How the ‘New NAFTA’ Will Affect Canadians

Small gains for workers, but the environment gets a shoddy deal.

COVER.FreelandCUSMAEffect.jpg

Increases in drug costs were averted in the new CUSMA deal, but environmental protections remain weak. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick, the Canadian Press

After months of talks, House Democrats and the Trump administration have agreed on revisions to the Canada–U.S.–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) that will likely clear the way for U.S. congressional approval.

Although Canada was sidelined in these discussions, the Democrats won some significant improvements to the “New NAFTA” that will benefit Canadians.

The biggest change is the removal of proposed longer data protection periods for biologic medicines, such as treatments for Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Data protection periods refer to the time competitors are denied access to the clinical trials data used to secure regulatory approval for a drug. Generic drug firms need this information to produce cheaper versions, known as biosimilars.

Currently, data protection periods for biologics are set at 12 years in the United States. Congressional Democrats, hoping to roll back that long period of monopoly protection for brand-name biologics makers, had no interest in locking minimum 10-year terms in place, as CUSMA would have done.

Under the original agreement, Canada had to increase its data protection term for biologics from eight to 10 years — at an estimated cost of at least $169 million per year, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. That change was dropped from the agreement, and Canadians will now avoid these projected cost increases.

Democrats have won other improvements, including curbing the practice of evergreening, where companies can obtain new patents based on small changes to existing drugs, blocking generic competitors.

One of the biggest sticking points in closing a deal was stricter enforcement of labour standards, with Mexico as the principal target. Democrats initially pushed for independent inspection of workplaces suspected of violating labour standards and the ability to withdraw preferential treatment of shipments from those factories under CUSMA if violations were found.

Mexican employer groups vehemently objected. Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador also rebuffed the demand as an infringement on Mexican sovereignty.

In practice, such inspections are a regular feature of international trade. Canadian and U.S. regulators, for example, routinely inspect foreign food facilities to ensure they comply with food safety standards. If they don’t pass muster, exports from those facilities can be suspended.

In the end, a compromise was reached with Mexico where complaints about workplaces can be heard by panels of independent labour experts and confirmed violations can lead to penalties.

In another positive change to the CUSMA labour chapter, the three countries agreed to loosen the condition that labour abuses be “sustained or recurring” to trigger sanctions, a significant hurdle that has allowed single violations of labour rights, however atrocious, to go unpunished.

These changes and tougher rules protecting Mexican workers’ rights to bargain collectively are an improvement over previous free trade agreements. But they won’t soon close the large manufacturing wage gap with Mexico or halt outsourcing. Indeed, just as a draft version of CUSMA was signed a year ago, General Motors announced plans to shutter five plants in the U.S. and Canada.

In the important auto sector, the U.S. pushed for tougher rules of origin if manufacturers are to qualify for tariff-free treatment under the agreement. Any steel used in auto manufacturing must be “melted and poured” within the NAFTA trade zone. This could be a boon to U.S. and Canadian steel producers.*

It is also possible some auto companies who use offshore steel will simply choose to pay the already low 2.5-per-cent tariff to export to the U.S. Nonetheless, Mexico objected and the steel rules will now be phased in over seven years.*

Democrats achieved scant progress on environmental protection. On a positive note, certain multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, will prevail in the event of any inconsistency with CUSMA’s rules.*

However, the Paris climate agreement, which Trump confirmed the U.S. would be leaving on Nov. 4, 2020, is not among them. U.S. environmental groups are certain to strongly oppose ratification of a trade deal that ignores the threat of climate change and intensifies ecologically unsustainable trade and energy flows.

The agreement, like the original NAFTA, privileges multinational capital and increased trade flows above all else. It weakens environmental policy by insisting it not interfere with trade or impose higher regulatory costs on business. It will sustain the accumulation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

Canadians can be thankful the new CUSMA will not result in higher prescription drug costs. We can feel relief that Mexican workers get a chance to form authentic trade unions and to fight to improve their wages and working conditions.

