Ontario's electricity emissions trending the wrong way
Every December, Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) releases an Annual Planning Outlook, covering electricity supply and demand, generation capacity and transmission infrastructure. This year's report projects that GHG emissions will increase much more steeply than last year's, which was already deeply concerning. The 2021 forecast was for emissions to reach 15 megatonnes in 20 years; now, that number has jumped to 18.6 megatonnes.
This did not happen by accident. It's the result of the provincial government moving backward on climate change for the past three years: backing out of wind and solar projects and removing rebates for electric vehicles. As the demand for electricity increases, the province has neither directly procured more renewable energy, nor opened the electricity market to allow renewable generation to enter the marketplace.
What's at stake?
Ontario's government plans to meet the province's increasing demand for electricity using gas rather than renewables like wind, solar and hydro power. They've already purchased out-of-commission gas plants to fill the gap that will result from Ontario's nuclear reactors being retired or refurbished over the coming decade. Right now, gas powers about 7% of the province's electricity. If the plan to replace nuclear energy with gas, GHG emissions from gas plants would increase 300% by 2030 and at least 500% by 2040, according to the IESO. Find more background on this plan here.
What can you do?
IESO's report hasn't garnered much attention in the news, but it's a good opportunity for parents to reach out to their MPPs and let them know their concerns.
You can cut and paste the text to the right and email to your MPP (Find your MPP's email address here.)
Try to add your own thoughts about meeting Ontario’s growing demand for electricity through renewable energy rather than gas – individual submissions make a strong impact!
Consider copying all provincial party leaders on your email: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
Share this link with your networks: family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours and others; encourage them to be aware of the issue and contact their own MPPs.
Want to get your kids involved?
Here's a holiday-themed card they can print out, colour, and send with your email. There's room at the bottom for a message of their own. You could even mail the card to your MPP, or, if you can reach their constituency office, drop it off in person with a copy of your letter.
I’m writing as a parent in your constituency, deeply concerned that every day there is more evidence that our children’s health, well-being, and future existence is being directly and seriously impacted by climate change.
It’s clear on all counts that phasing out gas and transitioning to renewable energy would have multiple short and long-term benefits to the health and well-being of Ontarians; ramping up gas production to power electricity demands would have the opposite effect.
IESO’s recently-released annual planning outlook for 2021 shows a steep increase in the demand for electricity, and an equally high jump in GHG emissions from generating that electricity. Using data from the report, the graph below shows how alarming that increase is.
The science, and the growing evidence around us every day, are clear: along with air and water pollution, GHG emissions hasten climate change, leading to more frequent dangerous heat events, more extreme weather events such as flooding and drought which threaten food and housing security, and above all, irreversible damage to the environment. This summer’s Net Zero by 2050 report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) stated clearly that all new fossil fuel projects must be stopped if we are to have a chance at meeting the goal of net zero by 2050.
Increasing GHG emissions endanger the health and well-being of Ontarians by exposing them to extreme weather events, deadly heat-waves, destructive flooding, and more insect-borne disease. This has to be the government’s primary concern, because healthy people and communities are the province’s biggest economic asset.
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)’s Call to Action on Climate Health from 2019 cited data linking chronic exposure to fine particulate air pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels to 7,100 premature deaths in Canada per year and annual health-related costs of $53.5 billion.
Children are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution and climate change as a result of fossil fuel combustion. Due to their rapid growth and immature immune and detoxification systems, unborn children and young children are particularly affected biologically. Children breathe more air per kilogram of body weight than do adults, and require three to four times the amount of food on a body-weight basis than adults, so they are more exposed to pollutants in air and food – pollutants that come from the combustion of fossil fuels. The effects of fossil fuel combustion are long-term, lasting multiple decades as children grow and mature, and they cannot necessarily be reversed. Phasing out fossil fuels as soon as possible will minimize these impacts on children and ensure future generations are not exposed to these health risks.
The impacts on human health are significantly higher for members of vulnerable communities, particularly low-income and racialized communities, who are most often physically situated more closely to the sources of pollution and least resourced to be able to deal with the impacts.
Increasing demand for electricity to power electric vehicles and allow us to transition from fossil fuels should not rely on fossil fuels to get us there. Research and real-world examples show that solutions already exist with the capability to meet Ontario’s electricity demands, and those solutions have been proven to work at the scale needed.
And, phasing out gas and transitioning to renewable energy will be economically advantageous to Ontario on numerous counts. The pace of the global transition to renewable energy is an opportunity for this province, not a barrier. It’s clear that renewable energies are the energy sources of the future. By phasing out gas, investing in infrastructure to bring in Quebec hydro power, and by developing its own renewable energy sector, Ontario will attract international investment in clean-tech innovation and research. If we fail to grasp this opportunity, the province will fall farther and farther behind.
