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Slit-leggings at American Apparel and Current Climate Policy in Canada

September 27, 2009

I can’t stand either. (Read: Major gaps existing in otherwise quite good material and design.)

Said tights.

Said tights.

Said bill.

Said bill.

Among the most important memos of the 21st century (aside from ‘It’s highly respected to still know all the words to New Kids on the Block’s ‘Step by Step’” and ‘No, it’s not okay to wear tights as pants, especially the slitted ones from American Apparel.’) is: ‘All other governments in the developed world are doing way more on climate change than Canada’.

Memos are what they are. Pop culture stands strong, fads fade (or are imagined) and the ambition of politicians tends to fall out of their pockets unnoticeably as they run down the halls of Parliament to their next meeting.

Turns out, losing ambition also means losing cred as a country that used to pride itself on environmental leadership – perhaps one of the biggest slip-ups of our time. (Likewise, losing your concept of ‘pants’ also means losing cred as a person who used to be able to dress themselves – perhaps one of the biggest plead to be on What Not To Wear of this season*).

After watching our federal government for some time, one of the most interesting – and important – issues floating the halls right now is Bill C-311 – code for ‘let’s make sure it’s law for Canada to do as much as, or more, than other countries are doing on climate change’. It’s a real bill, written by real politicians with real heart beats and feelings who care about our country and our world. (No source found, but please trust my gut feeling on this one.)

In 1997 (the year Toni Braxton’s Un-break My Heart and the infamous/yes-I-still-listen-to-it Wannabe of the Spice Girls went #1) Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol – United Nations language for a contract between countries, which was signed in Japan. Over the coming years, the majority of countries around the world also signed on. Enough countries committed to this contract to make it law in 2005 [read: the year of the fourth Harry Potter film, and also the year that ironically paralleled the story of climate change with the releases of SinCity, Doom, Meet the Fockers, Fight Plan, and Are We There Yet?]

The deal was that Canada would reduce its emissions 6% below what they were in 1990, by the time the year 2012 rolled around. It became a commitment known to the world, staring us in the face every day. Regardless, our emissions went up about 25%. This means we’ve committed ourselves to a 30% reduction, while the year 2012 is quickly approaching. So what did we do? We changed our targets. We cut it in half (to 2.7%) and extended the deadline (to the year 2020). See this blog post for details.

It’s like a 160 pound woman (let’s say, Cindy) saying, “I want to lose 10 pounds over the next 22 years” as she chats over cocktails at age 25. So Cindy writes the goal on her mirror so it stares her in the face every day. At age 45, with her goal now just 2 years away, this woman has packed on enough poutine and Häagen Dazs bars to land the scale at 200 lbs. So what did she do? Cindy changed her goal. (Cheater!) She backtracks and says she’ll lose five pounds in the next twelve years to get down to 195 lbs by the time she’s 57.

Memo: It’s time to shape up. It’s time to sign up for Bill C-311, or Weight Watchers (respectively). For serious.

Unlike Canada, other countries – some with higher targets – have already achieved their promised Kyoto Protocol targets. Others have not yet, but certainly plan to top it off in the coming years. On top of that, Canada is the 8th biggest contributor to emissions of all countries in the world. We account for about 2% of the world’s emissions, despite having only 0.4% of the world’s population. (Source: Climate Analysis Indicator Tool, World Resources Institute). 

That said, here’s the history of the bill, and what is next:

On April 1, Members of Parliament came together to support Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act. The bill passed second reading, with 141 votes in favour and 128 against. The bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for further debate, and will, at some point, be brought back to the House for a final vote at third reading.

If Bill C-311 passes third reading and it is approved by the Senate, Canada would be committed to … reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 25% below 1990 levels, by the year 2020 – with reductions of 80% by 2050. These science-based targets are essential to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. (Source: Sierra Club Canada)

So… Where’s the catch? Why didn’t Canada do this last week or last year?  (Why didn’t Cindy join Weight Watchers after gaining the first 10 pounds?) The point of the debate for Canada is over who does what. So far, international agreements have been based on the fact that industrialized countries (who are the cause of the majority of emissions currently hanging out in the atmosphere) should act first. (Kanye pushed down Taylor Swift on stage at the VMAs – it shouldn’t be up to Taylor to make it up to the VMAs, that’s Kanye’s place.) Rich countries have caused a problem. Therein lies the instigator of the solution.

