Shout Out to Canada’s East Coast- We Hear You in Cancun!
Written by: Lena Phillips
The other day a member of my delegation asked me to contribute to CYDs podcast, speaking specifically to how climate change is affecting Prince Edward Island (Follow CYDs podcast available on iTunes!). Having lived in Toronto over the last 4+ years for school, I try my best to keep track of the diversity of climate issues that affect Canada. Participating in the podcast allowed me to reflect on the reasons why I’m in Cancun and, more importantly, how I can extend this experience into my actions post-COP. I spent a large part of my life growing up on PEI and the environment is an integral part of Island culture. Agriculture and the Fisheries are two of largest industries in the province. Number three goes to Tourism and that sector is largely dependent on the Island’s natural beauty and resources. If it has not become increasingly obvious, Islanders’ livelihoods are largely dependent on the environment. This dependency is true for much of Canada’s East Coast. The other dimension to this is that PEI is, well, an Island thus further subjecting it to severe climate changes. The East Coast in general is not initially expected to experience the same degree of warming as other parts of Canada but the consequences of climate change will be significant. Effects are varied and include rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, coastal erosion, droughts, dry summers and more incidents of forest fires, higher precipitation levels in the winter months, loss of biodiversity due to some species inability to adapt fast enough, and the emergence of exotic pest species that target agriculture.
Being here in Cancun for COP16 has definitely reinvigorated my interest in how climate change is shaping the future of smaller East Coast communities. Notably as a delegation, a lot of our focus is on broader, national policy. The Tar Sands, rightfully so, are a huge part of our delegation’s messaging and the pressure we’re placing on the Canadian government. However, as individuals, we also represent every region of Canada. So I basically saw this as an opportunity to highlight and generate awareness on climate issues affecting Canada’s Maritime region.
Increasingly over the last few years, East Coast residents have begun to notice changes in climate activity. This year during hurricane season, Atlantic Canada region was inundated with unseasonably high levels of rainfall and strong winds. This is partly due to last year’s mild winter and lack of sea ice (also indications of climate change). These storms resulted in harsh floods and loss and damage of property. In addition to all of these negative environmental impacts, the East Coast is expected to be hit harder economically. As previously noted, the East Coast’s economy is largely resource dependent. Without swift adaptation and mitigation efforts, analysts expect that industries reliant on natural resources will be hit hardest as the inevitable effects of climate change progress. Canada’s Eastern provinces already suffer from higher than average unemployment rates- these consequences have the ability to effectively cripple the East Coast economically. COP16 is still in its early days but I hope that through my experience here that I can further elevate the importance of the East Coast as a climate affected community. Despite being Canada’s smallest province, PEI, and communities like it, deserves the right to be advocated for.