But we should take no solace in the fact politicians and governments have invested so much time and energy in salvaging a discredited trade model as they dither and delay on the climate emergency.

SOURCE

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Updated NAFTA deal a profound failure for climate action

Young Ontarians launch lawsuit against province after Ford government scales back emissions targets

Ontario cancelled cap-and-trade program, challenging carbon tax imposed by Ottawa


Shaelyn Wabegijig, right, is among the seven young people who are applicants in the lawsuit. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A group of young Ontarians is suing the province over what they say is climate change inaction, arguing that the Ford government has violated their charter rights by softening emissions reduction targets.

The group claims that recent policy changes “will lead to widespread illness and death,” an alleged violation of Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which promises protection for life, liberty and security of the person.

They are calling on the Ontario government to commit to more ambitious emission reductions with the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 C, a key target set out in the United Nations’ Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Doug Ford is not doing enough to protect our future and it’s just unacceptable,” said Sophia Mathur, a 12-year-old from Sudbury and one of seven applicants taking part.

The claims in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.

“I just want to live a normal life in the future; I shouldn’t have to be doing this, but adults aren’t doing a good job,” she told CBC News.

“I’m afraid that so many species that I love will go extinct,” added Zoe Keary-Matzner, 13, from Toronto. “And that children in the future won’t be able to enjoy nature the same way I do.”

The applicants, ranging from age 12 to 24, are represented by Stockwoods LLP and Ecojustice, a group that specializes in public interest lawsuits in the name of environmental protection.

Their challenge is part of a growing trend in which young people across the globe are suing governments over perceived inaction on climate change.

Sophia Mathur, left, and Zoe Keary-Matzner are among seven young Ontarians who say the Ford government’s climate strategy is jeopardizing their future. (CBC)

Earlier this year, more than a dozen young Canadians launched a similar lawsuit against the federal government. Similar legal challenges have gone to courts in the U.S. and the Netherlands, with varying degrees of success.

This is the first lawsuit filed against a Canadian province over climate inaction.

“Any government that is failing to address the climate emergency in a meaningful way can expect to face litigation of this nature,” said Alan Andrews, climate director at Ecojustice.


Former Environment Minister Rod Phillips oversaw the cancellation of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program and the introduction of lower emissions targets. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

PCs roll back greenhouse gas targets

The group is focusing its lawsuit on the Ford government’s decision to scale back emission targets set by the Liberals in 2015.

The previous plan called for a 37-per-cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The reduction target climbed to 80 per cent by 2050.

Under the Progressive Conservatives, Ontario now plans to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. There is no longer a 2050 target.

The PCs have also repealed a cap-and-trade agreement that gave companies incentives to reduce carbon emissions. They are also in the process of challenging a carbon tax imposed by Ottawa to take its place.

Rod Phillips, who served as Ontario’s environment minister when the changes were made, said the previous targets and restrictions were ineffective and “killing jobs” in the province.

The Ford government says it plans to leverage Ontario’s private sector to develop green technology, and that its new “made in Ontario” climate strategy will keep the province on track to meet Paris Agreement warming targets

A precedent for success?

The young people behind the lawsuit say the new approach ignores the increasing urgency of climate change.

“People are very focused on other things; on making money, focusing on the economy, that they don’t think about their connection to mother earth,” said applicant Shaelyn Wabegijig, 22.

Wabegijig, 22, says she’s concerned about the preservation of clean air and water if she has children in the future. (CBC)

Wabegijig, who grew up at Rama First Nation near Orillia, said she’s concerned about having children if the effects of climate change continue to worsen.

While the result of the challenge is not yet decided, Ecojustice recently scored a mild victory against the province over the cancellation of the cap-and-trade program.

In a split decision, a three judge panel determined the Ford government broke the law by scrapping the program without public consultations, although the ruling does not compel the province to revive the program.

Mathur said Ford would be wise to take their challenge seriously.

