“People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice emerged during the failing Copenhagen negotiations as a vehicle for people to come together and talk about real and false solutions to the climate crisis,” says Andrea Harden-Donahue, Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The assemblies taking place across Canada are in keeping, bringing people together on a community basis to have a dialogue on climate justice and how to transform this into local action.”
With predictions that a deal coming out of Cancun is unlikely and the recent killing of the Climate Change Accountability Act by the Senate, local actions that address the climate crisis and advance equity are increasingly being seen as critical to advancing climate justice.
“Our future is being negotiated at the UN climate talks starting today,” says Amber Church, National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. “It is critical that youth have a voice in Cancun and it is critical that youth be part of the solutions emerging on a local level in communities across Canada.” Church will be leading the Canadian Youth Delegation of 29 in Cancun.
Assembly discussions may include topics such as climate debt, human and ecological rights and how unsustainable and inequitable production, consumption and trade patterns contribute to the climate crisis. Campaigning for public and community ownership of renewable energy, challenging a proposed polluting project and supporting a “transition town” are potential areas of action.
“One of the climate questions that we in wealthy, industrialized nations need to grapple with is, ‘what’s our responsibility?’ Historically, we are the ones most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions,” says Sara Stratton of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. “We control the instruments and mechanisms that can help those least responsible for and yet most affected by climate change. What should we be doing, on a global level, to address the climate debt? That’s a question we’ll be asking in the Peoples’ Assemblies.”
“Indigenous peoples have much to contribute to advancing climate justice,” says Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “The complete lack of Canadian action is especially harmful to Indigenous peoples considering that First Nations, Inuit and Metis are effected not only by climate change but disproportionately effected by their proximity to the drivers of climate change like the Tar Sands and other massive extractive industries that exacerbate their situation.”
The Council of Canadians, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and Indigenous Environmental Network issued a ‘call to action’ this fall for hosting People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice during the Cancun negotiations.