The House

Mid-week podcast: COP12 aftermath and what comes after the TRC?

On The House mid-week podcast, an ambitious deal - but is the international climate deal realistic? And what will a national plan for Canada look like? David Runnalls, a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, is here. Then we talk with Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, on its final report - and what happens next.
The slogan "1.5 Degrees" is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Paris, France, December 11, 2015. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

On The House mid-week podcast, David Runnalls, a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, talks about the ambitious new international climate deal — and the role Canada has to play in making its goals materialize. 

Despite calling the pact — which commits countries to keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and hopes to limit it to 1.5 C — "quite realistic", Runnalls told host Chris Hall the hard work is just beginning for Canada to come up with a national target.

"They've done the easy bit, which is to negotiate a [global] target," he said. "The sooner we get started on this, the more likely we are to prevent that kind of temperature increase, but if we sit around twiddling our thumbs for another five or six years deciding what our target's going to be, then it will go above 2 degrees C."

"What Canada has to do now is produce a realistic plan to cut our CO2 emissions dramatically."

And what the federal government will need in order to make that happen is further cooperation from the provinces, Runnalls added.

"The provinces all turned up [at the Paris talks], all with interesting schemes to try and do something about carbon emissions," he said.

"But at the end of the day, they'll have to build the federal plan around Alberta because I think the Alberta government has gone as far as it could go with its new climate change plan. That will mean the rest of Canada will have to find some way to eat the difference."

It won't be an easy transition to a carbon-neutral economy, Runnalls said, but Canadians shouldn't be too fearful of change. 

"It's not going to result in some hideous lifestyle for people in which they have to freeze to death in the dark, in a house lighted by candles," he said. 

But immediate action is imperative.

"What Paris does is clear the decks for international action," Runnalls said.

"The baton gets passed back to national governments, and major energy producers like Canada are going to have a very tough time setting ambitious enough targets to get near enough to the 2 degree C target, let alone the 1.5 C we're pushing for."

What Runnalls wants to see is what he calls "big, incremental changes" — and soon.

"You can make quite a difference in the short to medium term, provided you don't spend forever talking about how to do it."

Truth, reconciliation, and how we get there

Immediate, pointed action is also the theme of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions's final report, unveiled this week.

Forgiveness is the key action Justice Murray Sinclair wants to see come out of the report's findings.

Forgiveness not just from survivors of the residential school system, but from those survivors' children and grandchildren.

"They need to be prepared to forgive their parents, their aunties, their uncles, the members of their community," said Sinclair, who chaired the commission.

"They need to be prepared to stop being angry at their leaders, at their family members, for the way they behaved as a result of the [residential schools] experience, because that abuse led to the dysfunction. And if they're prepared to forgive them, that's the single most important act of reconciliation that can occur for many survivors."

That focus on what Sinclair calls "intergenerational survivors" — the children and grandchildren of indigenous Canadians who suffered abuse at the hands of the school system — as well as on today's indigenous youth remains a critical element of the TRC's goals moving forward. 

"The intergenerational survivors were a very important part of our work because we wanted them to understand that what they had grown up with, the people in their lives who had been to residential schools behaved the way they did because of those schools," Sinclair told host Chris Hall.

"We needed them to begin to believe in their own identity, their own culture, their own people," he added.

Are concrete results possible for the next generation? Sinclair believes so.

"Do I think it's possible? I absolutely think it's possible," he said, pointing to the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women and upcoming changes to the child welfare system as hopeful signs of change. 

Sinclair also calls for more positive emphasis on aboriginal youth and their accomplishments.

"Nobody is really talking about what it is that indigenous youth are achieving throughout society," he said.

"Understanding their historical heroes is one thing, but also understanding their current, modern-day achievements is important, and we need to ensure that happens."

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