Canada & the Environment

Written by  //  October 19, 2012  //  Canada  //  2 Comments

See also:
Shining a light on the federal government’s false claims on Environmental Assessment and the Budget (Mining Watch via
Environment Canada
Canada Ethanol Policy Hurts Livestock Farmers: Report
(Reuters/Planet Ark) Ethanol production has boosted the prices of grains that Canadian farmers buy to raise cattle and pigs, and Ottawa should curb or eliminate its support for the industry, an agriculture research organization said on Tuesday.

Environmental groups losing interest in lobbying Prentice
(Hill Times online) “As a general proposition, this government knows more about and cares more about the oil and gas sectors than it does about most” … More importantly … the government is not receptive to the policy options provided by the bureaucracy, and ends up going instead to industry for advice.


Mike De Souza: Stephen Harper’s Tories downplay climate knowledge of new Environment Canada boss
( The department’s new deputy minister, Bob Hamilton, ran into trouble last Monday at a parliamentary committee when he was asked to explain what causes climate change.
“Wow. Umm. They didn’t tell me I’d have to answer questions like that when I took this job. I think that it’s – I don’t know the total answer to that –,” said Hamilton, before Conservative MPs interrupted to prevent him from continuing.
8 October
Harper Rebuked Environment Canada Officials For Doing Their Jobs, Documents Show
(HuffPost) Prime Minister Stephen Harper sharply rebuked Environment Canada bureaucrats last year for overstepping their authority, but internal documents suggest they were just doing their jobs.
Harper’s annual Arctic tour in August 2011 was embarrassed when a First Nations group issued a news release saying the federal government had suspended water-quality sampling at 21 sites in the North.
… the prime minister quickly doused the controversy by saying the move was “not authorized” and that Environment Minister Peter Kent had ordered water sampling to resume once he found out about it.
… But a 600-page internal file on the controversy, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, shows the officials had in fact received a green light from senior levels at Environment Canada.
15 September
Environment Minister eyes overhaul of law protecting at-risk wildlife
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Mr. Kent said he wants to spend the next few months figuring how to make the Species At Risk Act more efficient. In particular, he wants the recovery plans provided for in the legislation to consider whole ecosystems, rather than just species in isolation.
Analysis done by environmental groups argues that the federal government has dragged its feet in putting animals on the list, developing recovery plans and implementing those plans to protect habitat and restore fragile animal populations.
Canada and creative climate accounting
(Quirks & Quarks) According to a recent report from the independent science-based group Climate Action Tracker, Canada’s claim to being halfway to reaching our 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets is actually playing with numbers to make it look like we’re accomplishing more than we are.
… The bottom line is that Canada still has a long way to go to reduce our carbon emissions and if current trends continue, we will fall short of our 2020 targets. But achieving that goal is not out of the question. The technology to do it is there, as well as the expertise to diversify our energy production into wind, solar, geothermal and even new nuclear. … a new nuclear technology based on thorium may be a green “superfuel” of the future.
9 September
Stephen Harper’s environment watchdog to investigate ‘risks’ of federal budget bill
Parliament’s environment watchdog says he will investigate the “inherent risks” from the Harper government’s overhaul of Canada’s environmental laws.
“This (change to existing laws) wasn’t tinkering,” said Scott Vaughan, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, in an interview with Postmedia News.
“This was a wholesale game changer to put in a new regime. And so with any big change, in any regime, in any system, in the private sector, if you go through a huge change, there are inherent risks that are involved.”
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency revealed in August that part of the 400-page budget bill, adopted a few weeks earlier in support of the Harper government’s 2012 federal budget, eliminated 2,970 environmental assessments across the country, including hundreds of projects involving fossil fuels or a pipeline.
7 September
Softer rules for burning coal infuriate environmentalists
(RCI) Canada’s environment minister has announced weaker emission rules for coal-burning power plants. The regulations stipulate they can emit no more than 420 tonnes of greenhouse gases per gigawatt hour of electricity generated. That number is much higher than the 375 tonne limit proposed in earlier draft regulations.
10 August
Critics of climate change are losing their PR battle
(PostMedia news) … It is right that the Conservatives fight for the oilsands, given all the jobs and money the industry produces. … But the Conservatives are doing little to minimize its environmental impact.
An Environment Canada report released Wednesday shows that emissions from the oil sands will double by 2020.
[Minister Peter] Kent took credit for projected reductions in other sectors, but most of the improvements come from accounting changes, provincial plans to shut down coal plants and the planned introduction of car and truck emission controls that will match American standards.
2 August
Mike De Souza: Harper government says Canadian youth misinformed about global warming talks
The Harper government says that some of its most vocal critics on global warming policies – Canadian youth – are “not well informed” about the process of international negotiations, according to an internal Environment Canada document that has prompted astonishment from some of the young people in question.
