Seth Klein speaks at the Press Conference from the Future on March 12. (photo by Lorne Mallin)
On March 12, hundreds turned out for a creative event that imagined what could be accomplished by 2025 with climate movement leaders in government.
“With the money that would have gone to piping some of the worst oil in the world to the West Coast, we have instead unleashed a wave of investment in healthy people and healthy land,” Kukpi7 Judy Wilson told A Press Conference from the Future in front of Vancouver Public Library’s central branch.
Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, was speaking as if the twinning of the Trans Mountain (TMX) pipeline had been scrapped in 2023 and a TMX reparations and healing secretariat had been created.
The press conference event was under the banner of a fictional ministry of just transition presenting an update on new programs and institutions slashing pollution, creating meaningful work, and addressing injustice and inequality in energy, Indigenous rights, housing, transit, public health and more.
There were two Jewish speakers: Seth Klein of the Climate Emergency Unit and filmmaker Avi Lewis as the minister of just transition, as well as Secwépemc/Ktunaxa filmmaker Doreen Manuel, director, Bosa Centre for Film and Animation, Capilano University; Rueben George, Sacred Trust, Tsleil-Waututh Nation; Khalid Boudreau, climate youth activist/organizer; Christine Boyle, Vancouver city councilor; Alison Gu, Burnaby city councilor; and Anjali Appadurai, Sierra Club BC.
Klein, author of A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, spoke as chief executive officer and commissioner of the fictional Just Transition Transfer Agency. “Winning [on emissions reductions] also means leaving no one behind,” he said, “especially the regions that have long relied on revenue and jobs from oil and gas.”
Klein said that, like the Bank of Canada’s qualitative easing policies in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the just transition could be financed in a similar way.
“Most of that year, the Bank of Canada was buying up federal government securities to finance the COVID emergency response to the tune of $5 billion every week for a year,” said Klein. “Once we embedded our climate emergency goals within the mandate of the Bank of Canada, the bank proceeded to do this again for a mere four weeks a year, generating $20 billion for climate and just transition programs.”
Lewis said his government is committed to climate action, having carefully studied the conditions and capacities of Canada’s advanced industrial economy. “We conducted an inventory of our conversion needs to determine how many heat pumps, solar arrays, wind farms and electric buses we needed to electrify virtually everything and end our reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.
Lewis encouraged the audience to make the future presented in the event happen. “Do you want to live in this future? Are we ready to fight for this future? Because this future we described here today is the work of all of us – the fruits of our imagination and struggle – and that’s what we came here today to commune around: the future we can build together.”
Manuel, portraying the chair of the land back secretariat, updated progress of an imagined Land Back Act, whose goal is “to reverse the land theft that underlies the colonial nation state of Canada. That means that 80% is being systematically returned to Indigenous jurisdiction.”
After the speakers, and entertainment by the Carnival Band, volunteers engaged members of the audience on their thoughts and feelings about the climate emergency.
The March 12 event was part of a national day of action calling for the passage of a national Just Transition Act.
“The Just Transition Act is the most important missing piece of climate legislation in Canada and it needs to pass this sitting of the House of Commons,” said Katie Rae Perfitt, senior organizing specialist with 350.org, one of the press conference’s sponsoring organizations.
“We cannot tackle the climate crisis without rapidly phasing out fossil fuels,” said Perfitt. “Canadians deserve immediate action from our federal government to make that shift happen in a way that puts workers and communities first.”
– Courtesy A Press Conference from the Future ogranizers