On Wednesday, November 21st at 7pm the Vancouver Branch of the UN Association in Canada partnered with the Burnaby School District to host Dr. Joanna Ashworth and screen her documentary to an audience of UNAC-V members, and Burnaby students and parents. UNAC-V co-Vice President Jessica Steele provided opening remarks which can be read, in part, below.
We are honoured to have Dr. Joanna Ashworth, the filmmaker, joining us tonight for post film comments and a Q and A after the screening. We are gathered here on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples including the Squamish, the Musquem and the Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Indigenous Peoples have been taking care of this place since time out of mind and it is our responsibility as settlers, immigrants and new comers to Canada to continue to take care of these lands and waters.
Earlier this year, a landmark scientific report was released by the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC report laid out the impacts of our planet warming by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Increased warming, they said, will result in up to 400 million people being affected by drought. Warming to this level will result in regular ice-free summers in the arctic and the disappearance of virtually all of the world’s coral reefs. Already, with a global temperature increase of 1.1 degrees, we are seeing extreme weather events, weather pattern changes and sea level rise—and these are affecting poor and vulnerable communities the most. For those who hadn’t been taking climate change seriously, this report was an urgent call to action—the report stated “we need rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In Paris, in 2015, at the 21st Council of Parties (known as COP 21) for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement was adopted. This monumental agreement set up goals to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In just a couple weeks, parties of the UNFCCC will meet again for COP 24 in Poland. They will be discussing how to take the goals of the Paris Agreement and put them into action. If countries, including Canada, lay out ambitious action plans to address climate change, we could see a substantial move away from fossil fuels and a system of support for those communities most affected by climate crises.
While the high-level meetings of COP 24 are occurring, there will be many side events being run by academia, non-profits, NGOs and others. This is where I expect to see real inspiration and innovation. While it may seem like change needs to occur from the top (and it does), change is spearheaded at the grassroots level. And this sustainable change is being led by those who are often not represented as much as they should be in these high level meetings—women and young people.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly. The UN SDG 13 is “Take Urgent Action to combat climate change and its impacts”. As with all UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 13 needs people from all walks of life to take a stand. As you will see in this film, inspirational change is coming from women right here in our community. If we want to see positive change for our climate then women need to be at the forefront of these conversations. Youth need to be at the forefront of these conversations. And we need to take action, individually and collectively. Because this positive change will ripple through our communities, cities, provinces and country. Currently, there is an upward curve in global temperature. Let’s learn and be inspired by these incredible women featured in this film. From UN high-level meetings like COP 24 to small steps you can take in your school or workplace, together we can take the necessary urgent action to bend the curve on climate change.
BIOGRAPHY: Jessica Steele is the co-vice president of the United Nations Association in Canada–Vancouver Branch. A graduate of the University of Victoria with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, Jessica is a passionate environmental educator and climate justice activist. Jessica has worked for Ocean Wise Conservation Association as a Mobile Programs educator, crossing the country connecting communities to the oceans, and as a G7 Oceans Youth Challenge Coordinator. She currently coordinates Ocean Wise’s Ocean Bridge program where she empowers youth and young adults across the country to participate in ocean conservation service projects. Jessica sits on the KAIROS Canada Ecological Justice Circle and will be representing KAIROS at COP 24 in Poland this December.