Keenly watching from across the Atlantic Ocean, Kingston environmentalists hope the world will see Canada in a different light at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
Gavin Hutchison, a Kingston-based electrical engineer, organized, with help from his friends, a Climate Change Rally at Springer Market Square on Sunday. More than 250 citizens faced the chill in the shadow of City Hall to show their support.
Hutchison organized the Kingston rally to coincide with more than 2,400 other marches around the world co-ordinated via Avaaz, which is a community- and activist-based website that allows users to organize movements surrounding national and international issues.
“(The rally) is to give an opportunity for concerned public to come out and show their politicians they’re concerned and that they want to see a good, strong climate deal in Paris,” Hutchison said. “So I wanted Kingston to be a part of that.”
Hutchison was pleased with the turnout, remembering past years.
“About four or five years ago was the first time I came out, and there was 12 of us,” Hutchison said. “Last year we had about 150.”
Recently elected Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen was at the rally to show his support. He said he was inspired to see so many people come out on such a cold day. His family has invested in solar panels for their home, his wife Vanessa Gerretsen drives an electric car, and he drives a hybrid.
“This is an issue that is gaining more and more momentum and I’m extremely glad to see that,” Gerretsen said at the rally. “Climate change is something that is real, and it’s something that we, and government, need to start taking seriously.”
Gerretsen said Canadians can expect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to display Canada’s seriousness at the UN Climate Change Summit, which runs Nov. 30-Dec. 11 in Le Bouret, a suburb of Paris.
“Climate change is something Canada believes is real, we’re not going to ignore it, we’re not going to try to sweep evidence that supports it under the carpet,” Gerretsen said. “I think Canada is going to be a leader throughout the world now when it comes to addressing climate change, and our commitment to doing something serious about it. There’s been enough talk and now it’s time for action.”
“It’s entirely possible, it’s entirely possible within the realm of the world that we live in. We can make this an economic thing, too, by building it into the economic model, putting a price on carbon, making it cost money to damage the environment. That’s going to change the way we look at doing things.”
Gerretsen said Trudeau has already started to revamp the world’s image of Canada, and will continue to do so at the Climate Change summit.
“I’m confident that with the conclusion of the Climate Change summit, you’re going to see Canada being at the forefront and you’re going to see the prime minister talking about real ways of which we can make meaningful change,” Gerretsen said.
Much of the crowd at the rally were dressed in Queen’s University garb. Two students there, signs in hand, were Emma Howard, an 18-year-old engineering student, and Danielle Baxter, an 18-year-old in arts and sciences.
“I wanted to come out because I really believe that climate change is a big issue, and I felt like it’s important to support and to bring together a big crowd to show people that we care about climate change,” Howard said.
Baxter said nothing may change today, but showing support in a large gathering could change climate change tomorrow.
“In general people coming together to support is good because in an essence nothing may happen right now, but if you don’t get together then nothing is going to happen later on,” Baxter said.
Following the summit, politicians in Ottawa need to be held accountable for the promises they make in Paris, Howard said.
“Climate rallies and getting people actively engaged in thinking about the climate is the only way we’re going to get the government to hold true to the promises they make,” Howard said. “It’s not making the promises that’s the issue, it’s keeping them.”
Originally published in The Whig-Standard