So the choice is clear: increasing gas-powered electricity production would damage Ontario’s people, environment, and economy; investing in renewable energy would help us move into a clean energy future. As your constituent, I call on you to support the use of renewable energy to meet our increasing demand for electricity, and to stand against the destructive move back to gas power.
Public Consultation: Getting to Net-Zero
Canada's Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB) is looking for public input into its first report to government. Your voice is welcome and needed!
You may remember the NZAB was created earlier this year as part of Bill C-12, to advise the federal government on how Canada can reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. It's an independent, public board and its mandate includes public consultation.
Right now, the NZAB is preparing a report on key guiding principles to help set targets for the oil and gas sector.
The deadline for submissions is Dec. 22 but don't let that incredibly tight deadline stop you from sharing your thoughts! Below are links to suggested responses and a template submission to help you.
Remember: use your voice and your story. You do not need to be an expert on the science of climate change. Your perspective as a parent, grandparent or caregiver concerned about the impact of GHG emissions on your child's health and their future is what is needed.
Here's a great template response put together and generously shared by the FOK Toronto team.
It's based on this compilation of suggested responses from teams in the FOK network.
And here are more suggested responses shared by Climate Messengers Canada
What to do
- You can submit as a group or as an individual.
- You can submit one response (as in the template above) or enter your answer to each of the four questions directly on the NZAB website.
- Here's the link to submit in either format. You'll also find more information at that link about the NZAB and the public consultation process.
- Send a copy of your submission to [email protected]
- Share a link to this page with your networks and encourage as many people as possible to make submissions.
The NZAB notes on its website that this is the first step in the process of preparing its report. In early 2022, NZAB will share a report on the public consultation and its advice to government. Along with online engagement, the board will also meet with groups virtually. Stay tuned for more opportunities to participate, and sign up for updates from the NZAB.
Defund Coastal GasLink Week of Action
December 20 - 25 will be an international week of action to defund the Coastal GasLink pipeline, organized by a coalition of groups under the leadership of Indigenous land defenders from Gidimt’en Checkpoint.
Here is their message:
Over the past year, major banks RBC and Chase and private equity giant KKR have ignored countless requests to meet with communities impacted by the fossil fuel projects that the companies are funding. These companies are bankrolling Wet’suwet’en people being removed at gunpoint from their land.
We refuse to let these pipeline financiers get away with it. The week of December 20th Indigenous land defenders are calling for a day of action calling out the corporate giants behind Coastal GasLink.
Three ways parents can support this critical call to action:
- Join a mass organizing call December 14 at 4pm PT/7pm ET and hear from Eve Saint, Wet’suwet’en Land Defender and Amy Gray, Senior Climate Finance at Stand.earth. Register here to join the meeting.
- Take action in your own communities to call attention to RBC's role in bankrolling the pipeline and profiting off destroying Wet'suwet'en land. Here's a link to resources and a planning toolkit.
- Amplify this call to action and any local actions within your networks and communities. If you're part of an action, make sure to use the tags in the toolkit, and share photos and posts with us so we can amplify further.
You can find more background and ways to act in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en land defenders here.
2021: What an Impact We Made!
Parenting never stops, right? This year, parents, grandparents and caregivers across the For Our Kids network didn't stop marching, planting, writing, calling, posting, and raising their voices for their kids - and having a major impact.
Here are some highlights.
Stepping on to the federal stage
The year began with a concentrated focus on Bill C-12, Canada's first Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. The draft bill didn't move quickly enough or set emissions targets low enough for parents, so teams across the country met with their MPs, wrote op-eds and letters to the editor, and told the committee reviewing the Bill what they wanted, in written submissions and in person.
Impact: they were quoted during debates in the House of Commons and invited to present to the committee. It was a broad wave of action from organizations across the country that resulted in changes to the Bill, and then ensuring it passed before a federal election was called, but it was parent voices that stood out as individuals calling on elected officials to do the right thing for all our kids. Along the way, they shared what they were learning about lobbying at the federal level with other parents, encouraging them to do the same.
Earth Day found parts of the country in lockdown again. The FOK Ottawa-Gatineau team moved its pop-up art campaign online, sending photos and videos to elected officials at every level, asking for sustainable climate solutions.
May inspired visits to MLA offices across BC, demanding protection for old growth forests, and a video with our partners at Mères au Front in which Moms shared what they really wanted for Mother's Day.
Not to be outdone, some well-known Dads opened their hearts during an online session for Father's Day, talking about what it means to be a father during a climate crisis. Check it out here: it's worth watching!
