Celebrating Canada’s commitment to climate action in Vancouver

Environment ministers call for climate solutions at packed reception

Ministers Catherine McKenna and Mary Polak with Josha MacNab and Ed Whittingham of the Pembina Institute and Anna Warwick Sears of the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. Photo: Stephen Hui, Pembina Institute.

With the promise of the historic Paris Agreement waiting to be translated into real climate action in Canada, Vancouver played host to a number of significant events last week.

Two days after speaking at the launch of the Smart Prosperity initiative, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a much-anticipated first ministers’ meeting with provincial and territorial premiers to get the ball rolling on a national climate framework. On March 3, our leaders emerged bearing the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change, an agreement to finalize by this fall a “concrete plan,” including carbon pricing mechanisms, to meet Canada’s climate commitments.

Meanwhile, corporate executives, government officials and civil society leaders flocked to the GLOBE 2016 Conference & Innovation Expo to talk sustainability in business.

And, on March 2, we were thrilled to have hundreds of people join us at our packed-to-capacity cocktail reception in historic Gastown to celebrate climate leadership and innovation.

Hosted by the Pembina Institute and the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, the reception featured speeches by Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, as well as British Columbia’s minister of environment, Mary Polak.

Catherine McKenna

With many Canadians excited about the federal government’s renewed commitment to climate action, Minister McKenna took to the stage to a chorus of cheers. After being introduced by Anna Warwick Sears, board vice-chair for the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., McKenna told the crowd the “hard work” ahead involves reducing Canada’s carbon emissions and moving toward a “low-carbon future” in a way that creates jobs and economic growth.

“We need to realize that we’re going fail sometimes,” McKenna said. “But ultimately we’re going to find the new solutions — the new technologies that are actually going to help us get there. I guess this is the call to action. We have hit a pivotal moment.”

McKenna went on to say: “Now you need to help me. You need to help me find solutions, so that we can be serious, so we can move forward, so we can build a more sustainable future, and so my kids don’t spend their whole time growing up petrified about climate change.”

For its part, the B.C. government is expected to finalize its new Climate Leadership Plan later this year. The Climate Leadership Team’s 32 recommendations, released in November 2015, provide a blueprint for a strong plan.

Indeed, the Pembina Institute has called on the province to implement all of the team’s recommendations and to go beyond them in four areas: the carbon tax, liquefied natural gas, methane emissions and land-use planning. B.C.’s carbon tax is currently frozen at 2012 rates, and the province’s emissions are on the rise.

Mary Polak

Minister Polak told the crowd she feels “invigorated” by McKenna’s and the federal government’s strong support for climate action. “We finally have a partner,” Polak said to applause.

Quoting Kermit the Frog’s line, “It's not easy being green,” Polak next praised the work of the Climate Leadership Team (whose members included the Pembina Institute’s Matt Horne) and environmental non-profits working on climate change.

“I know that you are awake at night many times, trying to find the answers and solutions for us,” Polak said. “We want to hear them. We want to be there to support you. It’s your shoulders on which we stand, and thank you so very much.”

The crowd

All in all, it was exciting night for hundreds of people who gathered together because they care about the world and want to see our federal, provincial and territorial governments take bold action on the climate crisis.

We’re grateful for the support of the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Sitka Foundation, North Growth Foundation, Insurance Bureau of Canada and Vancity, our sponsors for the event.

Jack Wong and Anna Warwick Sears

Let’s hope both ministers can carry some of the enthusiasm and inspiration in the room that night back to the hard work ahead. 

Then it will really be time to celebrate.

Minister Catherine McKenna and reception attendees


View more photos of our unofficial GLOBE 2016 cocktail party on Flickr.