By Laura Keil
Justin Trudeau has asked Canada’s Premiers and the leaders of the other major parties to join him at the UN Climate Change conference in Paris next month.

Canadians have reason to hope that he will take a different approach from his predecessor, and it appears that his approach is already more collaborative.

Many countries have taken real action on climate change and still have robust economies. Take Germany for example – they now get a third of their electricity from renewables on average, including solar, biomass, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal.

Canada has huge undeveloped renewable potential. What has been missing is the political will.

Putting a tax on carbon will no doubt help to direct consumers’ behaviour (in economics, taxes and subsidies are treated as incentives and disincentives for consumers). But setting a higher price on carbon won’t help if we don’t know where the problem is.

People often think that driving cars is the worst culprit. I’m not exonerating vehicle pollution, but it’s certainly not the worst single contributor.

The worst single contributor is animal agriculture – meat, dairy and other animal products.

If you add up all the deforestation, crops grown as feed, grazing area, and methane (far worse than CO2) expelled by animals (especially cattle) the total impact on our climate is devastating.

This will be a tough one to tackle. The UN has known about this for years, but seldom is animal agriculture brought up as a culprit. It’s politically unpopular to say we should be consuming fewer animal products, and certainly the industry has been fighting back.

Films like Cowspiracy have pointed out the devastating cumulative impact of animal agriculture on our environment – the leading cause of Amazon destruction, ocean dead zones (from toxic runoff), species extinction (through habitat loss), and, of course, climage change.

This will be a challenge not just for our new government but for us. Can we accept our responsibility for the environmental crisis we now find ourselves in? Will we choose to consume fewer animal products? Will the government be able to rein in the rampant greenhouse gas emissions of this industry?

I certainly hope we can find a reasonable solution where we remain proud of our ranching and farming traditions while following a healthier path for the planet.