The rationale is that China and India are rapidly growing in emissions. China is now the biggest source of emissions on the planet. Though, is this really a shock? About as shocking as the content of the Sex and the City movie, if you ask me. China is also home to over 1 billion people, or 1/6 of the world’s population.

But on a per-capita basis, each person in China creates about four tonnes of CO2 per year. In India, even lower at one tonne. Canada is at 17 tonnes, with the US at 20 tonnes. Most of Europe is in the middle, at about eight or nine tonnes. (Source: Climate Analysis Indicator Tool, World Resources Institute). Granted, this is shifting quickly.

Ok, you get it, it’s not fair. Story of the world. So where should we be? Science shows that we need to find ways to reduce our impact to 2 tonnes per person each year by approximately the year 2050. And it’s doable. Solutions are abound and only need creativity and leadership to unlock their benefits.

How to get that leadership? The federal government, and every Member of Parliament, will do as the people ask, want and, in this case, demand.  Why ask them?  It’s like calling in to a radio station and requesting Single Ladies (perhaps embarrassing, and slightly time consuming, but sometimes necessary ). Truth be told, you won’t get what you want unless you ask for it.

Beyonce requests aside, I want Canada to work with countries around the world in developing renewable energy, finding ways to make our ways of life and our industries run more efficiently, and I want to know that our global leaders are taking the necessary steps to ensuring this planet is a safe place to live. It sounds grandiose. And it is. Federal leadership is one of the many steps we need to take in this effort. There is a role for each of us in this – a very important role, at that.

So please, sit down with me today, take out a pen and paper and write a letter. Addresses are below. You can send the same letter to all of these individuals. A letter from one person is taken as the views of many, truly influencing the decisions of our representatives. Your time and opinions make a difference. Canada should have done this years ago, but until the time-machine-dream comes to fruition, it’s talk-to-your-government time.

(Note: I am also taking today to write letters to H&M and Banana Republic to ask them to use and increase their use (respectively) of organically grown/used/recycled materials, vegetable-based dyes and improve their corporate sustainability practices.)

Yours in the spirit of attempted civic and pop culture engagement,


Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development
c/o Committees Directorate
Sixth Floor, 131 Queen Street
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Leaders of political parties:

The Honourable Stephen Harper**

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A2

The Hon. Michael Ignatieff / The Hon. Jack Layton / The Hon. Gilles Duceppe

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON

K1A 0A6

Your Member of Parliament

Find your representative and contact information by entering your postal code here.

*  Disclaimer: Zoë is, in reality, a HUGE fan of the slit-leggings. She does, however, attempt to not wear leggings as the be-all-end-all of dressing the lower half.

** Disclaimer: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is, in reality, a HUGE fan of reducing emissions in this country. He does, however, attempt to not wear leggings as the be-all-end-all tactic of addressing climate change.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2009 6:56 am

    Excellent Post Zoe, thank you.

  2. October 1, 2009 10:53 am

    Update via Sierra Club Canada:

    “…Two Environment Committee meetings were scheduled this week, for September 29 and October 1. Members of Parliament were going to return to debating Bill C-311, Canada’s Climate Change Accountability Act.

    Unfortunately, all committee meetings were cancelled at the last minute. According to the Clerk of the Environment Committee, “each standing committee will no longer be duly constituted and the committee business is essentially suspended until the election of a new Chair (pursuant to Standing Order 106(1)). 48 hours notice is required for this meeting. Therefore, all ENVI Committee meetings will be cancelled until a notice can be issued for the meeting to elect a new chair.”

    The meeting to elect the new chair of the Environment Committee will likely take place next week. Meanwhile, we need to keep up the pressure on Members of Parliament.

    If passed, Bill C-311 would ensure that Canada commits to science-based targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases – with a 25% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, and an 80% reduction in emissions by the year 2050. Passing this crucial legislation before the talks in Copenhagen would send a clear message to the world – we can take action to tackle [climate change].”

  3. Tom Caron permalink
    October 6, 2009 2:23 pm

    Fascinating reading, Zoe, thank you.
    I like the disclaimers too.
    The comment about meetings held up by needing to elect a chair does sound like politics as usual.
    Who do I cantact here in the U.S.?


  1. Slit-leggings at American Apparel and Current Climate Policy in Canada « It’s Getting Hot In Here

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