Ontario, Quebec press federal government for action on climate change
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, July 8, 2015 4:06AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 8, 2015 11:33PM EDT
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called Wednesday on all subnational states to work together to solve the climate change crisis, saying it's a universal problem that cannot be solved individually.
"We can't any longer claim ignorance of the price of further delay," Wynne told the crowd of hundreds of invitation-only delegates in attendance at the two-day Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto.
"The oceans will continue to rise and we'll experience longer, more intense heat waves and rainstorms, erosion, flooding, wildfires -- our ecosystem is compromised, our infrastructure is at risk."
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard also gave opening remarks at the conference that is hosted by Ontario that aims to bolster the fight against global warming.
He spoke about the success the province has had with carbon pricing and moving to an environmentally focused economy.
This is certainly not at the expense of growth and job creation," Couillard told the crowd.
"Let us all reject this false choice, rather let us build a different type of growth as solid, but more sustainable than our economy today that is still based on fossil fuels."
The emphasis of the summit is on the role provinces, states and other subnational governments can play in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Speakers include former Mexican President Felipe Calderon and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.
More than 100 people showed up to a downtown hotel as the summit got underway, with one protest organizer saying she's upset both the climate meeting and an economic summit at the same hotel are closed to the public.
"We're protesting the people who have been brought in to determine our future and the future of the planet," said Tings Chak, with No one Is Illegal Toronto.
"We're demanding total transformation of how our societies work in addressing the climate crisis that doesn't sacrifice our communities."
The United Nations and International Energy Agency have warned of the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions to avoid global warming of as much as four degrees, which would lead to rising sea levels and have drastic climate impacts.
Ontario's Environment Minister Glen Murray said the provinces have had to step up to the plate because Ottawa has been missing in action.
"The federal government has moved for the last 10 years to the sidelines of this discussion," Murray said.
Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq is not attending the meeting, but a spokesman said they are the first government in Canadian history to achieve a net-reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and have done so "without implementing carbon taxes or carbon-pricing schemes."
On Tuesday, Ontario's acting environment commissioner warned that the province won't meet its own 2020 emission-reduction targets without aggressive action.
In a progress report, Ellen Schwartzel said car and truck emissions along with energy-hogging buildings present the single biggest problem in the province's fight against climate change.
Schwartzel called for a large boost in the use of electric vehicles.
"Our power supply, our electricity, is very low carbon, so it makes a lot of sense to use that to electrify transportation more and more," Schwartzel said.