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Green Party leader Elizabeth May talks climate change in Whistler

Hundreds attend AWARE-organized event in resort



Elizabeth May wants Whistler to know that climate change can be tackled right here at home.

"I am very grateful to bring something that happened at a high level (the climate change conference in Paris last year), and make it more local, make it more real," the leader of the Green Party of Canada told a standing-room only crowd in Rainbow Theatre at the Whistler Conference Centre Jan. 21.

May was invited by AWARE to share her experiences at the United Nations climate change talks last December in France - known as COP 21.

Also taking part in the discussion were local MLA Jordan Sturdy, Squamish mayor Patricia Heintzman, Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Pemberton mayor Mike Richman.

May shared insights into the challenges and opportunities the agreement creates and the role of communities, businesses and individuals in achieving the global commitments to limit climate temperature increases.

"No one level of government, no one sector of society is going to avert the climate crisis," she warned.

"It has been a very discouraging number of decades watching procrastination and delay of all kinds, and we have run out of time - we have completely run out of time."

But May chose to steer away from using guilt and doom and gloom to get her message across. Instead, in an engaging and optimistic discussion peppered with humour she encouraged those in attendance to take what steps they could personally and understand that leaving fossil fuels behind simply needs to be a fact of life — and the sooner people embrace sustainable technology the better.

May pointed to the vast amount of solar and wind power now under development in China amid real fears that climate change could melt the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau — the so-called Third Pole — and one of the country's greatest sources of water.

"Billions of people depend on that water, what does that mean in geo-political terms in terms of stability if they lose that ice sheet?" she asked.

"Political instability and major, extreme weather events all over the world are drivers for a lot of governments to realize that this isn't an environmental feel-good issue, so they can win a new badge on their Boy Scout uniform. This is survival, and I think at a basic level a lot of governments around the world really do understand that getting off fossil fuels as quickly as possible is essential."

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