On February 6, 2020, I rose in the Senate and presented the following challenge, not only to my colleagues, but also to all Canadians:
"I rise today, in a spirit of openness, and a sense of urgency, to launch a Senate inquiry into finding the right pathways and actions for Canada and Canadians to meet our net-zero carbon and other greenhouse gas targets in order to slow, arrest, and hopefully reverse human-caused climate change, to ensure a healthy planet, a healthy society, a healthy economy, and a healthy democracy."
As time passes, we inch closer and closer to irreversible damage. There is a need to act now and to take bold steps in addressing this crisis.
We all know that Canada has committed itself to meet the Paris Agreement targets, along with 186 other countries that have ratified the agreement.
At COP 25 in December 2019, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson pledged that Canada would introduce legislation aimed at reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and develop a transitional plan to address challenges in all sectors of Canadian life. This is not a partisan issue that should be open for debate. We have committed to taking decisive action, and we must ensure that our leaders follow through on these promises.
Climate change is causing more extreme weather events, not only in other parts of the world, but also right here at home. Our North is warming two to three times faster than anywhere else on the planet, causing a devastating loss of ice coverage and melting the permafrost. These dramatic fluctuations in temperature are leading to catastrophic changes in wildlife and fish habitat, and damage to buildings and critical infrastructure vital to Canada's northern peoples.
Our oceans are warming; floods, droughts and wildfires are increasing. The daily headlines are replete with impacts of climate change and the related tensions in our society.
We know the sources of Canada's emissions, we know that our end target is achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and we know how to mitigate emissions.
In last December's Speech from the Throne, Governor General Julie Payette said: "Canada's children and grandchildren will judge this generation by its action or inaction on climate change."
I would go one step further and boldly affirm that our children and grandchildren are already judging our inaction.
As they witness the damage to the earth and live through catastrophic weather events in their hometowns, they are telling our country's leaders that our house is on fire and something urgent needs to be done. They are also using their ingenuity and youthful drive to come up with solutions.
According to Texas Tech University's Katharine Hayhoe, "we need to come to that tipping point where people realize that climate impacts do pose a far higher threat than the solutions."
Our challenge is getting to that tipping point in opinion and motivation — well before the point of no return.
What is needed is a willingness to be bold and take decisive evidence-based action. Canadians deserve a stable future with secure, sustainable jobs, a healthy planet, a united society, and an accountable thriving democracy.
With this inquiry, I am hoping to spark a pan-Canadian conversation on how we can work together from coast to coast to coast to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next 30 years.
As the great former U.S. Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas said: "We need to be bold and adventurous in our thinking in order to survive."
Senator Mary Coyle represents Nova Scotia in the Senate.
This article was published in the February 12, 2020, edition of The Hill Times.