August brought heat domes and wild fires across the western provinces. Parents and grandparents joined the Canada Still on Fire protests and Marie-Paule and Lyne from the new Mères au Front | For Our Kids Nelson team shared their story of living through fires and smoke, encouraging others to join them in calling for change.
It had already been a long, frightening, and deeply challenging summer when a snap federal election was called, and teams sprang into action, meeting with candidates, hosting and attending town halls, trying to bring the issue of climate change to the front of debates and above all, getting everyone to vote for change.
When the House resumed, FOK teams in Nanaimo-Ladysmth, the Sunshine Coast, and Montreal pressed the government to pass just transition legislation within the first 100 days in office.
MP Rachel Bendayan listened, and presented FOK Montreal's petition to the House on Dec. 7.
The Global Climate Strike on Sept. 24 brought parents back out into the streets in support of Fridays for Future.
And back-to-school will look different in districts across BC soon, including Duncan, where parent action convinced the school board to purchase an electric school bus - a trend that is literally picking up speed across the province.
Meanwhile, parents and kids from Pour Nos Enfants/For Our Kids Montréal spearheaded a pollinator garden project at one school and took part in a local project to increase urban green spaces and the tree canopy at another.
Over the past year, growing awareness of the racism embedded within the culture, systems and internalized beliefs and assumptions in our communities sparked a growing desire among FOK members to examine more closely the biases and racism ingrained in our own thoughts, beliefs and actions. More than 30 members participated in online training with celebrated community builder and founder of Moms Against Racism, Kerry Cavers, focused on dismantling racism within ourselves, our families and communities. The training was a first concrete step in considering the role we need to play in supporting climate and racial justice.
Learning together online was a theme for teams, not only as a result of pandemic restrictions but also because teams recognized the opportunity to reach more parents and draw them into conversations and action. FOK North Shore hosted a monthly "Meet the Expert" session featuring local and national presenters on all aspects of climate change and solutions. All the recorded online sessions hosted by teams, along with network-wide sessions, are available on FOK's YouTube channel.
COP26 drew parents around the world together in the largest parent mobilization ever, calling on world leaders to stop financing new fossil fuel exploration and projects, and invest in a just transition. Parents across Canada joined the action, finding ways to share their messages with decision-makers in person and online. FOK Vancouver members carried their visual call to cut carbon emissions to MP offices around the city. Mothers like Sarah Nova Scotia posted their messages online. And members of Babies for Climate Action, part of the FOK network, made moving videos to share with leaders.
In November, climate change-related weather events again caused widespread destruction across BC, with atmospheric rivers, mudslides and flooding driving thousands from their homes. Enraged that RCMP officers were being sent to forcibly remove Wet'suwet'en Land Defenders from their traditional territories in the midst of this climate emergency, teams across BC jointly wrote and signed an open letter and call to action, including calls for the federal and provincial governments to respect the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recognize that no one should be criminalized for standing up for their basic rights, dismantle and defund the Community-Industry Response Group arm of the RCMP, and suspend Coastal GasLink’s operations until and only if the Free Prior and Informed Consent of all Wet'suwet'en hereditary leaders is granted.
FOK teams offered parents, grandparents and families across the country chances to connect, learn, and build community and resilience in 2021. It's clear that the set of parenting skills needed in these times is growing to include standing up for those whose voices aren't heard, holding decision-makers to account, and supporting each other in learning and acting together. It also includes helping their kids and families deal with eco-anxiety. Here, to close out this year-end review, is an interview with two parents from the FOK network that ran in the Globe and Mail Dec. 4. Being heard and seen is the best evidence of the growing impact parents are making every day - with more to come in 2022.
Meet with elected officials
Contacting elected representatives for your area may not be something you are familiar or comfortable with. Maybe you feel that other people are better at doing that than you are, or that it doesn't make a difference because your voice won't be heard.
Their role as decision-makers, though, depends on you. Your input is what gives federal Members of Parliament (MPs) and members of provincial and territorial governments the mandate to act on your behalf, and you may be surprised to know how rarely they hear directly from their constituents about climate concerns.
Whether you voted for the current holders of those seats or for somebody else, you are their constituents and they work for you!
The moms in this picture were part of the green hearts campaign during Mother's Day 2020, when physical distancing due to COVID-19 turned a planned march on Parliament Hill into an online and mail-in campaign. See more pictures of moms posting green hearts on MP's offices here.
Because climate change affects everything, all four levels of elected officials have a role to play. We cover school board here and city hall here, so let's now also talk about provincial and federal officials.
