Anjali Appadurai: Canada is on fire. We need to elect climate champions

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      By Anjali Appadurai

      The IPCC declared Code Red for Humanity—this election needs to be a climate election.

      On September 20, Canadian voters will elect a new federal government. Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals may have called this unnecessary election for political gain. It is up to us to turn it into a climate election for planetary survival.

      Last month, in the midst of a fourth wave of the pandemic, amid forest fires and drought across my home province of B.C., the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a dire warning about the escalating climate emergency, what UN Secretary General António Guterres called a “Code Red for Humanity”. 

      I began my career just over a decade ago in international climate politics. That’s when I first began to understand that climate change is fundamentally about power.

      In 2013, I was at the UN climate conference in Warsaw, Poland, when Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines, taking thousands of lives. At the time, my friend Yeb Sano was the lead negotiator for the Philippines government. While his brother pulled bodies out of the flood waters back home, he stood up in the UN hall and begged for justice for his own country and for communities around the world. And as the typhoon and other climate impacts threatened millions, Canada and the U.S. pushed for less climate action, not more.

      Two years earlier, at the 2011 UN Climate Summit in Durban, I had been invited to address delegates and state leaders. Speaking on behalf of youth, I looked out at those with the power to act, and those failing to do so, and said, “You have been negotiating all my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises. […] Where is the courage in these rooms?”

      I have witnessed my government, led by the Conservatives and now the Liberals, block and delay climate action for years. Critical years, when we should have been responding to the climate catastrophes already happening around the world. It has repeatedly shattered my trust and broken my heart. But I refuse to give up.

      That’s why I am running to be the next nember of Parliament in Vancouver Granville. To become part of an NDP government, led by Jagmeet Singh, that will stop this cycle of Liberal and Conservative inaction, and face the climate emergency with the love and courage necessary to address the crisis and ensure our survival.

      Climate change is the ultimate test of our ability to see the various ways that our current system is failing us. Housing unaffordability, economic inequality, spiralling poverty, food insecurity, systemic racism, inaccessible health care, a poison drug epidemic—these issues are connected. They are all failures of our current economic model. 

      While the climate crisis has gotten worse, our economic system has made the rich even richer and has left the rest of us behind. The story of power and injustice that I’ve seen play out globally, is the same story playing out here at home. Indigenous peoples pay the price. Working people pay the price. Young people pay the price. People with disabilities and from marginalized communities pay the price. And eventually, all of us will pay the price for decision-makers who would appease us with incremental action. 

      We need a significant public investment in real and equitable climate solutions. Creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs, funding reliable and free transit, building beautiful, safe, zero-emissions housing and co-op housing, investing in public health, education and long-term care, supporting workers, and a thriving democratic society in which we derive our joy from connecting with each other and building the world we want to see together. 

      All my life I have been told by those with power that this was not practical or realizable. But during COVID-19, we've seen what it looks like to respond to an emergency, including investing public money in a strong social safety net almost overnight. We need to see that same energy harnessed to tackle the climate emergency.

      I am done with the Conservative and Liberal politics of incrementalism that has bolstered inequality for too long. Instead, I look forward to being part of a growing squad of climate champions leaping into politics at this critical time. Leah Gazan, Matthew Green, Avi Lewis, Paul Taylor, Tria Donaldson, and more. This climate caucus can transform the state of Canadian politics.

      This election may be unnecessary, but the stakes could not be higher. The stakes are all around us, in the air and the water, the fire and the drought. The status quo is a Code Red for Humanity. This election we need to elect a courageous team of climate champions.