On climate change, the choice facing Canadian voters in this federal election is stark — and not perfectly simple.
Elections can be complicated that way. And if solving climate change was easy, we’d have done it by now.
Climate policy has been at the forefront of a federal election just once before — in 2008, when Stéphane Dion proposed a national carbon tax and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives responded by claiming that such a policy would bring about economic ruin.
That campaign ultimately was overtaken by an economic crash and the arrival of the Great Recession. But the partisan fight over Dion’s proposal set a template for the debate about climate policy in Canada, one that’s still at work in 2019.
If anything is different now, it’s that teenagers are in the streets. And that the fires and floods and storms of recent years have made climate change something more than a theoretical threat. Skeptics on the political right also have been joined by newly aggressive voices on the left — Green and NDP leaders who are saying we must go further and faster.
The greatest policy gap, measured in terms of declared and demonstrated ambition, lies between the Conservatives and the other three major parties — a difference that was underlined on Friday by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s decision to pass on taking part in one of Friday’s massive climate rallies.
Two trends have defined the past decade and both have been on display at this year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly.
One has been the escalating effects of climate change, which were the focus of the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit. Forest fires, floodsand hurricanes are all rising in their frequency and severity. Eight of the last 10 years have been the warmest on record. Marine biologists warned that coral reefs in the U.S. could disappear entirely by the 2040s.
The other trend has been the surge of right-wing nationalist politics across Western nations, which includes Donald Trump’s election in the U.S., and the rise of nationalist political parties around the world.
Indeed, the first four speeches of the United Nations general debate were given by Brazilian right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro, Trump, Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and far-right Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
These two trends are rarely discussed together. When they are, their correlation is sometimes viewed as an unfortunate coincidence, since many nationalist politicians actively obstruct climate change solutions.
However, our new research suggests that these two trends may be closely related, and not in the way you might think. The effects of climate change – and the way it makes societies feel threatened – may be one of the elements fueling the rise of right-wing nationalism.
Like millions of their compatriots around the globe, the children of Courmayeur marched last Friday to protest against the climate crisis. The group of 160 or so pupils, some as young as six, turned out with banners and slogans, repeatedly shouting: “Ban plastic, save our planet.” But their most prominent placard message showed that for the youngsters of this small Italian resort town at the foot of Mont Blanc, the threat of climate change is particularly close to home. “You broke our glacier”, it read.
The activists were referring to Planpincieux, a glacier on the nearby Grandes Jorasses peak that is changing so rapidly that experts warned last week that a huge portion of ice was in danger of breaking away.
“We live here and can see the damage that climate change is doing,” said Matteo Pelliciotta, a teacher who helped on the march. “Every day, the glacier changes and becomes more grey in colour. This protest is more than just a message, it is a demand for politicians to take proper action.”
Lily Cole has backed calls for UK banks to “radically transform” and take the climate emergency much more seriously.
The actor, model and activist is the latest high-profile name to emerge as a customer of the ethical bank Triodos, which has a current account which can be managed online and via a mobile app. Other famous customers include the actors James Norton and Sir Mark Rylance.
“I’ve long believed in voting with your wallet for the change you want to see in the world – for example, supporting Fairtrade and organic food and fashion. Yet there are other subtle and powerful ways that our money shapes the world, such as the investments made by our banks, pensions and the institutions we work with.”