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2019, a year of climate action

By in News

From worldwide climate strikes to youth activists like Greta Thunberg demanding bolder solutions for climate change, climate action has been a topic of interest in local and global news. 

Here are some highlights in climate reporting from a year where the topic made headlines everywhere.

A man and a woman holds a sign while crossing the street during the global climate strike in downtown Saskatoon on Sept. 27, 2019. | Heywood Yu

2019 UN Climate Action Summits

The United Nations has declared climate change as the “defining issue of our time” and warned that without prompt and drastic action, the catastrophic impacts of climate change in the future will be more difficult and costly. A series of global UN climate change conferences were held this year, including the climate action summit in September, preceded by the first UN climate summit for young people. 

The 2019 annual UN climate conference held in Madrid has become the longest recorded in history; it lasted two weeks in early December. Like its predecessors, the conference’s talks reportedly did not reach consensus in many areas, including reporting requirements and timeframes for climate pledges. UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed his disappointment with the results, tweeting on the last day of the conference that “the international community had lost an important opportunity … to tackle the climate crisis.”

Climate change becomes a ballot box issue

Climate change was a top concern for most Canadian voters in the past federal election. The Liberal party, who won a second term in a row, pledged to maintain the carbon tax, work towards net­zero emissions by 2050 and invest profit from the Trans Mountain Expansion towards climate solutions. The Conservative party formed the official opposition with a climate change platform that includes scrapping the carbon tax, focusing on green technology and creating emission standards for major emitters. 

The government’s throne speech in early December promised efforts to tackle climate change, while also highlighting the importance of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project. 

A crowd of climate activists, some holding politically aimed signs, rally for the Global Climate Strike at Saskatoon City Hall on Sept. 27, 2019 | Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

Bringing global climate demonstrations to Saskatoon

Greta Thunberg began school strikes for climate in mid 2018 and by March 2019, her message, a demand for urgent climate action to significantly reduce carbon emissions, reached over 70 countries. In September alone, over 7.6 million people protested worldwide, with Canada’s protests ranking in the top five for the most attendees. 

On Sept. 30, an estimated 3,000 people gathered in front of Saskatoon City Hall to voice their support for the Global Climate March. The protest, attended in majority by young people, demanded stronger climate action from the government. Saskatoon joined another climate strike hosted by the Saskatchewan branch of the international group Extinction Rebellion on Nov. 29. The strikes are expected to continue into 2020. 

Sustainability initiatives at the U of S

When the Office of Sustainability released the results of the waste audit, it showed that a sizeable amount of the garbage collected on campus corresponds to an accumulation of disposable coffee cups. As a result, students took the initiative to make March 2019 bring-your-own-cup month. In October, an exhibition of art made from waste products, a campus sustainability tour and a carbonless concert happened on campus as part of Campus Sustainability Week.

Since their last audit was in 2006, the U of S Students’ Union is looking into undergoing a new sustainability audit. The updated data is meant to help the union identify future goals in sustainable development. So far, the USSU has run into issues with finding a sustainability audit specifically for student organizations and does not currently have a budget to finance it. 

A man holds a sign during the Global Climate Strike at Saskatoon City Hall on Sept. 27, 2019. | Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

Sustainability targets: Will the university meet them?

In 2012, the university released its Climate Action Plan with the goal to reduce 20 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions based on its 2006-07 rates by 2020. However, the most recent update from the university, released in October, showed a 7.8 per cent increase in emissions. The university has now scrapped its original target and aims to meet it in 2023 instead. A majority of the university’s greenhouse gas emissions are directly related to energy consumption in buildings.

If 2019 is any indication, climate action is here to stay in the news. 

Vaidehee Lanke

Photos: Heywood Yu, Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

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