Doing my small part for climate justice

This week’s guest writer is Amy Martens, Administrative Assistant and Research Associate for MCC Canada’s Planning, Learning and Disaster Response Department.

In November, over 20,000 government officials and representatives of organizations and UN agencies met in Marrakech, Morocco for the 2016 UN Climate Change Conference. Over 190 countries affirmed their commitment to implement the Paris Agreement, which entered into force this November, and called for increased cooperation to meet the long-term goal to limit global temperature increase to well below 2°C.

marakeshSeveral initiatives for advancing climate action were launched during the conference including the NDC Partnership, a coalition of 33 countries (including Canada) who will work to help countries achieve their national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change impacts. In addition, Canada, Germany, Mexico and the United States announced national long-term strategies for reducing their GHG emissions.

While the upswing in momentum towards global action on climate change and the progress made in Marrakech is encouraging, current pledges to reduce GHG emissions are inadequate to limit global warming to under 2°C. Whether Canada can even manage to meet its own ambitious emissions reduction strategy to cut emissions by 30% before the end of 2030 is still in question—especially considering recent pipeline approvals. Watching Canada’s climate policy take shape sometimes looks a lot like two steps back for every step forward.

Ice floe in the canadian arctic
Rapidly melting sea ice is a sign of climate change. Photo/Depositphotos

It’s tempting to dismiss climate change as a problem only governments and large corporations can address. Yet, as a resident of a country with the highest emissions per person in the world–almost double the global average—I am part of Canada’s carbon problem too. Considering this, what’s my responsibility when it comes to climate change? What role do I play in helping Canada achieve its GHG emission reduction goals?

According to a 2015 study, consumers—like me—are to blame for more than 60% of global GHG emissions. Emissions from our lifestyle choices, such as transportation habits or electricity use, often get the most attention. In fact, the majority of consumer emissions are an indirect result of our consumption; the emissions caused by producing the food and goods we buy.

This December, many Canadians will make the annual pilgrimage to purchase gifts for the people they love. In 2015, we collectively spent $13.5 billion on food, clothing, housewares, electronics, and more, during the month of December. While it’s fun to celebrate Christmas by decking the halls, hosting parties, and giving gifts, it’s easy to forget the significant impact of this consumption on our environment.

MCC operates thrift shops across Canada and the U.S.  MCC photo.

I’ve slowly been confronting the truth of my consumption habits and the wider impact of my purchases on the environment. I’ve been trying to ask difficult questions before I fork over my money, like: How was this made? What is it made of? Who made it? I’m learning to re-evaluate how much stuff I actually need to live a meaningful life, and to cultivate mindfulness in my consumption. I’ve started to make planned and carefully thought out purchases. I’ve re-discovered the thrill of finding that perfect item used, and I’ve committed to wearing a limited wardrobe to work. I’m reorganizing my priorities to place greater value on experiences over belongings.

Since each one of us is contributing to climate change, we all have the responsibility to reduce our impact. With Christmas just around the corner, now is a great time to take a small step towards limiting household consumption. By making changes to reduce our personal GHG emissions, we send the message that we expect Canada to fully meet its national goal to reduce GHG emissions by 30% by 2030—and we’re willing to accept what’s necessary to make that happen.

It’s overwhelming to think about addressing the global issue of climate change. But large-scale change is the result of many small changes adding up. And I have a responsibility to do my small part for climate justice—one fewer purchase at a time.

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