Canada’s climate finance can do better

As the G7 meets in Cornwall, England, the need for international cooperation has never been clearer. Covid-19 demonstrates the risks to human health and dignity when international cooperation fails and when wealthy countries take a me-first approach when it comes to climate crisis. For both Covid-19 and our warming planet, we need to invest funds to protect the most vulnerable. The G7 is an opportunity for Canada to turn things around and show real leadership.

Canada has been less than generous when it comes to assisting the most vulnerable countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In 2009, industrialized countries agreed to mobilize US$100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. The Paris Agreement in 2015 reaffirmed this commitment. The amount is well below what vulnerable countries need to meet climate challenges, as it’s estimated they’d need up to $300 million per year in 2030 for adaptation costs alone. But fulfilling the $100 billion pledge would go a long way to showing solidarity with countries who historically have not contributed greatly to the climate crisis and yet are disproportionately experiencing impacts to health and health care systems, from displacement from floods to cardiac and respiratory diseases from wildfire smoke.

Despite being a wealthy and high polluting country, Canada has one of the lowest climate finance contributions. Canada is the only G7 country whose emissions have gone up since the Paris agreement was signed. Per capita, our emissions are twice the G20 average. And yet our contribution to climate finance, Cdn $2.65 billion, is below our fair share. In a report published last week, international humanitarian organization Care called out Canada’s small climate finance contribution and that our contribution does not ensure support for adaptation projects or prioritize the most vulnerable to climate change.

Canada can do better. And the G7 is the perfect place for the high-level announcements that will make Canadians feel proud for doing what is right, rather than what is easy.

At the G7, it’s time for our leaders to set-aside that me-first mentality. Here’s how: first, announce that Canada will double its climate finance contribution to $5.2 billion annually. Second, ensure our climate finance investments better prioritize adaptation and the most vulnerable countries. Third, ensure that there are better measures for climate finance investments to reach local organizations, both directly and through Canadian international non-governmental organizations, to ensure resources get into the hands of the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

Whenever the world opens up and Canadians travel beyond our backyards, I hope we will once again be able to proudly wear the Canadian flag on our backpacks and suitcases. And people will see it as a symbol of leadership and generosity because we stepped up and helped make lives around the world, and the future, better.

Dr. Joe Vipond is CAPE’s president and an ER doctor in Calgary, AB.