“I don’t really know where to start,” said Amara Possian, 23, a Montreal resident who co-ordinated a delegation of Canadian youth in December 2011 who attended the annual United Nations climate change summit in South Africa. “It’s not that we’re not informed, it’s just that the government doesn’t want to listen.”
The document, released to Postmedia News through access-to-information legislation, was prepared for Canada’s climate change ambassador, Guy Saint-Jacques, following his appointment in 2010. It highlighted the importance of “transparency” and consultation with “civil society” within Canada to build support for federal policies.
2 July
So nice to be recognized in the international media
Canada refocuses on exploiting resources
Canada’s government is moving to weaken environmental safeguards that impede natural-resource exploitation, particularly in Alberta’s oil sands. Three spills from oil-sands pipelines have drawn attention to government policies that have significantly weakened the legal standing of environmental advocates. Yale Environment 360 (7/2), The Wall Street Journal (6/20), blog (6/15)
Ottawa’s attempt to sell freshwater research centre another blow to science
(Toronto Star editorial)The most important freshwater research centre in the world is being sold for one dollar and the Conservative government has done its best to ensure that no one will be able to afford it.
The Experimental Lakes Area, a Kenora-based research facility that has been making key contributions to the study of freshwater lake ecologies for 50 years, saw its funding slashed to nil in the outsized omnibus budget bill passed earlier this month. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the centre no longer fits with its increasingly practical priorities and would be closed in March of next year unless a new operator could be found.
The search is now on, though, as the government must know, it is likely futile. Cash-strapped universities are in no position to impulse-buy a facility that costs $2 million per year to maintain on top of its one-dollar price tag. This is especially true given that the Conservatives have put a moratorium on the Major Resources Support Program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada — the funding option most likely to have made the purchase possible.
22 June
Walkom: At Rio 20, Canada furiously backpedals on environment
(Toronto Star) … the Rio+20 summit has only served to remind us how pathetically little we’ve done.
Canada’s role this time was to act as a spoiler and saboteur. According to the Reuters news agency, Canadian and Venezuelan negotiators combined in an unholy alliance to squash any attempt to limit government subsidies to fossil fuel producers such as oil companies.
To compare the two summits is to chart the brief rise and rapid decline of governmental — and perhaps popular — interest in the environment.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government says it doesn’t have the luxury of worrying about environmental matters because it has to deal with the struggling economy.
Yet 20 years ago, the Canadian economy was in even worse straits than it is now, with 11 per cent of the labour force out of work.
That didn’t stop the Conservative government of the day from signing onto Rio.
Unlike Harper, then-prime minister Brian Mulroney attended the Brazil summit. Unlike Harper, he publicly backed the accords signed at Rio — even though, in one case, doing so put him at odds with the United States.
20 June
Canada: Environmental Loser at Home and Abroad
(HuffPost) In the coming days, the world’s leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro to seek renewed commitment to the principles of sustainable development, in part, by embracing the notion of the green economy.
The conference, dubbed Rio+20 because it comes on the 20th anniversary of the historic Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, hasn’t exactly received a great deal of attention here in Canada. And for good reason: Canadian environmentalists have been consumed in a all-out struggle to halt, alter, or at the very least draw attention to the largest rollback in environmental legislation in over 20 years.
At the time of writing, a federal budget bill which contains over a hundred pages dedicated to weakening environmental legislation and oversight has been passed by parliament.
17 June
Canada doubtful about Earth Summit
(RCI) Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent says he has low expectations as he heads to Rio de Janeiro for the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit. He’s joining tens of thousands of delegates from countries around the world in an effort toestablish sustainable development. But he says negotiators can’t even agree on the definition of sustainable development. Organizers received submissions from 600 different countries, and groups, and have edited the suggestions down to 97 different items to be negotiated.The two main issues are: how to modify the United Nations structure so that sustainable development is a priority; and how to define a global set of sustainable development goals that will influence decision-making for years to come.
16 June
Kent defends environmental cuts included in the budget bill
(CBC | The House) The soon-to-be defunct National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy released one final major report this week focusing on Canada’s progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We talk to the CEO and president of the NRTEE David McLaughlin and Green Party leader Elizabeth May about the report’s findings and the government’s decision to scrap the advisory body created under Brian Mulroney. We also speak to Environment Minister Peter Kent ahead of Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which gets underway in Brazil next week.
15 June
Canada Wins ‘Fossil’ Award At Rio+20 Talks On Sustainable Development
“As leaders gather in Rio, Canada is weakening key parts of the Rio agreement while rolling back decades of environmental legislation and climate protection by pushing through Bill C-38,” Amara Possian of PowerShift Canada, a youth organization said in an email from Brazil.
“They are being given the Rio Fossil for standing in the way of a just and sustainable future at home and here in Rio.”
7 June
Environment Advisory Panel’s Closure ‘Dumb’, Harper Told A former Conservative MP and member of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider his “dumb” decision to kill the independent advisory panel.
