Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, said Canada is clinging to the weakest climate target the country has ever set.
The target of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 was set when Stephen Harper was in power. The Liberal Party of Canada has not changed it since the 2015 federal election.
On Feb. 14, May delivered the Viscount Bennett Memorial Lecture, “One Point Five to Stay Alive – How We Find Hope and Honesty in Dangerous Times.”
She told the audience that honesty and hope are essential in fighting climate change.
“You find hope by realizing that you don’t give up,” May said.
“There’s no reason to give up. We have all the tools we need to get through this. We just need to do it.”
During the lecture, she discussed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published last October. It states warming must be kept at a global temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and must be reached by 2030. We are at one degree of warming.
Global efforts to lower emissions saw some progress after the 1972 Stockholm Conference, but the issue was viewed as only applying to wealthy countries. This created a North and South divide. Just 20 years later, Brazil, who opposed the issue during the Stockholm Conference, was now hosting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. But May said change happened during the 2009 conference held in Copenhagen.
“All this changed for me when I heard the chant ‘one point five to stay alive’ [at the conference]” she said.
North American countries at the conference agreed that the global average temperature could rise to two degrees Celsius. After this news, the low-lying island states and African nations got up and marched out chanting “One point five to stay alive,” insisting their lives depended on it. If the global average temperature raises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius they wouldn’t be able to stay above the waterline.
She said the government must be honest and stop debating “irrelevant” issues like the carbon tax, which is only a small aspect of the bigger issue. May calls these debate topics wedge issues which are used to gain votes.
The lecture took place during her Community Matters Tour, where she spent the evening before answering questions at Wilmot United Church in downtown Fredericton. She said making this change is important.
“Have we got a plan? Yeah, we’ve got a plan. Can we do it? Yeah, we can do it. What are the odds? Well, who cares, we have to do it,” she said.
“My hope is that in 2019 we have just as many brave people who step up if given the tools [and] leadership.”