Did Brad Trivers’ kids just save the climate?

David Remnick interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for The New Yorker Radio Hour, and asked her about what it was like being in Congress after a year in office:

David Remnick: What shocked you the most… in holding this office, and the political office once you’re in office?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: I think, when I first got into office, after getting sworn in, I struggled with a large deal of imposter syndrome. Do I belong here? They’re going to find out. As soon as they find out they’re gonna…

DR: Take it back?

AOC: Exactly. Like it’s gonna get taken back. And so I struggled with that a lot, but after acclimating to the actual functions of this job and this role, I think one of the things that has been shocking to me is how normal it is, like the…

DR: Normal in what sense?

AOC: In how enormous decisions are made in ways that feel like a typical office, sometimes, you know…

DR: For example…

AOC: And so, there will be, miscommunications, or there will be debates, or there’s that guy you don’t like on the second floor, or… things like that, and they all have real dynamics and real consequences for decision-making. For example, last week was the Border Supplemental, which was this big controversy, both within the party but also nationally.

DR: This is the conflict between the Senate Democrats and the House Democrats, as well as with the Republicans as well?

AOC: Right. And so the ways that this very flawed supplemental, which I personally voted against, along with many other members, the way that it came to the floor, like “what’s going on?”, “who’s saying what?”, and you’re hearing, second hand, about what might be happening, and it kind of unfolds within 30 minutes and, before you know it, Congress has voted on $4.6 billion, with no accountability.

DR: So you’re saying “government is a mess,” in a way.

AOC: Ah, yeah, it’s a mess. It’s a mess.

I thought of this exchange last night when the Legislative Assembly of PEI passed second reading of the Bill No. 102, An Act to Amend the Climate Leadership Act, a bill that has, perhaps, the fewest words a bill could have:

Subsection 2(1) of the Climate Leadership Act R.S.P.E.I. 1988, Cap. C-9.1, is amended by the deletion of the words “1.4 megatonnes” and the substitution of the words “1.2 megatonnes”.

Few words, but important ones.

Subsection 2(1) of the Climate Leadership Act currently reads:

The purpose of this Act is to provide for a price on carbon for purchasers and consumers of fuel in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province to less than 1.4 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030.

According to the 2018 Prince Edward Island Climate Change Action Plan:

Prince Edward Island’s GHG emissions were 1.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) in 2016.

As such, this amendment, should it proceed, will change our target for 2030 from a reduction of 22% to a reduction of 33%.

This proposed amendment, the CBC reports, “has been one of the most debated topics of this sitting of the legislature,” and earlier in this debate it appeared as though Hon. Brad Trivers, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Change, would not support it.

Here, for example, is a comment on July 2 from Minister Trivers during an exchange with MLA Lynne Lund (who introduced the bill):

Mr. Trivers: Thank you, Chair.

I just wanted to take that opening statement and look at that, because I think it illustrates a point that I want to make. And this idea that by potentially not supporting this amendment, we’re taking a gamble with the future and that to me, that’s not what this amendment is really about, in my opinion.

I mean, if you look at very specifically what you’re doing and the clause you’re trying to amend, you’re looking at a clause that talks about tying the price on carbon, the carbon tax, for producers and consumers, to a greenhouse gas emission target, and this is a target that you have said and admitted has changed. It’s a moving target.

Now, granted it seems to be getting stricter and stricter the further we go, right? But that’s the problem, and this was the problem I had with the act initially, was putting this target like that specifically in the act.

A better target would be − we want to be a carbon-neutral society by 2050. Because that’s actually what the end goal is. And there’s a lot of work to be done I think, again, by your own admission, to figure out how we get from here to there. And whether this goal of 1.4 megatonnes versus 1.2 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 is going to make or break that is debatable.

And then, a few moments later:

Mr. Trivers: Yes, so we’re all here collectively representing Islanders, Prince Edward Islanders and any target we set has to represent them as well, right. There are a lot of different opinions out there and I do appreciate your comments about, we have to be a leader. I don’t believe it’s up to us necessarily to tell Islanders that this is the target we’re going to set because even if it is, as strong evidence as you have, because that’s what the United Nations paper said, or the report said.

This did not sound like a Minister prepared to support the setting of a more ambitious target.

But, between July 2 and 10, something changed for the Minister; the CBC reports:

Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Change Brad Trivers had previously said he likely would not support the bill without it going to a standing committee. However, he said he had changed his mind.

Prior to the vote, he told a group rallying outside the legislature that his decision came in part out of conversations with his children.

I don’t know what Minister Trivers’ children said to him, but my hat is off to them for convincing their father of the value of supporting the bill that made our push toward climate change mitigation a more substantial one. Maybe his kids didn’t “save the climate,” but they helped. More conversations with your father, please.

Government may be, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggests, “a mess,” but in a way that’s kind of the point: hold ideas up to the light, debate them vigorously, hear all views. Maybe have a conversation or two with your kids. Then vote.

In this case the mess is working, the vote passed 18 for, 6 opposed. Hats off to Lynne Lund for having faith in the mess, introducing the bill, and then working hard to get it passed.