6 June
Le retrait du Canada du protocole de Kyoto devant les tribunaux
(La Presse) Le recours en justice a été déposé par l’Équipe Kyoto, menée par l’ancien député du Bloc québécois Daniel Turp et composée de 80 étudiants et professeurs universitaires, ainsi que de plusieurs avocats.
C’est l’avocat bien connu du monde juridique Me Julius Grey qui représentera l’Équipe Kyoto à l’audition qui se déroulera à la Cour fédérale du Canada à compter de 9 h 30.
All-party climate caucus seeks to ‘educate’ MPs
(Ottawa Citizen) The caucus, which includes representatives from the New Democrats, Bloc Quebecois and Green party, was spearheaded by Liberal environment critic Kirsty Duncan, a scientist who contributed to a major international report from 2007 assessing the state of evidence about human influence on the climate.
5 June
Pipelines, politics and recession collide in B.C.
The story behind the federal government’s friction with environmentalists
4 June

Anti-Budget Protest Will See Websites Go Dark
A coalition of Canada’s top environmental groups says close to 18,000 Canadians and over 400 organizations have committed to blacking out their websites on Monday — a symbolic gesture in protest of what they see is the government’s effort to “silence” environmental voices across the country.

The “Black Out, Speak Out” campaign calls on Canadians to raise their voices against proposed changes to environmental laws included in Bill C-38, the government’s budget implementation bill. Environmental groups say the changes will weaken environmental laws.
Environmental websites to go dark to protest Canadian bill on pipeline (HuffPost) What on Earth Is Happening to Canada? Answer: Black Out Speak Out
25 May
Opinion: Canada’s mass firing of ocean scientists brings ‘silent summer’
(Environmental Health News) Editor’s Note: Canada is dismantling the nation’s entire ocean contaminants program as part of massive layoffs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Among the scientists terminated are ones who have conducted landmark research about global pollutants for decades: Peter Ross, who is among the world’s leading experts on marine mammals and contaminants, Gary Stern, a mercury expert whose work focuses on the Arctic, Michel Lebeuf, who studies the highly contaminated St. Lawrence belugas and Michael Ikonomou, who researches flame retardants and other endocrine-disrupting contaminants in salmon and other ocean life. Ross told EHN that his main concern is the “wholesale axing of pollution research” that will leave Canada, and much of the world, without the scientific knowledge to protect whales, seals, fish and other marine life — as well as the indigenous peoples who rely on them for their traditional foods. Many scientists say the purpose of the move by the Canadian government is not just cost-cutting but to eliminate environmental rules and protect the oil and gas industry. The following is an essay that Ross wrote Thursday for EHN. — Marla Cone, Editor in Chief
8 May
As Tories rewrite rules, watchdog details cost of lax environmental regulation
The federal government is on the hook for billions of dollars to fix problems caused by lax environmental regulation in the past, according to a new audit.
Ottawa is looking at $7.7-billion in cleanup costs for contaminated sites, but has only set aside a fraction of the necessary funding, Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan found.
Parliament warned govt. will miss environmental targets
(RCI) The Canadian Parliament’s environmental watchdog says Canada is acting too slowly to combat climate change and has little chance of achieving its modest 2020 target for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Vaughan says the federal environment department has no plan to show how various departments and agencies would co-operate and has not provided estimates of how various sectors of the economy should cut emissions. In response to the report, Environment Minister Peter Kent said the government was making “significant progress” on meeting its 2020 target.
Kirsty Duncan: Gutting environmental protection in budget bill is an affront to democracy
(iPolitics) If the Minister of the Environment, whose job it is to stand up for the environment and to conserve our country’s natural heritage, really believes that Bill C-38 is good for the environment, he should have the courage to end this affront to our democracy and ensure careful, public study of the Bill’s changes.
1 May
Environment watchdog worried about changes
(RCI) The federal environment watchdog says Ottawa’s new legislation will give the public far less input into natural resource development in Canada. Scott Vaughan, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, says changes to federal environmental assessment introduced last week are among the most major policy developments in 30 or 40 years. Mr. Vaughan says such assessments have always been a “bedrock” of environmental policy in Canada, but the new measures will only provide for consultation with local groups. He says the new legislation raises many questions about how it will be put into practice, but the end result will be “faster and fewer” environmental assessments at the federal level. Last week, the federal government folded into its budget implementation bill more than 100 pages of changes to various pieces of environmental legislation, with the goal of making approvals of resource development more efficient.
30 April
China bests Canada in tackling climate change, Strong says
Once a leader in the global environmental movement, Canada is now seen as a serious laggard, with even emerging countries like China showing more commitment to costly adjustments to reduce emissions, the high-profile businessman and diplomat said in an interview on Monday.
13 April
Cuts at Environment Canada mean fewer left to clean up oil-spill mess
The unit at Environment Canada that responds to oil-spill emergencies will be dramatically scaled back and most of its regional offices will be closed to meet the cost-cutting demands of the federal government.
