By Alex Neufeldt, climate activist
In the past fortnight, a storm ripped through many parts of Ontario, causing severe damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. In my hometown of Ottawa, people have been left without power for days, with winds of 120km per hour recorded in the city.
Scientists have confirmed that extreme weather events, like the type of storm that struck last weekend, are caused and worsened by climate change and these types of disasters will become even more frequent if we do not take sufficient climate action now.
All governments in Canada must take this threat seriously and listen to the experts about how we avert a climate catastrophe. This means governments must put in place measures that will immediately reduce greenhouse gas pollution over the next 8 years.
It is not lost on my generation that we are running out of time. That is why this September I will be going to court in a historic lawsuit to challenge the Ontario government for its failures in addressing the climate crisis.
In 2018 the Ontario government tore up the province’s relatively progressive climate targets and replaced them with a significantly weaker 2030 target. In the face of an overwhelming scientific consensus, they chose to backtrack.
Along with six other young people, I launched a lawsuit against the Ontario government under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in late 2019.
Like other youth around the planet, we are taking our government to court because we believe they are jeopardizing our future and our most fundamental rights. The Charter guarantees the rights of all Ontarians to life, liberty and security of the person. With the growing number of annual deadly natural disasters, you don’t have to be a scientist to know that climate change threatens these rights.
The provincial government attempted to have our case thrown out, but in a historic decision, the Ontario courts ruled for the first time in Canadian legal history that climate change has the potential to violate Charter rights and allowed this case to proceed to a full hearing.
I joined this lawsuit because I am a young entrepreneur, with a growing dress rental business, and I am deeply worried about the impact that extreme weather events will have on small business owners like me.
When climate disasters strike, like the recent storm that hit Ottawa, essential infrastructure is disrupted and destroyed. Water mains are cut off, homes and businesses remain without power for days, and transportation comes to a standstill. Amenities that small businesses like mine depend on face complete disruption in the face of a climate emergency.
In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that climate change is already impacting people’s lives and livelihoods. This body of experts conclude that infrastructure, including transportation, water, sanitation, and energy systems have been compromised by extreme and slow-onset climate events, causing economic losses, disruption of services and impacts on wellbeing.
The IPCC’s call to action is clear – governments must do everything in their power to reduce emissions within the next eight-year if the world is to avoid a complete climate catastrophe.
It is young people like me who will have to carry the burden if governments fail to act. The predictions from scientific experts are dire and we face a most uncertain future if governments don’t get emissions in check.
That is why this legal challenge is so important. The Ontario government has set the stage for more greenhouse gas pollution to be emitted, contributing further to climate-related extreme weather events, and putting everyone in Ontario at risk.
Young people are especially at risk as scientists predict that by failing to curb emissions, Ontario will contribute to an increasing number of climate disasters over the coming decades.
I fully believe that Ontario has infringed my Charter rights. The growing dangers of climate change, like the recent storms in Ottawa, are a regular reminder for me.
It is time for all governments to wake up and listen to the terrifying warnings made by the IPCC and other experts. They must do everything in their power to reduce emissions and put the world on a sustainable path to a safe future.
Youth shouldn’t have to go to court just to secure a liveable future. But we know the stakes and we aren’t willing to stand by while that future is thrown away. In September we will be in court in a fight for our future.