Alberta vs B.C in the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (by N. Esak)

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Photo: Alberta Premier Racheal Notley (Left) and B.C Premier John Horgan (Right)

 

The issue between British Columbia and Alberta pertaining to a pipeline expansion has evolved into a very heated conflict between the two provinces interests. These conflicting issues are over the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (Walkom, 2018). The expansion would drastically increase the amount of tar sand oil transports on the Pacific Coast. The British Columbia Premier, John Horgan expressed his sentiments of not wanting the pipeline to be built while the Alberta Premier, Racheal Notley would like the opposite and for the expansion to occur (Walkom, 2018). To Notley, the expansion will help in promoting a highly competitive oil industry (Walkom, 2018). Horgan, on the other hand, would like to stop this expansion due to the political dynamics of the province. Considering that the province’s minority NDP government, Horgan needs the Green party’s support to remain in power, which includes protecting their anti-pipeline demands (Walkom, 2018).

This pipeline conflict, however grew to become more complex when B.C announced the proposal of restrictions to be placed on bitumen shipments to pipelines from Alberta (Seskus, 2018). Announcement of these restrictions resulted in frustrated threats from Alberta for economic and import retaliations and lawsuits due to the province’s view that B.C has no constitutional authority to create such restrictions (Seskus, 2018).

The federal government, however has been in support of the pipelines expansion, with Trudeau even considering the expansion as both a great economic incentive and still a commitment to climate change as long as those constructing it have a commitment to reduce carbon emissions to combat climate change (Walkom, 2018). However, to those opposed to the project, the promised economic growths are not worth the potential environmental repercussions of oil spills, leaks, and dangerous emission releases. These extreme differentiating views is what is making policy compromises on this issue very difficult to create.

Compromises like these is what the federal government has been working towards to both ease the mind of those with both economic and environmental priority incentives. However, the problem with this is that both these concerns are not equally detrimental. Since the federal government’s role holds the most authority over this matter, it needs to take a hard stance and acknowledge that if they want their claims of combating climate change to be true, they must take the economic and even political consequences which might follow.

 

 

References

Walkom, T. (2018, February 02). B.C pipeline faceoff underscores Justin Trudeau’s climate-change contradictions. Retrieved February 11, 2018, from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2018/02/02/bc-pipeline-faceoff-underscores-justin-trudeaus-climate-change-contradictions.html

Seskus, T. (2018, February 08). Oil, water and wine: Escalating Alberta-B.C. fued threatens future of Trans Mountain pipeline. Retrived February 11, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/pipeline-notley-horgan-1.4519530

 

 

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Roll-Up to Pollution

It is that time of year again in Canada – not Valentine’s Day, not tax day, but Roll Up the Rim to Win time. This is a beloved Canadian season where the coffee-chain Tim Hortons runs a contest with their beverage containers.

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Photo credit: St. Thomas Times Journal 

The contest is straightforward. Every cup you purchase, you get a chance to roll up the rim of the cup to see if you won a prize – such as a car, a gift card, or another cup of coffee.

As an environmentalist, I hate this season.

Looking at 2017 data, we know that 294 million cups were produced for the contest. We know that 0 of these cups are recyclable. Yes, those cups are NOT recyclable. I know that there are recycling bins at Tim Hortons that lead you to believe the cups can be recycled, but those containers are for plastic bottles only.  Don’t be fooled.

Your odds of winning anything in this contest are pretty slim. For the car, you have a 1 in 7.5 million chance. Of course, your chance of winning another non-recyclable cup is about 1 in 6.

If you normally use a refillable coffee mug pat yourself on the back. But, during this season Tim Hortons’ fills your cup and then gives you a non-recyclable cup to roll-up and throw out.

This contest represents terrible consumerism and waste. At least 294 million cups are going to a landfill during this contest. Yes, Tim Hortons would be producing cups anyway during this time. But sales increase during the contest (people buy more cups more often) and people stop using reusable mugs – or people who do use them get a throw-away cup.