2 April
Independent analysis further eroded with closing of NRTEE
(iPolitics) One of the unmistakable signs of poor public policy stewardship and incompetent management is being penny wise and pound-foolish. The latest example is the shuttering of the National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy (NRTEE).
With a miniscule operating budget of $5.5 million, the NRTEE’s tremendous impact has far surpassed its annual appropriation. The NRTEE has been a high-performance, high-value organization that punched far above its weight and the resources assigned to it.
Sadly, this government has never valued — or welcomed — independent and rigorous fact-based analysis and advice. In fact, it has treated those with the temerity to try with open and visceral contempt.
30 March
Globe & Mail editorial: Budget’s new rules unfairly target environmental groups
The Conservatives are continuing their dishonourable attack meant to intimidate environmental groups, in a budget item that stands out for adding a needless new cost.
29 March
Harper budget has $8M to restrict ‘political activities’ of charities
(The Tyee) Stephen Harper’s conservative government intends to spend $8 million over the next two years to restrict the political activities of Canadian charities. The move is being perceived as an attack on Canada’s environmental movement, which receives a portion of its funding from American charitable organizations.
“Recently, concerns have been raised that some charities may not be respecting the rules regarding political activities,” reads the Economic Action Plan 2012. “There have also been calls for greater public transparency related to the political activities of charities, including the extent to which they may be funded by foreign sources.”
Budget 2012 good news for Canada’s oil sands, but environmentalists cry foul
(National Post) The Harper government’s budget Thursday tossed roses to Western Canada’s natural resource-based economy and lobbed a political grenade at the environmental movement. … The budget commits $8 million over the next two years to help the Canadian Revenue Agency target registered charities that the government believes are too overtly political.
The money will be used to “improve transparency by requiring charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources,” according to budget documents.
One federal official said $3 million of the $8 million will go to “education and compliance,” with the “lion’s share” of that $3 million to cover the cost of stepped-up audits.
Environmentalists critical of budget
(RCI) The news that environmental reviews will be streamlined angered environmentalists, who oppose all-out development of the tar sands on the grounds that extracting crude from the clay-like bitumen is energy-intensive and contributes to climate change. Steven Guilbeault of the green group Equiterre says … Canadians will have very limited ability to question companies on the impacts of these projects on communities and on water reserves. The Conservatives also say they will eliminate the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which provides analysis and policy advice.
24 March
Andrew Nikiforuk: Don’t Gut Fisheries Act, Plead 625 Scientists
Tories plan to stop protecting waterways with fish deemed to lack ‘economic, cultural or ecological value.’
(The Tyee) More than 625 Canadian scientists are demanding that the Canadian government abandon plans to gut the Fisheries Act, the nation’s most significant and oldest piece of environmental legislation.
Scientists contacted by The Tyee called the changes shocking and unprecedented.
“We believe that the weakening of habitat protections in Section 35 of the Fisheries Act will negatively impact water quality and fisheries across the country, and could undermine Canada’s attempt to maintain international credibility in the environment,” states the letter.
29 February
Senate examines foreign funding of charities
(CBC) The Conservative government has quietly begun looking into the charitable status of environmental groups in the Senate.
Senator Nicole Eaton is sponsoring an inquiry into what she calls “funding by foreign foundations.” Eaton began her debate Tuesday by laying out what she considers to be a threat to the Canadian economy.
Budget réduit à Environnement Canada: des scientifiques américains inquiets
(La Presse) Les réductions dans le budget d’Environnement Canada constituent un frein aux recherches scientifiques mondiales et remettent en cause la participation du pays dans plusieurs accords internationaux, dénoncent un groupe de chercheurs américains.
12 February
David Suzuki: Oil Over Oceans
A damning report shows the Canadian government shying away from marine protection because it might interfere with oil-tanker traffic.
(The Mark) It’s been 20 years since Canada’s East Coast cod fishery collapsed, and we still have no recovery target or timeline for rebuilding populations. That’s just one finding in a damning report from a panel of eminent Royal Society of Canada marine scientists.
Sustaining Canada’s Marine Biodiversity” notes that Canada has “failed to meet most of our national and international commitments to protect marine biodiversity” and “lags behind other modernized nations in almost every aspect of fisheries management.”
3 February
Alberta, Canada to work together on oilsands monitoring
(CBC) Monthly water testing is part of a new $50 million “world class” federal-provincial environmental monitoring plan for the Alberta oilsands, announced Friday in Edmonton.
The plan outlines ways to improve the monitoring of water, air and habitat in the oilsands. Implementation and responsibility for the new system will be shared by the federal and Alberta governments.
3 February
Obstinate Harper Fuels Pipeline Opposition
by Simon Donner Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia
(The Mark) Absent a federal effort to manage carbon emissions, there will be a pitched battle over every new pipeline and every new coal-burning power plant. Many of those seeming slam dunks, like Keystone XL, will clang off the rim.