Remember, we don't need to be experts to do this - all we need is to have concern for our kids. Here's how:
1) Ask for a meeting. Provincial and federal elected officials hold meetings in their constituency all the time, so contact their office and ask for one. Say you are a small delegation (3-5) of parents/grandparents who are constituents and you want to meet to discuss action on climate change. During COVID-19, physical distancing and other regulations will impact how you can meet; at the same time, elected officials have become more adept at using online means of communication and this opens up new opportunities for virtual face-to-face meetings.
2) Do some reading and make a plan. You do not need to be an expert on climate policy. Remember that your provincial or federal person probably isn't either! They are just people like you who got elected. But, before your meeting have your team do some reading about what's going on with the province or the federal government on climate change and talk about it together so that you have the basics. Make a plan for the meeting, like who will say what and who will keep track of the conversation.
3) Express concern and ask for more. Take turns in your delegation expressing your concern for your kids or grandkids given Canada is not on track to meet its climate targets, and ask for more action. You may have something specific you are asking for, or you may just ask "what more can you do?" and make them answer. If you get into a debate, keep it respectful.
4) Follow up. Write a letter thanking them for the meeting, reiterating your concerns, and asking for more action. Ask for a written reply.
If your provincial or federal elected official refuses to meet with you after trying a few times, you may want to go public with that in order to hold them accountable in a different way, pointing out that they are refusing to meet with their constituents.
There is another tactic to both raise climate change with elected officials and to engage the public - you can ask your elected official to participate in a local climate forum. You can partner with other groups to put on an event with a few speakers, including the elected official, where the public gets to participate and to ask questions and make comments. Check out our resources for a hosting a town hall.
Creating art is more than a way to express yourself and what you're feeling - it has been shown to boost your mental and physical well-being, and that is something we could all benefit from right now. It doesn't have to be perfect! Dance, sing, draw, paint, weave, knit, or find your own way of sharing your story.
A great way to involve your kids is to have them colour this picture or draw their own and share it. Maybe they want to send it to the Prime Minister (no postage needed), along with a message.
Green hearts are becoming a symbol for this movement. They've been posted on MP's office windows, sent in the mail, and hung in windows. How about making your own green heart, sending it to your MP and sharing it online? You could talk your neighbours into posting green hearts along your street or on your balconies.
You could even make a video to share.
Whatever you do, please share! Your story and your message can inspire other parents and kids, and it's important for decision-makers to hear from you. Tag @forourkidscanada on FB and we'll amplify.
Did you know that a tree can absorb 20 kg of carbon dioxide per year? Planting trees won't solve climate change (since our collective emissions are still too big), but it can help! Trees also provide many other benefits like habitat, shade, and water retention.
And, a tree planting project can be a great kid-friendly community event that can raise awareness about climate change and develop new relationships for you and your team.
Here are some tips for putting on a tree planting event:
1) Find a suitable site. The longer the trees live, the more carbon they store, so it's important to choose a tree planting site where they will thrive for decades. You may find a private property owner who has some 'spare' land. Your city or school may have some public property that's appropriate, or you could call around to local land trusts to ask. Allow lots of lead time for this! It's helpful of course if the site is accessible since you'll want lots of people there on the day, and safe for kids.
2) Get some tree advice. Your local garden centre, city hall, local greening/tree planting organization or phone book will have somebody who knows a lot about trees, whether a qualified arborist or something close. Tell them you want to do a community tree planting event and get their advice about what species to plant and how to do that so that the trees have good conditions. Perhaps they'd agree to come on the day to give planting lessons? Remember that new trees need careful watering for a few years, so make sure that's taken care of.
3) Seek donations. See if you can get saplings, soil, and mulch donated. Call around to garden centres and explain what you are up to and see if they are willing. Remember you may also need to deer-proof new saplings, so see if you can get tree guards donated too. If you do need to buy supplies, can you get other local businesses or service clubs to donate to cover those costs?
4) Make an event plan. Planting trees sounds easy, but when you have dozens of people arriving at the same time, you need a plan for how you are going to orient everyone and get them going without chaos! You'll need helpers with clarity about their roles. Think everything through and write it down.
5) Make it fun and social. Yes, plant trees, but also build in other stuff. Can you serve lunch? Can you have a social gathering after? Take the opportunity for people to interact with one another and get to know each other. Ask people to join your team for your next project.
6) Communicate and educate. Both in the build up to your event and after it's over, you have the opportunity to educate people about why you are doing this. You can talk about climate change and the need to act. You can work with your tree expert (from no. 2 above) to calculate the annual carbon sequestered by the project and advertise this. You can get people thinking about more solutions. Get local media involved and post on social media.
