Originally published in Chatelatine on May 5, 2021.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul on selling a green recovery plan and convincing politicians to support climate-based policies.
In December, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul laid out her party’s plan for a green economic recovery, including a national electricity corridor for renewable energy, a detailed carbon budget and a 60 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. She spoke with us about climate policy in the time of COVID-19.
How do you sell a green recovery plan?
We’re trying to present it as a tremendous opportunity. We actually have an unexpected set of circumstances: We’ve got hundreds of billions of dollars of [federal] stimulus money that we are going to be spending over a few years to get the economy going again, because of the pandemic. The money has been committed to be spent one way or the other. We have the need to do it, because we’ve got to get some short-term jobs, and also long-term jobs. And all of this can be done in a way that sets us up for the future while also accelerating our move toward a net-zero economy.
Has COVID made it more possible for these initiatives to be championed and passed?
COVID has had a very profound impact on the fossil fuel sector. A lot of jobs have been lost, and many of them are not coming back. For the people most affected, the pandemic, the loss of employment and the pressures on the sector have helped them realize that this is the time for diversification. And the polling confirms it. People in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland don’t believe anymore that you have to choose between the economy and the environment. They believe that we can have a green recovery. The only people left to catch up are the political leaders.
How do you convince other politicians to really get behind climate-based policies?
I start from a human point of view, which is ensuring a future for people in parts of the country heavily dependent on resource extraction. Ensuring that we begin to ramp up other kinds of employment and sectors in time, so that there isn’t mass unemployment or displacement as the fossil fuel sector winds down in those parts of the country. We talk about other communities that waited too long. We give the example of the East Coast cod fisheries and the devastation that happened there, because the transition [to more sustainable industries and jobs] happened too late.
This interview has been edited and condensed.