Environmental protection, restoration, recovery, and enhancement are critical and multi-faceted challenges. But, the most pressing issue today is climate breakdown. It is a slow moving, life and death catastrophe that is already harming us and every living being in the biosphere. We, and especially our politicians, must confront it with all the urgency necessary to overcome it. We caused it; we need to fix it. Nothing less will do than adopting a climate breakdown emergency plan. Politicians are unable or unwilling to appreciate the immediate threat and the real and direct dangers that the climate emergency poses to all Canadians.
What legacy are we leaving for our children?
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an intergovernmental body which assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests by decision makers writes:
The future impacts of climate change are projected to become more pronounced in the next decades, with variable relative effects depending on scenario and geographic region. Scenarios project mostly adverse climate change effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, which worsen, in some cases exponentially, with incremental global warming. Even for global warming of 1.5°C to 2°C, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly.
Changes in ranges can adversely affect the capacity of terrestrial protected areas to conserve species, greatly increase local species turnover and substantially increase the risk of global extinctions. For example, a synthesis of many studies estimates that the fraction of species at risk of climate-related extinction is 5 per cent at 2°C warming, rising to 16 per cent at 4.3°C warming.
Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to climate change and are projected to decline to 10-30 per cent of former cover at 1.5°C warming and to less than 1 per cent at 2°C warming. Therefore, scenarios show that limiting global warming to well below 2°C plays a critical role in reducing adverse impacts on nature and its contributions to people.
IPBES summarizes the affects of climate change in a media release titled, “Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating”:
• 1 degree Celsius: average global temperature difference in 2017 compared to pre-industrial levels, rising +/-0.2 (+/-0.1) degrees Celsius per decade,
• >3 mm: annual average global sea level rise over the past two decades,
• 16-21 cm: rise in global average sea level since 1900,
• 100% increase since 1980 in greenhouse gas emissions, raising average global temperature by at least 0.7 degree,
• 40%: rise in carbon footprint of tourism (to 4.5Gt of carbon dioxide) from 2009 to 2013,
• 8%: of total greenhouse gas emissions are from transport and food consumption related to tourism,
• 5%: estimated fraction of species at risk of extinction from 2°C warming alone, rising to 16% at 4.3°C warming,
• Even for global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly. (www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment)
Canada Can and Must Lead by Example
Canada and Canadians are among the world’s worst per-capita CO2 emitters. Our .049% of the world’s population is responsible for 1.6% of global GHG emissions. Canada cannot solve climate breakdown on its own. It’s a global plague. What Canada and Canadians can do, however—and must do—is lead by example.
Canadain a Changing Climate,a report by Environment and Climate ChangeCanada exposes the reality of global warming in Canada. Findings include:
• Increased temperatures: Temperature has increased in all regions of Canada and in the surrounding oceans. Since 1948, when nation-wide records became available, Canada’s annual average temperature over land has warmed by a best estimate of 1.7°C, with higher temperature increases observed in the North, the Prairies, and northern British Columbia. Annual average temperature over northern Canada increased by 2.3°C since 1948. The greatest warming has occurred in winter.
• Weather extremes: In the future, a warmer climate will intensify some weather extremes. Extreme hot temperatures will become more frequent and more intense. This will increase the severity of heatwaves, and contribute to increased drought and wildfire risks. While inland flooding results from multiple factors, more intense rainfalls will increase urban flood risks. It is uncertain how warmer temperatures and smaller snowpacks will combine to affect the frequency and magnitude of snowmelt-related flooding.
• Water availability: The seasonal availability of freshwater is changing, with an increased risk of water supply shortages in summer. Warmer winters and earlier snowmelt will combine to produce higher winter flows in streams and rivers, while smaller snowpacks and loss of glacier ice this century will combine to produce lower summer flows. Warmer summers will increase evaporation of surface water and contribute to reduced summer water availability in the future despite more precipitation in some places.
• Widespread effects: The effects of widespread warming are evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the future. The rate and magnitude of climate change under high-versus low-emission scenarios project two very different futures for Canada. Scenarios with large and rapid warming illustrate the profound effects on Canadian climate of continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Scenarios with limited warming will only occur if Canada and the rest of the world reduce carbon emissions to near zero early in the second half of the century and reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases substantially.
