In an open letter published in Le Devoir, the Quebec Environmental Law Centre (CQDE) invites the Prime Minister to fulfill his legal obligations in regards to the struggle against climate change.

The lawyers’ letter notes that to date, Canada has never adopted – much less implemented – binding reduction targets that would sufficiently respond to the international scientific consensus on climate change. Far from contributing its fair share as part of global efforts to curb this threat, Canada has let greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) rise to 18% since the beginning of concerted international action on this cause, to the dismay of many provinces.

These effects are already being felt: since the mid-20th century, Canadian temperatures have risen two times more than the global average, and Canadians are already feeling the impacts on their health, security, well-being and environment. According to Health Canada, it is now clearly established that climate change poses a notable risk to the health of Canadians and populations around the world.

Me Belanger, emeritus lawyer and president of the CQDE, indicated that, “As lawyers, we are notifying the Canadian government of its duty to act rapidly and decisively in the face of climate change. It cannot remain passive while the fundamental rights of its current and future citizens are being violated, and while the environment is experiencing massive damage.”

According to the CQDE’s analysis, court actions are ongoing and have already borne fruit in several countries. The lawyer added that, “Canada’s failure to manage this environmental problem, which is having adverse impacts on the health, security and well-being of the public, could also lead to national or international liability for damages and rights violations resulting from the increased dangers of this global phenomenon.”

Me Karine Peloffy, director of the CQDE, explained recent developments: “In June, a court in the Neterhlands forced the country to reduce its emissions by 2020 in line with the targets set out by the international scientific consensus, judging that a less ambitious target would be considered negligent and illegal. Then in September 2015, the High Court of Lahore, Pakistan ordered the creation of a “global council” to force the Pakistani government to fulfill its commitments on the subject and report back to the court. Last week, a law student from New Zealand brought forward a case against her government for establishing inadequate targets for the Paris conference.”

Similar to these governments, the Canadian government could also be forced to establish and achieve reduction targets for GGE in line with the latest international scientific and public consensus.

The lawyers conclude by inviting Mr. Trudeau to collaborate and tackle this difficult but possible, necessary and urgent task for the international negotiations in Paris. “We wish you and your team all the necessary courage to take on these important responsibilities and protect our rights.”

Lettre ouverte du CQDE au Premier ministre : re-action sur les changements climatiques