We need to acknowledge that this is a national climate emergency

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to pursue a question that I asked initially in question period on March 18.

That date was only three days after the quite extraordinary Friday climate strike at schools across Canada. Schoolchildren joined millions of other children around the world on March 15 for a global school strike for the climate.
I urge those who are unfamiliar with this movement to look up Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish student, a young woman from Stockholm, who at 15 years of age started the climate strike, just by herself, sitting outside her school in Stockholm.
She is now 16 years old, and the movement has grown to such an extent that as I pointed out in my question to the Prime Minister on March 18, in Montreal 150,000 schoolchildren had marched for climate action just days before.
Let me say that again.

In Montreal, 150,000 children joined the protest, demanding action to protect our planet.

The Prime Minister’s response was to say, “…we hear them. We are taking action…. Our plan will create a cleaner, more prosperous future for our kids and our grandkids.”

It is telling that at that point the Prime Minister was not speaking the words “we are in a climate emergency”. In the last 24 hours, both the Liberals and the New Democrats have put forward on the Order Paper two resolutions that I welcome, resolutions that will allow us to be able to debate and talk about the real extent of this emergency.

It is telling that the May 6 by-election in Nanaimo—Ladysmith elected a second Green member of Parliament, and I can say his name out loud because he is not yet a sworn member of Parliament. Paul Manly’s election appears to have had a salutary effect on the understanding of both Liberals and New Democrats of the extent of the emergency in which we find ourselves.

What I want to suggest for the late show we have tonight is that we really should find ways to support both of the motions that will come before us on Thursday. The NDP’s motion is clearly more detailed and stronger, and I certainly will vote for it. However, it is not insignificant that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has, for the first time, put forward a motion that says we should declare that we are in a national climate emergency. In doing this, we will join other countries around the world.

I do believe that the language of “national climate emergency” focuses the mind on what the schoolchildren have been trying to tell us: that we are not in a status quo world. Literally in a period of months, not years—and we do not have much more time than 40 months—we will have to make the decision to change course globally, to both commit in Canada and to exert leadership globally to stop using fossil fuels.

It is clear that we have to say these words out loud. We have to find transition strategies. There are workers in the oil sands with transferable skills who could do many other things that have to do with renewable energy, and as we will continue to use fossil fuels for some time further, let us use only Canadian fossil fuels and stop the imports.

We can solve the question of economic dislocation that keeps being raised, but we cannot debate physics. We cannot win an argument with science. We cannot ask science to meet us halfway. To protect our children and grandchildren, we need to acknowledge that this is a climate emergency and set the course to stop using fossil fuels.