Holiday Cards for Change
Could you host a Holiday Cards for Change party with your family, friends or For Our Kids team? (Find a team near you here).
Making our climate action creative, impactful and fun creates the energy we need to stay involved. As 2021 comes to a close, tap into your inner artist and create some homemade cards for change.
Send your cards to your elected officials or other power holders (some ideas below).
Three easy steps,
on your own or with a group
Make it bright
Think about ways you can bring friends and family together online for a card-making party: share your thoughts as you're creating them, have some hot chocolate or treats, play some music or sing songs. Do a show and tell at the end to share your messages and artwork. Share stories of hope and solutions.
Make it personal
You can find some designs to print out here or create your own. Then, tell your story. What are you wishing for?
- Reflect with your kids about the type of world we want (5, 10, 20 years from now) and then capture those hopes and demands in a card.
- Thank those who have been champions for climate action and remind the rest that we need a just transition to a low carbon world now.
- A plan for reaching Bill C-12's #NetZero reduction targets by 2030 and adding an interim objective by 2026 (background here and video call to action here).
- Ask government(s) to set and reach real goals informed by science.
- Acceptance of the economic forecasting that show more pipelines or fossil fuel subsidies are not the investment we need.
- A commitment to using a sustainability and equity lens to make all decisions, realizing the health of people and the planet are inextricably tied.
You and your kids will have your own way of expressing what's in your heart.
Make it visible
Take a picture of your kids or yourself with your cards and post on social media. You can tag the recipient or your elected officials, and remember to tag @forourkidscanada on FB/IG so we can amplify your voice. Or email us your photos and a short description of your event here: [email protected]
Where to send your cards
Send a card to whoever you want to influence - locally to globally. Here's a few ideas:
- Your city councilor, mayor or provincial premier
- Your member of parliament: You can send cards for free (without postage) to your MP's office in Ottawa. Find your MP here.
- Send an e-card or email the photos to your elected officials. Copy to the Prime Minister ([email protected]), the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (S[email protected]) and the Minister of Finance/Deputy Prime Minister ([email protected]).
- The CEO of Canada's top banks, who continue to fund fossil fuel development (more here):
RBC: David I. McKay, President, CEO and Director, 200 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5J 2W7. Email: [email protected]
TD: Bharat Masrani, Group President and CEO, 66 Wellington Street West 15th Floor, Td Tower Toronto, Ontario A6 M5K 1A2. Email: [email protected] (and copy [email protected])
BMO: Darryl White, President and CEO, 100 King Street West, 28th Floor, Toronto, On M5X 1A1. Email: [email protected]
Scotiabank: Brian J. Porter, President and CEO, Scotia Plaza 44 King Street, West Toronto, Ontario M5H 1H1, Canada. Email: [email protected]
CIBC: Victor G. Dodig, President and CEO. 199 Bay Street, Commerce Court Toronto, ON, CA, M5L 1A2. Email: [email protected]
Holiday Cards for Change: Inspired by the local group Pour Nos Enfants / For Our Kids Montréal who partnered in 2019 with Amnesty International's group there to start this tradition.Read more
Support Wet'suwet'en Land Defenders
Parents across the FOK network continue to support Wet’suwet’en land defenders. In 2019 we joined calls for an immediate halt to RCMP raids and arrests of land defenders and journalists covering the events at the checkpoint. Up to date information on the situation can be found at Gidimt'en Checkpoint.
Here's a video with legal context on why and how hereditary chiefs and Indigenous land defenders are blocking this pipeline and evicting Coastal Gas Link from their territories.
Here are concrete actions parents and families can take:
- Learn what's happening: visit the Gidimt'en checkpoint website and follow @yintah_access (IG) @Gidimten (Twitter) and @wetsuwetenstrong (FB).
- Watch the October 2022 webinar from Gidimt'en Checkpoint and Decolonial Solidarity from October 2022. Or the documentary Invasion (2019).
- Share a statement of solidarity from yourself, your organization or group. Share it by email with [email protected] and with [email protected] to appear here. Here's an example - a 2020 statement from For Our Kids Montreal.
- Parents/grandparents in BC can join the BC For Our Kids teams by sending a letter to your provincial MLAs.
- Host or participate in a solidarity rally or action in your area.
- Press banks to stop investing in and subsidizing pipelines - check out more info here
- Call on provincial and federal governments to stop subsidizing pipelines including the Coastal GasLink (CGL) and Trans Mountain, uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and invest instead in a just transition for those working for and impacted by fossil fuel industries - find your MP here
- Contact Coastal GasLink and demand they respect Indigenous rights and Wet'suwet'en law
- Donate in support of Wet'suwet'en land defenders, or host a fundraiser (see Solidarity Fundraising Protocols here).
