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When governments fail us

Governments at all levels are abdicating their responsibility in the climate crisis. That doesn't mean all is lost.

September 1, 2023

2-minute read

During times of crisis, the public turns to governments to provide a steady hand—as the pandemic made clear. But when it comes to the climate crisis, governments at all levels are failing us.

Everything is too little, too late. Now the world’s leading scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have delivered their final warning. We are not doing nearly enough to curtail rising greenhouse gas emissions. We must act now.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres put it, this warning “is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.”

We see the effects of climate change all around us.

Dystopian summer skies fogged with smoke from raging wildfires.

Deadly heat waves that force us indoors, relying on air conditioning as life support, if we can afford it.

Recurring flooding in zones where insurance companies now refuse to insure.

A disturbing number of “100-year storms” that seem to happen every few months.

An ecosystem on the brink.

We have not been good stewards of the lands. Our addiction to oil, gas, coal—in the name of economic growth—got us in this mess. Blame permissive governments, politicians who will do anything to get elected, greedy corporations.

And blame us. The cult of cheap goods. Consumerism delivered to you by the stroke of a keyboard. A passive acceptance that all economic growth is good, even with so much evidence to the contrary.

As the Canadian economy has grown, income inequality has become more extreme. We’re one of the wealthiest countries on the planet but, somehow, policy-makers deem eliminating poverty is out of reach. And our reliance on economic growth, our procrastinating on a post-industrial strategy such as degrowth, comes with a heavy price tag—the health of mother earth.

The world’s temperature is a feverish 1.1C above pre-industrial levels. There is no more time to waste. As Guterres says, “the climate timebomb is ticking.”

It falls to us to push governments harder, to jolt ourselves out of complacency, and to lead where others fail to.

This edition of the Monitor doesn’t let governments off the hook, but it does provide real life examples of people who are taking the lead on climate activism in their own communities. They’re setting the tone and creating a culture of change right where they live.

We all have a role to play in dealing with this crisis.

Some groups, like the Ecological Action Centre in Nova Scotia, have been going at it for decades. Other groups, like the Nanaimo Climate Action Hub, are just getting started but have already registered some wins: they convinced their city council to adopt Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics framework.

The doughnut is promoted by Raworth as “a compass for human prosperity in the 21st century.” It consists of two concentric circles: a social foundation to ensure everyone gets access to the essentials and an ecological ceiling to protect the earth’s life-supporting systems.

Doughnut economics resists classical economists’ prioritization of GDP growth at the expense of collective well-being and planetary health. It challenges us to aim to thrive rather than grow.

In the CCPA’s report Don’t Wait for the State, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and co-authors provide a framework to guide communities through the changes needed to combat climate change. It’s a toolkit for activists, a road map to progress.

It doesn’t let governments take a pass on the environment, but it does encourage people to be the change they wish to see in this world.

The Manitoba Climate and Environment Election Coalition is taking that framework to heart, using it to support a collaborative effort to hold politicians to account during election-time candidates’ debates.

You can read about these real-life examples—and more—in this issue of the Monitor. It’s an issue dedicated to empowering you and your community to take collaborative action while we still can.

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