By Mariana Belham, Ria Paul and Noah Posocco
Today Toronto saw more than a thousand people at Queen’s Park, rallying against climate change. People chanted “Save Our Future” as they marched down the streets.
The protesters took part in the Global Climate Strike, a worldwide movement inspired by the actions of 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who stood in front of world leaders at the United Nations last Monday calling for a change.
She is urging youth from all over the globe to fight for their future, to fight for their home.
Thunberg’s organization ‘Friday’s for Future’ planned the climate strike. In Canada, 85 cities saw rallies, with Montreal’s being the biggest. There, Thunberg took to podium voicing her fears for tomorrow. She was joined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May of the Green Party.
The aim of the strike is to help establish a climate emergency declaration.
Under the emergency, the governments will have to re-analyze the greenhouse gas emission targets, aiming for a net-zero by 2045.
A lot of major cities have adopted the declaration, including New York and Paris.
In Toronto, a petition to establish such emergency is widely circulating, with more than a thousand people advocating it. The municipal government is facing more pressure to act. Mayor John Tory is in support of the change, pledging an 80% cut in emissions by 2050.
The strike was also a collective demonstration by individuals who wanted their voices heard. Voices that are telling governments and businesses they need to start taking climate change seriously before it’s too late.
“When you see millions of people, all around the world…we can influence our decision-makers,” said Abby Bushby, a protester at Queen’s Park. “We all have that duty, to influence.”
One of the common demands being made by protesters was to end our dependence on fossil fuels. As a country that depends heavily on the production of oil, the federal government led by the Liberal party approved the Trans-Mountain pipeline project. A pipeline that has drawn lots of criticism, including from Liberal party supporters like Bushby.
“I’m disappointed that the pipeline went through…but the truth is we’re responsible for all that oil dependency. Municipalities need to quit plastic, which will cut a lot of oil dependency. We need to drive less, we need better public transit,” said Bushby.
Political campaign signs could be seen scattered throughout the crowds at Queen’s Park on Friday. This event was seen by some candidates as an opportunity to show that they are serious about fighting climate change.
Adam Vaughan, a Liberal MP seeking re-election in Toronto’s Spadina-Fort York riding, believes that there is a way to balance both economic and environmental concerns.
When asked about why the Liberal government saw fit to approve the Trans-Mountain pipeline Vaughan said, “If you don’t find a way to save the environment while leveraging the economy simultaneously, how do you pay for the transformation?”
At the strike, many protesters made it clear that they believe the environment should come first.
Vaughan believes that this fight can be like walking a political tightrope.
“If you get too far in front of this issue politically and economically, the push back gives you Doug Ford or Jason Kenney, and we have to make sure the push back here doesn’t give us Andrew Sheer,” said Vaughan.
Vaughan went on to say that while other parties are keen to make big commitments towards reducing the impact on the environment. Their economic policies aren’t realistic. Vaughan mentioned that the last time Canada saw a major dip in greenhouse gas emissions, it was due to a slumping economy during the 2008 financial crisis. Showing that there is a correlation between economic prosperity and environmental impact in this country.
Vaughan believes that decisions like the new federal carbon tax will allow them to balance combating climate change and making sure that Canada has the energy security it needs. “It’s got to go hand in hand and I think we’ve found a very creative way to do that,” said Vaughan.
In the immediate future, Fridays for Future organizers are asking people to volunteer with an action plan to rally every Friday for climate change.
With the 2019 Federal elections already in full swing, most parties have already made major promises on the environment with some announcements yet to come.