It needs to stop. Certainly, Tim Hortons can give scratch cards to people who use refillable cups. Or they can just give scratch cards to everyone who buys a cup to play the game. The contest has been running for almost 35 years – it is ingrained in every Canadian. We promise to still call-it “Roll up the Rim to Win” as we scratch our cards and talk about the company’s green conscience.

In the meantime, I suggest you skip the roll-up craze this year. I know it is tempting. We all love a contest. We all love Tim Horton’s. But this is one game where we all lose.

 

The Open Letter to Trudeau, from the More than 250 International Scientists on the Arctic (N. Esak)

This past week a signed open letter from more than 250 scientists from 22 countries was released and addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Nielsen, 2018). The issue addressed in the open letter was a warning on the international concern and importance of preserving the Canadian Climate Change and Atmospheric Research program (CCAR) (Nielsen, 2018). This program provides funding for many arctic focused projects from changes in land water to glacier movements, to sea ice. This $35 million-dollar project was to fund 7 projects for CCAR, however six of these projects are set to be defunded at the end of 2018 (Nielsen, 2018).

This is not the first time scientists voiced their fears on this issue, Canadian scientists already expressed their concerns last spring when it was released that the 2017 Federal Budget was not including funding for the CCAR program (Kassam, 2018). One of the researchers, Dan Weaver of Evidence For Democracy, the research group who sent the letter last week, stated his concerns ““The government has taken great effort to engage with policies around climate and climate education, green energy and a lot of these great things,” he said. “But somehow along the way, the support for the atmospheric science – the underlying science of the issue – has been overlooked.” (Kassam, 2018).  Moreover, scientists internationally have also stated that Canada plays a critical role in climate change monitoring and research based on its close proximity to the arctic circle (Kassam, 2018). The loss of these programs will also lead to the loss of significant research opportunities to determine the pace in which the climate is changing. The director of research for the Centre National de La Researche Scientifique in France, Dr Sophie Godin-Beekmann, also expressed this issue when she said, “Due to its location, Canada’s leadership in the study and monitoring of Arctic atmosphere has become even more important to our understanding of the rapidly evolving Arctic climate and environment’ (Kassam, 2018).

Kristy Duncan, the Minister of Science, defended Prime Minister Trudeau and saying that Canada is now doing more to improve climate change than any other government has before in the country (Nielsen, 2018). She addressed this by stating “As the Arctic matters now more than ever because of climate change, we are working to move forward on an Arctic Policy Framework in which science will play a key role. This will be a whole of government approach to the Arctic, one that includes Indigenous voices and the role of traditional knowledge” (Nielsen, 2018). So even though it looks like they may not be reinstating the six programs which the government ended funding for in the CCAR, this statement looks like they are looking into developing a new policy framework to address arctic concerns, however when this will be implemented is unknown for now.

References

Nielsen, K. (2018, January 22). 250 International Scientists Sign Warning Letter to Justin Trudeau on Climate Change. Retrived January 28, 2018, from https://globalnews.ca/news/3981188/scientists-sign-warning-letter-justin-trudeau/

Kassam, A. (2018, January 22). Canadian Climate Science Faces Crisis That May Be Felt Globally, Scientists Warn. Retrived January 28, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/22/canada-climate-science-faces-looming-crisis

 

2017 Considered one of the Hottest Year’s Ever Recorded (N. Esak)

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Photo: Chart by World Meteorologist Organization

With all of the other milestones 2017 had brought, one of the standouts was that 2017 had been confirmed one of the hottest years on record. As announced by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), temperatures these last three years have resulted in extraordinary weather conditions from temperatures rising to 50 degrees Celsius, everlasting droughts in East Africa, to continuous hurricanes (Harvey, 2017).

As ranked by NASA, 2017 was considered the 2nd highest temperature year since 2016. However, 2015 and 2016 were years where there were strong El Nino weather systems which assisted in warmer seasons (Patel et al., 2018). These El Nino weather systems create warmer temperatures due to trade winds reversing and weakening, leading to colder regions of the ocean becoming much warmer (Patel et al., 2018). This is why during El Nino years, colder regions of the world tend to rise above average in temperature. 2017 on the other hand was not as influenced by the Pacific El Nino weather system yet still had the similar record-breaking weather patterns. Since the late 19th century temperatures had increased to more than 1C due to the extensive carbon dioxide fuel emission and greenhouse gases in the last 50 years (Harvey, 2017).

