Editorial: Concordia and Canada Aren’t Doing Enough to Combat Climate Change

Graphic Madeleine Gendreau

Several hundred thousand people marched through the streets of New York City on Sunday while the United Nations was holding its climate summit.

Several hundred thousand people marched through the streets of New York City on Sunday while the United Nations was holding its climate summit. Busloads of students and activists drove down from Canada to New York to join the People’s Climate March and demand that governments around the world do more to pursue environmental justice.

One notable Canadian, however, was not present at the summit—Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Instead, choosing to send Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Harper continued to reinforce the idea that climate change is not an issue at the forefront of his political agenda.

On the contrary, the Canadian government, over the years, has become one of the worst environmental villains through continued economic reliance on tar sands, the withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011 and the construction of pipelines through national parks and Aboriginal territory.

Canada is moving backwards as a leader on environmental issues. Rather than taking major steps to reorient our economy towards more sustainable energies such as wind and solar power, Canada continues to rely on the black gold created by dirty tar sands out west.

Our country’s environmental policies are not only criticized by those within the nation, but are also being attacked by outside observers. The Keystone XL pipeline, for example, became an international symbol of Canada’s environmental backtracking. Our international reputation as a world environmental leader has been desecrated.

Once seemingly sheltered from the effects of climate change, we are no longer able to ignore what is taking place in our backyard. Arctic ice is melting, sea temperatures continue to rise and the changes are even noticeable from season to season.

Our university, too, is complicit in the environmental degradation taking place in Canada. Financial audits of Concordia’s endowment fund reveal $9,173,715 invested in oil and gas and $2,605,670 in pipelines in 2011 (the annual reports from 2012 onwards list only an all-inclusive “energy” category).

A divestment campaign has been created to urge the university to shift funds away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable initiatives. Concordia says it’s exploring alternatives to investments in fossil fuels, but it’s unlikely that the university’s foundation will take these campaigns seriously for many years given how much return they receive annually from these investments.

Earlier this week we asked students if they were optimistic about the future of the planet or if they foresaw gloomier prospects. Almost all the responses were pessimistic, with most students saying they believed that we were indeed “fucked.”
Unless our governments starts acting now by shifting economic development from the fossil fuel industry towards more sustainable projects, we at The Link can’t help but agree.

By empowering grassroots movements and indigenous communities in asserting sovereignty over their lands, we can protect what’s left.