The Unfortunate Necessity of Including Small Scale Programs for Achieving Net-ZeroPosted: June 23, 2024

A focus on initiatives in London, ON

Impacts of Climate Change & International Response

Embarrassingly, it has taken decades of protests, sit-ins, scientists begging, and the people having enough for the world’s governments to finally take climate seriously. Consequently, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a model for guiding governments, businesses and related stakeholders towards a sustainable society. The SDGs are founded upon a principle of integration that sees our environment, economy, and social life as one (UN). This particular concept of integration is critical since our impending doom is attributable to humanity lacking such a mindset.

Moreover, humanity has a horrific track record of destroying the environment for the sake of economic gain without considering the long-term consequences. As a result, we are headed towards a world where millions of refugees will be displaced due to rising sea levels and extreme weather changes (AKKAD), as well as staggering levels of absolute poverty (Hallegate and Walsh), increased disease and health issues (Health Canada) 1. To make matters worse, Canada will have to spend billions to mitigate said issues that are a deadly consequence of our environmental divorce (Climate Choices). Most importantly, however, the science is indisputable: failing to address climate change will ultimately wipe us out. We need to move fast.

Achieving these goals

We have to address the elephant in the room: truly achieving a world of integration (i.e. fully meeting the SDGs) requires incomprehensible radical action (e.g. 100% renewable energy, no plastics, rethinking trade, labour and our economic system) (Arnoff et al). Research grants are being continuously handed out by the feds so we can properly understand the necessary climate solutions (Yakub; Riley) . Such radical action, however, can not be introduced by individuals. It must be introduced by governments and their related partners (i.e. experts). The problem with this necessary radical action is that it inherently excludes the public from decision making. After all, COVID has shown the rise of public polarization, resentment and populism towards issues when they are dealt with by qualified experts and specialized groups. This sad and unfortunate attitude certainly applies towards the climate crisis as discussed below.

Mad Chaos

Despite the public being largely responsible for ensuring serious federal climate action, there is often vocal pushback when the feds attempt to implement evidence-based policies that are perceivably ambitious. For instance, despite experts’ praise and support for federal carbon pricing2, this policy has been criticized by vocal areas of the general public for increasing gas prices (Maclean 922; Gilson; Osaka Beugen et al) . Examining these environmental policies from an integrative view highlights their effect in improving human health and health costs. Evidently, despite climate change’s extreme importance to Canadian voters3, many do not understand the benefit of such policies from an integrative standpoint.

The acceleration of these mandates (and the fact that the Liberals have been voted in thrice4) implies a general agreement with these integrative policies. However, because the public protests these mandates, it is fair to assume that the public lacks a collective integrative consciousness5. The above mandates are not even remotely close to the necessary climate action as already indicated above(Plumer and Popvich; Arnoff et al Chapter 1-3 ) .

So why not just drown out protest? After all, the government cannot please everybody. As a climate activist, I definitely agree with ignoring protests to a certain extent. Waiting for society to be fully on board and singing kumbaya about climate solutions will certainly doom us (assuming we are not already doomed). However, at the same time, we need to ensure a minimum collective consciousness of integration so humanity does not metaphysically blow itself up in a war of ideology. I begrudgingly and painfully admit that humanity will likely end without some form of public unity on climate solutions. After all, the people are the boss in liberal democracies. A government focused on proper climate solutions will likely be cancelled by a polarized populace in favour of an anti-climate government, thereby destroying any good progress6.

Here is the danger of lacking a public, integrative consciousness. Consider the following: (i) many Americans threw an entitled, overgrown, and violent temper tantrum worthy of Mount Everest’s eruption merely because their President legitimately lost an election; and (ii) Canadian right-wing extremists, anti-democrats, civil illiterates and racists (who were even supported by far right politicians at home and abroad) illegally engaged in sedition (in our nations’ capital) because they selfishly rejected science backed vaccine mandates. Now, think what will happen to the public (that lacks the right climate mindset) if they are faced with reality-bending climate solutions.

A Solution

A solution is promoting small scale initiatives (e.g. encouraging tree planting, counting one’s footprint, etc.). These initiatives are often criticized (and rightly so) by climate scientists, activists and similar experts for not significantly improving sustainability. However, these critics discount the fact that including small-scale activities in the toolbox gets the people involved and helps them see climate action positively rather than negatively (unlike big change). This attitude shift facilitates the development of the necessary integrative mindset.

Let us examine a London based example. In 2019, The City of London officially declared a climate emergency due to the existential threat of climate change. Their ultimate goal is to adapt the SDGs as much as a municipality is permitted to under current law (City of London). While the city could immediately begin full scale green initiatives, that would likely be political suicide. As previously discussed, it is imperative for the citizenry to become acclimated to radical climate action, which likely explains London’s decision for kickstarting with small-scale initiatives.

One of these initiatives is Project Neutral: an online platform released in 2021 that allows the public to track and reduce their individual carbon footprint. Seeing potential avenues for improvement gets people thinking about reducing their eco-footprint (Project Neutral, City of London). Similarly, another London example is a newsletter (called CityGreen) that provides tips for green living, with one focus being on how to live from an integrative mindset. For instance, this is why CityGreen highlights that shopping locally is good per integration: stimulates the local economy, encourages greater community participation and engagement, and reduces emissions (i.e. less transportation, energy, etc) (City Green). The focus on living a greener lifestyle suggests that the City of London is trying to encourage an integrative mindset. Hence, it follows that changing the public mindset requires small scale initiatives that get people thinking about integration in their daily lives. An attitude shift results in increased receptivity to big people changes in accordance with the SDGs.

