• MTL Blog got to speak with Catherine Gauthier, an environmental activist, about what needs to be done on a political level to help fight climate change.
  • Gauthier and other activists will be getting together in a panel this weekend to discuss new plans for climate action.
  • The panel for Le Monde Festival is taking place Saturday, October 26 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. You don't want to miss it!

The question of how to fight climate change is one of the most contentious debates of our generation. While climate change has become a talking point for many government officials, the public wishes to see less talk and more action. 

In Canada, almost all federal parties acknowledge that action must be taken to mitigate the ravages of climate change. Climate change was at the forefront of most party platforms during this past election, in fact. Despite that, our country as a whole has fallen short on the promised goals of the Paris Accord. This has prompted many young Canadians to take to the streets to demand more from their government — a government that they feel does not care about their future. 

Public discourse on climate change has thus seen a resurgence in the wake of years of government inaction and broken promises. Young activists like Greta Thunberg champion causes like global climate strikes and says that the climate emergency is a reason to "panic" and "be afraid for our futures."

While activists like Thunberg see peaceful protest as a means to an end, there are some more radical ideas that are also gaining traction. 

There are some who even suggest that the only solution to fight climate change is to "impose authoritarian and unpopular measures." 

This weekend, Montreal plays host to Le Monde Festival. In collaboration with the Quebec newspaper Le Devoir, Le Monde Festival is a two-day conference on culture, technology, and political discourse in the Francophone world. 

One event this Saturday, titled "Climate emergency: must we introduce an environmental dictatorship?" will discuss the potential of implementing an authoritarian regime to fight climate change. 

Although this is only a panel discussion on potential political action, the idea of any form of totalitarian dictatorship will certainly make some people uncomfortable. It does raise an interesting question, however. 

We reached out to event panellist Catherine Gauthier, Executive Director for Environnement Jeunesse, to discuss her perspective on this perhaps questionable solution to fight climate change. 

MTL Blog also reached out to Le Devoir's marketing director, Simon Poirier to find out more about why this discussion is so important. 

All responses have been edited for clarity.


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Since 2010, Catherine Gauthier has been the head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) delegation. Her organization, Environnement Jeunesse (ENJEU), aims to provide "environmental education to raise awareness in the young people of Quebec about environmental issues, to equip them through its educational projects and to encourage them to act in their environment." They are hoping to build a new generation of young leaders that are better equipped to fight the climate crisis. 

"On a personal level, I've seen that when we impose specific actions on individuals, it tends not to be very efficient or fair to them," says Gauthier. 

"I would probably disagree with imposing too-specific laws that could revoke human rights or the level of action that an individual can take. Though I would agree that we need stronger laws and mechanisms so that our governments are held accountable to their decisions and international agreements." 

Gauthier says that Canada is not respecting the Paris Accord and is not doing enough to protect human rights. She tells MTL Blog that her organization, ENJEU, is noticing young people are drastically changing their tone and their attitudes towards governments.

"We're not only demanding action, but we're also making sure to put a lot of pressure on governments and climate change. The intensity of demands and the actions have been increasing in recent months," says Gauthier. 

"We need all kinds of actions. I think it would be useful if we had one big solution to fight climate change but unfortunately, that's not what we're seeing. One solution might not be possible from one region to another. But the least our government can do is to stop investing public funds into fossil fuel industries that damage the environment." 

"Implementing 'authoritarian' measures all depends on the level of authority you want to exercise, that's for sure. Putting a price on pollution, for example, is key. The richest people will be more able to pay the price of pollution.

"I'm not sure if it's really going to work, because we see that putting a price on pollution can potentially increase inequalities and contribute to poverty. It's important to pay attention to the impacts and possibilities of specific actions."

According to Simon Poirier, the question and way it has been presented are intended to be provocative. 

"We understand that we won't be getting a definite response or solution to this question. But we think it's important to bring it up. It comes as a result of the various civil movements that we see in Montreal and around the world. Politicians don't seem to be taking action on what is a popular consensus. The climate emergency is real and the actions have certainly been weak," says Poirier. 

"Some see that politicians aren't responding to the climate emergency and that a democratically-elected government isn't taking any action. So, the question is really about if we have to subvert a democratic government to find other solutions for climate change." 

Poirier mentions that provinces like Quebec and BC elected politicians with progressive ideas this past election but "provinces who rely on the oil and fossil fuel industry didn't elect one Liberal MP." 

"Across the country, people say elected governments aren't representing their sentiments on climate change so we're asking: is democracy really the best way to go about tackling climate change?" says Poirier. 

"We're getting closer to a breaking point. It's time for governments to take action so it's definitely the moment to raise questions like this."

So, what do you think? Should we be imposing authoritarian measures to fight climate change? 

If you want to know more about Environnement Jeunesse or want to volunteer, visit the organization's website website.

To find out more about the Le Monde Festival, visit the event website here.

Want to attend the panel discussion? It'll be taking place at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday, October 26 from 12:30 - 4 p.m. Buy your tickets here

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