“I hope he’s scared,” she said. SOURCE

 

Canada’s public pension fund denies it’s ‘entangled’ with oil and gas


File photo of diesel fuel storage tanks at an oilsands facility in 2014. Pembina Institute Photo

Canada’s biggest pension fund says it’s “unfathomable” that the fossil fuel sector could wield disproportionate influence over its investment decisions, after a new report claims members of its board of directors and staff are “entangled with the oil and gas industry.”

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), the Crown corporation that manages the country’s $400-billion public retirement fund, rejected new research Tuesday by the Corporate Mapping Project that argued the fund’s relationships with the industry presented a “dangerous” situation that partially explains why it has not yet ditched billions of dollars in fossil fuel-related investments.

The fund signalled in a recent sustainable-investment update how it is more focused than ever on understanding the “risks and opportunities” climate change presents, and that it is pressing large carbon polluters to improve their environmental performance.

But the Corporate Mapping report shows the CPPIB has more than $4 billion invested in top fossil fuel firms around the world, billions more in smaller firms and infrastructure and several staff and board members with “formal relationships” with energy firms.

“In Canada, the fossil fuel sector has been very successful at getting a seat at government decision-making tables, both provincially and federally. The same is true at the CPPIB, where the board of directors and staff are entangled with the oil and gas industry,” it states.

A Corporate Mapping Project map showing links between staff and board members of the CPPIB and energy firms and the financial institutions that are connected with them. Corporate Mapping Project screenshot

While it’s not uncommon for institutional investors to have staff sit on the boards of the companies they invest in, “these relationships deserve more public scrutiny” in the context of climate change, the researchers argue, because holding the planet to an acceptable level of global heating will require the fossil fuel industry to keep unburned reserves in the ground.

“The interests of oil and gas companies are finding their way into the decision-making that the Canada Pension Plan is undertaking,” said James Rowe, a co-investigator with the Corporate Mapping Project and an associate professor at the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies, in an interview on Nov. 19.

“That’s dangerous in terms of the climate emergency, because the interests of those fossil fuel companies are in direct contradiction to the interests of Canadian beneficiaries and basically the rest of us — because their goal is to continue to burn as much carbon as they can… their pursuit of self-interest is a real threat to ours.”

Russian, Chinese energy firms

The report, called “Fossil Futures,” says the pension plan’s holdings include hundreds of millions of dollars in market value in the Russian energy firms Gazprom, Rosneft, Lukoil, Novatek and Tatneft, as well as Chinese energy giants CNOOC, PetroChina and Sinopec, Japan’s Inpex and Canadian Natural Resources. The figures are from CPPIB’s foreign publicly traded equity holdings as of March 31, 2019.

The reserves of these top players linked with CPPIB add up to 281 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or roughly four times the limit for keeping global heating to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), the Crown corporation that manages the country’s $400-billion public retirement fund, rejected new research Tuesday by the Corporate Mapping Project that argued the fund’s relationships with the industry presented a “dangerous” situation that partially explains why it has not yet ditched billions of dollars in fossil fuel-related investments.

The fund signalled in a recent sustainable-investment update how it is more focused than ever on understanding the “risks and opportunities” climate change presents, and that it is pressing large carbon polluters to improve their environmental performance.

But the Corporate Mapping report shows the CPPIB has more than $4 billion invested in top fossil fuel firms around the world, billions more in smaller firms and infrastructure and several staff and board members with “formal relationships” with energy firms.

“In Canada, the fossil fuel sector has been very successful at getting a seat at government decision-making tables, both provincially and federally. The same is true at the CPPIB, where the board of directors and staff are entangled with the oil and gas industry,” it states.

A Corporate Mapping Project map showing links between staff and board members of the CPPIB and energy firms and the financial institutions that are connected with them. Corporate Mapping Project screenshot 

While it’s not uncommon for institutional investors to have staff sit on the boards of the companies they invest in, “these relationships deserve more public scrutiny” in the context of climate change, the researchers argue, because holding the planet to an acceptable level of global heating will require the fossil fuel industry to keep unburned reserves in the ground.

“The interests of oil and gas companies are finding their way into the decision-making that the Canada Pension Plan is undertaking,” said James Rowe, a co-investigator with the Corporate Mapping Project and an associate professor at the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies, in an interview on Nov. 19.

