Suzuki Elders, working from an elder perspective, undertake non partisan advocacy on environmental issues.
Suzuki Elders’ Council;
- Oversees advocacy requests
- Applies approval criteria
- Assigns request
- Approves support
- Receives reports on results
- Issue analysis is informed by David Suzuki Foundation work
Letter to the Ministry of the Environment
In the summer of 2021, the province (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy) developed a draft “Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy – Draft Strategy and Phase 1 Actions for 2021-2022.” The Ministry asked for input from groups and the public. Members of the Suzuki Elder Council read the strategy, put together a small review team, and wrote a submission. Our process also included a consultation with climate change specialists at the David Suzuki Foundation.
The letter follows:
TO: ClimateReady BC
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Province of British Columbia
RE: Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy
Draft strategy and Phase 1 Actions for 2021-2022
Dear Minister and Associates:
We, the Suzuki Elders , look at environmental issues from an elder perspective. While we like much of the draft Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy document, we find that it fails to reflect the urgency we believe our climate emergency demands.
Here’s what we think is missing:
- It fails to talk about how climate change is already affecting the health of people, especially older people and the disadvantaged dying from heat.
- It fails to specifically commit the Government to work with non-governmental groups like ours, in finding real solutions.
- It fails to say exactly what Government will do. We need a program of goals, actions, and evaluation of measures taken. The document at this point is too general and vague.
- It fails to describe how Guiding Principle 5 (Align Emissions Reduction with Climate Adaptation) fits into the draft strategy.
We are certain you are informed by former Auditor General Bellringer’s 2018 comments on the lack of a credible provincial climate adaptation plan as well as the government’s subsequent considerable consultations in the field to gather data for this document. In addition, we recommend you give consideration to the next IPCC report due in August as this is expected to focus on weather, climate and geological changes.
Consistently, scientists now say they have been underestimating climate change’s current impacts; the kinds of extreme heat waves we lived through this summer are projected to become common occurrences by 2050. The consequence for elders like us will be dire, since older adults cannot tolerate heat as well as younger people. The BC Coroner reported 815 deaths during the “heat dome” week in late June, of which 570 were heat related and 79% of those deaths were of people aged 65 and over.
Elders have children who will themselves be elders by 2050 with the next generation following them. As a province we need to think boldly and commit funds to carry out an adaptation plan that aligns with science, a plan that will take us safely beyond 2050. As it stands this plan does not do that.
We advise the following specific changes, all of which reflect the urgency of our present situation:
- Make a direct link between climate change and health issues, especially as it relates to seniors and the disadvantaged.
- Make the document an actual strategy, not an aspirational piece.
- Actionable statements are missing. A good strategy requires commitments from specific Ministries as well as realistic timelines.
- Set out a single clear evaluation process– there are four named in the document!
- The document needs judicious editing to deal with repetitive wording and sections. Key words in the document often mean almost the same thing, including “themes, initiatives, pathways, strategies, actions”. Don’t confuse the reader. Choose the terms you want to use, and use them consistently throughout.
- You use the bureaucratic passive voice throughout. Use the active voice! Avoid words and phrases such as “work towards”, “consider”, “explore opportunities”, “improve understanding of”.
Those are our criticisms of the document. Here’s what we like:
- The ambitious breadth of the strategy;
- The vision statement, guiding principles and introduction;
- And especially the language around Indigenous knowledge and social equity.
The Suzuki Elders speak from an elder perspective. We consider our own experiences. As elders, we have a lifetime of personal and work experience adapting to new realities. We have seen economic booms and busts, the rise and fall of new technologies, an ever-changing political landscape and the impact of wide-ranging policies dealing with matters such as gender discrimination, human rights, social inequalities and Indigenous rights and title. As elders we call upon these gifts of memory and hindsight to guide us in our advice to you.
Thank-you for the work undertaken to date. We look forward to seeing the next iteration of the BC Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy.
Chair, Suzuki Elder Council