(First published as Op Ed in The Hamilton Spectator, Mar. 22nd, ’22)
Welcome back to “The Future We Choose”, a series we are writing for you – every reader who is confused, frustrated, scared, and feeling powerless to do something useful about climate change.
We don’t deny the other global priorities we face – the pandemic and its divisive fallout, and now the horrific attack on Ukraine that threatens the world order. But we must not be distracted from a far greater threat to the future of all humanity. On the heels of last August’s report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which it chillingly named a “Code Red for Humanity”, and a disappointing result at COP 26 in Glasgow, last month’s IPCC’s report pulls no punches on where we stand. It is “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” says United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
This is self-inflicted suffering. Sadly, the phrase “We have met the enemy and he is us” fits our current dilemma to a tee, quoted, ironically, on a poster promoting the first Earth Day in 1970. Now, 50 years later, we have only a few years left to get our collective act together. The IPCC warns that further delay “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
So, what can we tackle, right here in Ontario, that’s going to make a significant impact on our emissions? Well, for a start, we must send a clear signal to both the provincial and federal governments to halt Ontario’s proposal to increase the use of gas-fired power generating stations, which would raise their emissions by 500% by 2040 and lose about 40% of the pollution-reduction benefits achieved by mothballing coal power-generation. Why, just as Ontario’s emissions are headed in the right direction, would we now pursue such an irresponsible energy strategy? Consider that thirty-two Ontario municipalities, representing almost 60% of the province’s population, have passed resolutions calling for a phase-out of gas-fired power generation. Please contact your MPP (https://www.ola.org/en/members/current) and say you want Ontario to:
- Build wind and solar energy installations instead of gas-fired power plants, at less than today’s price of nuclear electricity;
- Integrate our wind and solar generation with Hydro Quebec’s reservoirs, to achieve a firm 24/7 source of baseload electricity supply for Ontario;
- Incentivize the installation of bidirectional chargers for electric vehicles (by 2030, the total capacity of our EV batteries will be more than double the capacity of our gas-fired power plants);
- Triple our spot market purchases of Quebec waterpower using our existing transmission links with Quebec;
- Ban gas-fired electricity exports to the U.S.
And while you’re at it, please write your MP ((https://openparliament.ca/politicians/) and Canada’s Environment Minister (Steven.Guilbeault@parl.gc.ca), asking the Government of Canada to:
- Create a Clean Energy Standard mandating a zero-emissions electricity system in Ontario by 2030;
- Subject all of the GHG pollution from Ontario’s gas plants to the full federal carbon tax;
- Direct the Federal Canada Infrastructure Bank to invest in stronger interconnections between provinces, instead of supporting a gas-power export line under Lake Erie;
- Support the development of a bidirectional charging infrastructure.
“Delay is death”, warns the U.N. Secretary-General, so please choose a better future while there’s still time. Speak up today. And be sure to ask your candidates in June’s provincial election about their party’s position on gas-fired power generation before deciding who to trust with your vote.
Jane Jenner is a climate activist living in Burlington