“That’s dangerous in terms of the climate emergency, because the interests of those fossil fuel companies are in direct contradiction to the interests of Canadian beneficiaries and basically the rest of us — because their goal is to continue to burn as much carbon as they can… their pursuit of self-interest is a real threat to ours.”

Russian, Chinese energy firms

The report, called “Fossil Futures,” says the pension plan’s holdings include hundreds of millions of dollars in market value in the Russian energy firms Gazprom, Rosneft, Lukoil, Novatek and Tatneft, as well as Chinese energy giants CNOOC, PetroChina and Sinopec, Japan’s Inpex and Canadian Natural Resources. The figures are from CPPIB’s foreign publicly traded equity holdings as of March 31, 2019.

The reserves of these top players linked with CPPIB add up to 281 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or roughly four times the limit for keeping global heating to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board says it is “unfathomable” that the fossil fuel industry could disproportionately influence such a massive and diversified portfolio as theirs, after Corporate Mapping Project claims otherwise.

The CPPIB also has $2.8 billion invested in top Canadian oil and gas companies, and has made other investments like $1.34 billion in U.S. gas pipelines and $1.4 billion in a gas project off Ireland’s coast, the report states. Overall, Rowe said, the pension-plan board has around $8 billion in equities associated with the fossil fuel industry.

The report also maps out the CPPIB’s ties to the oil and gas industry, specifically singling out several people. These include: board chairwoman Heather Munroe-Blum, who also serves on the board of the Royal Bank of Canada, which has a large oilsands stake; board member Ashleigh Everett, who is president of a company that owns retail gasoline chain Domo Gasoline; and board member Sylvia Chrominska, who is on the board of industrial-products provider Wajax Corp. which is involved in the oilsands. A number of senior staff are included as well.

Rowe said these connections aren’t the “singular and only cause” of the fund’s fossil fuel holdings but “help to explain” why it has been “slower than other major financial institutions in addressing climate risk.​​​​​” The European Investment Bank, for example, promised last Friday to end its own fossil fuel financing by 2022, while Sweden’s central bank said last Wednesday it had sold off oilsands bonds.

“We’re not convinced that most Canadians realize that the Canada Pension Plan is pretty heavily invested in fossil fuel companies, when 60 per cent of Canadians voted for parties with pretty strong climate plans,” he said. “Canadians care about climate change, and so we think they would be interested in this information.” MORE

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Opinion: Canada Pension Plan fuels climate-change crisis

 

 

A Climate Emergency Needs an Emergency Response Plan, Not a Pipeline

In response to Canadian MP’s voting to declare a climate emergency, then approving the TransMountain pipeline Cameron Fenton, an organizer with 350.org in Canada issued this response:

“If we’re in a climate emergency, we need an emergency response plan, not a pipeline. You can’t have a real climate plan if you keep ignoring what scientists are telling us – that we need to stop building dangerous fossil fuel projects. This is exactly why we need Green New Deal for Canada to tackle climate change, respect Indigenous rights and make sure no communities or workers are left behind.”

Gabrielle Gelderman, an Edmonton-based organizer with the youth-led Green New Deal campaign Our Time added:

“Young people have spent our entire lives knowing that climate change is an emergency. Approving TransMountain is part of a climate plan that puts us on a dangerous path to exceed 4ºC of warming, that’s why we need a made-in-Canada Green New Deal and a federal leaders debate on climate change to let us know who is going to fight for it.”

SOURCE

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Why this election I am voting for a Green New Deal

 

This minority Parliament must get started on the Green New Deal we need

The history of Petro-Canada’s creation in the 1970s offers inspiration for our current political moment

Image result for ricochet: This minority Parliament must get started on the Green New Deal we need

After the votes were counted, Trudeau had fallen from a majority to minority parliament while trouble was brewing in Alberta.

