Canada: Energy, environment & climate change 2020-

Written by  //  April 22, 2021  //  Canada, Environment & Energy  //  No comments

Earth Day 2021: Canada’s latest budget falls dangerously short on climate action
The snail’s pace of action in this year’s federal budget is out of step with the urgency of the climate and income inequality crises. It’s done nothing to threaten the plutocracy’s hold on power and privilege. Most disconcerting, Canada remains an outlier in the global effort to prevent the slide towards the climate abyss.
(The Conversation) The 724-page federal budget made vital spending commitments to extend supports to Canadians as the pandemic shock waves continue. It also made critical social safety net improvements, most notably universal child care and increases in old age security and supports for eldercare.
But where is the road map to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions? If we are to have a serious chance of meeting net-zero targets by 2050, Canada must phase out fossil fuel production and use, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and financing, and end all carbon-emitting activity. This is especially true given that Canada provides more public finance to the fossil fuel sector per capita than any other G20 country.
In a paper for the Cascade Institute, University of Waterloo academics Angela Carter and Truzar Dordi have calculated, based on government projections, that fossil fuel production in Canada is scheduled to rise until 2039 and remain above current levels in 2050. They conclude that Canada, with 0.5 per cent of the world’s population, would exhaust 16 per cent of the world’s remaining carbon budget to maintain emissions below 1.5C.


Alberta is planning new mountaintop-removal coal mines.
(The Narwhal) In short, the UCP removed a system of land classification that prohibited surface coal mining in more than a million hectares of the foothills and Rocky Mountains — areas important to First Nations and for the protection of numerous species at risk.
It wasn’t just First Nations that were upset by the announcement. Conservation groups, already worried about the loss of protected lands as the UCP government moved to de-list dozens of parks and recreation areas, warned the decision would put more landscapes in jeopardy. Then came the ranching community, concerned native grasslands and prime pasture would be destroyed.
“You’re not going to put a mountain back, you’re not going to put the native grasses back and you’re definitely not going to revert it back to pasture land,” Laura Laing, a third-generation rancher who lives west of Nanton, Alta., said in October.
Then, in December, Alberta accepted offers from Australian coal companies to mine nearly a dozen parcels of land spanning close to 2,000 hectares, seen by many as just the beginning of new coal leases in the region.

18 December
Dene National Chief calls on gov’t to act on Alberta’s leaking tailings ponds
(RCI) A recent report that documents the leakage of tailings ponds in Alberta has Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya calling on provincial and federal governments to establish stricter regulations. … Yakeleya was referring to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s 208-page Alberta Tailings Ponds report, released this fall, which details how tailings ponds across northern Alberta could pose a threat to nearby waterways, including the Athabasca River.
Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson said the findings in the report cannot be ignored.
“Enough is enough. Oil sands tailings must be addressed,” Wilkinson said in an emailed statement to CBC.
“We will ensure enforcement officers will be given the tools they need to ensure polluters are held to account when environmental laws are broken.”

25 November
Canada’s new climate plan: Q&A about Bill C-12
Bill C-12 is not a plan for Canada to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but it would set targets to help it succeed.
(The Conversation) On Nov. 19, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson unveiled what was billed as a “Net-Zero Emissions Plan.” What we got is most emphatically not a plan, but it is a piece of legislation that demands Canada set targets and develop plans that will get us to net-zero emissions by 2050.
The government hasn’t set any targets yet, or told us how we will get there. But moving to net-zero emissions over a 30-year timeframe means that Canada needs to start targeting emission reductions of three per cent to four per cent each year. On the whole, Canadians emitted the equivalent of 729 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide in 2018, so we will need to reduce emissions by more than 20 Mt every year.
If we started to achieve these sorts of reductions now, in 2020, we would just about meet our current target, which is a 30 per cent reduction from 2005 emission levels by 2030.

19 November
Globe & Mail editorial board: Trudeau proposes a net-zero emissions plan – for the next government
Adam Radwanski: By international standards, the Liberals’ climate-change bill is underwhelming
…there is the federal-provincial challenge, for which there is admittedly no easy solution. There is only so much that Ottawa can do to meet its targets without buy-in from subnational governments with strong hands in everything from industrial regulation to transportation. Constitutionally, it also can’t force specific emissions-reductions targets on each province.

16 November
Green wave: How Canadian cities are creating new park space
(Globe & Mail) For people cooped up at home because of COVID-19, green places to get fresh air are essential – and cities that don’t have enough are finding more ways to fit them in
The demand for green space will also grow in the coming decades as millions of people move to Canada. Most will come to cities, and many will live in multiresidential buildings without private outdoor access. “The pandemic just shone such a direct light on parks as essential urban infrastructure,” says Dave Harvey, executive director of Park People. “It’s right up there with the need for roads and water and sewers and schools. This is absolutely essential urban infrastructure.”
One challenge is that mature cities often have little room in which to build new parks, and acquiring land can be prohibitively expensive.