- More actions suggested by Indigenous land defenders and check out the Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit 2020
"It's inconceivable that the BC government continues to resource the violent removal of Indigenous peoples from their traditional territories. And, they are doing so in the midst of BC's greatest reckoning on climate change - to make way for new fossil fuel infrastructure."
- Sally, FOK Sunshine Coast
"Parents are infuriated the B.C. government is using a climate disaster as cover to push through a pipeline on unceded Wet'suwet'en land."
- Jennifer, Babies for Climate Action New Westminster
September 2021 - Federal Election
Check out this round-up of election actions by teams in the For Our Kids network across the country!
There is no time when politicians listen to us more than during a federal election. Curious about what our teams are doing in the campaign and lead-up to the election? Click here to learn more.
Voting is one way to make your voice heard, and there is so much more we can do as parents and grandparents, particularly if we join together with each other, our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.
For Our Kids is a non-partisan network. That means we stay away from endorsing candidates or parties and instead focus on making the climate the priority issue for everyone running for office. How? Here are some ideas.
1) Talk about what you are voting for
Without saying who you are voting for, do say what you are voting for, speaking from the heart about how that connects to your love for your kids or grandkids. People will connect with that on an emotional level and be moved to follow your lead.
- make a lawn or window sign to tell everyone you're going to #VoteForOurKids - and for candidates whose platforms put kids' futures first - take a selfie and tag us so we can share!
- make a quick 60-second video and post it on your social channels
- turn your message into a brief, punchy letter to the editor in your local paper - be brief, creative, and speak from the heart to connect with readers on an emotional level (facts and figures are fine, but stories move people)
Remember to share a copy with us, tag us or use the hashtag #VoteForOurKids and we'll amplify!
2) Get your candidates to talk
Don't wait for them to come to you - go to them and tell them what you care about! Put your issues front and centre. Whoever wins will then know what their constituents expect of them. There are a lot of ways to engage with your local candidates:
- call them up and talk to them
- get a group together (could be a bunch of friends) and invite candidates to come to you, maybe outside in a local park while your kids play
- if there's a candidate debate in your riding, go to the mic and ask a question (or two, if it's allowed)
3) Bigger actions
- If there isn't a candidate debate happening, organize one. Sound like a lot of work? You don't have to do it alone: partner with other local groups, connect with us for support ([email protected]) and/or reach out to GreenPac for more on their 100 Debates on the Environment initiative. Record the debate and post it for a wider audience - we can help you with that!
- Survey your candidates on their climate platform and share the results - we can help with this too! Joining with other local groups will make it more likely that candidates will take it seriously. And remember to include ALL candidates and publish the results fairly to validate the process.
Parents Get A Downpayment On Green & Just Recovery
After covid hit, parents in the For Our Kids network were some of the first to organize for a green & just recovery - knowing that the virus would lead to hardship that governments needed to help us build back in ways that solved other problems too, such as environmental sustainability and equity.
Parents inundated their MPs with green hearts calling for a green & just recovery, they engaged in parliamentary committees to push for the same, and they organized virtual town halls with elected officials at every level of government, including both the federal and BC environment ministers.
With yesterday's federal budget we got to see if all that work paid off, whether the federal government listened, and the answer was "yes, sort of."
Overall, it's good that the federal government doesn't see this as a time for austerity and is willing to spend money. On the justice side, they clearly heard the evidence that covid has led to a "she-cession," hitting women harder, and are promising $30 billion over five years for child care (something the Liberals had promised for decades).
Another good part of the budget was $300 million for Black-led charitable organizations, reflecting the systematic barriers facing the Black community in Canada.
On the 'green' side of the budget, there was money but not the sort of spending that's going to lead to the transformational change we need. The biggest bet is $5 billion more for a "Net Zero Accelerator," a fund for heavy industry to de-carbonize, including unproven carbon capture technology for the oil and gas industry that delays the conversation about a just transition for those workers.
There was also $200 million over two years for fighting agricultural emissions, $40,000 low-interest loans for home retrofits, and money to encourage the electric vehicle industry. The budget also earmarked $4.1 billion for nature-based investments, including for expanding protected areas.
In sum, there is much in the budget that parents can be pleased with, some positive results to their advocacy. At the same time, we're not there yet - there is much left for us to do. Onward, for our kids.
Accountable Earth Day
Let's face it, many of us have come to take Earth Day for granted, perhaps just as we do with the Earth itself. It passes each year with a few stories in the newspaper about planting trees, and then...back to business as usual.
