Young people need us to act on climate change, McKenna tells G7 ministers

Catherine McKenna led off the three-day Halifax gathering Wednesday

Canada’s environment minister opened a meeting of her G7 counterparts with a call for action on climate change, even as prominent environmentalist David Suzuki reportedly called for her resignation over Ottawa’s support of fossil fuels.

Catherine McKenna led off the three-day Halifax gathering by telling a story of meeting young people in the Arctic who she said are worried about ice so thin that hunters are falling through into the ocean when they search for food.

Recalling a summer visit to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, McKenna said she went to the local school and heard the high school students’ accounts of disappearing caribou, polar bears moving further south and greater dangers for people seeking traditional foods.

“They’re seeing hunters literally falling through the ice. These are hunters who for millenia have been able to hunt … able to tell the thickness of the ice, and they’re falling through the ice,” she said.

She told the meeting that young people in the North are anxiously waiting for national leaders to come up with ways to deal with the warming climate.

“(They’re) just worried. They’re worried about their community, they’re worried about their culture, and they’re worried about whether we’re going to do anything about it, because they don’t feel empowered to do anything about it,” she said.

The meetings of G7 environment, oceans and energy ministers will be discussing climate change, plastics pollution, illegal fishing and clean energy.

McKenna said it’s important to firm up rules this year around how the carbon emission targets set in the Paris climate agreement will be enforceable.

“Our goal is to translate outcomes into action, and build off the co-operation of the G7 on these issues,” she said.

As she spoke, a story published by La Presse had David Suzuki calling for her to step down.

If she really thinks what she says, McKenna should resign “instead of being an apologist for the government,” Suzuki told the Montreal-based news site.

Suzuki said Canada lacks credibility on climate change, with the Liberal government supporting the construction of a pipeline to the British Columbia coast to transport Alberta bitumen.

“She must stop rationalizing what Canada is doing,” Suzuki told La Presse, adding that the government “talks out both sides of its mouth.”

“We have a prime minister who signed (the Paris climate accord), who says, ‘We’re back,’ and we all praised him … then he approves pipelines! What is that?”

Suzuki ridiculed the idea that developing the oil sands allows Canada to have a strong economy to achieve a transition of its energy supply.

The truth, he said, is that “We are not seriously committed to respecting the Paris accord” and the Liberals deceived Canadians on their real intentions on the environment.

Suzuki told La Presse that he thinks McKenna should follow the example of Nicolas Hulot, who resigned last month as environment minister in France.

“There should be plenty of environment ministers resigning everywhere,” said Suzuki,who said Hulot “will be even more effective” now that he has resigned.

Meanwhile, in Halifax, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, was in the room for McKenna’s opening calls. He wasn’t among the opening speakers, and other comments from the morning meeting were closed to the media.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been criticized for his government’s decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate accord.

Nicholas Stern, the chair of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change, suggested during opening comments that nations that ignore climate change may run the risk of falling behind countries who make shifts to invest in green energy and infrastructure.

He told delegates there are trillions of dollars in economic opportunities in areas like renewables and lower-energy building.

“This is about growth … Cities that can move and breathe and ecosystems that are robust. … these are profitable opportunities,” he said.

He said huge changes are expected as the size of the world’s economies double over the next two decades while nations attempt to meet the “wise” Paris climate agreement targets, which seek a 30 per cent reduction in carbon output.

“The transition is extremely attractive, and of course those that do not act risk being left behind in a new world economy that is being built.”

Mark Carney, the Canadian-born governor of the Bank of England, also spoke at the opening of the conference, telling participants via a video conference line that the corporate sector is planning to start disclosing more about their exposure to climate change risk.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Author and VIU professor Susan Juby previewing pair of unpublished books

‘At Your Service’ is an adult crime comedy and ‘Me 3’ is a child’s eye view of MeToo

Affordable seniors housing complex pitched for Nanaimo’s hospital district

Seafield Crescent complex would include two five-storey buildings

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Blockades violating people’s rights to move freely

Too many protesters clearly believe their rights supersede other citizens’ rights, says letter writer

UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP say missing woman has been found safe and sound

Friend says Sarah Duguay may be associating with people who don’t have her best interests at heart

Quarterway, Cilaire have the right touch in football playoffs

Nanaimo Elementary Teachers’ Physical Education Association organized leagues this past fall

Protesters barricade Premier John Horgan’s home ahead of B.C. budget unveiling

Demonstrators from the Extinction Rebellion have blocked the Langford driveway

Sightseeing airplane crashes into Greater Victoria farm

Two sent to hospital with minor injuries after Cessna 172 crash at 8:55 a.m.

B.C. budtenders become first private cannabis workers to unionize in Canada

Two of seven Clarity Cannabis storefronts vote to join UFCW 1518 union

Kids exposed to household cleaners as newborns more likely to get asthma: B.C. study

Air fresheners, plug-in deodorizers, antimicrobial hand sanitizers and oven cleaners were the worst culprits

Victoria, Abbotsford record biggest jumps in rent prices nationwide: report

Toronto and Vancouver had priciest rentals in Canada

VIDEO: Convoy of forest industry supporters on its way to Victoria

Rally at the B.C. legislature begins with participants setting off from Campbell River

Teen snowmobiler found safe after overnight search in Okanagan

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Forestry convoy headed down Vancouver Island to legislature lawn

Rally to be held Tuesday in Victoria pushing for the protection of ‘working forests’

Most Read