11 November
Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium Urges the Federal Government to Commit $3 Billion More Annually for Public Transit Infrastructure in the Fall Economic Statement to Build a Better Canada
In your government’s Speech from the Throne, you committed to building a stronger and more resilient Canada through an inclusive recovery. CUTRIC’s members, including transit agencies, advanced manufacturers, utilities, government agencies, academics and not-for-profits, welcomed this ambition, because we share your vision of a cleaner, better Canada. We are eager to work together to achieve it and recently published CUTRIC a Five Point Plan for building back better transit, outlining what is required to do in order to get there. Public transit is at the heart of an inclusive recovery, and we must prioritize measures that will build the public transit systems Canada needs now, and in the future. A big, bold vision such as the one your government presented can only be realized with appropriate amounts of investment to get it done. As your government determines the path forward to implementing these promises and making your vision a reality, now is the opportunity to make the investments necessary to achieve your objectives and support Canadians that desperately need relief.
That is why CUTRIC is urging the Government of Canada to commit to an additional $3 billion more per year as part of a stable, predictable funding stream for public transit infrastructure to build a better Canada in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement.

5 October
Canada is starting to answer the call on UN Sustainable Development Goals
(The Conversation) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the United Nations General Assembly this year by way of pre-recorded video.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown that “things have to change,” he declared in the international spotlight. “Not just on the world stage, but at home, too.”
Trudeau’s speech to the United Nations was bold in tone and content. He highlighted several of the UN’s Global Goals — tackling climate change, inequality and health and women’s rights.
… Internationally, Canada adopted a new policy vision in 2017 for international assistance in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With its Feminist International Assistance Policy, Canada is playing a leading role helping the poorest countries make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada is pursuing its international policy on sustainable development and scoring points on the world stage by leading the global support for recovery after COVID-19. It’s doing so by ensuring that the UN’s SDGs are not at risk during the pandemic.

25 September
Oil sands tailings ponds are toxic. Canadian-made nanotech could help fix that
(CBC) Tiny floating solar-powered beads can break apart the worst of the tailings pond toxins
Tiny glass-like bubbles developed at the University of Waterloo show a lot of promise for dealing with the most toxic components of oil sands tailings ponds.
Large numbers of the bubbles could be dropped into the ponds and, powered by the sun, would chemically break down some nasty organic wastes.
Tailings ponds store water used in oil sands extraction, and contain a complex mixture of wastes that are toxic to vegetation and animals.
A recent report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation described “scientifically valid evidence” that Alberta’s oil sands tailings ponds are leaking and contaminating groundwater

9 September
Seth Klein: 7 lessons Canada should use from WW2 to fight the climate emergency
(The Conversation) Canada’s approach to climate change for the past 30 years is simply not working. Greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2018 (the last year for which we have statistics) were almost exactly where they were in the year 2000.
We have run out the clock with distracting debates about incremental changes. A new approach is needed.
I have spent the last year and a half writing a book, A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, about Canada’s Second World War experience, searching for lessons for how to confront the climate crisis and quickly transition off fossil fuels.
Our wartime experience carries a helpful — and indeed hopeful — reminder that we have done this before. We mobilized in common cause across society to confront an existential threat. And in doing so, we retooled our entire economy in a few short years.
But to execute a successful battle, we need a plan. Here then are seven key strategic lessons that emerge from our Second World War mobilization.

14 July
A Canadian Province Killed 463 Wolves for No Good Reason
A study showed that culling wolves could save caribou. But a second group of researchers saw a flaw in that conclusion.
In the spring of 2019, British Columbia’s government was embroiled in a series of high-profile community-feedback sessions concerning the conservation of mountain caribou. The endangered ungulates depend on old forests targeted for logging that also happen to grow on top of highly coveted oil-and-gas deposits. … while the 463 dead wolves represent needless tragedy, the damage from the 2019 study has and will most significantly affect the caribou, the researchers say in the rebuttal. From 2014 to 2019, 350 square miles of crucial deep-snow-caribou habitat have been lost to logging, according to a study in Conservation Science and Practice.
“wolf culls are a blunt instrument that have no real track record of protecting caribou. They do, however, offer a way for the oil-and-gas industry to fulfill caribou-conservation requirements.”

4 July
Pandemic stimulus could be a game changer for climate goals — if focus switches from fossil fuels, say some
(CBC) The economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced governments around the world to resort to massive spending in order to calm the nerves of people and businesses alike.
But one question has been troubling many economists and environmental advocates: Will stimulus plans help move the world toward a cleaner, greener future or will they largely maintain the status quo, which includes protecting the interests of fossil fuel industries?
“It is a really vital moment and the reason is that we are basically out of time to turn our economies around” in terms of climate action, said Cameron Hepburn, professor of environmental economics and director of the Smith School at the University of Oxford, in an interview for the first episode of What on Earth, a new CBC Radio show focused on climate change.

