Two Grade 12 students from L.V. Rogers High School in Nelson were hoping to make a change as part of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s National Conference last month in Ottawa.
Alyssa Taburiaux and Linn Murray, both 17, recently returned from Ottawa where they lobbied politicians for effective climate policy.
The LVR students were part of a West Kootenay delegation that also included Laura Sacks, head of the Nelson-West Kootenay chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL).
"It was amazing to be in Ottawa and to talk with Members of Parliament – and to see that they were willing to listen to me,” Taburiaux said.
“The MPs I met with were very engaged in the conversations. I realized that I could make a difference."
The Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s national conference was held in late November. During the two days, 53 CCLers met with 47 parliamentarians or their staff, asking for more ambition to the federal climate plan, especially around carbon pricing.
“During the conference, we learned about ways to communicate with people with different views and how to effectively advocate for the climate,” said Murray.
“We also learned about more technical issues like fossil fuel subsidies, border carbon tax adjustments, and CCL's proposal of carbon fee and dividend. We then prepared as teams for each meeting.”
“The meetings to prepare for these appointments were really interesting - thinking about the best way to get our MPs to take action for our planet," added Taburiaux.
Murray said he met with members from all major parties, coming away with a strong consensus that climate change is an urgent issue.
“Many of them feel they aren’t hearing from enough Canadians to support the kind of bold actions that are required to seriously address the issue, and are tied down by partisanship,” Murray said.
“As a youth, I can find this both hopeful and discouraging,” Murray added.
“Hopeful because there is a broad understanding about the urgency of the issue, but discouraging because not enough action is happening right now. And, it will be my generation and those coming after me who will suffer the most from a lack of action now.”
In addition to MPs from across the country, Murray and Taburiaux each met with their respective MPs — Wayne Stetski, Kootenay-Columbia and Richard Cannings, South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.
Both Stetski and Cannings were impressed to know that high school students from their ridings are so passionate about climate change that they traveled to Ottawa to lobby Parliament.
“We heard from some MPs that we need to reframe climate change to show how action can be a stimulus for job creation, and to educate the people of their ridings on the importance of immediate action,” said Murray.
“People hard hit from the declining fossil fuel sector must be directly involved in creating the new economy.”
Taburiaux and Murray traveled to Ottawa with funds raised during a crowdfunding campaign, contributed mostly by people from the West Kootenay.
Sacks, 53, was thrilled to have the opportunity to share Linn and Alyssa’s positive energy in Ottawa.
However, on a more sobering note, she reflected, “Youth certainly have a way of bringing the urgency of the issue to the forefront. We have vague and distant mid-century goals to drastically reduce our greenhouse gases. When I realized that Alyssa and Linn will be younger in 2050 than I am right now, it brings home why we need to act now. This is their future we are talking about.”
What about their hopes and plans for the New Year?
“My hope for the new year is that we can address climate change in Canada by not resorting to partisan politics,” said Taburiaux. “Decisions should be made by first thinking of the children.
"Now that I am back home, I have a better understanding of how even the small actions we take locally can spark action in Ottawa. Petitions and protests do make a difference.
“All of us need to keep reminding our governments that we have a great opportunity right now to move to a cleaner hopeful future," added Murray.
“We will keep energizing people in our school and other schools to make a difference. Yes, change needs to come from the top down, but also from the bottom up, and catch everything in between. We all have the ability to influence change.”