The reactions scientists had also expressed their deep concern with weather increases in 2017. The co-director of the Grantham Institute of Imperial College, Martin Siegert, addressed human influences in the increases in temperature in the statement “The state of our climate is being reset by humans. What were once one-in-a-hundred-year events are now turning into regular events. We see this in terms of extreme weather impacts, with examples from the south of the US this year. For the future, we can expect more of the same.” (Harvey, 2017).

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Global North regions are the major contributors of the influx of carbon gas emissions, it is the Global South who are hit the hardest. Not only are these regions more prone to global climate change, but they also are not equipped with the political or economic capital to combat these issues. Professor of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, Richard Betts, addressed this when he said “We expect developing countries to be hit the hardest in terms of human impact. Flooding will be a particular threat in south Asia, particularly due to increased rainfall and rising sea levels, and partly because of the large and growing numbers of people who have little choice about being in harm’s way.” (Harvey, 2017).

Despite the Global North’s gradual shift towards global climate change awareness through global conferences such as the COP23 Talks last year, it seems based on research that 2018 will be following the same pattern as the year prior with above average warmer temperatures.

 

References

Patel, H.F., & Popovich, N. (2018, January 18). 2017 was the second hottest year on record, NASA Says. And it wasn’t even an El-Nino year. Retrieved January 21st, 2018, from https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2018/01/18/2017-was-the-second-hottest-year-on-record-nasa-says-and-it-wasnt-even-an-el-nino-year.html

 

Harvey, F. (2017, November 06). 2017 set to be one of the top three hottest years on record. Retrieved January 21, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/06/2017-set-to-be-one-of-top-three-hottest-years-on-record

 

 

Province launches Investigations against Imperial Oil Chemical Plant in Sarnia (N. Esak).

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Photo 1: Clouds of Fire from Imperial Oil Sarnia Plant

 

This past week, it was announced that investigations were on-going towards a petroleum company in the area of Sarnia. The Ministry of Environment in Ontario is leading in the investigation after clouds of fire and flames vented out from the Imperial Oil industrial plant last year on February 24th. The large flames were caused, as stated by Imperial Oil representatives, equipment malfunctions (McIntosh, 2018).

The investigation was sparked by a resident of a nearby the Aamjiwnaang First Nations reserve, Vanessa Grey, filing an application alongside a scientist from Ecojustice Elaine MacDonald, to have the province investigate in Sarnia plant (Craig, 2017). Their application was based on their claims that Sarnia residence and the Aamjiwnaang were not properly warned of the potential toxins which were released. The Ontario Environmental Commissioner, Dianne Saxe also criticized the provincial government for ignoring the serious pollution issues in many of the Indigenous communities in Ontario, let alone Aamjiwnaag (McIntosh, 2018).

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Photo 2: Vanessa Grey at Ontario Parliament

 

Representatives of Imperial Oil defended their actions, stating that “The sight of a small flame atop a flare, generally used to burn off materials from the plant, is common in the Chemical Valley. Though flares can result in emissions” (McIntosh, 2018). However Gray and MacDonald believed otherwise, alleging that Imperial Oil violated environmental and provincial policies through emitting the contaminants and causing hostile effects to those residents in the vicinity (McIntosh, 2018).

Moreover, a joint investigation by Global News, the Star, the National Observer, and researchers in Ryerson University was also launched. Their investigation disclosed patterns of leaks and lack of transparency with Imperial and in Sarnia. In fact, since January 2013 there have already been four instances of industries in Sarnia having already been received ministry charges (McIntosh, 2018). Also, Imperial Oil have already plead to similar offences and were fined for releasing contaminants for about $650,000 as well as a 2014 charge of 812,000 for a leak which was criticized for not enough warning to the public (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, 2016)

It is clear from these investigations that there has already been precedent of Imperial Oil’s irresponsibility with their toxin discharges and lack of transparency towards their residents. However, this can also exhibit a pattern of the provincial government’s lack of awareness of the reckless practices their industries display as well. Though it may be impossible for the provincial government to be 100% aware of these industries actions, increased rigorous environmental inspections and public consultations with residence and First Nations may help minimize instances such as these.

