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Time to tackle climate change

Last winter, temperatures averaged 3.5 C above normal in the Lakes District.

Last winter, temperatures averaged 3.5 C above normal in the Lakes District. Although meteorologists say this winter won’t be as warm, they still expect temperatures to average 2-3 C above normal in the region.

This is largely due to a combination of a strong El Nino and above normal sea surface waters over the Pacific. However, Canadian winters have been trending warmer – an average of 3 C warmer - over the past 67 years. AccuWeather meteorologists say global warming has played a “direct and indirect role” in the warming trend across Canada. From Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2015, Paris will be hosting the United Nations climate conference, known as COP21. Representatives from more than 190 countries will gather to discuss a global climate treaty to (hopefully) significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 C. Canada’s newly elected prime minister Justin Trudeau seems to bring a new boost to Canada’s environmental efforts. During his first post-election press conference, Trudeau said he had already spoken with a number of premiers about attending the Paris summit together.

Canada’s premiers have agreed that everyone not facing an election campaign will attend the climate change summit in Paris with Trudeau, according to a Canadian Press story published by the National Post. In addition, Trudeau has already invited – or has plans to invite - opposition party leaders to be part of the Canadian delegation to the summit, including Green leader Elizabeth May, NDP leader Tom Mulcair and whomever will be leading the Conservative party.

“I will be engaging with the premiers in the coming weeks to establish a strong position for Canada so that people know that Canada’s years of being a less-than-enthusiastic actor on the climate change file are behind us,” said Trudeau during his first post-election press conference.

This inclusive and proactive approach to tackle environmental issues is much different from what Canadians have gotten used to. For years the Conservative government had strictly limited participation in delegations to previous climate summits, usually excluding opposition parties. Stephen Harper has been internationally criticized for his unenthusiastic approach (to say the least) to climate change. In 2011, Canada controversially abandoned the Kyoto protocol, and the country is not even close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target under the Copenhagen Accord – to cut emissions by 17 per cent by 2020.

In a Toronto Star editorial, Rick Smith, Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute, brilliantly says that Harper’s years of environmental neglect might have actually created an opportunity for Canadians.

“Now that Canada’s environmental house has been thoroughly burned to the ground it seems to me we have an opportunity; there’s no pretending anymore; we have nothing; so at some point we’ll have the chance to rebuild.”

Smith points out that Harper’s lack of interest in environmental issues created an equal and opposite reaction - “a fierce and rejuvenated environmental movement.” He adds that this is the time to build a “truly modern and effective federal environmental architecture; a new, world-class series of laws and policies that for the first time qualify as something Canadians can be proud of.”

The Liberals promise to bring about change by investing in clean technologies, restoring credibility to environmental assessments and protecting wildlife and waterways. More specifically, the Liberals plan to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and create a ‘green investment bond’ to develop more renewable energy. Trudeau certainly seems to bring a whole new level of hope for Canadians concerned about the environment. There’s an important road ahead, and Trudeau’s environmental efforts will be crucial in bringing a much needed change.