Elections and Expectations | COP21 Blog Series

Reflections from Emilia Belliveau, BCCIC Youth Delegate to COP21

Two weeks, Canadian voters elected a new federal government. Our first-past-the-post electoral system has given the power of a majority to the Liberal party and Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister- designate. Forgive the repetitive rhetoric, but indeed this was a “vote for change” from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives (now 99 seats), and for the NDP who dropped from Official Opposition to a mere 44 seats. Results aside, to those who voted, congratulate yourself on participating in this most basic form of democracy. With the rise in voter turnout this year (approximately 68.5% of eligible voters) above consistent post-millennium lows, I really do mean be proud. Give yourself a nice big hug, or treat yourself to a fancy coffee.

But I sincerely hope your political engagement doesn’t end here!

While you may be breathing a sigh of relief that campaign days are over, this is not the time to tune out of politics! My diatribe for the day is this; we cannot expect a change in government to change relationships of power. As engaged citizens, it is our job to hold the government accountable to the platform promises they made, and to challenge the government’s direction on the ideas we don’t like. While the election may be over, the vision for Canadian politics, especially in the context of climate action, is really just beginning.

So the big question is “what does the election mean for COP21?”

Let’s start with some fun facts. As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper did not attend a single climate change negotiation. His government pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol – the last signed treaty of the UNFCCC. Under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives Canada has failing to meet its own less ambitious emissions reduction targets. Canada has been awarded theFossil of the Year award numerous times for “failure to make meaningful contributions” and “blocking and stalling progress at the UN climate talks”.

There is much work to be done to recover Canada’s international climate laggard reputation. So what can we expect this year?

Trudeau will be attending and has invited the leaders of the other major parties to attend with the Canadian delegation, as well as the premiers (although some were already planning to go). The collaborative effort bodes well, as critics of Kyoto often pin its failure on a lack of provincial buy-in. Provinces have been taking the lead on climate change action, from Ontario’s coal power phase out to the BC’s carbon tax, but for Canada to effectively tackle climate change, it needs a bold national strategy. With Trudeau unwilling to put specific emissions targets on the table without provincial support, we continue to speculate on the role Canada will play at the conference. The upcoming appointment of cabinet and the Minister of Environment on November 4th will also provide a preview of our COP21 priorities. We also won’t have to wait until COP21 to start the federal climate change conservation; environmental activists are planning a #ClimateWelcome to pressure the new government to make climate action a priority.

I’m excited and nervous, but optimistic. I’m hopeful that our international reputation can turn a new page this year. What’s more though, I’m proud of the Canadian citizens and activists that have consistently done their best to show a more humane and caring side to our international friends already facing climate crises, standing in solidarity with their struggles and their demands at previous COP negotiations. This, I’m sure, we can expect to continue.

For more interpretation of what this election could mean for the environment, I really likedthis piece! (Click here) 

And remember to stay engaged! Here are some ways you can participate in politics beyond election season:

  • Follow political updates in the news and media, and talk about it with friends.
  • Sign some petitions. Online petition sites can use ‘clicktivism’ to create large-scale campaigns and messages. For example here’s one from Leadnow.ca about including climate change in pipeline reviews.
  • Call or write to your MPs office to raise your concerns. Don’t forget to ask about their local climate change strategies or party’s plans for COP21?
  • Join or support an NGO, civil society or lobby group that shares your values.
  • If you identify strongly with a party’s political views, why not join them?
  • Participate in community organizing and activism. In my experience this has been the most rewarding way to practice engaged citizenship. Why? Because when you win it’s incredibly empowering and, when you work with amazing people, it is empowering even when you lose. Once you feel like you have the power to change the world, there’s no going back.


About Emilia Belliveau

Emilia Belliveau is master’s student at the University of Victoria in the School of Environmental Studies and an individual member of BCCIC. In December 2015, she will be travelling to Paris, France to take part in the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. BCCIC as an organization holds observer status to this conference and will be sending Emilia as well as a BCCIC staff member to the negotiations.

Through the COP21 lead up, and during the conference itself, Emilia will be making regular blogposts which will be available both here at bccic.ca as well as on her personal blog space : https://emibelliveau.wordpress.com/

In her own words, Emilia introduces herself below:

Thank you for taking an interest in climate change and international negotiations.

If we have yet to have the pleasure of meeting, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Emilia Belliveau and I’m currently a master’s student at the University of Victoria in the School of Environmental Studies. I’m interested in social justice, feminism, environmentalism, and politics – so I make an all around great party guest! I recently moved to the west coast from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and am enjoying getting to know this side of the continent.

I’ll be using this platform to share my experiences as I attend the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Paris. I have been nominated by the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) as an ‘observer’ delegate, which simply means I’ll be let in to watch the action unfold. This blog will report on both negotiation developments and my personal observations about the conference. I’m grateful for the nomination of BCCIC that has granted me access to this flashpoint in political ecology. It’s important to clarify that the views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the position of BCCIC or its affiliates.

If curiosity has brought you here – please check in often! I’ll be posting in the lead up to COP21 more about these negotiations (including background info, definitions and resources), their role in addressing climate change, the importance of a ‘treaty year’, the work of BCCIC, and other groups shedding light on Canada’s international action.

I’ll also be sharing the full story of my journey to COP21 and why attending these negotiations is so important to me.

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