We could keep fighting like this forever. Or we could work together on a federal climate policy.
2 February
John Ivison: Political will not enough to fuel new oil sands refineries
Top of the agenda for Stephen Harper when he visits Beijing next week will be the sale of Canada’s crude oil to China. … New Democrats, such as leadership candidate Brian Topp, have called for raw bitumen from Canada’s oil sands to be processed at home before being sent south to the United States or to Asia. It is an argument that has supporters across the political spectrum. Former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed has added his voice to calls for oil sands bitumen to be refined in Alberta.
13 January
Former MP taking Ottawa to court over Kyoto withdrawal
(CTV) Daniel Turp, a constitutional law expert who served as an elected member of the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois, filed a motion Friday for a judicial review to render Canada’s withdrawal from the climate change accord illegal. … Turp argues the decision goes against a federal law passed in the House of Commons in 2007 – the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act – which stipulates Canada has to enforce the international treaty. … The motion also says that the decision, announced last month by Environment Minister Peter Kent, contravenes democratic principles.
Human rights and constitutional lawyer Julius Grey will act as counsel for the group and ask the court to determine whether the withdrawal violates international commitments.
11 January
Canada versus the environmentalists
By Kate Heartfield:
(Ottawa Citizen via Climate Action Network Canada) The Canadian government’s public-relations strategy, when it comes to the oilsands, is ham-handed. The message track goes like this: Canada and its oil are not enemies to the environment, but they are enemies to environmentalism.
That position might be logically and even factually coherent, at least in the minds of Ezra Levant and the Conservative ministers. But it makes it awfully hard for anyone to support the oilsands who doesn’t think all environmentalists are wackos. It needlessly antagonizes people who are concerned about both the economy and climate change, who would like Canada to take reasonable steps to reduce emissions. People who might consider themselves environmentalists, when asked, but who certainly wouldn’t consider themselves “radicals.”


Stars of 2011: Canada’s youth climate delegates
(RTCC) … while their government appear content to disengage from the UN negotiations, Canadian youth groups in Durban were vociferous in their condemnation of that policy.
The Canadian Youth Delegation at COP17 played an important role in reminding delegates that despite their government’s hostility to the talks – there was still a strong seam of green in Canada.
26 December
Canadian scientist helping to repatriate some of our lost bio-diversity
(RCI) In the gardens and orchards surrounding her home in Merrickville, Ontario, botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger enjoys the shade of majestic black walnut, hickory and chestnut trees. These rare specimens, which she’s grown from seeds and cuttings, now stand 2 and 3 stories tall. Diana has a unique arrangement with botanical gardens around the world: she writes for them and in return is given first choice of all their Canadian species, in seed form. Diana Beresford-Kroeger takes Carmel Kilkenny on a tour of her gardens and talks about the inspiration for her latest book, The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Will Save Us, which is now available in paperback, published by Penguin Canada.
14 December
‘Canada Should Be Shunned for Kyoto Ignorance’
(Spiegel) Canada is under fire for exiting the Kyoto Protocol just one day after UN climate talks ended with an agreement to extend the treaty. Putting financial interests ahead of environmental commitments is an affront to global climate protection efforts, German papers write on Wednesday.
13 December
Amara Possian: A Colossal (Moral) Failure
The Durban agreement and Canada’s Kyoto repudiation are a slap in the face of future generations.
(The Mark)  On Dec 11th, the international climate-change negotiations came to a close in Durban, South Africa. On December 12th, the Canadian government announced it is pulling out of the Kyoto protocol. This is the final in a series of blog posts from Amara Possian, who is the co-ordinator of the Canadian Youth Delegation that attended the conference.

“All grown-ups were children first (but few remember it)”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Canada’s Kyoto math doesn’t add up
(Pembina Institute) With Environment Minister Peter Kent pulling the plug on Canada’s involvement in Kyoto, many are wondering how serious we are about combating climate change. The official reason for withdrawal is that the cost of action is too great a burden for us to bear. But what about the costs of inaction? With a little light digging, we show that Canada’s Kyoto math just doesn’t add up.
What was surprising was the Minister’s attempt to spin this withdrawal as a positive step for Canada’s economy. While taking action on climate change does come with costs, they are entirely manageable. The costs of inaction — in Canada, let alone on a global scale — are not.
Yesterday’s announcement fits into a long-standing pattern of federal inaction on climate change that can only be justified by ignoring the costs of inaction. Here’s a quick rundown on those costs that the government’s math is currently ignoring.
Canada announces Kyoto Treaty withdrawal
Canadian authorities have officially announced intentions to quit the Kyoto Treaty, and expect that officials in other countries will soon do the same. Environment Minister Peter Kent says Ottawa remains committed to working both unilaterally and multilaterally to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (12/13), CNN (12/12)
11 December
Environment minister expects new climate deal by 2015
(CBC) “The Durban Platform sets out a process to negotiate a new climate change treaty that would create binding commitments for all major emitters,” Kent said Sunday.
