While the state arrests land defenders and the press, a new report highlights government apathy toward climate change
An all-to-familiar juxtaposition has arisen with the recent arrests of Indigenous land defenders and journalists by the RCMP. On the one hand, we have politicians like Justin Trudeau and John Horgan insisting on the importance of climate change and that we must act now. On the other, these same politicians buy or approve new pipelines, grant fossil fuel subsidies, and arrest protestors.
Under the cover of catastrophic flooding that displaced thousands of people in British Columbia, the RCMP saw their opportunity and seized it. While most of us, including the media, were hyper-focused on these mass-flooding events (how could we not be?), the RCMP flew about 50 officers to a remote service road to arrest Wet’sewet’en land defenders.
The RCMP was heavily armed, equipped with machine guns, military equipment, K9 units, and even threatened to use a chainsaw to break into a building to “extract unarmed Indigenous land defenders inside.” Defunding the Police has never looked so good as now.
All of this for a pipeline that could have been re-routed. All of this while Wet’sewet’en hereditary chiefs were in the process of finding a diplomatic solution.
More recently, The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development have released a new report, Report 5 – Lessons Learned from Canada’s Record on Climate Change. The report was very critical of Canada’s (in)action on climate change, stating:
Canada’s record on climate change should be judged not only on the
targets and commitments that Canada has made over the years, but also
on its actions. Despite commitments from government after government
to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past
3 decades, Canada has failed to translate these commitments into real
reductions in net emissions. Instead, Canada’s emissions have continued
Repeated commitments, strategies, and action plans to reduce emissions in Canada have not yielded results. According to Canada’s 2021 National Inventory Report, Canada’s emissions were 730 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2019, while its target for 2020 was 607 megatonnes. Canada’s new target for 2030 equates to approximately 406 to 443 megatonnes. Despite progress in some areas, such as public electricity and heat generation, Canadian emissions have actually increased by more than 20% since 1990.
On our current track, Canada will come up short on the goals of the Paris Agreement, that is, keeping global warming below 1.5-2 degrees: “current global commitments fall far short of [the Paris Agreement], leading to projections of warming by 3 degrees Celsius by 2100.”
The report does acknowledge that Canada has made some progress in “decoupling emissions from population growth and its gross domestic product.” Canada’s emissions have slowed down relative to population and economic growth. At the same time, it finds policies such as Trudeau’s buying of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion as being “incoherent” with progress toward averting climate change.
Luckily, it isn’t all doom and gloom. If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown what strong, concerted government action can do for large-scale societal problems. If our governments were serious about dealing with climate change, they could invoke emergency measures to get things done, rather than insufficient market-based remedies like the carbon tax.
Market-based remedies miss the underlying issues of our economic system that have created the climate crisis. Our economic system relies on constant, never-ending growth and consumption, on a planet with finite resources. This inherent contradiction of capitalism is manifesting itself in the form of climate change.
Another core issue related to climate change is the infiltration of economic interests into our democratic systems. Even our left-leaning, social-democratic parties (in name at least) are highly susceptible to this process.
For a clear example, take a look at the career of Mike Farnworth, BC’s Minister of Public Safety. Previous to his career in politics Farnworth worked for energy and resource extraction companies like CP Rail, Gulf Oil, and Mt. Isa Mining. Is it really that surprising that the BCNDP, and indeed it’s federal counterpart, has sided with large energy companies? Or that they have remained relatively silent about the crackdown on Wet’sewet’en protesters, Hereditary Chiefs, and journalists?
Is that not an obvious example of large corporations exerting influence into our democratic institutions? The RCMP are simply there to do the bidding of large corporations, in this case.
The Maple reports that “the B.C. Civil Liberties Association published a letter sent by Farnworth to the RCMP’s ‘E’ Division in January 2020 which authorized the temporary redeployment of police resources to ‘maintain law and order’ in the construction area of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.” According to the same report, David Milward, a law professor at the University of Victoria said that “even if such a directive was not issued, said Milward, it would still be appropriate for Farnworth to speak up publicly if he believed the police’s conduct was inappropriate or unlawful.”
This is emblematic of a larger shift within the NDP over the last 20 years. In an effort to recover from near-collapse at the polls in the 90’s, the NDP sought to meet voters where they were at and moderated their platform and image. This has culminated toward the present day, in which the party boasts many small business owners as elected MP’s and MLA’s.
Some of us, with more socialist sensibilities, would say this shift has gone way too far. It’s one thing to meet voters where they are at, but not at the expense of major issues of climate change and Indigenous reconciliation.