Blog: What will it take to achieve a Green and Just Recovery?

Blog posted by Isobel Mason, CELA Communications Intern and Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher 

The predicted second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is upon us. Despite so much disruption in little over six months, much greater change is demanded on top of coping with the daily changes the pandemic has wrought.

For the second wave, we know more this time – about how to stay safe and how to protect each other. We also know these abilities are unequal and a direct reflection of social inequities.

In a long overdue reckoning with social and environmental justice, the federal government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better. A green and just recovery must address social and intergenerational equity and confront the related crises of catastrophic climate change and biodiversity loss.

Green and Just Recovery
 A green and just recovery for Canada means prioritizing the health and wellbeing of natural ecosystems that sustain all species instead of corporate profits. Investments must ensure environmental progress, address social and environmental justice, and align with Canada’s environmental commitments while also strengthening them.

The climate and biodiversity crisis already hit us hard in a pre-COVID world, and if there is one thing the virus has shown us, it is that we are vulnerable. We need to build and invest in a strong, safe, and healthier future to nurture the relationship between the planet and us.

CELA is part of the One Earth One Voice movement to demand a a Green and Just Recovery, a path forward that means investing in:.

• A transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy
• Protection and restoration of land, freshwater, and ocean ecosystems as well as protection for the wildlife that call these places home
• An end to the use of single-use plastics with the growth of a circular economy
• Replacement of toxic chemicals used in agriculture, consumer goods, and manufacturing with safer alternatives
• Development of accessible, affordable and healthy communities and transportation networks
• A future that prioritizes social and racial justice, economic equity, and well-being, built in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and communities vulnerable to environmental harm

The Speech from the Throne, delivered on Sept. 23rd, addressed the government’s plan for economic recovery, including important commitments to income support and job creation tools and investments. The Throne Speech also makes strong environmental commitments including measures to address climate change, expand natural areas and nature-based climate solutions, reform legislation addressing toxic substances, and create a new Canada Water Agency. These are worthy, but general, goals.

The pending fall economic statement may provide more details on costs and implementation. Meanwhile, the Green Budget Coalition (GBC), in its annual set of recommendations, spells out a detailed agenda for recovery.

The GBC is made up of many of the same groups in One Earth, One Voice and urges the government to step up in this critical moment in history and seize the opportunity to create and achieve transformational change.

Retrofitting housing

The Throne Speech promises to create thousands of jobs through retrofitting homes and buildings to meet emission standards, while cutting energy costs for families and businesses. To meet this goal, GBC recommends $10 billion to be invested into energy efficient building retrofits to reduce fossil fuel reliance and allow Canada to meet the Greener Home retrofit target of 1.5 million homes.

While not mentioned in the Throne Speech, GBC also recommends enhancements to the National Housing Strategy to achieve deep carbon reductions.

Clean Transportation

The GBC recommends $4.8 billion invested over five years for clean transportation, focusing on: transit, a zero-emission bus procurement incentive program, zero emission vehicles, fuel saving devices on heavy duty vehicles, and decarbonizing the fuel supply.

The government has proposed to help deliver more transit and active transit options, as well as acknowledging GBC recommendations for making zero emission vehicles more affordable and investing in charging stations across the country.

Nature based climate solutions

After a visceral reminder of the importance of nature during the pandemic, Canada plans to invest in protecting one quarter of our land, and one quarter of our oceans over the next five years. In addition, the government pledged to expand urban parks so everyone has access to green space, as well as planting two billion trees.

Focusing on restoration of forests, wetlands, grasslands, and improved management for forestry and agriculture, the GBC recommends investing $2.6 billion over five years. In addition, we call for $4.8 billion for protected areas over the same time period, with a spotlight on increased support for Indigenous land protection and water conservation.

Other GBC recommendations

CELA was involved in preparing GBC recommendations for funding the regulation of toxic substances, including ensuring adequate funding to update pesticide risk assessments, and a $200 million investment over five years to operationalize the Canada Water Agency, including much-needed capacity to support water monitoring of pesticides.

Around the world, numerous countries are announcing bold plans for green stimulus. The government of Canada must do the same and doing so is backed by solid economic analyses confirming the wisdom and anticipated large payback on “green” investments.