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.

Just Posted

OP-ED: Improving access to justice means modernizing legal practice

Use of technology in law firms could help British Columbians afford essential legal services.

UPDATED: Man reportedly stabbed with ‘pen’ in downtown Maple Ridge

Woman arrested, man refused to go to hospital: Ridge Meadows RCMP

Maple Ridge vet trying not to euthanize spotted salamanders

Without permits, he can only send them to zoos.

No negligence in RCMP actions in B.C. teen’s overdose death: Watchdog

A Maple Ridge woman started an online petition called Justice for Carson Crimeni.

LETTER: Pitt Meadows should have lowest taxes

New council seems set on its own vision of a restyled Pitt Meadows.

VIDEO: Kenney lays out key demands for meeting with Trudeau

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney aims for clear signs of federal action on two-day Ottawa trip

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

Hope’s illicit drug death rate rivals Vancouver

Small Fraser Valley district listed among top five per capita in B.C.

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

15-year-old charged following threat to South Surrey high school

Police announce pair of teens arrested for Nov. 14 incident at Elgin Park Secondary

TransLink CEO ‘hopeful’ SkyTrain shutdown can be averted with last-minute deal

No extra buses will be on the roads if strike goes ahead

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Most Read