As It Happens·Q&A

Canada's plan to reduce carbon emissions is 'a little weak,' says youth climate activist

Sophia Mathur welcomes Canada’s new plan to reduce carbon emissions, but says it should be more ambitious.

Nevertheless, Sophia Mathur says she's thankful the Trudeau government is taking climate change seriously

Sophia Mathur says Canada's new carbon emissions plan doesn't go quite far enough. (@sophia.mathur/Instagram)

Story Transcript

Sophia Mathur welcomes Canada's new plan to reduce carbon emissions, but says it should be more ambitious.

The Liberal government announced its plan on Tuesday to cut emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2039. It includes $9.1 billion in new investments that will, among other things, boost incentives for zero-emission vehicles and tax breaks for companies that adopt green technology.

Mathur, a 14-year-old activist from Sudbury, Ont., has spent half of her life fighting for better climate change policies. She was the first student outside of Europe to join Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future movement, and she's currently suing the Ontario government over its climate change policies

Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens guest host Gillian Findlay.

The prime minister ... said that his latest climate plan is part of building a good future for all Canadians. So as a young Canadian, how do you react when you hear that?

I've been working in climate action ever since I was young, and I think hearing this from our prime minister saying that it's important that we act on this and that it's serious, is great. It's good that they're doing this and listening to the experts.

But I do personally think that their plans are a little weak. 

When you say weak, what do you mean?

Their goals are 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels, which is great, but there's no accounting until 2030. 

And recently, we've seen an [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report that this is getting serious and we need to take action now and we need to take ambitious plans.

So I'm saying that, yes, we're glad that they're taking action, but we're hoping that they continue to do more and, you know, acknowledge the fact that we can't have a weak response to the climate crisis.

So they need to be more ambitious, then?

Yes, we're hoping maybe 60 per cent below 2005 levels.

 But again, I'm still thankful that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is acknowledging this because, especially during the pandemic, I think a lot of people have forgotten the serious crisis that we're in and have forgotten [that] there are still people out there fighting for a safe climate and fighting for a better future.

WATCH: Prime Minister Trudeau discusses new emissions reductions plan

Canada's new emissions reduction plan calls for a 40 per cent cut by 2030

10 months ago
Duration 1:32
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces Canada's Emissions Reduction Plan to keep the country on track to net-zero by 2050.

Today's plan once again lays out emission targets, as you've said. You're young, but I think you've been around long enough to know how often we have set targets in this country and failed to deliver on them. So do you have any hope, or any confidence, I guess, that this time it's going to be different?

I try to keep hopeful within my activism, so yes, I do hope that this does work out. 

But I also hope that while Trudeau and while the government is saying that they're going to take these plans, that the people and the citizens of Canada are holding them accountable and making sure that they're following up with that. And if they don't, then we will stand up against them and say, "Hey, you made this promise. You said you were going to do something. You said it mattered to you. So why aren't you doing anything to follow up with that?"

I am hoping that they do follow up with this because I think we need climate action now, and we've been fighting for this for a long time here in Canada.

You have been fighting for a long time, even though you're only 14. You've been to COP26. You've marched with Greta Thunberg. You've orchestrated school strikes. You're even suing the Ontario government for its climate targets. Do you feel like people in power are listening to you now in a way perhaps they weren't before?

There are politicians out there that make false promises, and we've seen that here in Canada. But also within my activism, I've had the chance to meet with politicians ... that have been really supportive of our work and supportive of climate action.

And we're hoping that more people that want climate action talk to their local politicians and make sure that they're holding the government accountable as well.

Mathur was the first student outside Europe to join Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement. (Submitted by Sophia Mathur)

Do you think that's a problem? Do you think people … have either given up or they feel they don't have influence or they don't know what to do? 

It could feel a little, like, helpless, especially as a youth, someone who can't vote, so can't even control the people in power. But, you know, I could also go and talk to them, and go and lobby them. 

I started lobbying when I was seven. And even though I wasn't exactly talking about policies and stuff like that, I was telling them that I cared about climate change and that it was something that was important to me.

And I think that's important because the politicians work for us. They work for the citizens. So it's important that we speak up and that we tell them what we want, because we want a safe future for everyone.

You started, you say, when you were seven. Did you ever just want to be a kid and just leave this to the adults to sort out?

Part of me wishes I could. But we've seen so far that kids have had a big impact on the movement, especially since it's going to impact us a lot more in the next generations.

I've also met some great people along the movement, and I've been able to engage within my city. And I feel like I've done something, so that I can tell future generations that I was a part of the climate movement that got climate action and saved the future. Hopefully.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC Politics. Interview produced by Sarah Jackson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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