This might sound like a few days ago, but it was actually 1972. And while the situation was different, what happened under that Trudeau minority government offers a lesson on how our minority Parliament can deliver on a Green New Deal for Canada — a transformative plan to tackle both growing economic inequality and the climate crisis at once — and how the NDP and Green parties can help make it happen.

Flashback to 1973: the Liberals held 109 seats, the Tories 107, and the NDP 31 (out of a then-total 264 seats in the House of Commons). Since the Progressive Conservative opposition of the day was itching for another chance to go to the electorate, the NDP knew that Pierre Trudeau needed their votes and so they dug in their heels and demanded that the Liberals support an NDP motion calling for the creation of a national oil company.

Petro-Canada is an example of how Liberal minority parliaments, pushed by the NDP, have passed major progressive legislation.

It worked. Thanks to a wave of rising economic nationalism — not dissimilar in scale to the current rise in public opinion around climate action — the Liberals supported the motion, and after the Liberals won a majority government again in 1974, Petro-Canada was founded by an act of Parliament. On Jan. 1, 1976, against the wishes of an already powerful oil lobby based in Calgary, the Crown energy company started operations.

Knowing what we know now — Exxon Mobil first learned about the fact that digging up and burning CO2 could wreck our planet back in 1977 — using the powers of our federal government to drill for more oil wasn’t the best call. And had the NDP retained the balance of power when Petro-Canada was formed, its story might have looked a lot different. Nevertheless, Petro-Canada is an example of how Liberal minority parliaments, pushed by the NDP, have passed major progressive legislation. We also have this kind of balance of power to thank for universal healthcare, the Canada Pension Plan, the 40-hour work week and increases to the minimum wage.

In 2019, this kind of balance of power could help us rise to tackle the climate crisis. But, that requires nothing less than taking control of our energy economy and turning it hard towards 100 per cent renewable energy.

The same factories that built planes, trains, and automobiles could build the electric public transit infrastructure we need to make free transit a reality all across the country.

Imagine if, like in 1973, the current NDP (with the support of climate-friendly parties like the Bloc and the Greens) drew a line in the sand and made their support for the Liberals’ first budget contingent on a big, bold first step towards the transition. A step like founding Renewable Canada, a massive publicly-owned Crown utility tasked with rapidly expanding the renewable energy industry. Its mandate could be based on the 57 recommendations that policy experts outlined in a 2015 report explaining how Canada could get to 100 per cent renewables. And, as they did with Petro Canada, they could open the head office in downtown Calgary, with a fossil fuel worker transition centre on the ground floor as a concrete expression of a clear promise that this new energy economy won’t leave workers or communities behind.

And that’s just one idea. The government could also found a “No-Crown” corporation, run by First Nations, that had the money and mandate to end boil water advisories and transition the 86 per cent of remote communities currently dependent on diesel power for their electricity to renewables. And we could nationalize faltering auto plants and train manufacturers in central Canada. And we could start to approach getting people moving on rail with the same fervour as moving oil by rail. The same factories that built planes, trains, and automobiles could build the electric public transit infrastructure we need to make free transit a reality all across the country.

Climate change is too complicated to solve with one Crown corporation. And while the NDP, Greens, Bloc, and Liberals promised bolder climate action, none of their election platforms actually met the scale of the climate crisis. Even the NDP, who continue taking steps towards embracing a fulsome Green New Deal, put out a platform that fell short of the economic transformation we need.

Part of that is that this challenge is bigger than what we faced in the 1970s, and frankly bigger than any government has faced since. But that doesn’t mean Parliament can’t take big steps, and even leaps, to transform our economy. We’ve done it before, whether by passing big progressive legislation under previous minority governments, or during World War II, when Canada founded 28 new Crown corporations to dramatically overhaul our economy.

People, especially youth, are ready for and demanding solutions of this scale. The lesson from Petro-Canada can give us a roadmap for one way to get started, and to get started fast.

This Parliament could put Canada to work on a Green New Deal. It’s just a question of whether we’re willing to dream, and demand, big enough ideas.  SOURCE

Critics blast a proposal to curb climate change by halting population growth

More than 11,000 scientists signed a paper arguing the world needs to stabilize or gradually reduce the global population.