Canada has everything necessary to take on the challenge of reducing carbon emissions. As one of the world’s wealthiest nations, it has all necessary fiscal and human resources and expertise. Few nations are better positioned to set an example and implement and showcase the many ways forward.
Why is Canada so uniquely positioned to lead on the climate breakdown issue? Canada is one of the world’s worst climate breakdown offenders. It is one of the world’s worst wasters of energy, and it is an irresponsible petro-state that puts revenue from its petroleum sector above all other considerations. It also has large animal agri-businesses, and according to the United Nations, industrial animal agriculture is one of the most significant contributor to climate change and global warming.
If Canada can make the necessary reforms to successfully defeat climate breakdown, it shows other countries they can, too. Canada can prove that a people can reform their nation and economy to function successfully without dependence on fossil fuels as a source of energy or economic activity and get as close to zero GHG emissions as is technically possible.
Canada can—and must—lead by example. That this would also reform Canada’s economy to the betterment of its citizens is welcome, but it is incidental to the real task at hand: saving our lives and civilization.
What Can We Do?
In the immediate term, the Animal Protection Party of Canada proposes:
• implementing an aggressive carbon pricing mechanism that would encourage rapid adoption of conservation measures,
• removing all tax incentives and subsidies from animal agriculture, assisting farms to transition from animal agriculture to a plant-based economy and to biocyclic vegan agriculture,
• imposing tariffs on goods from nations that do not have carbon pricing measures as aggressive as Canada’s,
• large subsidies for the adoption and development of alternative energy sources implemented through collaboration with local communities.
• end subsidies to the oil and gas sectors, and
• halt the expansion and construction of new pipelines.
Where the private sector is unable or unwilling to develop and implement alternative energy sources, the public sector would take on the task. Given the urgency of the climate breakdown issue, further development of the Alberta oil sands would be halted, current projects wound down, and land reclaimed.
Climate change is not the only environmental issue that threatens Canadians’ health and well-being, but it is the most urgent. APPC would strengthen Environment and Climate Change Canada—financially and legislatively—and charge it with accelerating in-depth reviews of all outstanding environmental issues and developing programs to rapidly and effectively address them based on best available science and best practices.
When imposing a carbon tax, governments have often emphasized non-agricultural commodities such as gasoline, although animal products have not been commonly discussed. We propose that taxing animal products would be an effective policy, as well as imposing price subsidies on plant-based products when necessary. This is supported through empirical data, as a number of studies have demonstrated that taxes on unhealthy products in conjunction with pricing subsidies for healthy products can be effective in changing consumer behaviour5,6,7. Therefore, a tax on animal products may incentivize consumers to shift to plant-based diets, while subsidies, such as discounts and vouchers, can be provided for individuals of lower SES in order to counter the tax burden. This approach could help change population habits from the bottom-up, and thus promote a more plant-based culture. This would be a win-win for both the environment and population health.
With a shift in consumer behaviour comes a shift in the agricultural industry. We recognize that this could pose a challenge for industry workers, and thus we will ensure adequate financial support for affected farmers, similar to how Ontario tobacco farmers were provided support for the declining tobacco industry8,9. Ultimately, a greener economy can be better achieved with a greater emphasis on plant-based agriculture.
The Canadian government has provided significant subsidies to a number of environmentally damaging sectors, such as animal agriculture and oil and gas. Consequently, APPC’s platform calls for major subsidy reforms through investment in renewable energy sources and plant-based agriculture.
Below are some details on recent federal subsidies:
- $1.9 billion to dairy, beef, pork and poultry industries in 2019 (10)
- $1.75 billion in compensation for dairy farmers announced in 2019, with a plan to finish delivering the payments in the next 3 years (11)
- $691 million to poultry and egg farmers for 10-year programs (11)
- $125 million to AgriRecovery program for COVID-19, with a specific emphasis on beef and pork producers (12)
- Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) has recently provided funding to various oil and gas projects, despite eliminating “Unconventional Oil and Gas” as a funding priority (13, 14)
- A number of carbon pricing exemptions, such as methane leaks from oil and gas facilities, despite causing 44% of national methane emissions (13, 15)
On top of this, according to Canada’s Energy Future 2019, it is projected that there will be “a 50% increase in crude oil production and a 30% increase in natural gas production domestically by 2040” (13,16), further emphasizing a reason for concern with respect to current subsidy trends. Lastly, Canada is not on track to meet its 2030 emissions targets based on the Paris agreement, demonstrating insufficient environmental policy (13, 17, 18).