The Environmental Bill of Rights investigation is set to be completed sometime in late February where the results of this case will be shared to Gary and MacDonald as well as the public (McIntosh, 2018).

 

References

Craig, S et al. (2017, October 16). ‘We expected cancer’: Are industrial spills in Canada’s ‘Chemical Valley’ making people sick? Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://globalnews.ca/news/3796720/sarnia-oil-industry-spills-human-impact-investigation/

McIntosh, E. (2018, January 10). Province Launches Investigation into Flames at Sarnia Chemical Plant. Retrieved January 14th, 2018, from  https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/01/10/province-launches-investigation-into-flames-at-sarnia-chemical-plant.html

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (2016, September 21). Sarnia Refinery and Chemical Plant fined $650,000 for Environmental Protection Act Violations. Retrived January 14, 2018, from https://news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2016/09/sarnia-refinery-and-chemical-plant-fined-650000-for-environmental-protection-act-violations.html

Here’s to a New Year for Climate Change Policy and NAFTA Negotiations (N. Esak)

As 2018 finally rings in, so do new opportunities for the federal government to begin implementing influential changes in climate change policy and the North American Free Trade Agreement. These topics have been a major talking point both in Canada and internationally this past year, and with 2018 rolling in now is the time for these topics to switch from just discussions to action.Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 8.18.55 PM

Photo 1: Carbon pollution in an industrial factory

 

Climate change policy has been a huge topic discussed for 2018, especially with the release of the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. One of the major legislations part of the framework include the federal government imposing a carbon price as part of their zero-emission strategy to phase out coal-fueled energy by 2030 (Rabson, 2017).  The federal government plans on imposing this tax on the provinces not able to fulfil their standards on their own. The plan looks to price carbon at $10/tonne this year and then phase to rise $10 each year after until 2022 where it will be $50/tonne (Rabson, 2017).

Manitoba and Saskatchewan decided to not join the climate change framework, however they did release their own climate change plans this past fall. Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, publically stated that it was a good sign that these provinces were at least recognizing climate change issues, but their current plans will not be able to meet the federal governments goals and standards if not improved (Rabson, 2017). With climate change expected to be the main topic in the G7 leader’s summit in Quebec, the federal government needs to start implementing the legislations found in the Pan Canadian Framework, including carbon tax, across all provinces as quickly as possible in order for Canada to be seen as a top international leader in climate change and sustainability among its other G7 peers (Rabson, 2017).

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Photo 2: U.S President Donald Trump speaking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

This year is also an important year for determining the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Trump and his government being very vocal towards their attitudes of its current state. Despite the fact that Trump’s issues of the NAFTA Agreement may stem from his views of Mexico, Canada is at risk of dangerous consequences with this agreement being changed for the worst. The benefits of this agreement has allowed for the free trade of goods between the US, Canada, and Mexico since its implementation in the 90’s, providing economic benefits for all three countries (Simpson, 2018).

This past week cabinet ministers headed to the United States in efforts to promote NAFTA negotiations. In the previous year there have been minimum movements towards NAFTA from past negotiations, so Canadian trade negotiators are under pressure to make sure that this new round of talks start to go towards Canada’s favor (Simpson, 2018). It is important that Canada not only makes sure that the NAFTA agreement stays implemented, but also reiterate their goals of increased environmental and sustainability provisions and regulations to combat climate change issues. Although this will most likely be a difficult task considering the current US government’s stance on environmental issues at this point, it will be necessary that Canadian representatives focus on the economic advantages long-term of implementing environmental and climate change policies (Simpson, 2018).

