April 13, 2024

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Clifford: Yes, Conservatives can be strong environmental defenders

6 min read

The Montreal Protocol, which saved the ozone layer, was championed by Conservative leaders who knew their values transcended politics.

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In an age where politics often swing to polar extremes, it is rare to catch glimpses of bipartisan harmony. Yet, history imparts lessons on bridging such divides through shared objectives. So, let us extol the Montreal Protocol. It highlights the remarkable collaboration between Conservatives and their counterparts, all united for environmental preservation, and argues that Conservatives hold immense potential as staunch environmental guardians.

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Ah, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer! Signed in 1987, a testament to unity, transcending political boundaries, this treaty stands triumphant as one of history’s most successful environmental agreements. Its impact is irrefutable, as 197 nations rallied to phase out ozone-destroying substances. Without it, our ozone layer would have been gravely depleted by 2050, unleashing havoc on human health and the environment.

Curiously, the pivotal role of Conservative politicians in the Montreal Protocol’s fruition often goes unnoticed. Indeed, it was the United States and the United Kingdom’s Conservative governments, helmed by president Ronald Reagan and prime minister Margaret Thatcher, that championed the global effort to resolve the ozone crisis. Both leaders, famed for their unwavering free-market ideologies, demonstrated their dedication to environmental protection by endorsing the Montreal Protocol.

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Similarly, Canadian Conservatives’ contributions of the time were vital. Under prime minister Brian Mulroney, Canada led the charge as the first signatory, inspiring other nations to follow suit. Canadians can look back with pride upon their role in safeguarding the ozone layer and the global environment.

This invaluable legacy serves as a reminder: Canadian Conservatives have been, and can be, ardent environmental protectors. The Montreal Protocol epitomizes a Conservative-led initiative that transcended politics to make a lasting, positive impact on our planet.

Now, the pressing question: How can we build upon this legacy, ensuring that environmental protection remains paramount for 21st-century Conservatives?

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First and foremost, we must acknowledge that today’s environmental challenges differ vastly from those of the 1980s. Climate change looms large as one of the most urgent issues in the electorate’s mind, demanding global cooperation and bold action spanning the political spectrum. Canadian Conservatives must recognize this crisis’s urgency and actively participate in devising and implementing effective solutions.

One avenue for engagement is through market-based mechanisms to tackle climate change. As fierce advocates of free-market principles, Conservatives should lead the charge with innovative solutions such as carbon pricing and cap-and-trade systems. These approaches align with Conservative values, incentivizing businesses and individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while fostering economic growth.

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Another approach? Investing in clean technologies and renewable energy sources, protecting the environment while creating jobs and spurring economic growth. Canadian Conservatives can champion this transition by supporting research and development in fields such as energy storage, electric vehicles and green hydrogen.

Finally, effective communication of environmental commitments is paramount. The Conservative Party must not only convey support for environmental protection but also demonstrate tangible actions and policy proposals reflecting this commitment. After all, rural Canadian Conservative ridings often experience environmental impacts firsthand. By doing so, the party can counter the narrative that environmentalism is exclusively a leftist domain and appeal to a broader base of environmentally conscious Canadians.

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The Montreal Protocol serves as a shining beacon of Conservative politicians uniting to protect the environment. Today, we need this spirit of cooperation and determination more than ever. As the Conservative Party moves forward, let us remember this legacy and work to ensure that environmental protection remains at the core of our values and policy agenda. By embracing market-based mechanisms, investing in clean technologies, and effectively communicating our environmental commitments, Canadian Conservatives can continue to play a critical role in safeguarding our planet for future generations.

The Montreal Protocol reminds us that when we put aside our differences and unite in a common purpose, we can overcome the most pressing challenges of our time. Let us carry this spirit of unity forward and work together to build a sustainable and prosperous future for all Canadians.

Kanon Clifford is a lawyer and doctoral student who lives in Ottawa. In his past life, he worked on Parliament Hill for two Conservative ministers in the Harper government and studied politics at the University of Ottawa. Twitter: @KanonClifford

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