When I meet with young people in my MP Constituency Youth Council or in schools, I like to ask what they care about most. Inevitably the environment is at or near the top of the list. And no wonder! As lands and oceans degrade, climate warming drives increasing catastrophes, and more species risk extinction, of course they worry about their future and the health of the planet.
Thank goodness young people are interested! Their commitment, collective ingenuity and innovations will lighten future human impact on our ecosystems and biosphere.
I have the opportunity to bring a strong commitment to the environment through my work in government. This arises from many years spent in the wilderness of British Columbia restoring forest ecosystems after harvests and fires, and co-managing a growing reforestation company. My MBA focussed on environmental policy and provoked a deep interest in the challenge of climate change. I remember in 1994 trying, with little success, to explain to fellow members of a BC Lands and Resources Steering Committee how climate change will affect forests and should be factored into government’s plan. That experience led to my active advocacy for provincial and federal awareness and solutions.
Thanks to the many people who worked throughout past decades to understand climate change, to raise public awareness, and to develop solutions, a consensus has emerged. In 2015 the international community agreed that limiting climate warming to less than 1.5-2 degrees Celsius is urgent. As well, action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has become a key driver of innovation, jobs, and a cleaner, healthier economy.
Our government promised to reverse the previous Conservative government legislation that weakened environmental protection, and instead, strengthen Canada’s environmental safety net. These promised reforms are well underway. We are on track to increase protected land areas from 10% to 17% and increase ocean protected areas from 1% to 10%. A range of regulatory and carbon pricing measures are in place to help Canada meet its climate targets. A revised Fisheries Act will restore lost protections to fish and fish habitat. The problematic National Energy Board is being scrapped. Better rules to protect the environment and grow the economy will include indigenous people and public participation from the get-go.
Government may make regulatory improvements, but change ultimately depends on the engagement of young Canadians. I look forward to working alongside our youth, toward the future we all want for Canada and for the world.