I think it’s safe to say that the federal government has a lot of work ahead of them this year. While 2017 was the year of discussion on the issues of climate change and NAFTA, 2018 needs to be the year of the implementation of their targets. However, with the Trump era not making it easy, Canada needs to push now more than ever to make their environmental goals become a reality.

 

 

References

Rabson, M. (2017, December 08). Ottawa is Dragging its Feet on Climate Change Plan, Critics Say. Retrieved January 07, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/federal-climate-framework-1.4439184

Simpson, K. (2018, January 05). Canada’s NAFTA Charm Offensive Kicks into High Gear. Retrived January 07, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cabinet-ministers-visit-us-to-promote-trade-1.4472822

 

 

Checking-in on Trudeau

Justin Trudeau has been our Prime Minister for 767 days, including today.  According to the TrudeauMeter, he has achieved 58 of his 226 campaign promises and has a subsequent 72 in progress. His “broken promises” entail 38 thus far. So, he appears to be doing fairly well. He has kept twice as many promises as he has broken.

If we look at the environment section of the Meter, he made 29 promises grouped by TrudeauMeter into clean tech, climate change, national parks, and water. Overall, he has kept only 6 promises:

  1. He attended the Paris climate summit and came home to establish the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Sustainable Growth
  2. canceled the Northern Gateway Pipeline
  3. expanded the Learn to Camp program
  4. Provided free admission to all National Parks in Canada for 2017 (you still have a few weeks to take advantage of this!)
  5. restored 1.5 million in annual funding for freshwater research
  6. restored 40 million for funding federal ocean and science monitoring programs

He has broken 4 pledges:

  1. he did not rapidly expand the federal fleet of electric vehicles
  2. he did not phrase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry
  3. he did not re-do the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion review
  4. he did review the elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act by the Harper gov’t

Of the remaining 19 pledges, 14 are in progress and 5 have yet to be started at all.

So, his environmental track record isn’t great. That said, the federal government does not have a lot of constitutional jurisdiction when it comes to the environment. The provinces have most of the power in this domain.

Of course, he can expand electric vehicles for the federal fleet. And he has been working on this – Catherine McKenna is often tweeting about her electric car. The key part is he did not accomplish this “rapidly.”

Phasing out subsidies. That is federal. He should have done that by now.

Re-examine the Kinder Morgan review. Yes, should have been done.

In terms of the Navigable Water Protections Act… I believe his government is doing this. You can see the federal review here. The government accepted all 11 recommendations that came through Parliament’s Standing Committee on Transport, and you can see that document here. So the TrudeauMeter might be judging the government too harshly here – or they at least need a category for “kinda-kept the promise.”

My sense of Trudeau’s first 2 years in office is that he made more progress on climate change than Harper did in his 10 years in office. The Pan-Canadian Framework is weak, but so is the federal government when it comes to climate change. The federal government is only as strong as the provinces on the climate file. Trudeau does have all provinces talking about climate change and seriously mulling over a price on carbon. This is progress.

Trudeau was also thrown a major curveball with the election of Trump. Trudeau thought he and Clinton would champion environmental issues – and indeed, I believe, they would have.

On all transboundary environmental issues, which are most issues, the Trudeau government is only as strong as the Trump government. And Donald Trump pretty much took his globe shaped soccer ball and went home.

 

Mistake not including Carbon Tax in Saskatchewan’s New Climate Change Strategy Plan? (N. Eska)

The province of Saskatchewan made an announcement on Monday December 4th – their new climate change strategy plan titled ‘Prairie Resilience: a Man-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy.” However, the main news buzzing about this new climate strategy plan is its lack of a carbon price. Minister of Environment in Saskatchewan, Dustin Duncun, discussed this strategy, addressing how through this new plan, “The province will give large emitting facilities in oil, gas and mining “flexible compliance options” (Hunter, 2017).

Duncan defends the fact that carbon taxation is missing from the plan, stating that the goal of the province is both to allow their industries to grow and to stay competitive with the rest of the global industrial world, while also being mindful of environmental factors. He argued this idea by stating “We want to see the economy continue to grow and, for some industries, that means that their emissions will grow. It’s not a cap-and-trade program where we’re capping absolutely the amount of emissions” (Hunter, 2017).