Despite these environmentally damaging subsidies, there have been reasons for encouragement. For example, the federal government has demonstrated interest in plant-based agriculture, as seen by a recent $100 million investment in Merit Functional Foods, a plant-based company (19). APPC intends to continue promoting this trend while the demand for environmentally friendly products is ever-increasing.
Evidently, the funds are available to make significant changes and vastly reduce our environmental footprint. An economic shift does not happen overnight, and thus impacted workers will be provided adequate funding throughout our shift to a greener economy. It ultimately comes down to whether we are willing to invest in our future, or maintain the status-quo and cause irreparable damage to our environment.
1 Sandra Diaz, et al Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 6 May 2019 www.ipbes.net/system/tdf/spm_global_unedited_advance.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=35245
2 Canada in a Changing Climate; Government of Canada, 2019
3 From Animal Agriculture to the Plant-Based www.gfi.org/transitioning-from-animal-agriculture-to
4 Biocyclic Vegan Agriculture http://www.biocyclic-vegan.org/
5 Clark, M. A., Domingo, N. G., Colgan, K., Thakrar, S. K., Tilman, D., Lynch, J., . . . Hill, J. D. (2020). Global food system emissions could preclude achieving the 1.5° and 2°C climate change targets. Science, 370(6517), 705-708. doi:10.1126/science.aba7357
6 An, R. (2012). Effectiveness of subsidies in promoting healthy food purchases and consumption: A review of field experiments. Public Health Nutrition, 16(7), 1215-1228. doi:10.1017/s1368980012004715
7 Niebylski, M. L., Redburn, K. A., Duhaney, T., & Campbell, N. R. (2015). Healthy food subsidies and unhealthy food taxation: A systematic review of the evidence. Nutrition, 31(6), 787-795. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2014.12.010
8 Perkel, C. (2008, August 01). Feds give farmers $300M to exit tobacco industry. https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2008/08/01/feds_give_farmers_300m_to_exit_tobacco_industry.html
9 Office of the Auditor General of Canada. (2011). Chapter 3-Payments to Producers-Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. https://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/english/parl_oag_201111_03_e_35935.html
10 Topan, R. (2019, October 03). Nearly $2-billion in government subsidies does little to improve animal welfare. https://www.hilltimes.com/2019/10/02/nearly-2-billion-in-government-subsidies-does-little-to-improve-animal-welfare/217840
11 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (2020, November 28). Government of Canada announces investments to support supply-managed dairy, poultry and egg farmers. https://www.canada.ca/en/agriculture-agri-food/news/2020/11/government-of-canada-announces-investments-to-support-supply-managed-dairy-poultry-and-egg-farmers.html
12 Supporting Canada’s farmers, food businesses, and food supply. (2020, May 5). https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/05/05/supporting-canadas-farmers-food-businesses-and-food-supply
13 Corkal, V., Levin, J., & Gass, P. (2020, February). Canada’s Federal Fossil Fuel Subsidies in 2020 (Rep.). 2020 International Institute for Sustainable Development. https://www.iisd.org/system/files/publications/canada-fossil-fuel-subsidies-2020-en.pdf
14 Sustainable Development Technology Canada. (2019). Harnessing the power of Canadian cleantech: Annual report 2018–2019. https://www.sdtc.ca/wp content/uploads/2019/08/EN_SDTC_Annual-Report_AUG2019.pdf
15 Environment and Climate Change Canada. (2018). Canada’s methane regulations for the upstream oil and gas sector. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/proposed-methane-regulations-additional-information
16 Canada Energy Regulator. (2019, December 2). Canada’s energy future 2019. https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/nrg/ntgrtd/ftr/2019/index-eng.html
17 Climate Action Tracker. (2019). Canada (Country page). https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/canada
18 UN Environment. (2019). The emissions gap report 2019: A UN Environment synthesis report. https://newclimate.org/2019/11/26/emissions-gap-report-2019/
19 Global News. (2020, June 22). Winnipeg plant gets $100M in federal financing to pull protein from peas, canola. https://globalnews.ca/news/7093654/winnipeg-plant-gets-100m-in-federal-financing-to-pull-protein-from-peas-canola/