But business as usual is destroying the very things we need to survive. WE'VE NEVER NEEDED SO MUCH TO NOT TAKE THE EARTH FOR GRANTED! We humans are in deep trouble because our current practices are undermining the conditions that make our civilization possible, whether from carbon emissions or loss of biodiversity.
So this year we're calling for an Accountable Earth Day. Let's use this moment to hold at least one decision maker accountable for following through on promises to do better. If we all do that, just like in the spirit of the first Earth Day when millions of people participated, our world will change for the better. Our kids deserve no less.
Here are three ideas for action:
1) Hold a decision maker accountable. Identify someone in your world - your mayor, your provincial representative, your MP, or even your bank manager - and get in touch with them to ask them to follow through on their green promises (since they all make them!). Be as specific as you can, which may need a little research first.
If you want an easy action to take on this front, here is a petition to the federal government asking them to strengthen Bill C-12, climate accountability legislation which was introduced in September but still has holes we need fixed.
2) Involve your kids. Earth Day is supposed to be a bit of a celebration too and by all means join in with things like (COVID-19 safe) tree plantings. The voices of kids are powerful too so you can help them speak on behalf of their future. Help them write a letter to a decision maker or perhaps they could send that decision maker some of their awesome art work. Remind people in power what is really at stake. Here is an easy template for a colouring project they can do, before sending it off.
3) Tell the story. As always, you are more powerful when you tell your story so that others can be inspired. Whatever you do on Accountable Earth Day, capture it somehow in a picture or video and share that online. Tag us on Facebook or Instagram and we'll amplify. And, if you want to go one step further, tell your story in a short letter to your local newspaper (which you could do with your kids - they'd love to see their name in print!). Find tips here.
Small Grants Program
Are you a local group or team in the For Our Kids network with an idea for action that could use some funding to grow? We want to help you with that.
The Small Grants Program is available to local groups or teams in the network once a year for up to $500.
We'll cover costs for whatever it is you need to make something "go" - it could be printing costs, online ads, event costs, or so much more.
The Facilitation Grants Program are also available to help your team work through a big idea, action plan, or ongoing challenges like working as a team, how to facilitate meetings or events effectively, making collective decisions, looking at different organization models that make the most of individual skills and interests, recruiting and retaining members, avoiding burnout, how to organize for long-term change, etc.
These funds are available through FOK to find and contract a facilitator that could help your team address some of the things that you might be finding yourselves stuck on.
Reach out to us to talk about it. You can email me at [email protected] or message me on Slack. Whether you're at the idea stage or have something all planned out, I'm eager to hear about it!
Let's make it happen!
2020 In Review - Climate Action During Covid
Many people will have mixed emotions when they remember 2020. COVID-19 inflicted a lot of suffering and upended our world, exposing inequities along the way. Yet the year was also full of solidarity and kindness, with people coming together to comfort one another and to find a way forward together.
For Our Kids entered 2020 as a fledgling network born just a few months earlier. We have an organizing model that seeks to plug in climate-concerned parents and grandparents, so COVID-19 could have meant the end to For Our Kids as everyone understandably focused on the virus instead.
But something amazing happened. Our community hung together and adapted. We saw the parallels between COVID-19 and climate change in terms of both the challenges they pose and how we solve them. We pivoted to calling for a green and just recovery. We kept organizing and we kept growing. We got on the radar screen of elected officials. We got noticed in the media. We made our mark and set ourselves up to go even bigger in 2021.
At the core of all this are the local team or group leaders. These are mostly moms, with a few dads and grandparents, who stepped up to do the work of anchoring something in their area. And, many haven't done this before, so it's always amazing to how the love for their kids translates into the courage to lead. If you are reading this and think you could never do something like that, drop us a line and we'll happily introduce you to one of them whose story will convince you that you can!
There are so many highlights to 2020 - here are a few of them:
- In January, For Our Kids Niagara ran a successful push to replace the head of their local conservation authority who is a climate denier.
- Also in January, Babies for Climate Action - Greater Vancouver took their kids in to have a meeting with BC Attorney General David Eby to talk about their concerns.
- In January a group of parents in Québec circulated a large open letter calling for climate action on behalf of their kids.
- In January Port Hope for Future produced a great collage of pictures of local parents and kids adding up to a call to action on climate.
- In February we released the video "The Talk" - a tongue-in-cheek version of the awkward conversation teens sometimes have with their parents, with a twist.
- In February parents, students and teachers successfully convinced the Cowichan Valley school board to declare a climate emergency and develop plans for reducing emissions and doing more climate education.
- In February, Fridays for Future Guelph made "love your mother" Valentine's cards for local banks to draw attention in the media to their investments in fossil fuels, and hand delivered them (including one teen who closed his account).
