News | Committee talks climate strategies

Attendees voice concerns that Canada will not meet its goals

Students gathered on Wednesday February 8 at the McGill University Faculty Club to discuss the challenges of transitioning to a low-carbon economy with the Senate of Canada’s “Standing Committee for Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.”

The open forum, organized by the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design (TISED) based in McGill University’s Faculty of Engineering, allowed students to present their opinions and questions concerning new environmental technology, the economic costs and benefits of carbon reduction, and the University’s role in conducting carbon-reduction research and promotion.

In attendance was the Committee’s chairman Richard Neufeld, deputy chairman Paul Massicotte, and committee members Diane Griffin and Rosa Galvez.

The open forum allowed students to present their opinions and questions concerning new environmental technology, the economic costs and benefits of carbon reduction, and the University’s role in conducting carbon-reduction research and promotion.

The purpose of the committee, Neufeld said, is to identify “what solutions and technologies exist today or that are in development to reduce emissions and fight climate change.”

The forum mainly consisted of questions concerning the committee’s opinion on where the focus of carbon-reduction should be. Students and community members alike promoted a new focus on a multitude of factors.

Certain attendees encouraged the committee to stay focused on carbon-reduction technologies that already exist rather than directing their resources at new innovations. Others combatted this idea by arguing for an increase of funding towards university research and the development of new technology.

The purpose of the committee, Neufeld said, is to identify “what solutions and technologies exist today or that are in development to reduce emissions and fight climate change.”

The main point of contention, however, was whether the Canadian government’s goals will be reached by 2030, goals which include limiting global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius.

While Galvez presented an optimistic vision of achieving these goals by attacking from different angles and creating a culture of change, Neufeld responded that he is “very concerned that we will not meet our targets.”

Students and community members alike promoted a new focus on a multitude of factors.

Instead of focusing on current carbon-reduction targets, Neufeld proposed that we “worry about the consequences of climate change, […] organize our society, […] and get prepared for the eventuality of maybe not achieving [our current reduction target of] two degrees Celsius.”

A common concern among attendees was the change in quality of life that may result from new carbon reduction technologies and practices. The committee responded to these points by stating that Canadians will have to change their way of life to ensure that carbon emissions are reduced.

The main point of contention, however, was whether the Canadian government’s goals will be reached by 2030, goals which include limiting global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius.

“We have to change our habits and the way we consume some types of products and replace them,” asserted Galvez. “Researchers are making efforts to replace materials with renewable materials […] we have to put emphasis on these problems.”

While most of the questions focused on specific suggestions for the committee, certain students questioned the committee’s stance on controversial economic and environmental government measures.

One particular question pertained to the Kinder-Morgan expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and its impact on Indigenous peoples.

Instead of focusing on current carbon-reduction targets, Neufeld proposed that we “worry about the consequences of climate change, […] organize our society, […] and get prepared for the eventuality of maybe not achieving [our current reduction target of] two degrees Celsius.”

“How is [the federal government],” asked a student, “justifying extending an oil project […] on the land of the Tsleil-Waututh nation?”

Neufeld, acknowledging his previous involvement in the oil and gas industry in British Columbia, insisted that oil will continually be used as a natural resource in the future.

“It has to get out to markets” he claimed, “to actually keep us enjoying the type of life that we have today.”

“How is [the federal government],” asked a student, “justifying extending an oil project […] on the land of the Tsleil-Waututh nation?”

Massicotte added, “it’s a very complicated issue […] the government overall is quite receptive and all of us wish and hope for better relations with our First Nations […] but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have serious discussions and disagreements on certain issues.”


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