Stephen Lewis targets climate change during UBCM keynote address
A series of resolutions focused on environmental issues at this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver received recognition from keynote speaker Stephen Lewis today (September 18).
The prominent human-rights advocate and former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa didn’t mince his words when it came to addressing the topic of climate change during his address to municipal delegates from across the province.
“No matter what we do at this point, no matter all of your absolutely laudable municipal, local government undertakings and initiatives, we cannot stop what is occurring and will occur before 2050,” he said. “The dye is cast. Too much carbon has been discharged.”
But he did praise B.C.’s climate action charter, and commended motions like one on clean energy from Richmond for keeping public attention on the issue of energy supplies.
“We can, however, by all of the things you’re now doing, change the patterns between 2050 and the end of the century,” he continued.
The motion from Richmond calls for an energy strategy prioritizing green-sector jobs, and calls for the UBCM and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to request that the federal government work with them on the plan.
Other resolutions focused on the environment at the convention include one from Delta on a coordinated review process for in-stream and shoreline works, and a motion from Vancouver on a green jobs plan for B.C.
Lewis’ speech, which also focused on the importance of community, credited the ability to raise awareness at the community level of climate issues—just as the speaker warned of the consequences of inaction.
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough what a race against time we’re in—it’s just staggering,” he stated. “And if United States and Canada and China and India cannot get their act together, and that is true of the European Union as well…if we cannot get our act together, then we’re dooming the future of humankind to a desperate predicament, which will compromise the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and it is absolute insanity to march through life pretending that we can go year after year without taking action.”
Lewis said measures he wants to see Canada take to address climate change include the development of a “very major alternative energy policy”.
“I want Canada to go whole hog on solar and wind, and then try to resolve the tar sands in a way that puts the environment first,” he told reporters following his speech.
As part of his speech, Lewis also drew attention to the issue of water.
“More and more the discussion is coming to water and sanitation,” he said. “There are a billion people on the planet who don’t have access to clean water. There are 2.5 billion people who don’t have access to sanitation.”
Lewis is a former leader of the NDP in Ontario, and is the current board chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. The organization recently hosted an event in Vancouver focused on the testimony of grandmothers from Sub-Saharan Africa who are involved with community initiatives to support those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The foundation issued a call to action stemming from the tribunal in Vancouver, urging measures including a global fund for cash transfers, access to health care, food security, and laws protecting grandmothers from violence.