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UNACTO Celebrates Earth Day 2016 and the Paris Agreement

On 23 April, UNACTO marked Earth Day with the French Consulate General in Toronto, the University of Toronto Environmental Resources Network (UTERN). The event, organized by the Environment Committee, featured an exhibit of art and sustainable initiatives, two panel discussions, a special dance performance by Irina Aoucheva’s Dance Studio and a silent auction of some of the art pieces.

The event focused on educating the public about COP21 (known as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference) and the Paris Agreement, signed by Canada on 22 April, in addition to the efforts being made in all spheres to achieve a more sustainable world. The exhibit of art and initiatives worked to both bolster an appreciation for the planet and inspire individuals to get involved in creating change. Attendees were encouraged to pledge to make a change in their own daily routines to help reduce climate change.

Opening the program, UNACTO President Syed Khusro highlighted the importance of having a sound understanding and awareness of being a “responsible citizen by reducing carbon footprints to protect the earth and our lives.” President and CEO of UNAC Kathryn White urged the audience to “reflect on Earth and our responsibilities towards it.”

Following the dance performance, keynote speaker Marc Trouyet, Consul General of France in Toronto, touched upon the the role of France as a host to the convention and the pivotal role the Paris Agreement will play in bringing the “desired change and needed outcome in combatting climate change.” The agreement is a commitment to protect island states that are primarily affected by the rise in sea levels, and openly acknowledges the necessity to reduce greenhouse gases, while precisely defining the effective measures developing countries need to take in adapting to climate change.

Paul Evans, Deputy Minister of Ontario’s Ministry of Environment; Dr. Alison Kemper, Assistant Professor at Ryerson University; and Tom Markowitz, President of Enerhope were invited to discuss carbon pricing and the use of it as a tool for Canada to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Closing the afternoon, the pivotal role of cities in adapting to climate change and mitigating the adverse effects were discussed in the second panel which included Gord Perks, Toronto City Councillor; John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council; Beth Savan, academic and community leader; and Mark Winfield, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at York University. The panel spoke about challenges in the legislative framework, smart cities, and the need to develop city plans that are in line with the Paris Agreement.

Proceeds from the event went towards funding UNAC's International Development and Diplomacy Internship Programme.

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