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.

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.

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.

 

Ontario + Quebec +… Mexico = CC Agreement?

According to the Globe and Mail, the provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec have signed an agreement with Mexico on climate policy. Why wouldn’t Canada sign the deal? Good question.

As pretty much every chapter in The Canadian Environment in Political Context explains, federalism means divided and shared powers between two or more levels of government. In Canada, the Constitution divides power over environmental issues between the provinces and the federal government. With regard to natural resources and energy, the provinces have the bulk of the power (see Chapter 8 specifically). Essentially, the federal government cannot make climate policy because the federal government does not have jurisdiction over natural resource extraction on provincial lands. It cannot regulate CO2 emissions from sources it cannot control. (The US government is similar, but their federal government found a loop hole – it declared CO2 a toxic chemical and regulates it under federal chemical legislation).

Ontario’s provincial government has power to make policy regarding Co2 (and other emissions) inside the province. Quebec’s provincial government has the same power. Both provinces have adopted fairly stringent climate policy. They have also created an agreement – with the state of California – to engage in cap and trade together. They can trade permits to emit CO2 between the provinces and states.

Okay, so today, Ontario and Quebec signed an agreement with Mexico. What does that mean? It means that companies or industries that produce CO2 in Ontario or Quebec can purchase emission-reduction credits in Mexico. Sounds complicated, right? Imagine if a cement manufacturing company in Ontario wants to emit more CO2 than it has permits (or permissions) to do so. The company would either have to buy another permit OR it can reduce emissions in Mexico somewhere to offset its emission in Ontario. The company in Ontario pays an emitter in Mexico to keep the fossil fuel in the ground. That means overall in North America, emissions go down. They might rise in Ontario and go down in Mexico. They might rise in Quebec and go down in Ontario… or California…or Mexico. The CAP goes down over time – that means that emissions have to go down. More fossil fuels stay in the ground. But it can uneven… here or there.

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.