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Politicians need to lead by example on climate emergency

Pradip Rodrigues

A couple of weeks ago, the House of Commons voted to recognize a climate emergency in Canada and reiterated its commitment to meeting its emission-reduction targets under the Paris Agreement. I assumed the emergency recognized by the House of Commons meant that they spoke for the whole country, but probably that is not enough because municipalities are rushing to take action on climate change. Last week Mississauga passed a motion outlining the City’s commitment to taking action on climate change and directed staff to develop and bring forward a climate change action plan to Council for approval by the end of 2019.

Mayor Crombie has vowed not to sit back idly as a climate change emergency rolls into town.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie who recently returned from Paris where she attended the Paris Air Show along with a delegation from SOMAC delegation, part of Southern Ontario Airport Network said: “ In Mississauga, we regularly consider the impacts of climate change in everything we do, whether that’s policy development and strategy or exploring innovative technologies such as hydrogen buses, that support building a low carbon and resilient Mississauga.”

“The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, curbing our use of single-plastics and implementing green technologies,” she added.

All that is fine and most residents of Mississauga and for that matter Canadians would agree that each one of us has a responsibility to reduce our own carbon footprint.

I recently chanced upon a piece in the New York Times titled: Flying Is Bad For The Planet. You Can Help Make It Better. The author bluntly states that the most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is to fly less often.

It can safely be said that a large number of Canadians can’t afford to vacation too far from home, leave alone fly out of the country.

Politicians and businesspeople on the other hand can and do fly to conferences, meetings and junkets on behalf of their constituents. They would have you believe that the only reason they travel around the globe is to ensure the betterment of Canadians. They take on the burden of having a large carbon footprint on our behalf. So, you will find politicians from all levels of government studying and seeing for themselves the transportation systems in other countries, instead of attending meetings via Skype or watching YouTube docs on the housing designs of Stockholm and Amsterdam. That is all very good but it not only costs taxpayers millions of dollars annually for their politicians to be jetting across the globe so frequently, it is even more costly to the environment as air travel is a huge pollutant.

But I don’t think many politicians see it that way even as they thunder on about the devastating effect of climate change on our planet. In fact, back in 2015, the Canadian contingent at the UN climate-change conference in Paris numbered 383 names from Canada, ranking us among the largest entourages in the entire confab.

Canada has sent more people to Paris than Australia (46), the U.K. (96), the U.S. (148), Russia (313) and almost as many as host-country France (396).

Politicians are generally quite happy to roast businesses that pollute and literally throw them under the bus, while they fly business class.

In addition to imposing a carbon tax, ban on single-use plastics and straws, these men and women of straw should really be leading by example. In the book The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, the authors restricted their diets, for one year, to include only foods grown within 100 miles of their residence. Perhaps all Canadian politicians should affirm not to travel by air unless absolutely necessary, after all, every small sacrifice counts toward saving our planet.

Politicians need not go on every invitation that comes their way, especially if the event is happening more than 100 miles away. Technically politicians in Peel Region have little reason to go beyond Malton for official duty, rarely the airport.

It is time politicians lead by example. The next UN Climate Change meet should be conducted via Skype. Having hundreds of delegates contribute to global warming in order to discuss global warming is quite ridiculous.

The sad truth is that the more politicians and activists keep stressing on Climate Emergency, the less Canadians are going to take it seriously. It is only when politicians commit to driving electric cars and taking public transit a few times a week that their constituents will follow in their footsteps. For example, how many politicians in Peel Region have taken the MiWay Airport Express in Mississauga when flying out of Pearson Airport? Leaders need to walk the talk, and only then will their constituents follow. Otherwise they are only blowing hot air that quite possibly is responsible in part for global warming. -CINEWS


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