NAFTA & Values

With all the storms ranging on, it is hard to focus on anything else. And it is always hard to focus on trade law – it is the kind of thing that makes most people’s eyes glaze over from boredom and/or confusion. I have to admit, I wish I knew more economics so I could better understand the complexities of creating sound trade policy.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a thorn in Trump’s side since he first decided to run for office. Throughout his campaign he loved referring to it as “the worst trade deal every made.” This trade deal – between Canada, the US, and Mexico – is intended to create a free flow of goods (and to a lesser extent workers) throughout the North American continent. It is an impressive trade deal and served North American people since the early 1990s.

Trump’s problem with NAFTA seems to stem from his attitudes toward Mexico. Indeed, he recently admitted that he never even thinks about Canada. In speaking with President Nieto of Mexico back in January, Trump said that trade with Canada and the US “has been much more balanced and much more fair. So we do not need to worry about Canada, we don’t even think about them.” Nice sentiment. I believe him.

Well, he is thinking about Canada now. NAFTA talks are in progress and Canada has three issues on the table: the environment, gender, and indigenous rights. The Globe and Mail editorial staff wrote about this approach and has come out against fighting for gender and indigenous rights to be part of NAFTA. I disagree. Human rights are often tied to trade and many countries use trade (or sanctions) as a way to encourage countries to adopt human rights. Gender and Indigenous rights are human rights. Canada is on the moral high ground to ask its neighbours for trade that is fair to women and Indigenous peoples.

In terms of the environment, the Globe asks “should Canada go to the wall on this issue?” In a word: yes. We have to. We simply have to. The North American continent needs more cooperation on environmental issues and a big-picture understanding of how the economy and the environment are one-in-the-same. If Trump wants to lower emission standards and pollution standards in the US, it should not be to the disadvantages of Canadian business who are required to step-in-line with Canada’s climate change commitments. Mexico is on the same page as Canada for the most part (keep in mind it is still a developing country and its commitments under the Paris Protocol are dramatically different).

It is difficult for me to resist linking the hurricanes, climate change, and NAFTA. It is impossible for me to resist saying that Canada has to stand firm on energy policy and emission standards in trade deals. I think the people of Texas and Florida might also agree.

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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

#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.

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.

US and Canada Environmental Relations

Here is an article my MA student Katie Valentine wrote about Trump-Trudeau relations vis-a-vis the environment. The piece is entitled “We’ve researched the end of the U.S.-Canada climate bromance.” It was originally published by Fusion and then picked up by Grist. She interviewed me for the piece, as you will see.

Green Party Win in BC

The provincial election in British Columbia was held yesterday. And it was a nail bitter down to the end.

It is fair to say, perhaps, that the Green Party emerged as the winner – even though they only won three seats. How does that work?

BC electionAs you can see from the graphic in the Globe and Mail, the Liberals won 43 seats and the NDP won 41 seats. In BC, you need 44 seats in the 87 seat House to win a majority government. Umm. If the Liberals only have 43 seats then they will need some ONE else to vote with them on legislation – to get the 44 votes need to pass. They would likely work to get the three Green Party members to vote along side them – passing a bill with 46 votes. HOWEVER, the NDP could just as easily work with the Greens to vote against the Liberals – because together the NDP and Greens have 44 votes. Wow. That means that EVERY time a bill is voted on, it will come to down to what the Green Party decides to do.

In fact, it could be the case that the Greens and NDP try to get together and form a coalition government. But that seems a little unlikely – given the relationship between the Greens and NDP in the province. It is not a strong one. Often those two parties are fighting it out! A more likely alliance might actually be for the Greens and Liberals to form a coalition government. But I am going to assume that Clark with try and govern from a minority gov’t position and negotiate on a bill by bill basis.

So, I am saying the Green Party won the election.

But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. There were a lot of close races and there will be a lot of recounts. The outcome could still change a little in the coming week(s).

What does this mean for the environment? I think it will mean staying on the course on aggressive climate change policy. I think it might present challenges to LNG/fracking and maybe to the Site C Dam. On the whole, it is good news for the environment. The NDP picked up seats in urban areas. All three Green Party seats come from Vancouver Island. That Liberals held their ground in rural areas. This means there is likely some tension between rural-urban populations and that will play itself out in environmental policy. But so long as the Greens carry the balance of power, the environment has a fighting chance.

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

Pan-National Climate Agreement

Two weeks I wrote that Trudeau was busy approving pipelines in Canada. Now, I am writing that he has passed a rather historic climate deal with the provinces. This is a man having his cake and eating it too (for now).

Here is the official government announcement of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Essentially, all provinces have agreed to a price on carbon (set at $10 dollars starting in 2018 and increasing $ from there – meeting a $50 minimum by 2022).

All provinces except Saskatchewan. Brad Wall, the premier of SK, has adamantly (and stubbornly) refused to sign any deal that includes a price on carbon. As I have written elsewhere, he would prefer to use carbon capture and storage (and perhaps other geo-engineering plans) to off-set CO2 emissions in the province. SK is the biggest emitter of CO2 per capita in the country.  The province is clearly an outlier. A problematic one.

Here is a good article from CBC that explains where each province stood on carbon pricing back in October, before the pan-national deal. BC, AB, MT, ON, and QU have all had various forms on carbon pricing in the past. Notably, BC and AB have a tax and ON and QU use cap-and-trade (click chapter 8 on the left for past blog posts explaining these policies). Thus, a price on carbon is not new to them – in fact, they have been waiting a while for the federal government to catch up and address climate change. However, BC did make a deal with Trudeau regarding the specific price of carbon, since the province’s revenue neutral carbon tax has been in place since 2008 and works a bit differently than other provincial plans. Premier Christy said BC would be unwilling to sign a plan that has the province meeting a $50 minimum tax by 2022 – instead, the province would like to continue with their established carbon tax and “make-up” the difference in the price of emissions (if there any) by other means.

This climate deal is an important step forward in Canada. However, it is not clear if passing pipelines and carbon prices in the same two-week period will get the country anywhere close to its 2030 targets under the Paris Agreement.

 

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.

trans-mountain

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.