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Penticton youth rally to demand action on climate change

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Youth in Penticton, B.C., held a rally on Friday demanding political action on the escalating climate emergency.

Approximately 50 people gathered with signs, banners and music and chanted demands for action while walking down Main St. to Gyro Park near the city’s lakefront.

“This is the fight for our future and the future of generations to come,” said grade 11 student Rosemary Tumbach from Summerland.

Read more: Okanagan activists take part in global strike for climate action

Tumbach announced that youth would be inviting community members from the region to join them for monthly “Fridays for Future” rallies to be held on the last Friday of each month.

“We need to lift each other up and help each other to help the Earth. When we combine our incredible differences to work together, we are so powerful. We need to make sure government hears our voices,” said Penticton grade 11 student Eden Bamford.

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Penticton biologist and South Okanagan West-Kootenay NDP MP Richard Cannings was in attendance and often participates in climate rallies.

He was re-elected to a third term during the 2021 federal election on Sept. 20, while the federal Liberals won another minority government.

Cannings told the crowd that one of his key objectives in Ottawa is to “get climate change to the top of the legislative agenda.”

Read more: Hundreds join youth-led climate action rallies in Vancouver, Victoria

“We are calling on every parent, every adult, every elected person at every level to sweep away apathy and false narratives by accepting the truth presented by scientists around the world that our biosphere is collapsing,” added Jim Beattie, chair of First Things First Okanagan.

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“Today, let’s honour our children and commit to leave them a better world.”

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Recent scientific reports paint a dire picture of the international effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.N. warned that more needs to be done if the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord are to remain within reach.

Even though Parliament won’t look much different, some experts say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bruised minority government has given other parties leverage to push for more ambitious climate action.

That’s in large part because the threat of an election is off the table at a time when Canadians are demanding that more be done.

“No one can use the threat of `support me or we’ll launch an election,’ that’s over, that card has been played,” said Isabelle Turcotte, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute.

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Read more: ‘We know there is no more time’: Climate activists rally outside Vernon, B.C. city hall

Turcotte pointed to every major party having a climate plan of some kind, and the fights over whether to have a carbon tax largely settled since 2019’s election as evidence Canadians are taking the climate crisis more seriously.

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“Canadians clearly want progressive policies on climate, and they need a government that’s going to collaborate,” she said.

One area of focus will be the Liberal promise to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, but strengthening the climate accountability bill that is supposed to guide Canada to net-zero is also expected to factor into the upcoming legislative climate battles.

Turcotte said she hopes the NDP will see its opportunity to hold Liberals accountable on the climate file.

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Read more: Why Canada could be burning coal well beyond the 2030 deadline set by the Liberals

“Sometimes the NDP has been hesitant to really differentiate themselves from the Liberal Party on climate and there’s a big opportunity for them here,” she said.

Turcotte highlighted a plank in the NDP platform that called for national and sectoral carbon budgets to help guide a transition to a clean economy in every corner of the country, calling them “really fundamental tools” to create transparency and needed to ensure a successful transition.

“The Liberals have a similar, but much narrower commitment with the targets for the oil and gas sector,” she said, referring to the promise to cap emissions and then ramp them down over time.

“Let’s build on that and let’s actually apply that across the board,” she said.

-With files from The Canadian Press and John Woodside, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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