OTTAWA – As the world is fully engaged in responses to the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must not lose track of other key issues. The theme of the 2020 United Nations World Water Day is: Water and Climate Change.
“Water insecurity in parts of the world has led to mass migrations, insecurity and war,” said Green MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Paul Manly. “Access to clean drinking water should be recognized as a human right. Large water bottling corporations such as Nestle have pushed back against declaring water as a human right. With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to clean water is all the more important.”
Given that liquid and frozen water covers 75 per cent of the planet, it is no surprise that the climate crisis can already be measured through the lens of H2O. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported that the vast majority of the record seven million people displaced in the first half of last year were the victims of storms and floods. The increase in extreme weather events not only uproots populations, but also threatens contamination of drinking water sources in some areas.
“Floods and climate change are inextricably linked,” said Green Party Deputy Leader Daniel Green. “There is scientific consensus on this issue. So now that we know this, it’s incumbent upon governments to better assist municipalities in predicting and preparing for flood events while also protecting the integrity of floodplains. To do this, we need to share the federal tax base with cities and towns across the country and reduce their reliance on property taxes based on new construction in flood zones.”
Mr. Green suggests that governments need to map flood-prone areas based on up-to-date climate predictions. “We must ensure that vulnerable areas are excluded from any residential, commercial or institutional construction projects. This is the only way to protect people until serious climate action can mitigate the effects of climate change on the water levels of oceans, rivers and large lakes.”
Droughts resulting from the changing climate are exacerbating water scarcity, contributing to more frequent wildfires and harming agriculture, people’s health and productivity. The recent devastating fires in Australia were caused by hot dry conditions. In addition to burning millions of acres, killing dozens of people and millions of animals, the fires destroyed thousands of homes and pumped more than 250 megatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
“Unfortunately, our government is not acting as if we are in a climate crisis, despite having declared a climate emergency last year,” said Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “Climate change impacts water on so many levels. Arctic sea ice is melting at unprecedented rates, which impacts the Gulf stream and other ocean currents, allowing more heat to be stored in ocean water through loss of the albedo effect. As vast swaths of permafrost begin to thaw, they release enormous amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG). These positive feed-back loops - levels of warming that trigger other releases of GHG - pose the threat of unstoppable, self-accelerating warming. The threat to human civilization far outweighs the current COVID19 public health emergency.”
Sustainable water management is key to the future of food and agriculture as we confront more droughts and floods caused by climate change. Agriculture is by far the largest use of the earth’s available water, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Green Party agriculture critic Kate Storey said: “The adoption of organic farming methods will reduce agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions, while regenerative farming practices, which capture carbon while increasing the soil’s water holding capacity, are key to reducing the effects of climate change and protecting food production in an unpredictable future.”
Jenica Atwin (MP, Fredericton) acknowledges the important role water has for Indigenous peoples. “Traditional knowledge among Canada’s first peoples teaches us that water is life” said Ms. Atwin. “The traditional grand chief from my territory has the critical role of advocating for his people and future generations as well as a responsibility to protect water as our most precious resource. I am thankful to the water protectors for their incredible commitment to the planet and for the sacrifices they make in their efforts.”
“Canadians are fortunate to have an abundant supply of freshwater and yet 61 long-term drinking advisories still remain in First Nations communities,” said Interim Green Party leader Jo-Ann Roberts. “We urge the government to end these as quickly as possible. The climate crisis requires us to closely examine all water-related issues in Canada, and prepare accordingly. In their recent budgetary recommendations to Minister Morneau, the Green Party caucus urged the federal government to increase emergency funds related to climate disasters and climate-related issues. We must diligently protect our freshwater and saltwater environments from pollution, and implement sustainable fishing practices that benefit coastal communities from coast to coast to coast.”
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