2 July
Nestlé sells Pure Life bottled water business as changes to Ontario groundwater rules loom
Ice River Springs to take over Pure Life brand of bottled water
(CBC) Nestlé Canada Inc. says it is selling its Pure Life bottled water business to Ice River Springs as Ontario prepares to give its municipalities veto power over new water bottling permits.
Ice River, a Canadian family-owned bottled water producer, says the acquisition fulfils its ambition to expand beyond its private label business for retailers.
Ice River Springs runs a plastics recycling operation, BMP Recycling, that takes bottles and plastic food packaging collected by municipalities and produces food grade recycled PET plastic.
Canada’s most populous province recently announced new rules for taking groundwater, three years after the former Liberal government enacted a moratorium on new and expanded permits to take water for bottling.

30 June
How to build a better Canada after COVID-19: Launch a fossil-free future
(The Conversation) Demand for fossil fuels collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic as lockdown measures were introduced. In the second quarter of 2020, experts predict that global oil demand will be down 20 per cent from this time last year. Although demand is likely to recover somewhat in the next two years, some major oil company executives believe that it may never return to pre-2020 levels.
At the same time, the world remains “on fire” due to climate change, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. The year began with fires ravaging Australia, and in June, temperatures in the Arctic hit a record-breaking 38C.
As governments look for ways to help the Canadian economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, they must be guided by one incontestable principle: We cannot afford to invest in and expand the fossil fuel industry any further.
While emissions from other sectors in Canada have levelled off or are declining, oil sands emissions increased by 456 per cent between 1990 and 2018. Emissions from conventional oil production have also increased, but only by 24 per cent.
Despite a valiant attempt by the Alberta NDP government in 2015, successive provincial governments have failed to reduce oil sands emissions. And since the COVID-19 crisis, “green initiatives,” such as Suncor’s plan to replace coke-fired boilers with natural gas units at its base operations, have been shelved to cut costs, undermining claims from the industry that it is part of the solution.

14 June
Rolling back Canadian environmental regulations during coronavirus is short-sighted
(The Conversation) Both the United States and Brazil have lifted limits on pollution, carbon emissions and forestry, and made it easier to approve pipelines. Governments in Canada have also used the COVID-19 crisis to curb environmental protections for communities and ecosystems.
But these changes can come with large risks. Although they may only last a few months, the environmental impact may be much longer. Short-term environmental damage can have long-term effects.
There are situations, of course, where the rules need to change to decrease the spread of the coronavirus, such as when work requires travel to remote and vulnerable communities. But many of the changes made to environmental regulations have removed the requirements for environmental monitoring altogether or reduced or eliminated environmental observers, which means no data will be collected.
For example, Alberta suspended reporting requirements under several environmental acts, except for drinking water facilities. Later changes by the Alberta Energy Regulator removed many monitoring requirements for oil companies, including monitoring surface water, ground water and wildlife in tailings ponds. The changes were requested by the oil industry so that companies could follow public health orders, but were passed without public consultation or reasons why the changes were needed for public health reasons. Given that spills can happen quickly, even small gaps in the data during a public health crisis may affect future decisions such as changing pollution limits or approving new projects. Monitoring was also temporarily put on hold in fisheries. The at-sea observers who monitor what is being caught and discarded were suspended in Canada for 45 days. Without observers, it is much harder to know how sustainable a fishery is, and a monitoring gap could put endangered species at greater risk.
Some of the changes that have occurred in Canada since the start of the coronavirus pandemic have removed public participation in decision-making processes. For example, Ontario removed the requirements for consultation on environmental issues during the current state of emergency. Normally, projects that affect the environment have a 30-day consultation period

12 May
Flawed environmental assessment of offshore drilling in Newfoundland and Labrador puts marine ecosystems at risk
(WWF) Environmental groups are taking legal action against the federal government for failing to properly assess the impacts of exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore waters. It is the first Regional Assessment (RA) to be conducted under the new Impact Assessment Act.
The application, filed by Ecojustice lawyers on behalf of Ecology Action Centre, Sierra Club Canada Foundation and WWF-Canada, alleges that the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada relied on a deficient assessment report to accelerate exploratory drilling in the region. The organizations aim to prevent the government from exempting similar activity from future impact assessments and setting a dangerous precedent for future RAs in the country.

18 April
As Earth Day Approaches, Climate Change and the Environment Cracks Top 5 Most-Concerning Issues in Canada
(Ipsos) Canada Over-Indexes on Concern about Climate Change and Waste Production; Under-Indexes on Air Pollution

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