#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.

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:

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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.

Back, and yet far away

The academic year passed in a whirlwind. In the winter semester I taught three classes and feverishly read American environmental news. I hardly had time to think let alone write. It is probably for the best – as news on Trump and the environment was overwhelming, and would likely drive a thinking person into a deep depression. Most days I would squint as the New York Times loaded onto my screen. I am afraid to take it all in at once. What Executive Order has he passed now? What lake or park or ecosystem is under invasion today? Nature cannot hide from America.

I just finished my yearly migration from the crowded ant hill of Southern Ontario to the grassland pIMG_2803rairie ecosystem. My husband and I had a summer home built on a small lake in Saskatchewan. It is a dream come true: a place all our own where we can think and write. Last night was our first night here. A restless, almost sleepless night. It will take some time to get used to the silence. How can anyone sleep in all this silence?

 

The lake is still this morning. I am sitting at my laptop with my coffee. The environment, or specifically wilderness, is at my doorstep. I am thinking about transborder governance this morning as I work to finish up an edited volume on Canada-US environmental governance. I wonder if Trump’s policies will impact my homeland. The wilderness is under threat these days. And migratory birds like myself are on high alert.

My Letter to Parks Canada

The Government of Canada opened consultations about Parks Canada a few months ago. Essentially, the government was asking Canadians an important question:

“How should Parks Canada respond to the environmental and social changes it is facing in managing national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas?”

On Friday, I took some time to write to Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, about our national parks and why they must be protected for NATURE. She has promised Canadians a response in a few months time. I will keep you in the loop. In the meantime, I want to share my letter (some of the language is borrowed from CPAWS, the NGO that encouraged me to write the letter):

Dear Minister,

I am a Canadian from the prairie grassland ecosystem. Currently, I am a professor of political science and geography at the University of Toronto, where I study and teach environmental policy. My area of expertise is species at risk and biodiversity conservation. I cannot stress enough to you the importance of parks in Canada. Through the Species at Risk Act the federal government has the authority, and legal responsibility, to recover and protect COSEWIC listed endangered and threatened species. Given the limitations of the Canadian constitution, the federal government – as you are well aware – only has jurisdiction over federal lands, some aquatic species, and migratory birds. Federal lands do not amount to much across the ten provinces. However, national parks are federal lands. Thus, the federal government can – and should – use that land for nature first.

I am writing to you today to insist that you refocus Parks Canada on protecting nature as the first priority in our national parks. Conservation biology suggests that we need HALF for nature. Yes, 50% of our land should be for nature. This means that the federal government must stop expanding the development footprint in our national parks, particularly in Banff and Jasper. Natural resource extraction is important in Canada, but it does not belong in our national parks. No “ifs, ands, or buts” about it. The federal government needs to re-invest in science and ecological monitoring to guide park management. This is especially relevant in light of Donald Trump’s administration in the US. If Canada does not speak up for science, who will? The world – and nature – needs us today more than ever. The federal government must create more new national parks and national marine conservation areas. We made a promise – to the international community, to all Canadians, and to future generations. We need to protect more habitat. From sea to sea to sea. Canada is the second largest country in the world by landmass and we have less people than California. We are obligated to the world to protect nature. If not us, who?

I know you love parks Ms. McKenna. I follow you on twitter. I love parks too. The Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan is my favourite park. The prairie grassland system is fragile and in serious danger. It is possible that grasslands will go extinct from Canada. Can you imagine? We need the Grasslands National Park. We need more parks where nature is safe at home.

 

Sincerely,

Andrea Olive

Assistant Professor

Political Science and Geography

University of Toronto Mississauga

Andrea.olive@utoronto.ca

Yes to Kinder Morgan: No to Northern Gateway (Pipeline Politics)

In a long awaited decision by the Liberal government, Justin Trudeau finally announced that his government is APPROVING the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.

As the map from CBC illustrates, this pipeline runs from Edmonton to Burnaby. Essentially it takes bitumen from Alberta and carries it through the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast where it can be loaded onto huge tankers for shipping.

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This is obviously not good news for the environment on so many fronts – especially climate change and endangered species (or soon to be endangered species).

The Trudeau government is also approving Line 3 – which is really a replacement for an existing pipeline from Hardisty to Lake Superior in Wisconsin, as shown in the CBC map below.

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Justin Trudeau also announced that his government is rejecting the Northern Gateway pipeline. As the CBC map below shows, this is the pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Kitimat – cutting through the Great Bear Rainforest.

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Trudeau is rejecting the Northern Gateway pipeline because “the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline.” Interesting that he is invoking an environmental reason to reject to this pipeline – since the other pipelines also run through ecological sensitive areas for wildlife and plants.

This is a big day for pipeline politics in Canada. It is hard to see how climate change is a top priority for a government that just approved two major pipeline projects – both of which rely on further exploitation of the dirty bitumen in Alberta, and both of which rely on oil tankers to move oil across important bodies of water.

Trump and the Environment

Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday, November 8th, took most of the world by surprise. It certainly took me by surprise.

In the past few days there has been a lot of speculation (and worry) and the implications of a Trump presidency on the environment.

I am still speechless. But I want to provide a list of some useful/insightful commentary.

  1. My colleague Matt Hoffmann (political science, University of Toronto) wrote an informative piece on his blog.  (It is also a good blog of follow if you are interested in climate change more broadly).
  2. Scientific American wrote a piece on Trump’s selection of Myron Ebell to head his EPA transition team. Ebell is a well-known climate skeptic.
  3. The Guardian has a good piece on what Trump means for the global climate change efforts.
  4. The Globe and Mail asks what Trump means for climate change plans in Canada.
  5. The New York Times has run many pieces of relevance here, but I will link you to Andrew Revkin’s opinion.

That is a good list to get you started. Overall, there is reason for real concern. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding what Trump may or may not do. So far, his only action has been to appoint a climate skeptic to lead the EPA transition team. That does not bode well or set a good tone for the next 4 years.

However, as many authors in the above links remind you: US states and cities do have REAL power when it comes to the environment. There is reason for concern, but there is also reason to be hopeful.

Big News: National Price on Carbon

Prime Minister Trudeau announced a new (mandatory) national price on carbon. See the Globe and Mail, the CBC, and even the New York Times.

The provinces and territories have until 2018 to implement either a carbon tax or a cap and trade program. Just like that.

So that seems a bit surprising. Even more so, he is also saying “if you don’t, I will.” If a province or territory does not have a tax or cap & trade by 2018, then the federal government will implement a price in the province or territory. Presumably against their will.

And everyone – provinces, territories, and federal government – must work together to reduce emissions in line with our Paris Protocol commitment. (Trudeau is sticking the Harper government pledge of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030).  This means the price on carbon must be real – not a hand waving or symbolic tax/price. But one that results in significant emission reductions.

Yes, this is the same Trudeau government that just approved the LNG project in British Columbia last week. See the Globe and Mail.  So over there, we are increasing emissions. And over here, we are jumping up and down demanding that everyone decrease emissions. This is in the name of “sustainable” development and flexibility. Thus, if BC can find some way to move ahead with its LNG project WHILE decreasing emissions in line with our Paris pledge, then so be it. Good for BC (and Alberta). The federal government will not stand in the way. But can BC have its cake and eat it to? Does not seem likely.

So I am waiting for the fall-out. Will the Supreme Court get involved? Will it be Quebec or Saskatchewan that jumps starts the case against this federal demand? Is this constitutional? I doubt that Saskatchewan will implement a carbon price by 2018. I will be watching and waiting.

 

Back to Class

September already. Classes resume at the University of Toronto Mississauga this week. I am once again teaching the introduction to environmental policy in Canada. This is the course for which I wrote the book The Canadian Environment in Political Context. This year-long course is offered on-line so students from the three UT campus’ can enrol in the course. This year I have 145 students in the course.

In the fall semester we will start making our way through the book, but linger on chapter 5 (my favourite – on Species at Risk!) and then put down the book, only to pick up the The Oak Ridges Moraine Battles :

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(Photo Credit: University of Toronto Press).

This book will give students a look into their backyards as we explore urban sprawl and habitat loss. The focus will also be on policy actors at multiple scales: federal, provincial, Indigenous, and non-governmental.

In the winter semester we jump back to The Canadian Environment in Political Context and start focusing on energy and climate change. These are big topics and there is a lot to learn… and even more to debate. Next year (2017, I mean) is Canada’s 150th birthday. The class is going to celebrate this by learning about our Arctic history. We are a Northern nation, after all. And while the Northern territories were not part of Canada 150 years ago, it is important that we know how our big country came together to become a Northern nation. We will be reading Polar Imperative:

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(Photo Credit: Douglas &McIntyre)

The course ends will chapters 11 and 12 in The Canadian Environment in Political Context. Here we look back at where Canada has been and then look forward to where we might be headed.

In the next 8 months you can expect this blog to be updated with new information for the class and text. You can also expect a lot of posts on conservation, and then Arctic policy in the context of climate change and Canadian history.

 

Rail Deck Park: A Plan for Toronto’s Backyard (U. Khan)

This past week, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced his plan for a new park in downtown Toronto. The proposed “Rail Deck Park” would consists of 21 acres of space over the current rail yards in downtown Toronto. The park will provide green space to downtown Toronto, a region of the city that does not have a lot of greenery. Although there are many challenges in completing a project of this magnitude, it has the potential to transform the face of the city of Toronto in the coming decades.

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Location of the proposed Rail Deck Park in Downtown Toronto. Source: NowToronto.com

 

Ideas about building urban parks are not uncommon. Mayor Tory even referenced the Millennium park in Chicago as a model for this project. That park has become a defining mark of the city of Chicago, and continues to attract tourists to the city. The benefits of parks are also manifold. They provide an open space for the residents of high density areas. The city is expected to double its downtown population in the next 25 years and thus will have an ever growing need for open spaces.

According to the American Planning Association, parks have a cooling effect on the area where they are located. Trees provide shade from sunlight, and reflect sunlight that would otherwise be absorbed by asphalt. They are also great for human health as they provide open spaces where community members can exercise and stay active. Creating urban parks can also slow the advance of urban sprawl. If people have access to natural areas close to the city, they would be more inclined to stay in high density areas rather than moving to the suburbs.

Ontario is not a stranger to urban planning. The Ontario Greenbelt is a great example of forward thinking that allowed the province to secure farmland required to support the growing urban areas in the region. The project has been a success, and has been able to offset the equivalent of 27 million cars driven in one year. Toronto is also working on the Bentway project under the Gardiner Expressway. Work on the proposed open space is expected to be completed by 2017, and upon completion will provide 1.75 km of green space to the residents of the area. The projects prove that innovative thinking has a big impact on the development of communities, and that the provincial government should support the construction of this park as it will help the citizens of Toronto get an amazing open space for their city.

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Artistic representation of the proposed Rail Deck Park in Downtown Toronto.

Source: The Globe and Mail

 

The big detractor of this proposed project is the cost. The current plan proposed by Mayor Tory does not specify how the project will be funded, but it does say that the project will depend on the help of the provincial and federal government. The commercial real estate in the area is priced at between 55 and 60 million an acre. Millennium park in Chicago had an estimated cost of $150 million, but ended up costing over $500 million. The mayor needs to create an effective plan to secure funding for this project that accounts for possible budget overruns. The timeline for completion of the project is currently estimated to be between four and five years. Again, the plan for this project should have contingency measures if there are delays in the completion of the project. The first step in the project is to have a staff report on the potential cost and timeline of the project completed by September 22nd 2016.

Although it is left to be seen if this project will ever get build, I think it would be a great addition to the downtown core. It would provide various benefits to the people of the area and ensure that future generations have a great space to live in. The mayor and his council should work on developing a cost effective plan that can realistically see the park being built in the near future.

National Parks (By A. Olive)

I have wanted to write something about parks for a while now. My student, Anthony Koundourakis, wrote a piece about the Rouge Park a couple weeks ago, and I thought: “yes, I must write about parks.”

This summer I have visited Banff National Park. As you probably know, this was our first national park in Canada – established way back in 1887. The Rocky Mountain Parks Act says the park is for “the benefit, advantage, and enjoyment of the people of Canada.” Later, in 1930, the National Parks Act would declare parks as “dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education, and enjoyment” and that parks “shall be maintained and made use of so as to leave them impaired for the benefit of future generations.”

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I am part of that “future generation” enjoying parks! This summer, I also spent a few days in Jasper National Park.

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Out of Canada’s 47 national parks, I have visited only 12. My goal is to visit them all. Yes, even the ones in the north. There is a map of Canadian Parks in The Canadian Environment in Political Context. And you can find a list here. How many of you visited?!

Last week, the Globe and Mail featured an interesting article on our national parks. Or more specifically, on Parks Canada. It turns out that our lead eNGO on parks, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (formed in 1963), released a report suggesting that “The federal agency that manages Canada’s national parks has reduced both public input and scientific research in its decision-making process, and is allowing more development in places where fragile ecosystems need protection.”

This is reason for concern. Right now scientists are calling for “half for nature,” which means that we should be protecting 50% of earth’s land for other (non-human) living things (see Parks and Protected Areas in Canada by Dearden, Rollins, and Needham for a good read on national parks in Canada). We can half the planet, but we must give the other half to nature. As of 2016, 10.4% of Canada’s terrestrial area is legally protected. And about 1% of our marine territory is protected. This means we are falling short on our Aichi Target (as agreed to through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity). By 2020, 17% of terrestrial land and 10% of our marine territory is supposed to be legally protected. And we are of course way short on 50% of nature (which has not been declared a goal by the Canadian government).

Reading the report by CPAWS (find link here) is disheartening. Especially if you have ever visited one of our national parks and know all the beauty and splendour that they contain. From having been to Banff and Jasper just this summer, I definitely agree that Canadians should put a halt to any further development in those parks. And I think this guy would agree:

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I have a graduate student coming to UTM in the fall to work on a project about A2A (Algonquin to Adirondacks; see some info here) . So I am about to learn a bunch more about parks. That means, my readers, you will too.