Earth Day 2010 is upon us.

On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the environmental movement in Canada has made some significant strides, and has seen its share of setbacks.

 

Of all the environmental events that took place over the past year, nothing was as high profile as the Copenhagen Summit in December. The summit was an opportunity for world leaders to gather and develop an effective global strategy to combat climate change.

Prime Minister Harper attended the event without any clear plans or goals, and it showed. Canada won the dubious award of Fossil of the Year - an award given to the country whose government provides the least reasonable plan to combat climate change for the given year. Despite being merely symbolic, this distinction demonstrates that our government is committed to doing the very bare minimum to combat a major problem.

Here in Canada, the NDP has been leading the charge against climate change and environmental degradation. We passed the Climate Change Accountability Act in the previous Parliament, which set clear goals for reductions in carbon emissions, with the short term goal of reducing emissions to a level that is 25 per cent lower than 1990 levels by 2020, and the long term goal of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. On April 14th, we came one step closer to passing the current Parliament’s version of the Climate Change Accountability Act. Only the Conservatives voted against the bill that introduces measures most Canadians support.

 

On the local level, the people in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing have been doing their part. Here are a few examples:

· The Manitoulin Island Youth Experience Environmental Stewardship Initiative is a wonderful program that encourages youth to become involved in environmental issues at a local level, giving them the opportunity to learn about everything from natural resources management to improving fish spawning habitat on the world’s largest freshwater island.

· A 2.2 kW solar array and a 3.5kW wind turbine has been installed on the premises of Elliot Lake Secondary School that made them a leader in local renewable energy.

· The Hearst Ski Club also took part in a solar panel project, using the panels to light not only the chalet, but a 3km stretch of trails for energy-efficient night skiing. These types of initiatives exemplify the ‘think globally, act locally’ mentality.

Environmental issues affect everyone. Even the smallest efforts, such as remembering to recycle, or bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, make a difference. I would like to thank everyone who took part in this year’s Earth Hour. I made the commitment for the second year in a row, as I’m sure many of you have.