- Other parents, both on their own and in groups, made Valentine's cards for decision makers encouraging them to act on climate change.
- For Our Kids Vancouver took the Valentine's message directly to the front door of MP Joyce Murray, posting a big heart that said "Stop Teck" (a proposed oil sands mine).
- Pour Nos Enfants / For Our Kids Montréal persisted in trying to get a meeting with Justin Trudeau (who is also an MP there) by showing up in person at his office.
- Parents for Future Toronto and Fridays for Future GTA took a "Kids Reject Teck" banner all the way to Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
- For Our Kids Niagara struck again in February, helping the St. Catharines city council strengthen its climate targets.
- On February 28, For Our Kids Montreal got a shout out from MP Rachel Bendayan in the House of Commons, probably the first mention of our organization in official Ottawa.
- In early March For Our Kids launched our BC electric school bus campaign, generating good media, and resulting in an early commitment by the BC government to buy 15 electric school buses.
- In early March a For Our Kids group in Ladysmith delivered “love letters for the planet” to their local MP, asking for action.
- On March 27 we offered the first of many Zoom events, this one with a child psychologist on "Coping and Well-Being in Unpredictable Times."
- On April 17 we hosted Clean Energy Canada Executive Director (and mom!) Merran Smith for a webinar on how to build back better after covid.
- On May 8 we hosted a Mother’s Day Zoom event, “Mothers’ Voices on Climate Action,” featuring our team leaders talking about their experiences, along with musical guests the Reid Jamieson Band.
- Then we went offline a little when we partnered with Mères au front on the "Green Hearts" campaign, with parents across the country making green hearts with climate messages for MPs, often delivering them to their office doors. This drew media, such as this in Vancouver, and this in Ottawa. The local group Babies for Climate Action – Vancouver turned their green hearts into this video.
- In late May the movement for Black lives exploded across North America and around the world. This was a moment both for action, with some of our parents’ groups participating in local rallies, as well as for reflection about For Our Kids and whether we are doing enough about systemic racism within our own network. We struck a justice committee of team leaders to develop this draft statement.
- Over the Father’s Day weekend in June we secured the rights to show the new climate documentary 2040, featuring a father looking for climate solutions for his daughter. This included a contest with prizes donated by LUSH.
- Over the next months, local teams then organized eight great Green & Just recovery virtual town halls with elected officials from First Nations, local, provincial, and federal levels, which included the Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, as well as the BC Environment Minister, among many others.
- Local teams and individual parents also participated in various government processes regarding recovery from COVID-19, such as with these submissions to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology and submissions to the Finance Committee, including this joint submission by three local groups.
- Media has started noticing For Our Kids, such as when Ottawa EnviroCentre interviewed Marianne and Erin from For Our Kids/Parents for the Planet Ottawa Gatineau, and this Conversation Lab podcast.
- In September For Our Kids Montreal spearheaded the filing an amicus brief in the “La Rose” youth lawsuit where 15 young Canadians are suing the federal government over failure to act quickly enough on climate change. Unfortunately, our brief was not accepted at this stage, and the youth are also appealing the initial judgement not to proceed with the case.
- On October 1 we partnered with MD Moms 4 Healthy Recovery to put on a webinar "Climate and Your Child's Health" with a panel of specialists.
- During the BC election in October, local groups reached out to candidates of all parties to share their concerns and ask them for their policy positions. This included some covid-safe in-person meetings outside and inside (over Zoom) with candidates around Vancouver, as well as online surveys with the groups promoting the results. Parents also used the opportunity to generate some media.
- In early November the Toronto team spearheaded a great Divestment 101 online workshop with speakers covering both pensions and banks and their role in the climate crisis.
- In November local teams weighed in at the local government level, asking for updates on municipal climate action, and adding their voice to the debate - this included this outdoor art display in Ottawa and a successful push for bold climate action in Vancouver!
Phew - that's a lot in a year, particularly during a pandemic! We've been so inspired by the dedication, skill, and creativity of all the parents in the network who have already made a huge impact. And we feel like we're just getting started. New teams continue to form across the country as our voices get stronger pressing for action - for our kids.
If this inspires you too and you want to join up, click here, and/or if you want to support this work financially, you can donate here.
Best wishes to all during the holidays, and we look forward to working with you in 2021.
Galen, Lella, and Matt
Parents And Kids Send Love Letters For Our Planet!
It's almost Valentine's Day - an opportunity to express our love for our kids and for the planet they'll inherit, including the need to take action to protect it.
We have a kid-friendly action for Valentine's. Want to join in?Read more