Dear ENGOs: Stop Supporting Fake Climate Mitigation


Continuing my new metaphor for effectively treating climate change (I’ve been traveling into town everyday: ferry, bus, Canada Line to the Cancer Agency and same back from treatment) – this quote was in my post-Canada Day Guardian Weekly:

“I can’t believe how long I’ve been on hold,” says the Canadian who’s been on hold for the length of time it takes a kettle to boil.

“I can’t believe this train is so late,” says the Canadian who has waited three minutes for a train that will arrive in another three minutes.

“Why aren’t these streets clearly signposted?” complains a Canadian, aware that in a block or two there will be a street sign informing them, with geospatial precision, exactly where they are. Shut up Canadians!

You don’t understand late trains! You live in a land of inhuman efficiency. Your country is brilliant, OK?

I watch foreign tourists in awe on the ferry and see it through their eyes. Our country works. Hey, not perfectly… the ferry is almost always a little late because of the volumes; the bus is often crowded. I have been stuck on the Lions Gate bridge behind an accident (people were kind, considerate). If you escape taking it for granted, life in Vancouver works amazingly well.

On Canada Day, walking in the downtown, the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of our society absolutely blew me away. We are an immense overachiever where historic problems such as racism and sexism are being addressed to a degree that few people anywhere could have imagined possible just a very short time ago. Of course, as an environmentalist I see the ongoing crimes behind the beauty strip but even here I think we have and will continue to make real progress.

Why am I writing this? We need first and foremost to solve the building problem of climate change. If we don’t solve problems such as climate change there will not be much further progress. There won’t be a Canada.

What are the key changes that have to happen for Canada to survive climate change?

We need to lead in clawing back good governance. We need to rebuild our ability to effectively regulate, so that we can actually do what we could not do back in the failed forestry revolution of the 90s and move to an ecocentric forestry free from timber management-based long term fiber contracts. We need to protect salmon and move past factory farming, etc, etc.

We need to be able to remove the Golden Straitjacket (that we have put on to be competitive in the global economy) in order to have the ability to use government effectively to, first of all, mitigate climate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the scale necessary. Then we must use our returned governance powers to match our escalating technological abilities. There was good reason to put on the Golden Straitjacket and we should not be renouncing trade, but our children and country’s future is at stake. Our trading partners have to understand – will understand – our leadership.

The leadership we need to show the world is a scheduled wind-down of all fossil fuel production and use in line with the best carbon budget science, responsibly and fairly regulated as a last chance to keep us safe from the suite of dangers we know imminently threaten if we don’t reduce emissions now, globally. Canada has to recognize the civilization-threatening imperative. We need to recognize our ability and the necessity to regulate fossil fuels so that real – not pretend – emission reduction happens, and in time.

A regulated wind-down could be not only effective – the best path to reducing GHG emissions at a scale now needed – but also the best mitigation path at using and protecting our market-based governance.

A regulated wind-down would provide the necessary strong, certain signal to markets hopefully enabling optimum use of production allowed. Such a schedule would ensure an immediate, urgent reduction of production and use with consequent emission reduction but within a signal that life will go on, business especially, markets will continue, our social/market evolution will continue.

We need to be free and confident enough to put such a scheduled wind-down first on the menu for full public debate, then to be fully examined on government policy tables. The Canada where a Canada Line gets built and runs efficiently; properly designed, engineered, and operated. Not perfect, but doable with the minimum of disruption. As effective as I’m finding the Cancer Agency and their radiation units in providing treatment for those in need.

We could and can do this and prosper but we are not even considering such action. That is why I’m addressing my latest open letter to Canada’s Environmental NGO climate community. Why are you not leading? Why do you continue to support the present carbon pricing/decarbonization pretend mitigation? Why don’t even some of you find a way to get the promise of such a wind-down schedule on the menu for public debate? Why don’t some of you at least try and write up the possibilities of actually keeping fossil fuels in the ground – the problems too of course – instead of supporting what everyone knows is obvious failure?

Have you no idea of how brilliant Canada is? We need to show the world that a wind-down schedule for fossil fuels is possible, workable, doable, and will lead to not only a climate solution for the world but – within continuing prosperity – will be a solution for many other bottleneck problems that threaten our future.

Traveling back and forth across Vancouver for treatment has re-opened my eyes to how successfully we function as a society. This has been reinforced by the quality of my cancer treatment: state of the art consilience in diagnosis and treatment planning by a skilled team of experts delivered with compassion and care. My journey – though painful and at some disruption to my regular life – promises a cure and life after cancer. We still have it within our power to mitigate climate change: treatment and a cure. Those of you in Canada’s ENGO climate community know this. We need you to insist upon effective mitigation action that Canada can deliver.

Bill Henderson is a climate activist who lives in Gibsons, BC.


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