Canada had pushed to include countries like Brazil, South Africa, India and China, whose emissions are rising along with their growing economies, in any new deal.
Kent reaffirmed the Canadian government’s opposition to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — which was set to expire at the end of next year but will be extended under the Durban Platform — and that it would not renew its commitment to the accord.
Currently, only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under the Kyoto agreement.
Kent also said the government would not contribute to a global fund designed to help developing nations mitigate the effects of climate change.
“Nor will we devote scarce dollars to capitalize the new Green Climate Fund — part of the Durban agreement — until all major emitters accept legally binding reduction targets and transparent accounting of greenhouse gas inventory,” he said
30 November
“We are truly sorry for out government’s stance on climate change” – a Letter to South Africa and the World from the Canadian Youth Delegation at COP17
28 November
Alberta oil ‘legitimate’ resource: Peter Kent
(Financial Post) Heading into the 17th Conference of the Parties meeting, Environment Minister Peter Kent says he will not sign on to any deals that mandate some countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions while others don’t — as his government argues was the case under the Kyoto Protocol. He is also unequivocal in his defence of northern Alberta’s bitumen production, a position he expects will be supported by Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen when she joins him at the end of the week.
(CYD) The 17th Conference of Parties on climate change began today to the death knoll of Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. It was confirmed today that Canada plans to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding emissions agreement, early next month.
9 November
Canada cuts environment spending
Stephen Harper’s administration is cutting budgets for climate, conservation and ozone monitoring projects
(The Guardian) Environment Canada is roughly analogous to a combination of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Environment Canada had a 1.07- billion-dollar budget in 2010, which has now been cut 20 percent to 854 million dollars for 2011-12. The EPA and NOAA budgets for 2010 were 10.3 billion and 5.5 billion dollars, respectively.
8 November
(CBC) Canada’s climate stance expected to spark controversy — New funding for climate change adaptation
Canada expects to face international pressure at upcoming climate change talks over its refusal to sign onto a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, says Environment Minister Peter Kent
(Globe&Mail) Mr. Kent has been under pressure to pay far more attention to the effects of climate change, above and beyond what’s being done to control greenhouse-gas emissions.
Government-picked advisers at the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy have told the minister that warmer temperatures will be costing Canada and its people about $5 billion a year by 2020, and will rise steeply up to as much as $43 billion a year by 2050.
The roundtable highlighted high costs to the forestry industry, and along Canada’s coasts, where flooding is expected. Researchers also pointed to pressure on city hospitals from illness and death due to hotter temperatures.
The largest chunk of the funding will go to Environment Canada’s climate change prediction and scenarios program. But there will also be money to look at the implications for fish, Canada’s North, public health for aboriginals and for the rest of the population, and for competitiveness.
14 October
Environmental network forced to close doors
Decision tied to loss of federal government funding
A 34-year-old national environmental network that has served as a link between people and the federal government shut its doors Friday afternoon after Environment Canada cut its funding.
The Canadian Environmental Network was told Thursday that its funding from the federal government won’t be renewed.
Tories cut off Canadian Environmental Network
Kent abruptly ends longtime funding partnership
By Mike De Souza, Postmedia News
26 September
Environmentalists, natives and unions denounce ‘biocidal’ oil-sands policy
(Globe & Mail) Hundreds of people converged on Parliament Hill on Monday to protest a massive pipeline project that, if approved by Washington, would transport 700,000 barrels per day of bitumen from Alberta to a Gulf Coast refinery hub in the United States. … While the protesters were being arrested on Parliament Hill, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was praising the economic benefits of the oil sands and the pipeline at a meeting on nuclear thermal hydraulics in Toronto.
16 September
Canada’s ozone tracking in jeopardy
Friday has been proclaimed by the United Nationals General Assembly as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, to commemorate the signing of the 1987 Montreal Protocol.
this year the day comes amid international worries over Canada’s apparent plan to shut down:
A network of 17 ozone monitoring stations across the country that take balloon-based measurements of the atmosphere.
The World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre, the international database that makes archived ozone data from around the world available to scientists.
15 September
Youth environmental group fake news pranked federal government
An organization of young people masquerading as Environment Canada created a fake Environment Canada webpage and sent pretend news releases to Canadian media with the aim of showcasing the government’s inactivity on climate change.
The Canadian Youth Climate Coalition news release yesterday directed readers to a website using the Environment Canada news template to promote the re-introduction of a grade school program from the early 1990s that taught children about climate change and environmental conservation. The fake Environment Canada web page promised a “renewed commitment from the Government of Canada to take on climate change.” (Global News) Youth activists forge Environment Canada website in cyber-hoax
9 September
First nations group rejects pipeline ownership offer
Enbridge’s proposal to hand over 10-per-cent stake in $5.5-billion project called ‘desperate and disrespectful attempt’ to buy support
The five northern B.C. first nations that make up the Yinka Dene Alliance claim traditional territory that covers 25 per cent of the pipeline route.
