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A New Year’s resolution for global prosperity: Honesty

Posted by Daniel Hoornweg on January 03, 2019

Sunrise over earth from space
With a new year dawning, many people are wondering which direction the world will go in 2019.

The world concluded 2018 in a grumpy, uncertain mood. Despite warnings of dire and immediate climate change, negotiators at the United Nations’ COP24 in Katowice, Poland faced continued foot-dragging by several countries. Effective climate actions were mostly deferred. Here in Canada, our governments seem more intent on fighting each other than truly addressing climate change.

In Oshawa, 2018 may well be remembered as the year that heralded the end of the city’s more than 100-year history of auto manufacturing. Already 85 per cent of Oshawa’s auto manufacturing jobs are gone, but the loss of the last 15 per cent feels especially difficult.

How did we get here, and where do we go from here? Many struggle with this as we welcome the New Year. A healthy dose of honesty might help.

First, we need to recognize we are all in this transition to a low-carbon economy together. We will argue about the best method, but we can no longer argue about the need. This is not a ‘downtown elites’ vs ‘the working folk’ argument. It’s complicated, but it’s not rocket science.

In November, a group of 415 global investors representing $32 trillion in assets (some of it Canadian, including rural and elderly pensioners) called on governments around the world to do more to address climate change, including implementing actions called for in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Second, social change needs leadership and pricing signals that work. I prefer Starbucks coffee but mostly buy Tim Hortons. The $1 difference per cup adds up. Lowering prices for gasoline and electricity (and parking) might be good politics but it is terrible economics, and increasingly, we know it is terrible for the planet and for our kids’ futures.

In December, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the business community is backing carbon pricing to "play its part in the fight against climate change." It wants governments to “stop playing politics and waffling about it.”

Change is hard. The auto and oil-patch workers (and their children) need a strategy and support to help with the changes. And we all need honesty.

Filed under: Students on Sustainability Sustainability 101