A crowd of people.
UNSPLASH / CHUTTERSNAP

More than 11,000 scientists from a broad range of disciplines signed a new editorial declaring a “climate emergency,” but other researchers immediately criticized one of the proposed remedies: halting population growth.

“Still increasing by roughly 80 million people per year, or more than 200,000 per day, the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced,” reads the piece published in BioScience on Tuesday.

The authors note that effective means of lowering fertility rates include making family-planning services more widely available, improving education for girls and young women, and increasing gender equality.

But rich nations generally already have flat or declining birth rates, so the proposal largely seems directed at fast-growing developing nations in Africa and Asia. Specifically, the UN projects that nine countries will account for more than half of projected growth between now and 2050, including (in descending order) India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt, and the US (where migration is expected to be the main driver of growth).

“A bunch of white people in the developed world saying population should be reduced is the definition of an imperialist framing,” Arvind Ravikumar, an assistant professor of energy engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said on Twitter.

Joseph Majkut, a climate scientist and director of climate policy at the Niskanen Center, a think tank based in Washington, DC, says the suggestion is highly problematic from a political standpoint. It feeds directly into the perception among conservatives that “climate science and its conclusions are the product of an ideological movement,” one that prioritizes nature over humans.

A scientific rationale for a smaller world population could also be abused to justify more aggressive tactics of population control, or racist attitudes toward growing parts of the developing world. To some, the proposal drew to mind darker periods in the environmental movement, when various organizations and figures promoted pro-eugenics and anti-immigration views.

The UN projects that global population could grow from around 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050, and peak around the end of the century at 11 billion.

Fewer people producing less in greenhouse-gas emissions could make some difference in the danger that climate change poses over time. But whether we end up with 9, 10, or 11 billion people in the coming decades, the world will still be pumping out increasingly risky amounts of climate pollution if we don’t fundamentally fix the underlying energy, transportation, and food systems.

Others note inconsistencies in the BioScience paper’s proposed remedies to climate change. Notably, the authors also say the world needs to shift economic priorities away from growth in gross domestic product, and toward meeting basic human needs and reducing inequality.

However, rising GDP levels in many parts of the world reflect declining inequality as poor people in developing nations rise toward the middle class, says Jesse Reynolds, a fellow in environmental law and policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. And at least during the early stages, economic development is often correlated with declines in birth rates, so success at slowing GDP growth may complicate efforts to slow population growth.  

Many prominent names in climate science are conspicuously absent from the list of signatories, and many researchers who did add their names are in fields outside climate and energy. One notable name that does appear is James Hansen, an adjunct professor at Columbia who is considered the father of climate research for his early and influential modeling studies. 

SOURCE

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Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’

Tax Fairness one of many tools to combat climate change

Carbon taxes are an important part of the broader global solution, such as a transition to renewable energy, needed from all governments. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

At the rapid pace of climate change, rising sea levels will swallow cities whole.  Water sources will dry up, creating food shortages, while air pollution will cause irrevocable health problems. It sounds like apocalyptic fiction, but it’s the stark reality hundreds of scientists warn is coming. Canada’s own scientists agree — 96 percent believe climate change is a crisis that requires immediate action, according to a new poll from the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

The effects of climate change will be felt by everyone, a report from the UN expert panel on climate change confirmed this week. The warning comes on the heels of the UN climate summit, where advocates criticized world leaders for not doing enough to stop the climate emergency. A poll this week from Abacus Data found three in four Canadians support the climate strikes, a series of protests taking place across the globe as millions, many of them youth, protest inadequate response from government.

C4TF adds its voice to these calls, demanding Canada’s government use every policy tool available to scale up efforts against climate change. Continuing our countdown of the top five priority election issues as voted on by our supporters, this week we highlight how taxes play a critical role in combating climate change. Please share our fact sheet, which lists the fiscal steps our next government should take to tackle the crisis. You can also ask your local candidates if they support these measures, write letters to the editor, and sign petitions calling for climate action. SOURCE