Climate Week, which took place from September 23-29,2019, was a monumental occasion. Over six million people attended climate strikes across the globe, and world leaders were chastised by Greta Thunberg and other young climate activists at the UN Climate Action Summit held in New York. Thousands congregated at Queen’s Park in Toronto on September 27, thousands of which were affiliated with the University of Toronto. It has become increasingly clear that climate change is not just an issue of science, but also of politics. In light of this, I turned to Dr. Jessica Green, Associate Professor within the Department of Political Science, and professor of a course I am taking called ENV322: International Environmental Policy, to discuss her views on PCJ & climate change, youth mobilization, and a Green New Deal for Canada.

Dr. Jessica Green received her B.A. from Brown University, MPA from Columbia University and Ph.D. from Princeton University. Her publications include Rethinking Private Authority: Agents and Entrepreneurs in Global Environmental Governance (Princeton University Press, 2014), articles on carbon markets, delegation to non-state actors, transnational regulation, regime complexity and organizational ecology. This past week, she hosted a panel at the Munk School called, “The Politics of Climate Change: A Green New Deal for Canada?” which evaluated ways in which the Green New Deal would alter the Canadian landscape on climate policy, what Canada could learn from climate policies in other countries, and what policies are necessary in order to implement it.

In this interview, I sought to understand Dr. Green’s own viewpoints on climate policy internationally and domestically.

Q: When did you start to care about climate change?

A: “1992...the year of the Rio Summit on Environment and school got involved, asking ‘how do we implement Agenda 21?’ That’s when I learned about the extent of global degradation.”

“Teaching really gives me hope,” she stated. She went on to describe the warm feeling she had when, in ENV322, students expressed agreement and enthusiasm in response to Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN Climate Summit. She remarked, “If there are 60 of you that think that way, that really marks a profound shift.”

Q: I can think of some key ways in which environmentalism intersects with the Peace, Conflict and Justice program. In terms of peace, multilateral cooperation and peaceful coexistence can be seen as necessary factors in transforming political agendas of states to concentrate on lowering carbon emissions and overall fighting climate change. In terms of conflict, tensions over resource distribution, and strains on resources, exacerbate factors that cause violent conflict. With regards to justice, we’ve seen that climate change is set to affect (and already has been affecting) vulnerable populations the most severely. What are some recent climate-related events that intersect with Peace, Conflict or Justice that are important for PCJ students to be informed about?

Image of Amazon fires , taken from

A: “I think actually what’s going on in the Amazon is emblematic because obviously there are climate concerns, but there are also huge peace and conflict issues around that. Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, has basically said that he wants to turn the Amazon into a factory more or less, and he doesn’t care about the people who live there and the people who have lived there for thousands of years. And it’s not just about eliminating their way of life, it’s about eliminating their very existence, you know, you could make an argument that it’s a kind of genocide that’s going on in the Amazon.”

“...In terms of justice, the after effects of severe weather events like hurricanes...Hurricane Dorian, which has just absolutely obliterated the Bahamas....we talk about sea level rise making places uninhabitable but there is another way that places are becoming uninhabitable...Puerto Rico is a little bit better, but not much two years on from Hurricane Maria... That’s very much a justice issue...those places have been either ignored by their national governments or ignored by the international community. The Bahamas obviously doesn’t have the internal capacity to rebuild itself because everything is just gone, and so it is incumbent on the international community to aid at the level that is required to rebuild...”

Q: In its closing statement on the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 (which happened Tuesday, Sept 23), the UN states youth engagement and public mobilization as one of three key areas necessary in ensuring that the transformative actions in the real economy are as impactful as possible. Additionally, Greta Thunberg has been the kingpin of the voices of youth mobilization. How important do you think youth engagement and public mobilization are in affecting change? Should we even bother attending climate change protests?

A: “Yes we should bother. I am going tomorrow with my whole family...I am of two minds: yes, youth mobilization and yes, broader mobilization, but I do worry a little bit that this has been pushed onto the youth...there have been many climate activists working around these issues and, why her [Greta Thunberg] now is a good question...she came at a particular moment in history and we will never fully understand why that is. She started this thing but it’s up to all of us to continue it, not just young people...If you look at the polls about Canadians in your age group [18-25], [around] 50% believe that climate change is an emergency and that they worry about it on a daily basis, which is seriously messed up. It affects your well-being...All of that to say that young engagement is important, but it’s part of a larger movement we all need to be involved in...”

Q: In an article you wrote for the Washington Post about the Climate Summit, you argue that it serves to pressure governments to increase their commitments, yet because it doesn’t have any legal bearing, it won’t produce the rapid decarbonization that scientists say is needed. You even go on to say, “Although Guterres will keep trying to coax governments and others into action on climate change, the real momentum is now elsewhere.” Can you go more into detail about why legally binding agreements are necessary? Or if they aren’t, is there a different approach governments should be taking?

A: “Legally binding agreements are not necessary— [the question is] Do countries want to decarbonize or not? It’s political...The action is at the domestic’s in [states’] economic and geopolitical interest [to decarbonize] ...There’s a long-standing belief that it’s jobs versus the economy, and climate change is going to cost money and it’s about pain and sacrifice, and we need to stop thinking that way. It’s very hard to reorganize that mental’s not just a question of sacrifice, which is why the Green New Deal, thinking in that kind of way, is really important, because it replicates up to the international level. When this becomes acceptable at the domestic level, then there’s a whole other world of possibilities that opens up internationally.”

(Greta Thunberg address at the UN Climate Summit – image from

Q: In light of the panel you will be speaking at next week, I would like to ask you about your thoughts on a Green New Deal for Canada. What is the point of the Green New Deal?

A: [The Green New Deal is a way of] saying: Look the government needs to be actively managing how we spend our money in a way that benefits the most amount of’s about closing loopholes on capital gains...proposing a modest wealth tax...some are not doing well, and should be recipients of government public transportation (that would benefit working families tremendously! The TTC is expensive!) materials for energy retrofits in your house...worrying about how much more you’ll pay at the pump is a waste of time. Hopefully people will start thinking, ‘wow this is a government that takes care of its people, and a government that takes care of its people, looks out for me, makes sure our environment is healthy and clean, it makes sure our food is safe.’”

I would like to thank Dr. Green for sharing her thoughts and opinions. As we, the youth—PCJ students and the likes—continue to cry out for more effective climate policy, let us aspire to be the ones to make a change. While policy making is not in our hands currently, we can produce our own social change from the ground up. And who knows? Perhaps we will be the ones making policies in the future...

Feature image of Amazon fires , taken from