I've been working on environmental protection since 1988, creeping up to almost 30 years now. In that time, there have been a lot of international agreements. I vividly remember the Montreal Protocol created to phase out and eliminate ozone depleting substances, and the 1988 Climate Conference in Toronto. I participated in pre-consultations and agenda development for the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, and I was thrilled to hear about the establishment of the Kyoto Protocol.
I've seen all of these come and go, some more successful than others. And in the lead-up to the recent United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, I was becoming somewhat cynical. I've seen some of these international agreements fail to accomplish what they set out to do, and I thought: here we go—another massive global public relations exercise.
Now, several weeks post-Paris, I've become more optimistic. I do believe that there is now urgency on an international level that I hadn’t previously seen. The climate change deniers have clearly been put in the penalty box and are finally becoming non-relevant. And thankfully, it seems Canadians have a sense of the reality of climate change.
So what does it all mean? For me it means, rather than having two or three big greenhouse gas emissions reductions, it's going to be a thousand little steps. We’re seeing many actions: establishing more public transit and more fuel-efficient cars; eating more local food; having greater energy efficiency; better city planning so we are less car dependent; and changing our electricity production from carbon to green renewable ones.
We see Ontario’s Greenbelt as a huge opportunity to address climate change. We address food production and the growth of food closer to home leading to fewer carbon emissions; and the Greenbelt acts as a carbon sink sequestering carbon in the air.
There is no one size fits all, but many small steps lead us to one giant leap forward—and that’s definitely something to look forward to.