First nations’ support is considered critical to the project because land claims have not been settled along most of the pipeline route through northern B.C.
Enbridge had said earlier it would be offering an ownership stake to about 50 first nations in B.C. and Alberta whose traditional territory bordered on the 1,140-kilometre pipeline route.
However, this is the first time members of the Yinka Dene Alliance had been made a direct offer, said Nadleh Whut’en First Nation Chief Larry Nooski.
Pipeline Through Paradise
Why oil sands, a sunken ferry, and the price of oil in China have the Great Bear Rainforest in an uproar.
(National Geographic | August 2011) Now, when the Gitga’at people of Hartley Bay discuss the proposed Northern Gateway project, an oil pipeline that would turn these same waters into a supertanker expressway, they always mention the Queen. The accident taught them two lessons, they say. No matter how safe the ship, the most mundane human error can sink it. And when disaster strikes, they alone will be left to clean up the mess.
That leaves them skeptical about the pipeline and the tankers it would attract—about 220 a year. The government has already approved a fleet of liquefied natural gas tankers to call at nearby Kitimat in 2015. The oil tankers would be even bigger.
19 August
Is Canadian Oil Bound for China Via Pipeline to Texas?
(National Geographic News) The proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would ship oil from Northwest Canada south through Mid-America to the Texas Gulf Coast has drawn sharp opposition from environmentalists worried about Canadian forests, greenhouse gases, and potential leaks.
But one line of attack is more about economics and geopolitics than land and water. And it strikes at pipeline proponents’ central argument that Keystone XL would buttress U.S. energy security. Opponents contend instead that the pipeline’s petroleum could largely bypass the American markets and be shipped to Asia.
… The project would provide a much-needed outlet for booming oil production from the tar, or oil, sands of Alberta in Northwest Canada. Output from the sticky sands has jumped amid higher fuel prices and new technology. Now producers need new routes for getting the oil from their mines and wells to customers. … And the United States is essentially Canada’s only foreign customer.
But lurking in the background are eager buyers in Asia, particularly Chinese importers who want to use Canadian oil to feed their fast-growing market.
18 August
Jobs Claims For Keystone XL Don’t Stand Up To Scrutiny from Wildlife Promise
(National Wildlife Federation) So Canada wants to lose manufacturing jobs and related revenues, going so far as to overstate said losses, to facilitate its oil export to China?
Sadly, this somewhat makes sense if you factor in Sinopec’s investment in Alberta tar sands. On a somewhat related note, it’s companies like Sinopec which benefited most from the near-halving of the federal corporate income tax rate over the last decade. After each cut, foreign company profits increased more than domestic investments in capital equipment/machinery, contrary to the story (both Liberal and Conservative) governments used to sell the cuts.
8 August
Cuts to Environment Canada are a blow to science
By Jeannette Whitton
(Vancouver Sun) Re: Ottawa turns its back on climate, critics say, Aug. 5
The federal government plans to cut more than 10 per cent of the jobs at Environment Canada.
Scientists are primary targets of the cuts.
This is not the first sign that this government does not value science, or open scientific discourse, especially when the science has the potential to make government policies difficult to justify.
Cutting scientists at Environment Canada seems an effective way to continue this campaign.
This is alarming on many fronts.
Environment Canada has specific scientific mandates carried out on behalf of all Canadians.
For example, the Species at Risk group develops recovery plans for species at risk and their habitats.
To date, there is no plan for most of the 500 species listed under the Species at Risk Act.
Cuts won’t help these species.
The Environment Canada website states: “Science, the foundation for our policy choices and the basis of our reputation with stakeholders and the international community, is key to our success.”
If this agency is losing a large fraction of its professionals, how can the agency maintain its ability to inform policy choices?
Jeannette Whitton
Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research Centre, UBC
4 August
Environment Canada job cuts raise concerns
The axe is falling at Environment Canada, and around 700 positions are on the chopping block.
Meteorologists, chemists, biologists and other scientists are among those who will be receiving letters from the department notifying them that they will either lose their job or be placed on a list of employees deemed “surplus.” Of course, this wouldn’t have anything to do with the EC report on Canada’s Emissions Trends — which made it into the New York Times Oil Sands to Raise Emissions, Canadian Report Says
29 July
Northern B.C. fracking licence concerns critics
(CBC) Critics are concerned that the B.C. government is allowing a natural gas company to draw water from a northern BC Hydro reservoir to use in a controversial technique called fracking.
The government has approved a long-term water licence for Talisman Energy to draw water from Williston Lake, a BC Hydro reservoir in northern B.C. for the next 20 years.
The water will be piped out of the Williston Reservoir, mixed with sand and chemicals and used to fracture shale rock underground to release natural gas.
