Peter Julian thinks about the year 2030 every day.
That’s the deadline international scientists have given the planet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming from climbing more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era temperatures in order to avoid cataclysmic disaster brought about by climate change.
Julian said reminders of climate change, whether it is the recent wildfires in the Amazon, flooding in Turkey or rising temperatures in Canada, are too pervasive now to ignore.
“I think because every day there’s another example of what we’re sliding into — we’re sliding into the abyss,” he said.
Julian is the New Democratic Party’s federal house leader, an MP for New Westminster-Burnaby and one of the proponents of the party’s version of Green New Deal, which he pitched to a crowd in Nelson on Wednesday.
The Green New Deal is an American proposal released in February by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey makes climate change the driving priority behind extensive societal changes including not just environmental law but also overhauls to sectors such as education, employment and transportation.
It’s also a template for the NDP’s made-in-Canada version.
In April, Julian put forward a motion in the House of Commons that called for Canada to create its own Green New Deal. That agreement would set out to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, create millions of green economy jobs, make investments in infrastructure and industry, guarantee access to clean water, air, healthy food and nature, and address historic and present inequalities suffered by First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples as well as vulnerable communities.
The motion is also the backbone of the NDP’s election plan ahead of the federal election expected to be called for October 21.
Julian and Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski held public consultation meetings in Cranbrook, Revelstoke and Nelson this week to hear feedback on the plan. Stetski, who is running for re-election, said he thought the tour was educational.
“One of the reasons this kind of an evening is so important is because I learn, and we get additional ideas. …,” said Stetski. “The Green New Deal is great, it’s an aspirational plan and we have to continue to add the details on how we’re going to get there.”
There were party faithful present at the meeting, but also plenty of skeptics.
Julian and Stetski took questions on a wide variety of topics including job transitioning for oil and gas workers, forestry and mining reform, single-use plastics, food security, water rights and animal agriculture. The pair also faced criticism for past NDP positions on Alberta’s tar sands, the party’s reluctance to work with the Green Party on strategic voting
Julian described the NDP’s plan as a working document that would be informed by meetings such as the one in the Nelson United Church.
“My experience has been from meetings that people are bringing their deepest thoughts, their experience, their professional experience and credentials, their activism, the work they do on the ground,” said Julian.
“People are really concerned. So tonight was a group of highly mobilized people.”
Julian said his eyes were opened to the climate change crisis in 2005. He was one year into his first term of office when he toured New Orleans shortly after the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
In retrospect, he says, Katrina was the start of climate change being connected in mainstream media to environmental disasters.
“It comes up every day now and I think for more and more people it’s part of the daily conversation. I can’t tell you the number of times people just raise it casually, often worried, often concerned, wanting action to be taken. That’s why we’ve put together our approach to the climate emergency.”