COLUMN: A renewable energy future — led by the people

We did it. We got a global agreement to keep us moving towards dealing with this climate mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Montana Burgess of the West Kootenay EcoSociety was one of an estimated 15

Montana Burgess lives in the Slocan Valley and works as the community organizer with the West Kootenay EcoSociety. She is in Paris at the international climate conference as the head of logistics for the Climate Action Network-International delegation, the largest non-government network working on the climate crisis. Additionally, she coordinated with Canadian organizations attending the summit and followed developments and Canada’s contributions to the Paris climate deal. This is the last of three columns.

We did it. We got a global agreement to keep us moving towards dealing with this climate mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. It’s certainly not enough to prevent catastrophic climate change, but it is a signal that governments are seeing the writing on the wall and beginning to catch up with the reality that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end. Business as usual is over for big oil, and the global transition to clean jobs and 100 per cent renewable energy is well underway.

While the country negotiators and ministers huddled in corners of the conference centre, and worked out the final details of what they could accept in the agreement, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a demonstration on Saturday afternoon. I was one of 15,000 people who stood in the street between the iconic Arc de Triumph and the Paris financial district.

Babies, teenagers, grandmas, and everyone in-between lined the street wearing red to symbolize our common redline: climate justice must be the priority for the path ahead. We were a massive human redline for many blocks, showing our commitment to defend our common home and commemorate known victims of climate change. It was like a recommitment ceremony for Paris citizens and climate activists from around the world to keep pushing on. The real progress in the fight for climate justice will be lead by the people, not our politicians.

While on the Avenue de la Grande Armée, I was overwhelmed by the feelings of solidarity and we are making change. So many people left their comfortable houses on a cold day to stand outside together and make loud noise. This is what keeps me going.

Demonstrations at important moments send messages to politicians that we are willing to put ourselves on the line and take risks to get what we want: real climate action. This builds the political will to act, but also builds the climate movement and our sense of community. We are stronger and more diverse than ever before, in Paris, at home in the Kootenays, and around the world.

I started this with “we did it.” What I really mean is that we, the people, did it. We have successfully pressured to make climate inaction a political liability. Yes, the UN countries did work out the deal and did a tremendous amount of good work, but it’s only because the people of their countries gave them that mandate. We now need to keep the pressure on at home over the 90 days following the Paris climate summit. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to work with provinces to come up with a more ambitious Canada-wide plan to take real climate action.

We also need to work with our local governments to ensure we are taking the leadership in our communities that is lacking more broadly in Canada. Cities need to start conversations on adopting 100 per cent renewable energy goals and developing plans to get us there. We have to have 100 per cent renewable energy throughout the world by 2050, according to science. In the Kootenays, we need to do our fair share to rise to the challenge that can have tremendous benefits beyond the moral reasons.

Together, let’s show our cities that we’ll support their efforts to make the Kootenays a leader for clean jobs, healthy communities, and 100 per cent renewable energy. This is the path forward people around the world are taking coming out of this historic moment in Paris to avoid the climate crisis and create the future we know is possible.

Previously

Making new Columbia Basin friends at the Paris climate summit

In Paris with … shoes, people power, and, of course, Trudeau