Climate Veteran to Ottawa: Is This the Best We Can Do?
In the aftermath of the federal Cabinet’s decision to approve Malaysian state oil company Petronas’ $36-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in British Columbia, veteran climate and environmental activist Karen Mahon declared herself “heartbroken’” by the contrast between the government’s promises at the Paris climate change summit and its actions back home.
“As a lifelong environmental advocate, I am used to seeing good governments make bad decisions—yet this decision really shook me,” Mahon wrote in a post for the National Observer. “Some part of me was deeply invested in the hope that this new government, led by a young Prime Minister who marched at the front of the pride parade and who passionately articulates the need for reconciliation with First Nations, was going to do things differently. But this decision makes me truly question their commitment to act on climate change.”
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At the Paris conference, Mahon was on hand as Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna heard about the devastation facing India, Bangladesh, and small island states as global temperatures increase and sea levels rise. “I thought I watched her truly grasp what climate change means for the most vulnerable people on our planet. I watched her lead the charge to move the goal of our global climate treaty from a 2.0°C target to a 1.5° target, which was a huge and significant shift. In that moment, I was proud to be a Canadian,” she recalled Wednesday.
“Yesterday I watched the same Catherine McKenna announce the approval of the Petronas liquefied natural gas plant on the west coast of Canada. I don’t understand, how can this be?”
Canada is a relatively rich country with a stable democracy, and Mahon acknowledged that many people working for the Trudeau government are trying to do the right thing on climate.
“But if this is the best we can do as a rich country led by a progressive government, what does this mean for India, for China, for developing countries who are faced with similar decisions while also trying to lift their people out of poverty and provide enough power for heat and light?” she asks.
“Yesterday was a bad day for the climate. But today we are back at work, doing our research, organizing, mobilizing, educating, and tomorrow will be a better day.”