Climate Activists Hold Town Hall for Green New Deal

Activists and Private Citizens Facilitate Public Discourse on Climate Change

Climate activists held a town hall on Green New Deal at the Loyola Campus. File Photo Daren Zomerman

Support for a Green New Deal has resonated throughout the West and is beginning to gain popularity. On May 30, Montrealers organized a town hall event on the Green New Deal at The Hive on Concordia’s Loyola campus to publicly discuss the matter.

The recently published UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 1.5 Degree Report stated that world leaders have only 12 years to fundamentally change societal structures in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

This UN report calls for temperature increases to be kept lower even than the levels already cited in a string of increasingly devastating predictions on the potential impacts of the climate crisis. These reports have sparked a wave of climate activism throughout the world. American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has recently popularized a policy proposal that has been circling in progressive circles—the Green New Deal.

A Green New Deal would be a dramatic transformation of the economy tackling the climate crisis and the injustices related to it. It would mobilize public resources to transition to an economy driven by and clean energy and ethical working conditions.

Lead Now, one of over one hundred organizations who have come together to create the Pact For a Green New Deal, is a Canadian organization made up of hundreds of thousands of people dedicated to popularizing progressive policy initiatives. Created during the Harper era to specifically challenge that government’s policies, they have traditionally focused on economic and social justice. Recently, the organization has given greater focus to climate justice.

Timothy Ellis, a representative from Lead Now in Toronto, spoke to us about the “Le Pact” agreement to address climate change through individual action as well as government initiative.

He said they are modelling their campaign on both the “Le Pact” agreement and the American Green New Deal. Ellis added that their goals are to understand how the Green New Deal relates to regular people across the country—and to leverage that relation in a way that forces Canadian political parties to deliver what they see as more equitable proposals in their platforms.

“In Europe and the US, it’s coming from the political level and it feels like here in Canada, politicians aren’t having this conversation, so it seems like citizens are taking action instead,” said Louise Kold-Taylor, one of the principal organizers for the Loyola town hall.

She emphasized that the Green New Deal would address more than the issue of climate change; it would also address the social and economic inequalities that exist under the status quo.

“It’s not just about climate change,” she said. “There’s a whole range of other issues that are unintended consequences of the same broken system that is causing the climate crisis.”

Ellis reiterated that sentiment, stating that “a real, just, climate transition leaves no one behind.”

A Green New Deal for Canada, according to Lead Now and the organizers of the Montreal town hall, would ideally aim to achieve social and economic justice as well as climate justice.

Among the guest speakers were two high school activists, only 14 years old, Clara and Charlotte Frey. They discussed why they and so many young people like them have been walking out of class in protest over the last few months.

“I have been absent from class every Friday to protest against government inaction on the climate crisis,” said Clara Frey. “I’ve lost confidence in our parents […] I say that we need the largest mobilization that humanity has ever seen. The climate emergency is now.”

Her sister, Charlotte, reiterated the sentiment. “What good is an education when there is no earth left for us to inhabit”, she said. “My generation and I stand with the values of the Green New Deal”, she continued.

The list of audience suggestions on what they would like to see in a Canadian Green New Deal included officially declaring a climate emergency, holding corporations accountable for the part they have played in the climate crisis, ending investment into tar sands, respecting the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples, and achieving meaningful reconciliation.

The federal NDP has recently declared support for a Canadian New Deal and the Green Party has announced a climate action plan, Mission Possible. As well, the recent Spanish election in late April saw a victory for Spain’s socialist party, which ran on a Green New Deal platform. These changes lead some to speculate—and hope—that Canada could be next.

A previous version of this article states that Lead Now is the organization behind the Pact for the Green New Deal when, in fact, they are one of over one hundred organizations who have come together to create it. The Link regrets this error.