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna addressed her views on the new climate change strategy plan in a Facebook post soon after the announcement, addressing her concerns on the direction the province is taking towards climate change. She stated how “Based on what’s in today’s plan, Saskatchewan’s price likely wouldn’t hit our standard, because it applies only to heavy industry instead of being economy-wide”. Moreover, this plan is also going against this Liberal federal government’s aims towards $10 per tonne of carbon emissions in the start of 2018 before prices rise to about $50 per tonne (Hunter, 2017).

The main issues of this plan are the fact that there are no targets or aims the province tries to achieve regarding how many greenhouse emissions they plan on reducing, says University of Alberta energy economist Andrew Leach (The Canadian Press, 2017). “The biggest hole in Saskatchewan’s plan is its limited scope” said Leach, “They’re not touching their transportation, home heating, commercial and industrial energy use at all with this policy” (The Canadian Press, 2017).

It is no surprise that Saskatchewan did not include a carbon tax to their policy as they had opposed to this federal government’s carbon tax plans since its announcement (Fraser, 2017). It doesn’t look good, however that the province is prioritizing industrial and economic growth over environmental and climate change progress with this new plan. Time will only tell whether this plan proves to be successful as Minister of Environment in Saskatchewan wishes, or if this will continue to push Saskatchewan back from reducing their carbon emissions.

 

 

 

References

D.C. Fraser (2017, December 04). No Carbon Tax in Saskatchewan Govermemt Climate Change Plan. Retrived December 04, 2017 from http://leaderpost.com/news/saskatchewan/no-carbon-tax-in-sask-s-climate-change-plan

Hunter, A. (2017, December 04). No Carbon Tax in Sask. Government Climate Change Plan. Retrived December 04, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/no-carbon-price-tax-sask-government-climate-change-plan-1.4431724

The Canadian Press. (2017, December 04). Saskatwean Climate Change Plan Includes Buying Carbon Offsets, No Carbon Tax. Retrived December 04, 2017, from http://www.news1130.com/2017/12/04/saskatchewans-climate-change-strategy-includes-buying-carbon-offsets/

 

 

COP23 and Gender Equality in Global Climate Change Policy (N. Esak)

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Photo: Panel discussion during Bonn 2017 COP23 conference

 

Last week the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) commenced for its 23rd session for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany (IISD, 2017). Running from November 6th-17th, the conference’s main aim was to define international goals and actions which would “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” as well as ways to maintain a global temperature risen of below 2C (Heine, 2017). One of these goals introduced was the increased inclusion of the role of women in global climate action.

The Fiji Presidency addressed the importance of introducing a Gender Action Plan which all governments a part of the conference would agree to follow. This plan would involve recognizing the role of woman in global climate change issues and integrating them in the decision-making process for global climate policy (United Nations, 2017).

When thinking about systematic solutions for climate change, I would have to admit, gender inclusivity wasn’t a topic I would quickly think of as a high priority in climate change issues. However, after readings an article on the Guardian which was retweeted by Canadian environmental minister Catherine McKenna my views have shifted. The unfortunate reality is that woman globally have been receiving the major consequences of climate change (Heine, 2017). They have been disproportionally affected by climate change as they have obtained the blunt of negative affects while also been deprived of the resources or voice to deal with and address these issues (Heine, 2017).

 

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Photo: COP23 Negotiator Nazhat Shameen Khan addressing the Gender Action Plan

 

Studies have shown that woman and children globally are more than 14x more likely to be killed or wounded from natural disasters, which are increased due to climate change (UN Women, 2017). Moreover, due to the losses associated with climate change induced natural disasters, especially in the global south, girls are more likely than boys to leave school to help pay the bills and increased domestic chores (UN Women, 2017). These increased responsibilities and traumas placed upon woman coupled with gendered systematic barriers have kept woman from having any political voice or decision-making power.

