Canada’s top court has thrown its support behind the kind of unified climate action younger generations want and need. “It’s a good day for intergenerational solidarity,” observes Dr. Paul Kershaw, University of BC professor in the School of Population Health, and Founder of Generation Squeeze.
Gen Squeeze led the Intergenerational Climate Coalition to intervene in the Supreme Court hearing.
In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in support of minimum national standards that require all provinces to curb carbon pollution, including by putting a price on it.
“Climate change is real,” the Court said. “It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities… The only way to address the threat of climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
This decision is critical. When Canadian governments do not use all available tools to fend off the worst that climate change has in store, we discriminate against younger Canadians, because failure to price pollution undermines our reasonable aspiration to thrive in 2030 and beyond.
The Supreme Court agreed, observing in its opening comments that climate change “poses a grave threat to humanity’s future.”
Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization observes that climate change is the greatest risk to human health in the 21st century. This makes pricing pollution an important health intervention. The logic is simple: people pollute more when pollution isn’t priced – as demonstrated by Nobel prize-winning research.
That’s why Generation Squeeze led our coalition of public health, children’s rights and youth groups to Ottawa to intervene in this Supreme Court case last fall (and in similar cases in Ontario and Saskatchewan before it).
Now that the constitutional battle is over, some may still worry that pricing pollution hurts parents and commuters. At Generation Squeeze, we get it. We know many younger people, and families raising kids feel pinched in the pocket.
Compared to when today’s aging population started out, research shows younger generations earn less, despite going to school more, start more often with student debt, pay child care fees that cost double the price of university tuition, and pay way more for housing.
So the prospect of paying for our pollution as part of the fight against climate change can feel like one more hand in our pocket, reaching for a wallet that is already anemic. Happily, the federal pricing pollution legislation rebates the money that most families pay for their pollution.
But the bigger point is that we can’t solve our wallet problems by neglecting climate problems. What hockey mom wants to put her child’s health at risk, when climate change threatens to swamp our coastal cities, burn our forests, threaten the fertility of our soil, bring bugs for which our immune systems are not prepared, and disrupt our economy. These climate threats are frightening, and the risks to mental health are real.
The way to release the vice-grip of money pressures on families, young people and commuters is to reduce the costs of child care to no more than $10 a day; to rein in home prices, and build more homes, including rental units, closer to where we work and study.
These are campaigns Gen Squeeze is proud to lead.
“We are even prouder today,” Dr. Kershaw explains, “knowing we have also successfully intervened in the Supreme Court to ensure our Constitution protects the idea that polluters should pay now for their pollution, rather than pass the cost to younger Canadians and future generations to pay later. Had the Court not defended this idea, we would have compromised the health and economic wellbeing of those who follow in our footsteps.”
For media inquiries, contact:
Dr. Paul Kershaw, University of BC policy professor, and Founder, Generation Squeeze
[email protected] 604 761 4583.
Gen Squeeze partners in the Intergenerational Climate Coalition include: