Thank You & Good Bye

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Source: The end of my guest blogging has come! Thank you everyone J

 

Hey Folks!

My time as a guest writer for Professor Olive’s wonderful blog has come to an end and I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Professor Olive for giving me the amazing opportunity to contribute and to the readers for reading.

Over the course of several weeks, I have realized that the subject of environmental politics in Canada is ever-evolving and it is so very fascinating to follow. It is interesting to see how issues arise, develop, and alter and you realize that there are so many parties involved when it comes to environmental politics. My first blog post was about the Canada-US softwood lumber dispute and since then, I have come to, strangely enough, relish the interactions between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump and their conflicting ideologies. It is like a reality show drama for me (which is not too surprising considering their backgrounds…). In any case, I look forward to seeing how matters pan out in the next few years of Trump’s presidency and to see how Canada responds. One thing I have learned, to the contrary of my prior beliefs, is that Canada has a back bone. Until recently, I was under the impression that Canada just succumbs to the whims of the US, but through our actions, especially on the environmental front, Canada has clearly grown up and is standing up to Uncle Sam!

We are dedicated to fulfilling our commitment to the Paris Accord and our many and varied environmental initiatives across Canada only prove our unwavering dedication, despite the opposing and environmentally-degrading actions of Trump. I think it is fair to say that we have surpassed the US in terms of our leadership status due to our desire to actively tackle climate change and work towards making a difference. Canada is truly an environmental global leader and a role model for all countries to emulate. I also revealed through the blog posts that I perceive that we are experiencing the fourth wave of environmentalism and I urge everyone to partake in this period of time as it is historic and momentous. I believe that Canadian society is collectively acknowledging that both resources and species have the ability to disappear, so we must do what we can to protect them.

As a result of producing blog posts, I have learned so much about Canadian environmental politics and I feel inspired. I feel motivated to continue following these matters and to contribute and make a difference myself. I hope that through following this blog, you feel this way too and have become mobilized. Once again, it has been a wonderful experience learning how to write blog posts and I really appreciate this opportunity. As a parting note, I encourage everyone to visit Canadian parks for the minimal time that is left of this summer since entry is free and also… Happy 150th Birthday Canada!

Sincerely,

Victoria Nader

Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan (by V. Nader)

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Source: The Canadian federal government is employing SARA to protect the threatened boreal caribou.

 

On July 27, the Canadian federal government released the federal action plan proposal for the protection and recovery of the boreal caribou. The following are recovery measures, under three categories, that the federal action plan presents to protect the threatened species:

  • science to support recovery, including the establishment of a knowledge consortium
  • recovery and protection, with a focus on critical habitat
  • reports on progress to ensure that recovery efforts are effective

The boreal caribou are significant to Canadian culture as they are part of our landscape and contribute to our unique biodiversity, so much that they appear on our quarter. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Caribou are barometers for healthy forests. If caribou aren’t doing well, our forests are in trouble.” The fact that the species are threatened with extinction indicate that the forests are not doing well and this is due to the impacts of industrial activity in the boreal. As a result of human actions, such as over-hunting and habitat destruction, their habitat is disturbed and fragmented. This, in turn, has resulted in boreal caribou being susceptible to the attacks from wolves, their natural predators, because they do not have the protection of an intact habitat to survive.

A scientific research found a direct relationship between the total level of habitat disturbance in a caribou’s range and calf survival. This approach was utilized by Environment Canada as a framework from which to create management directives for provinces in the recovery strategy. The strategy directs provinces to maintain or restore a minimum of 65 per cent of each range in an undisturbed condition. This affords caribou only a 60 per cent probability of persistence. Consequently, in 2012, the federal, provincial, and territorial government collaborated and agreed on a recovery strategy for the boreal caribou which fulfills Canada’s commitments under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

SARA was enacted in 2002 by the federal government and its purpose is, essentially, protect and prevent wildlife from disappearing. Seven out of thirteen provinces and territories have stand-alone species at risk legislation. This means that those that don’t, although they possess wildlife acts and regulations, they do not have a piece of legislation that is specific to endangered species and the protection of critical habitat. This is noteworthy because provinces and territories need to ensure that they are trying their best to safeguard various species, such as the threatened boreal caribou. The action plan is partial at this time since it does not address all of the measures, as required in the SARA. Fulfillment of SARA requirements will be accomplished as provinces and territories complete their range plans or similar documents by October 2017.

Many provinces have tried to prevent caribou from becoming extirpated by employing inadequate solutions, such as killing caribou predators (wolves and bears) or creating barriers between caribous and their predators. These actions are just as damaging to the ecosystem because they are further hurting biodiversity. Instead of inflicting violence against animals, I think provinces and territories need to shift the focus onto ourselves, humans, and recognize the damage that we cause through industrial activities. Perhaps we should take a hands-off approach, literally, and work towards no longer disturbing their habitat. The David Suzuki Foundation has many recommendations for this issue such as restoration initiatives for highly degraded habitat, the government helping industry to understand the importance of preserving the land whilst conducting business, and society changing consumptions habits and holding the government accountable for ensuring that species have the necessary habitat to survive.

I believe we should care about protecting species because of the intrinsic value they offer. At first glance, it may appear that they do not offer direct economic or extrinsic value, so people may think “why should we care?” But species, such as the boreal caribou, contribute to Canada’s diverse ecosystem and are crucial to our well-being, in addition to landscape and culture. In the case of the boreal caribou, it is part of Canada’s rich historical background and gives Canada its unique identity. It would be difficult to imagine Canada without the boreal caribou and it would be so sad to lose the species, or any species for that matter, as a result of human exploitation of resources. I hope that the provinces and territories involved put their full efforts towards restoring the caribou population and adopting sustainable practices involving the protection of all species. Otherwise, the next few generations may not be able to recognize the significance of the caribou on the quarter.

 

Nitrogen Pollution Poses Threat to Canada’s Freshwater (By V. Nader)

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Source: The Great Lakes have the potential to become a dead zone due to nitrogen pollution.

“Rain, rain go away/ Come again another day!” This nursery rhyme resonates a lot with me considering the heavy downpour that Ontario has been experiencing this summer. The heavy rain has gone so far to cause record-breaking water levels in various regions across Canada, such as Lake Ontario! Unfortunately, there is nothing the rhyme can do because the rain is here to stay as a result of climate change.

The warmer weather onset by climate change has resulted in more rain, which, unfortunately, has increased nitrogen pollution in Canada’s water supply. The following tweet made by Catherine McKenna sheds light on the issue:

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Nitrogen is a naturally occurring element that is necessary for the survival of all plants and animals. However, as a result of the industrial revolution, humans have invented a reactive form of nitrogen that has enabled the food production process to keep up with the growing population.

According to the N-Print Project, “humans create over two times as much reactive nitrogen as nature. In contrast, human activity contributes just 5-10% of CO2 emissions. Much of this reactive nitrogen has accumulated in the environment, where it causes a series of negative impacts to human and ecosystem health.” This reactive nitrogen stems from agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels and causes various environmental impacts such as smog, acid rain, coastal ‘dead zones’, biodiversity loss, stratospheric ozone depletion and increased greenhouse gases. It also affects human health, including respiratory disease and an increased risk for birth defects.

The increased rainfall as a result of climate change has caused more nitrogen run-off from agricultural activities to pollute the water supply, thus exacerbating algae growth and expanding dead zones in coastal areas. A study in the Science journal reveals that the amount of nitrogen pollution in American rivers can increase by 19 per cent by the end of the century if countries continue contribute to produce GHG emissions at a high rate, thus severely impacting various water bodies, most notably the Great Lakes.

It is clear that nitrogen pollution has significant and negative implications for the environment – the most pressing being the one for Canada’s water supply. Canada is more susceptible to the impacts of climate change and resource development interaction since it is warming more rapidly than equatorial regions due to its northern location and economic reliance on resources. Hence, urgent action is required to prevent degradation and destruction of Canadian freshwater ecosystems as a result of the effects of climate change and resource development.

Fortunately, action has been taken in the form of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which was launched in 2010 by the U.S. federal government. The action plan has a major focus on the following:

  • Cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern
  • Preventing and controlling invasive species
  • Reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful/nuisance algal blooms
  • Restoring habitat to protect native species

However, President Trump recently attempted to cut the budget of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million (U.S.) to $0 as his administration argued that “state and local groups are engaged and capable of taking on management of cleanup and restoration of these water bodies.” Thankfully, his proposal was rejected by his party, the Republicans, because everyone, but Trump, recognizes the great importance of safeguarding water and the environment. Under his administration, I expect a significant increase in nitrogen pollution and the degradation of the environment due to his encouragement of coal fuel. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the only thing in place to help protect the water otherwise.

In my opinion, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a great short-term plan as it focuses on cleaning up the water body, but long-term plans involving the reduction of the output of excessive nitrogen is imperative. Proposed solutions put forth by University of Victoria researchers Sybil Seitzinger and Leigh Phillips for reducing nitrogen include genetic modification of grains to reduce their nitrogen levels, switching to lab-produced meat, and more basic measures like improved sewage treatment and more efficient application of fertilizers. I think Canada should adopt a limit on nitrogen output and implement incentives for farmers to reduce the usage of nitrogen in their production. Also, as hard as this idea may be to propagate, the Canadian government could encourage people to reduce their intake of foods that output a lot of nitrogen in its production, such as livestock. They could encourage it by advertising different foods to people or running a campaign about the downsides of eating meat. I personally am a meat eater, but I would not mind eating alternative foods if it means saving the environment. We must all work towards saving our finite resources somehow!

#PromiseKept: What is Bill C-18? (by V. Nader)

On July 19, 2017, Bill C-18 became law in Canada after receiving Royal Assent. Bill C-18 is an Act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Canada National Parks Act.

The summary of the Act is as follows: “This enactment amends the Rouge National Urban Park Act to set out priorities in respect of factors to be considered in the management of the park. Additionally, it adds land to the park. It also amends the Parks Canada Agency Act to allow the New Parks and Historic Sites Account to be used in a broader manner. Finally, it amends the Canada National Parks Act to modify the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada.”

The objectives of the Act are to protect the first national urban park’s ecological integrity and transfer land to increase the size of the park. It is said in a statement issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and Parks Canada that “Once complete, Rouge will become one of the largest parks in the world found within an urban setting. It will be 19 times larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park, and 23 times bigger than New York’s Central Park.” This is really exciting and hopefully it will encourage people to visit the park more, which is about an hour drive away from Toronto and accessible by transit.

In related news, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, the park is offering a free shuttle bus service from Toronto to the park from July to October this year. I definitely will be taking advantage of it and I think everyone should too!

Another aim of the Act is to provide greater long-term stability for park farmers and their families. The amendments will do so by replacing one-year leases with leases of up to 30 years. The Rouge National Urban Park website outlines the outcome which is “Farmers can continue carrying out agricultural activities within the park and providing an important source of locally-grown food to the Greater Toronto Area.”

Bill C-18, along with the many other bills that have been enacted this past week, are referred to as a #PromiseKept by the Trudeau administration. On Catherine McKenna’s official website, it states “With the passing of this Bill, our government has followed through on its promise to protect the ecological integrity of Rouge National Urban Park making this a #PromiseKept.”

Moreover, Rouge National Urban Park has been a location in which environmental preservation has been promoted. For example, it has been a place in which citizens could contribute to the protection of endangered species and preservation of wildlife conservation by engaging in a BioBlitz. In fact, the first two BioBlitzes were held in Toronto and they helped to measure an increase or loss in biodiversity in a specific large area. You can learn more about getting involved with BioBlitz here.

I feel that this Act is part of the 4th wave environmentalism that I believe we are experiencing now as it is promoting the preservation of the environment. It also strongly resembles the first wave of environmentalism when the Canadian government realized that resources, such as nature and wildlife, were finite which led to the creation of national parks. I foresee the expansion of the Rouge National Urban Park increasing tourism and, thus, the well-being of people and, most importantly, protecting the area’s ecology and biodiversity.

G20 Meeting Recap (by V. Nader)

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McKenna’s tweet demonstrates the G20 countries’ near unanimous agreement to commit to climate change action.

My assumption last week that Canada is a role model for other countries to emulate has been proven as TRUE! A recent survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, a global market research and consulting firm, has revealed that Canada is seen as having the most positive influence on world affairs today. The poll asked citizens of 25 countries the following question in 2016: “Thinking about the next decade, would you say the following countries or organizations will have an overall positive or a negative influence on world affairs?” The results can be seen in the chart below.

20170704_Global_Influencers

Charted by Statista

According to a Forbes article, “the U.S. image dropped 24 percentage points since last year’s ranking due to much of the world losing confidence in President Trump’s leadership as well as rising international skepticism about his “America First” policies.”

Interestingly enough, this change is reflected in a sentiment shared by former Canadian diplomat, Tom Bernes, after the G20 summit – which took place between July 08 – July 09, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany – when he said the G20 “is left trying to find the leadership that in the past the United States has provided as an anchor to the system.” It appears that the world is losing confidence in the U.S.’ ability to act as a global leader and, perhaps, Canada will take on the role in the next decade.

Similar to the G7 meeting, 19 out of 20 countries, the outlier being the U.S., reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Accord at the G20 summit. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, along with leaders of the other countries present at the summit, were displeased with President Trump’s decision. All 20 countries were able to agree on all points in the communiqué except for the energy and climate change section. The leaders of the G20 countries, less the U.S., state that the “Paris Agreement is irreversible.” However, while the U.S. believes otherwise due to Trump’s desire to utilize cheap energy sources, they, according to the communiqué, “will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally- determined contributions.”

I believe this statement has no merit whatsoever, it is simply issued to appease the other countries. Trump considers the Paris Agreement as just another bad deal that the U.S. got itself in and, as we can observe by now, he is committed to renegotiating all bad deals. This can be seen below in his tweet about the G20 meeting.

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Despite Canada’s and the U.S.’ disagreement on climate change, amongst other issues, McKenna’s tweet reassures all that the Canada-U.S. relationship is not impacted.

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A method Trudeau is employing to promote climate change action in the U.S. is by meeting with and mobilizing individual states. For example, Trudeau’s Prime Minister website reveals that he will be visiting Rhode Island on July 14th to “deliver the keynote address at the 2017 Summer Meeting of the National Governors Association.” Numerous U.S. governors will be present at the meeting to discuss issues of common concern, one of them being “common solutions on climate change.” Since Trump is adamant about disregarding climate change on a federal level, Trudeau will work with the U.S. on a state level.

I think it will be arduous to mobilize individual states, but it will definitely be worthwhile. It has been effective in the past with California and Canada, specifically Quebec and, recently, Ontario, participating in a cap-and-trade system which was implemented in 2014 to reach the goal of reducing GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. If Trudeau can encourage more states to participate in similar initiatives, then climate change action in the U.S. will become a reality despite a Trump presidency.

As time passes, it is becoming more evident that Canada is the new global leader. I do not think it would be a stretch to say that it could replace the U.S. in the next few years in terms of its power. Former U.S. presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, tweeted a while ago that the U.S.’ affirmation of the Paris Accord is more than climate change, it is about reasserting their status as a global super power. The tweet can be seen below.

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Canada is surpassing the U.S. in terms of taking initiative on various causes and the G20 summit has only affirmed that Canada is filling the void created by Trump.

The 150th Year of Canadian Environmental Politics (V. Nader)

 

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Canada’s 150th year is a great year for environmental policy. Source

July 01st, 2017 marked Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary since Confederation and our 150th year is significant in terms of environmental policy. Over the last several weeks alone, it is evident that Canada has made great strides towards becoming a global environmental leader. The Canadian government has proved that they are serious about combating climate change by reaffirming their participation in the Paris Accord, providing substantial funds for environmental friendly projects in cities across Canada, introducing the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and much more! Although the government’s efforts are not fool proof, as they approved the construction of pipelines, however they are making an conscious effort to ensure these pipelines do not cause considerable damage to the environment.

All of the environmental actions the Canadian government has taken this past year gives me the impression that Canada is experiencing its fourth wave of environmentalism. This wave of environmentalism is addressing sustainable development and climate change. Before I get into why I believe this to be so, I will give a brief background on Canada’s waves of environmentalism.

Canada’s waves of environmentalism began after the formation of the federal government in 1867 when, as mentioned in The Canadian Environment in Political Context, “North Americans saw the continent as a destructible place and realized that resources, especially wildlife and forests, were not limitless” (Olive 2016, 81). The first wave involved the creation of national parks, which served a dual purpose of conserving forests and driving tourism, and it was solidified with the enactment of The Rocky Mountains Park Act of 1887. Much later in the 1960s, the second wave of environmentalism occurred when people became aware of environmental issues, especially concerning pollution and energy. This wave can be said to be spearheaded by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau because of his ambitious environmental agenda which led to the establishment of the Department of the Environment in 1971 and the enactment of various policies that addressed pollution. Finally, the third wave of environmentalism in the late 1980s and early 1990s dealt with problems surrounding acid rain, wildlife, and ozone layer of which Prime Minister Brian Mulroney took great care. It is said that “Mulroney is arguable Canada’s ‘greenest’ prime minister given the number of environmental treaties and laws made during his time in office” (Olive 2016, 86). Given Canada’s environmental history, it is clear that we are currently experiencing a fourth wave of environmentalism.

I believe all of the necessary components are aligned to make way for Canada’s fourth wave of environmentalism. Under the previous Harper administration, voters, federalism, and an economy based on natural resources were considered constraints to Canada’s domestic national policy concerning climate change. However, in 2017, all of the components for a wave are in place which are: the current administration is run by Justin Trudeau, who is pro-environment just like his father in the second wave of environmentalism; the establishment of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which requires all provinces to adopt environmental policy set forth by the federal government (for example the national price on carbon); and Canada’s goal of phasing out the use of coal energy by 2030 in favour of alternative energy, such as nuclear plants.

Further evidence that supports that Canada is experiencing a wave is the country’s economic prosperity.

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Canada’s economy expanded at an annual pace of nearly four per cent in the first quarter, more than three times the growth seen in the U.S. in the same period.

The only difference I noticed between this wave and previous waves is that it is not in accordance with the current US administration’s stance on environmental policy. Typically, Canada follows suit on the US’ waves of environmentalism and mimics their actions, but with Trump’s anti-environment beliefs, Canada, for once, is taking the lead. It is refreshing to see Canada standing strong and having a mind of its own as opposed to adhering to the whims of the US’, especially with the US federal administration’s decision to prioritize profits over their environment. As previously discussed, President Trump’s stance towards environmental policy has several negative implications for their country and the global environment, however we can have comfort in knowing that Canada is taking great care of our environment, and, as a result, has become an extraordinary model that other countries can emulate.

Canada is Committed to Paris (V. Nader)

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Minister of Environment and Climate Change announces $72 million in funding for building a more sustainable Canada. Source.

Last week we discussed how the Government of Canada reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Accord at the G7 meeting, and boy have they done so! This past week, on June 23rd, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change joined forces with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to tackle the issue of climate change. They announced that they are providing $72 million of funding for 48 projects in communities across Canada to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and overcome other climate change obstacles. Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, tweeted the exciting announcement:

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This initiative, which McKenna spearheaded, is very significant, especially after the G7 meeting, because it proves Canada’s high level of commitment to safekeeping the environment. The following tweet shows McKenna’s belief, that although the US has stepped back from the Paris Accord, Canada maintains its strong dedication to climate change action:

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These projects are conducted via the Green Municipal Fund which is “a unique program that provides funding and knowledge services to support sustainable community development. GMF-supported initiatives aim to improve air, water, and soil, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

The investment supports capital projects, pilot projects, feasibility studies and plans in Canadian municipalities that will improve the environment. There is a comprehensive list on the announcement page of the capital projects and pilot projects which will receive funding. Some examples of the pilot projects that will take place in Ontario include a bike share program in Hamilton, an electric vehicle charging stations for Canada’s largest net-zero energy neighbourhood in London, and a collaborative project, called TransformTO, that will engage the community to reduce GHG emissions in Toronto.

The ambitious goal of TransformTO: Climate action for a healthy, equitable, prosperous Toronto is to reduce GHG emissions in Toronto by 80% by the year 2050. How does the City of Toronto propose to achieve this? Well, they have delivered two reports which outline how. The first, which was released in December of 2016, discusses “short-term strategies to keep Toronto on track to meet its 2020 target of a 30% reduction in GHG emissions” and the second, which was recently released in May of 2017, considers “a long-term approach to reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 while also improving health, prosperity and equity.” One of their five short-term strategies is to support energy efficiency in buildings. A method they are using to accomplish this can be seen below:

This excerpt from the report reveals that providing resources for property owners in Toronto will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions because owners will be fully equipped and have incentive to make necessary changes. This will result in a reduction of 185,000 to 415,000 tonnes of CO2 in Toronto by 2020.

The other four of five short-term strategies outlined in the report are as follows:

  1. Raising the bar for new construction & community energy planning:             Continue to elevate the energy performance of new buildings trending towards net-zero energy through the Toronto Green Standard, while also integrating community energy planning and neighbourhood-scale energy solutions.
  2. Advancing sustainable transportation:                                          Encourage the shift towards sustainable methods of transportation, which promotes active living and reduces human health risk.
  3. Leading by example:                Accelerate investment in low-carbon technologies and processes across City-owned facilities and operations. Through the Tier II policy for capital projects, energy efficiency retrofits, renewable energy projects and employee commuter options, the City will demonstrate leadership in curbing carbon emissions by strategically managing its own assets. The City will also implement its long-term waste management strategy which is designed to minimize future carbon emissions from waste.
  4. Engaging and collaborating with stakeholders:                                                       Support effective inter-divisional collaboration and work closely with the community, local utilities, and other levels of government.

2014 GHG emissions Pie

As seen in the pie chart above, buildings, followed by transportation, are the largest contributors of GHG emissions in Toronto, so their short-term strategies will be highly effective as they provide solutions for these areas.

As noted in The Canadian Environment in Political Context, “in 2011, Canada’s population was 33.5 million, a whopping 81 per cent lived in an urban area.” This means that cities will, naturally, emit the most GHG emissions due to high populations – according to a UN study, world’s cities are responsible for up to 70 per cent of GHG emissions while occupying just 2 per cent of its land – therefore it is imperative for cities to take action against climate change. I think the funding for environmentally friendly projects in Canadian municipalities will truly help cities take action and successfully reduce Canada’s carbon footprint significantly. Moreover, this initiative is an example of the federal government influencing urban development and policy, because although the Canadian federal government does not manage urban land – as it is left entirely to the provinces and municipal governments – the funding provided by the federal government for projects in cities across Canada impact urban development.

This is great news for Canada’s environment, and the global environment, because this initiative will effectively reduce GHG emissions. The total cumulative anticipated GHG reduction of the capital projects announced is over 310,000 tonnes of CO2, which is approximately equal to removing 71,000 cars off the road annually. It is blatant that Canada takes its commitment to the Paris Accord seriously and is becoming an environmental leader in the global community. Perhaps we are trying to serve as an example to our neighbour…

 

The G7 Rejects U.S.’ Desire to Renegotiate Paris Agreement (V. Nadar)

 

 

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Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change reaffirms Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement at the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Environment Source: NewEurope

In continuation of last week’s post about the 43rd G7 meeting, the G7 Environmental Ministers and European Commissioners responsible for environment and climate met for the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Environment in Bologna, Italy between June 11 – 12, 2017. The Ministers from the G7 countries, less the United States in light of their withdrawal from the Paris Accord, came together to reaffirm their commitment to the 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

The goals of the 2030 Agenda are “to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. We resolve also to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities.” The seventeen SDG’s can be seen below:

sustainablegoals

Source: WeForum

In the issued Communiqué, which outlines the meeting and its initiatives, it discusses how the G7 countries will fulfill their obligation to the Paris Accord. The first being achieving the long-term goal of “limiting global temperature increases to well below 2°C, pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C” and, secondly, “jointly mobilizing US$100 billion annually by 2020 from public and private sources to support climate action in developing countries.”

However, the footnotes of the Communiqué show the U.S’ unwillingness to cooperate. It states “We the United States of America continue to demonstrate through action, having reduced our CO2 footprint as demonstrated by achieving pre-1994 CO2 levels domestically. The United States will continue to engage with key international partners in a manner that is consistent with our domestic priorities, preserving both a strong economy and a healthy environment. Accordingly, we the United States do not join those sections of the communiqué on climate and MDBs [multilateral development banks], reflecting our recent announcement to withdraw and immediately cease implementation of the Paris Agreement and associated financial commitments.”

Trump

The U.S. refuses to commit financially to the Paris Agreement because President Trump believes it is economically disadvantageous for their country. Funnily enough, on the same day of the conference, Trump did not release a single tweet about the conference, but rather tweeted a Fox News article which announced the opening of the first coal mine during Trump’s presidency. The article discusses how the mine may bolster the local economy in Pennsylvania.

I find the US statement hilarious because the reduction of the CO2 footprint was an outcome during Obama’s presidency and it was a result of a shift from coal to natural gas energy for which he heavily advocated. Due to this shift, in 2013, “energy-related carbon dioxide emissions actually declined 3.8% in 2012 even though the U.S. economy grew 2.8% that year, according to data by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s encouragement of coal energy will most definitely not ensure the preservation of a healthy environment and it will increase their C02 footprint to post-1994 levels.

In great contrast, Catherina McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, released multiple tweets from the conference which showcased her enthusiasm for reaffirming Canada’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda and threw some shade at Trump. Some of her tweets can be seen below:

 

Catherine McKenna also expresses through her tweets her displeasure at the aforementioned footnote left by the U.S. and she rejects Trump’s desire to renegotiate stating that “Paris agreement is not open for renegotiation although we are in the phase of negotiating the rules.”

What does this mean for the environment? Well, as mentioned earlier, the U.S’ reintroduction of coal energy will reverse all of the previous administration’s efforts to lower CO2 emissions and will be detrimental to their environment. For Canada, our environment will improve because McKenna is dedicated to the Agreement and, as her tweet suggested, there may be a price on pollution and ameliorated policies to combat climate change.

Farewell Paris, Bonjour Coal (V. Nader)

Expect more heavy pollution in the USA under a Trump presidency.

This week on “Keeping up with the Soft Wood Lumber Dispute,” Prime Minister Trudeau tweeted the following last Thursday on June 01st:

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His action plan to support the softwood lumber industry involves “$867 million in measures to support forest industry workers and communities affected by U.S. measures targeting softwood lumber.” The funding will be used for various activities that support workers and, as mentioned last week, expand the industry overseas to Asia and diversify beyond the US. Moreover, the plan mentions that Canada will continue to force the US to reconsider their decision as “a negotiated settlement is not only possible, but in the best interests of both countries. This tells me that Canada is acquiring Trump’s business lingo to, hopefully, communicate with him in a way in which he will better understand.

What’s more, Trudeau’s tweet was on the same date that President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that deals with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Trump decided this shortly after the 43rd annual G7 meeting as he felt that “compliance with the terms of the Paris accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.” He retweeted those in support of his decision:

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Trump’s retweets of his supporters and the surge on Wall Street are attempts to convey the economic benefits of withdrawing from the pact, however he fails to note the environmental disadvantages. Trudeau was quick to respond and tweeted the following:

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Clearly upset with Trump’s decision, he stated that “we will also continue to reach out to the U.S. federal government to discuss this matter of critical importance for all humankind, and to identify areas of shared interest for collaboration, including on emissions reductions.”

Trump’s reasoning to withdraw is that the use of coal energy is economically beneficial for the US as, according to him, it will aid in job creation and saving money. Thus, he cannot be part of a climate agreement that aims to reduce GHG emissions and divests from non-renewable fossil fuels. Unfortunately, this has various negative environmental implications and reverses the many years of effort former US president, Obama, put in towards addressing climate change.

Former president Obama’s administration had many ambitious plans for combatting climate change, some of which are detailed in The Canadian Environment in Political Context. She notes that his “plan is the boldest made by any American president on the issue of climate change” (page 298), which completely contrasts with President Trump’s belief that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese government for financial gain. However, due to US’ withdrawal, Canada might continue trade of fossil fuel with the US opposed to searching for new markets in the Asia because we no longer experience pressures “to commit to a Paris protocol target that is in line with that of the United States” (Olive 2016, 299). Nonetheless, I do not think this is likely because of Trudeau’s Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and his absolute abhorrence to Trump’s policies. Canada’s target, under the Paris Agreement, is GHG emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

So, what does Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and revival of the coal industry mean for the environment? Well, it is safe to say a lot of bad things for the environment. Coal cannot be clean and involves high consumption of water and heavily pollutes the air. Air pollution results in acid rain, loss in biodiversity and species’ habitats, health risks, and much more. I understand that Trump, as a businessman turned president, is trying to maximize profits and jobs, but he is very poor at cost-benefit analysis. The costs outweigh the benefits and jobs can be generated through the implementation of renewable resources. I think this decision goes against all of the progress that has been made as of late, but we can only hope for the best and see how ‘renegotiations’ of the deal go.

 

 

 

 

 

US and Canada Bicker, yet Again, About Soft Wood Lumber (by V. Nader)

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Trudeau is clearly displeased with Trump’s anti-subsidy tariff on softwood lumber imports! Photo Credit

 

Last month, on April 24, 2017, President Trump announced that his administration would impose a tariff of up to 24 per cent on imported Canadian softwood-lumber effective September 07, 2017. This, unsurprisingly, evoked disapproval from the Canadian federal government and a joint statement released by Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, and Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, which stated, “The Government of Canada disagrees strongly with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to impose an unfair and punitive duty. The accusations are baseless and unfounded.” However, this is not the first time Canada and the United States disagreed over softwood-lumber. In fact, it is one of many dating back to the early 1980s. As pointed out in The Canadian Environment in Political Context, the trade dispute “is arguably the most significant one between Canada and the United Sates and one of the most notable trade disputes worldwide in the twentieth century” (Olive 2016, page 162).

Prime Minister Trudeau’s objection to the tariff can be seen in the following Tweets:

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In the first Tweet, he provides a read out of his phone call to Trump in which he expresses that he “will vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, as we have successfully done in all past lumber disputes with the U.S.”

Shortly after, he urgently speaks with premiers about the issue.

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A week later, he makes it known that supporting softwood lumber producers is a priority across Canada.

The disparate patterns of land ownership in the US and Canada is partly a cause of the dispute. Both the US and Canada have a mixed market economy, but the US’s economic system is based on private ownership whereas Canada combines private enterprise with government regulation. Therefore, “in the United States, the market determines the cost of harvesting most wood because most timber is taken from private land…In Canada, where most timber is harvested from Crown land under provincial control, the price to harvest trees is set by the provinces” (Olive 2016, page 163). As a result, the US accuses Canada of violating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as they are under the impression that Canada’s provincial and federal government unfairly subsidizes the lumber. Canada disagrees because, although the stumpage fees is set by administrative regulations opposed to market competition, the low fees cannot be considered subsidies since the lumber is used in various industries.

I doubt this policy will be effective because it serves to ensure larger profits for American landowners and lumber mills, but to the detriment of American consumers and workers. The joint statement mentioned earlier expressed that the tariff “will negatively affect workers on both sides of the border, and will ultimately increase costs for American families who want to build or renovate homes.” In anticipation of new tariffs, lumber prices have jumped 22 per cent adding nearly $3,600 to the cost of a new single-family home… each $1,000 increase in the median price of a new home makes homeownership unaffordable to 150,000 households.

The US is heavily reliant on softwood lumber imports from Canada because they do not produce enough lumber to meet the nation’s needs. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 33 per cent of the lumber used in the US was imported of which more than 95 per cent came from Canada. Although America is the largest exporter of hardwood lumber (raw lumber), it is too costly for them to produce finished goods (such as softwood lumber) due to high labour costs, hence why they import from Canada. Despite Trump’s interest to endorse protectionism and free enterprise, the tariff can be costly to the livelihood of both Americans and Canadians.

Trump’s desire to renegotiate NAFTA stems from the fact that he wants to ensure that the US fully benefits from the deal. Previously, Trump referred to NAFTA as the “worst trade deal” and wanted to rescind America’s involvement in the agreement altogether, but has decided to renegotiate instead. Since the fees associated with softwood lumber is in a grey area in relation to NAFTA, Trump wants to offset Canada’s low stumpage fees by imposing the anti-subsidy duty. The duty is supposed to ensure that the American forestry industry thrives and that jobs within the US are protected, but it has the potential to do more harm than good as the joint statement revealed. This is part of Trump’s efforts to make America “great again,” although he could very much so be doing the complete opposite.

It can be observed in Trump’s Tweet, which was made three days after his announcement, that he almost threatening both Canada and Mexico by making an ultimatum. It’s either his way or nothing.

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This relates to the environment because softwood lumber is an environmentally friendly building material that satisfies a need for more housing without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, Canada’s International Trade Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, visited China to expand and strengthen lumber trade with the country shortly after Trump’s announcement. Champagne believes “there’s an imperative in China to have more green building material” to combat the issue of climate change. The US knows that they are largest importer of lumber and that the industry is of utmost importance to Canada which is why they are under the impression that Canada will submit to their demands, however Canada is refusing to be bullied and this is seen on Canada Trade’s Twitter page! Only a day after Trump’s announcement, the page made the following Tweets boasting about their softwood lumber trade relations with China and Asia:

 

It is evident that Canada is not willing to settle, once again in this long-winded dispute, and is showing off to the US that they have options (China) and will be more than fine without them. This almost reminds me of an on-again, off-again relationship where a couple fights and tries to inadvertently prove that they can be better off without the other by flaunting their new beau/belle, but secretly want the other to become jealous to get them back. Matter of fact, there should be a reality TV show starring Trump, Trudeau and other related political actors which follows their fun squabbles called Keeping Up With The Soft Wood Lumber Dispute!