Allowing woman and local communities to be major decision makers in global climate change will allow for a more democratic and inclusive decision-making system (Heine, 2017). Inclusive community based systems which involve the voices all stakeholders, marginalized or not, is what is needed to occur in order for global climate policy to be the most effective. However, it is not enough to just have female policymakers in the discourse on climate change, but woman directly impacted by horrible climate change costs, especially indigenous communities and those in the Global South.

Addressing this issue on a large global stage as the COP23 conference was a great push in the right direction for the future of global climate policy and it is essential that all governments involved in the conference agree on this Gender Action Plan. Hopefully in the following two years this plan will lead to increases in female policymakers, especially from indigenous communities and the Global South, in order to bring gender equity to global climate change policy.

References

Heine, H. (2017, November 15). Global Climate Change Action Must be Gender Equal. Retrived November 26, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/15/global-climate-action-must-be-gender-equal?CMP=twt_gu

IISD. (2017). UNFCCC COP23. Retrived November 26 2017, from http://sdg.iisd.org/events/unfccc-cop-23/

United Nations. (2017, November 13). COP23 recognizes the role of women in climate action. Retrived November 26, 2017, from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2017/11/un-climate-conference-recognizes-the-role-of-women-in-climate-action/

UN Women. (2017). Why is Climate a Gender Issue? Retrieved November 26, 2017, from https://www.uncclearn.org/sites/default/files/inventory/unwomen704.pdf

New report revels Ontario Gov’t knew about Continued Mercury Contamination in Grassy Narrows (N. Esak)

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Photo: Sign contaminants in Wabigoon River System

 

The Toronto Star had recently reported this week that the provincial government had received a report back in 2016 stating that in 1990, the environment ministry at the time was aware of mercury contaminants in a mill by Grassy Narrows (Bruser, 2017). However, what is even more shocking is that this news was a surprise to the Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, who said she had never heard of any such report. This was confirmed by the Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister, David Zimmer, when he stated this week that the report was received in September of 2016, however was never sent to the premier (CBC News, 2017).

Grassy Narrows was a community which has been suffering from mercury poisoning since the early 1970s when it was first revealed that the communities’ fish supply had extremely dangerous levels of mercury (Free Grassy Narrows, 2016). This was due to the dumping of contaminants from a nearby paper mill owned by Reed Paper which resulted in devastating effects in the community from employment rates dropping from 90% to 10%, as well as lifetime mental issues and increases in criminal activity (Free Grassy Narrows, 2016). A larger tragedy was that years later, government officials continued to reiterate that mercury was located in the river and that the river would “clean itself naturally” (Bruser, 2017). However, based on these new reports, this was not true.

“We are not sure exactly how that information hadn’t made it to my desk, but we’re asking that question”, Wynne stated last week (Bruser, 2017). When Zimmer was asked, he stated that the environment ministry was not able to, at the time, publically release the information pertaining to the report due to the fact that it was, “derived from a third-party report that is owned by Domtar and was prepared by their consultant” (Bruser, 2017)  Moreover, the environment minister during the period where the report was sent to the government, Glen Murray, told the Star that he had no recollection of being told by his staff about the information in the report (CBC News, 2017).

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Photo: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

Personally, I am reluctant to believe that the Premier of Ontario can be completely unaware about a report pertaining to a significant health issue that had occurred in the province, especially since just weeks ago, Wynne had publically stated her commitment to the rehabilitation of Grassy Narrows. Nevertheless, whether she was aware or not, top advisors and officials must have been aware of this report and decided to turn a blind eye to the issue. Ignorance is not a good enough answer as to why Wynne was not aware of this report and it is extremely irresponsible on the part of the provincial government that this report was not publically addressed as soon as it was handed in, back in 2016.

I think it was put perfectly when the environmental coordinator of Grassy Narrows stated, “I think this latest report points to the need for additional activity apart from what we’re doing in terms of cleaning up the river, but there needs to be the federal government, the First Nation, the provincial government and Health Canada sitting at the table to determine what the next steps should be” (Bruser, 2017).  This report reveals just another instance of the provincial government not putting enough effort when it comes to their commitments on indigenous issues.