October 30, 2009

Powershift calls for Climate Action

Richard Williams

On October 23-26, over 1000 youth from across Canada Converged on Ottawa to take a message of bold, comprehensive and immediate federal climate action to Parliament Hill. Power Shift consisted of two days of training, strategy and action and one mass lobby day to hold our elected officials accountable to for their part to solve the climate crisis, and to build a cohesive and effective youth climate movement. This was the largest-ever gathering of young people on the environment in Canadian history.

The enormous challenges we currently face are also powerful opportunities. We know that the solutions to the global warming and energy crises will also pave the way to recovery from our current economic crisis. Youth in Canada are ready to build a green jobs economy that provides stable employment while addressing our moral and legal obligations to reduce our emissions and address the climate crisis. Power Shift was made to focus on our potential to overcome the challenges of the 21st century, build a clean energy economy, create millions of green jobs, increase global equity, and revitalize our economy.

These solutions can and must be carried out in a just and equitable manner that respects the rights and heeds the voices of urban and rural communities, low-income people, workers, new immigrants, marginalized communities, and Indigenous Peoples. On behalf of the most diverse generation in Canadian history we ask for nothing short of a clean and just energy future for all of us.

The conference joins a formidable global movement of young people who are stepping up our leadership on climate in the U.S., the U. K., and Australia.

The goals of Power Shift Canada 2009 were to:

1. Understand the magnitude of both the challenges and opportunities presented by the climate crisis and explore our own capacities to create transformative change.

2. Push the federal government to pass bold, comprehensive energy and climate legislation. Government must also connect this legislation to comprehensive job creation and just transition strategies for Canada’s hard-hit sectors in an effort to protect and promote good-paying jobs for Canadian workers.

3. Prepare our leaders and our movement for the international climate negotiations in December 2009 where we will do our part to build and ratify a strong and progressive global climate agreement.

4. Develop a comprehensive strategy for continued political pressure among young Canadians and a shared vision to help facilitate the creation and implementation of individual and group action plans for local, provincial and national campaigns.

5. Strengthen the bonds between diverse youth constituencies while we train and empower each other with the skills needed to create one movement that identifies the inherent links between climate change, environmental and social injustice, and economic hardship, and that is prepared to tackle these challenges head-on.

6. Connect with fellow organizers in the spirit of solidarity and community to sustain this mobilization over the long-term.

To develop these goals, bold climate and energy legislation mussed be passed. Our generation calls on the Federal Government to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation in 2009-10 that adheres to the following principles:

1. Reduce Carbon Emissions Immediately

* Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the targets science tells us are necessary: 25%-40% below 1990 levels by 2020; and 80%-95% below 1990 levels by 2050
* Implement an effective national plan in 2010 to reach this target that focuses on absolute caps on industry emissions and includes market regulation, investment and carbon pricing. Ensure that this plan does not include special exemptions for the tar sands
* Ensure that carbon pricing is just and equitable, and make exceptions for low income individuals and families

2. Invest In Clean and Renewable Energy

* Make substantial investments in clean and sustainable energy development, protecting Canadian energy security
* Phase out subsidies to dirty fossil fuel industries such as the tar sands within five years and ensure a just transition for workers in these industries
* Refurbish and reorganize the public sector energy grid to promote smaller scale, community-controlled distributed energy production

3. Create Effective Green Jobs

* Create jobs and just transition strategies for Canada’s hard-hit sectors to protect and promote good-paying jobs for Canadian workers in the green economy
* Provide the necessary funding for Aboriginal education and training programs, with a special focus on the green economy
* Involve young people in the planning and developing of retraining projects

4. Demonstrate a Commitment to Environmental Justice

* Allocate targeted funding for impacted communities including the North, rural communities and Indigenous communities

5. Demonstrate a Commitment to Managing a Sustainable & Clean Economy

* Invest in low carbon manufacturing strategies and valued added, local production
* Make substantial investments toward housing retrofits, public mass transit, high speed inter-urban rail and short-haul marine transportation

6. Lead Canada To Do Our Part To Build and Ratify a Strong and Progressive Global Climate Agreement In December 2009

* Show leadership and work constructively with other nations to reach a strong new global climate treaty in Copenhagen that puts us on track to reduce carbon dioxide below 350 parts per million
* Assist vulnerable communities and developing countries in the transition to low-carbon economies and with adaptation to the changing climate

With the goals of Power Shift at heart, and armed with the principles of Power Shift, more than 70 group meetings were arranged with individual members of parliament to discuss these principles and propose the specific legislation to attain the goals, such as Bill C-311 and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both currently unpassed by Canadian parliament.

There are two key events on the political and environmental horizon: the 15th annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009, and the G8 Leaders’ Summit in Huntsville, ON in July 2010. The Canadian public values international leadership and expects to see Canada taking progressive, principled positions on the global stage. The goal of Power Shift was to play a key role in directing the attention of media and Canadian society to our government’s role at both events, and in setting expectations for leadership that we can be proud of.

Historically, the labour movement and the environmental movement may seem to push in separate directions, but we must not allow ourselves to think like this this any longer. Creating jobs undoubtedly accompanies the issue of the sustainability of those jobs, and land reform undoubtedly accompanies the issue of what state the land is in that is to be reformed. The very future of our existence on our one and only planet relies on the decisions we make today, and the policies and legislation needed to make those necessary decisions. The labour movement is strong and the environmental movement is strong, and legislation and policies that intertwine and unite these movements, pushing in the very same direction, has the revolutionary power that will make the change both movements need. The power needed to shift our society into sustainability will be realized when Canadian youth, and the youth of the world, recognize that it is essential to consider the environmental and labour movements as one and the same.
- Comments


  1. It's funny how young people take action and protest against the decisions of the government but when it's time to actually make the real decision and go vote, they never show up. What is up with that? I don't think having 1000 people yell and complain will do any good, but if every one of those youngsters too action and voted for the right person in the elections, out country would be different, maybe.

    Take care, Jay

  2. For every 1000 people yelling their are 10,000 upset. And since when is voting making the "real decision"? Youth are turned off elections partly because the options are so weak and elections *don't* appear to effect great change.


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