14 July
Boone Pickens Challenges Canada On Green Power Law
Mesa Power Group, a Texas-based renewable energy company owned by billionaire T. Boone Pickens, plans to file a complaint with Canada charging that the province of Ontario’s green energy plan violates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
2 July
Canada’s complacency on climate change is an embarrassment
By Professor Damon Matthews, Concordia Department of Geography, Planning and Environment and Paul Shrivastava, David O’Brien Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, John Molson School of Business.
(Montreal Gazette) Global warming is not going to go away by itself. And if our government has its way, Canada will remain part of the problem, rather than become part of the solution.
Canada continues to lead the world in obstructing progress on international climate policy. The latest evidence was presented for the world to observe during the recent climate talks in Bonn, Germany.
Organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the summit’s mission statement clearly spelled out the danger our civilization faces: “Climate change is one of the most fundamental challenges ever to confront humanity. Its impacts are already showing and will intensify over time if left unchecked.”
Yet the Canadian delegation confirmed our country would not accept binding emission cuts; nor would it agree to emissions targets set under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, during Bonn negotiations.
The Harper Conservatives have consistently shown disinterest in either meeting targets or agreeing to decrease Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions that fuel global warming and climate change. For the past several years, the Canadian government has opposed any post-Kyoto agreement without the participation of emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.
Canada has become an international embarrassment.
What will it take for our government to recognize that our planet is overheating because of fossil fuels? Is solid scientific evidence, uncovered by leading academics and published in renowned journals, not enough to convince members of Parliament that humanity is damaging our climate system?
What will it take for our government to heed the warnings that climate change is proceeding faster than anticipated and that its impacts can already be seen clearly in northern Canada?
How can our government reject a clear scientific understanding that every additional emission of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere leads to warmer temperatures that will persist for centuries?
Are our political leaders not concerned that human influences on planetary systems have become so widespread as to usher in a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – as suggested by Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen?
Our government is acting as though it is unaware that Canada is being left behind as the rest of the world is moving forward to develop renewable and clean energy. This is both a tragedy and a missed opportunity for our country.
Fossil fuels and polluting energies belong in the past. The longer our government takes to realize it, the poorer Canada will fare in the future economic order. The complacency of Canada’s political and corporate leaders in addressing climate change is dangerous for our well-being. Canadian civil society needs to bring pressure on its leaders to act responsibly. Now!
By disregarding scientific evidence of global warming, by obstructing advances at meetings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, our government is willfully ignoring the writing on the wall.
Compared to the Earth’s climate history, a four-year electoral cycle is less than a blink of an eye. But for those of us waiting for our government to bring Canada into the 21st century, a four-year Conservative mandate seems like an eternity.
Let’s keep the heat on our MPs, and make sure they take the action on climate change that we not only want but also urgently need.

2 Comments on "Canada & the Environment"

  1. Judy Geologist September 5, 2011 at 9:19 am ·

    I am still not convinced of the threat that the Keystone pipeline poses for the Ogalala aquifer. There is certainly a threat to surficial waters, but this aquifer is deep. Given that oil floats on water, I am not convinced that a spill on the surface could get down and contaminate the aquifer.
    I am also not convinced of the Texas-China link for Athasbasca tar sands. Tankers would have to go to China either around South Africa or South American from the Gulf of Mexico. Has a feasibility study been done on this?
    What there is a genuine concern about is the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, and hence to China. I was out there this summer and there is a big environmental movement against this See Tankers No Thankers I think this proposed pipeline is a far greater threat. That is a far more likely transport route for Alberta tar sands syncrude to get to China, with abundant environmental risks, not to mention the burning of the oil ultimately.
    And if the pipelines don’t get built, both CN and CPR are looking at getting into the oil shipment business with tanker trains.
    Atmospheric CO2 is now up to 395 ppmv. It was 280 ppmv at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

  2. Post on CBC website October 15, 2011 at 8:40 am ·

    Re: Environmental network forced to close doors
    It’s important to realise that the comparatively paltry half a million dollars from Canadian taxpayers to the RCEN has been used to benefit all Canadians through the work of volunteers. If there’s a volunteer group in your community, whether they work on restoration of fish in local streams, treeplanting, providing public education on a range of local, regional, or global environmental issues, their basic expenses for materials and coordination are likely provided through their regional network which, in turn, receives funds from the national network. Some of the achievements of the RCEN include the development of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, reforms that led to the creation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, consultations and resultant regulations on a range of substances initiatives including the Chemicals Management Plan, the Comprehensive Air Management System, which was endorsed by Environment ministers in all the provinces, international mercury standards, the Convention on Biological Diversity, etc. This is not a do-nothing, boondoggle network. Volunteers include scientists, doctors and other health care workers, educators, planners, engineers, geologists, social scientists, chemists, and all donating their time and expertise to benefit all Canadians. The RCEN has been internationally respected. It has also been unique in the world. The collaborative and democratic partnership model has been the envy of countries all over the world. It’s the biggest bang for buck this country has seen!

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