Don’t worry: climate activists and scientists rejoice! This does not mean that large projects must wait for small projects to completely finish their objectives. As I stated, waiting too long will mean a big bang, albeit of the human race (which will likely require time travel to be fixed). We can start larger projects gradually as the smaller projects are working and accelerate the former when necessary.

Conclusion

It follows that such small scale projects have a useful but limited role. They should not be the centre of climate policy but a needed tool to ensure public development of a necessary integrative consciousness that fuels large scale solutions. Even a little bit of small-scale success is enough to develop a mindset for charging full steam ahead. While one cannot fully verify this since these programs are in their infancy, I am hopeful for all of our sakes.

Work Cited

Beugen, Dale, et al. “Clearing the Air – How Carbon Pricing Helps Canada Fight Climate Change – by the Ecofiscal Commission.” Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, https://ecofiscal.ca/carbon-pricing-works/.

Jaccard, Mark. “Assessing Climate Sincerity in the Canadian 2021 Election.” Policy Options, 10 Jan. 2022, https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/septembe-2021/assessing-climate-sincerity-in-the-canadian-2021-election/.

“The 17 Goals | Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations, https://sdgs.un.org/goals.

Akkad, Omar El. “Opinion: The Climate Refugees Are Coming. Countries and International Law Aren’t Ready for Them.” The Globe and Mail, 1 Aug. 2021, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-climate-refugees-are-coming-countries-and-international-law-arent/.

Aronoff, Kate, et al. A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal. Verso, 2019.

Canada, Health. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca, / Gouvernement Du Canada, 24 Jan. 2022, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/climate-change-health.html.

Choices, Canadian Institute for Climate. “Experts Recommend Five Ways to Improve Design of Carbon Pricing across Canada.” Cision Canada, 14 June 2021, https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/experts-recommend-five-ways-to-improve-design-of-carbon-pricing-across-canada-851350283.html.

“CityGreen Highlights.” Get Involved London, City of London, https://getinvolved.london.ca/citygreen.

Gilson, Patrick John. “Canadians across the Country Are Protesting Justin Trudeau’s New Carbon Tax.” Narcity, Narcity, 20 Dec. 2021, https://www.narcity.com/toronto/canadians-across-the-country-are-protesting-justin-trudeaus-new-carbon-tax.

HALLEGATTE, STÉPHANE, and Brian Walsh. “Covid, Climate Change and Poverty: Avoiding the Worst Impacts.” World Bank Blogs, 7 Oct. 2020, https://blogs.worldbank.org/climatechange/covid-climate-change-and-poverty-avoiding-worst-impacts.

“The Health Costs of Climate Change.” Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, 3 June 2021, https://climatechoices.ca/reports/the-health-costs-of-climate-change/.

MacLean, Jason. “Will We Ever Have Paris? Canada’s Climate Change Policy and Federalism 3.0.” Alberta Law Review, 2018, pp. 889–933., https://doi.org/10.29173/alr2481.

Osaka , Shannon. “Canada’s Carbon Tax Was Ruled Constitutional – but Still Faces Backlash.” Grist, 26 Mar. 2021, https://grist.org/politics/canadas-carbon-tax-was-ruled-constitutional-but-still-faces-backlash/.

Plumer, Brad, and Nadja Popovich. “Yes, There Has Been Progress on Climate. No, It’s Not Nearly Enough.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Oct. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/10/25/climate/world-climate-pledges-cop26.html.

“Project Neutral in the City of London.” Project Neutral, https://app.projectneutral.org/london.

Riley, Andrew. “Building a Better World with the Knowledge of Indigenous Peoples.” Dalhousie University, 12 Jan. 2022, https://www.dal.ca/faculty/law/news-events/news/2022/01/12/building_a_better_world_with_the_knowledge_of_indigenous_peoples.html.

Williams, Nia. “Canada’s ‘Infernal Summer’ Puts Climate Change at Forefront of Election.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 1 Sept. 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/canadas-infernal-summer-puts-climate-change-forefront-election-2021-09-01/.

Yakub, Mehanaz. “Nrcan Puts $4.6 Million into Funding ZEV Adoption Programs in Canada.” Electric Autonomy Canada, 14 Feb. 2022, https://electricautonomy.ca/2022/02/14/nrcan-funding-canada-ev-awareness/.

  1. Our staggering pollution levels drive up illness and disease such as pollution harming our oxygen supply and putting people in the hospital (e.g. fine particle pollution from electric cars or plastic ocean pollution diluting our largest source of O2)
  2. While they agree with Canada’s plan, there are 5 areas of improvement that they have suggested. But that does not mean that they lack support for said carbon pricing – just that it is good but needs improvement (Newswire)
  3. Angus Voting noted it was a top issue (Williams)
  4. Liberals have had an ambitious climate plan for the past 2 election cycles – with backing from climate economists in 2021 (Jacardo)
  5. This of course acknowledges that there are advocates amongst the community who do understand the importance of integration. But such people are not the main focus – it is the general public nor are advocates representative of the general community.
  6. Granted it is unclear how much damage they could do especially on the federal level given the green economy rise and the clear responsibilities and roles of the government (i.e. peace order and good government).