold, visionary leadership in response to this existential crisis. Our time window for climate action and the opportunity for this leadership is now.  I urge you to create an All-Party Climate Emergency Cabinet and develop the boldest, most inclusive Climate National Action Plan ever-one that will give us the best chance to help restore the health of our planet. Generations of Canadians — including our unborn great grandchildren — are counting on you. 

Patricia Freeman Marshall




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