Canada is Committed to Paris (V. Nader)

CathMckenna

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:

Tweet 1Tweet4Tweet2

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:

Tweet3

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)

 

 

mckenna

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.

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.

cydmvxvxeaaqnxh

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.

cydneztwiaawx4n

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.

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.

How a First Nations Community is to Understand Left Diesel and Joined Hydro (A. Koundourakis)

Wataynikaneyap is a power company that powers 20 First Nations communities in North Western Ontario. Out of these 20 communities, 16 are powered by diesel. Wataynikaneyap means “line that brings light” in Anishiniiniimowin, and was named by the Elders who provided guidance to the company partners. It’s a little ironic that the line that brings light also creates a black plume of smoke due to the diesel energy used. To remove this, the Ontario government is investing $1.35 Billion towards the Transmission Project. This Transmission Project will finance the connection of the First Nations communities to Ontario’s hydro grid.

Wataynikaneyap%20Power%20Executives%20Meeting%20with%20Government%20to%20Discuss%20the%20Power%20Connection

The use of diesel power in remote communities does have its downfalls, obviously. There are reasons why we don’t use diesel power in cities: mostly because it’s dirty, unreliable and costly. According to local residents in North Spirit Lake First Nation, diesel power is unreliable as power goes out at least once a week. The amount of diesel used and stored is also a huge issue: 3,000 litres a day is used from one generator during a cold winter night (this adds up to 5,688 lbs of CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere); the diesel is kept 3 kilometres from the community; and 800,000 litres of diesel are transported in tanks across the ice road in winter. Furthermore, some days the weather isn’t cold enough to be transported by truck so it has to be transported by air, thereby adding to the CO2 emissions. The 800,000 litres of fuel required to power the community of 400 costs about $1 million. This does not include the millions of dollars to operate and maintain the diesel generators. North Spirit Lake community pays $1.25 million a year for their power supply. That’s one of the 16 communities that use the diesel power, so picture that figure but about 16 times larger.

Ontario%20Power%20Authority%20Showing%20Where%20The%20First%20Nations%20Communities%20Will%20be%20Connected%20to%20The%20Grid

The plan is currently in Phase 2, to connect the communities north of Pickle Lake and Red Lake to the Ontario power grid. This includes construction of a 1,500 kilometre line connecting the two communities by 2020 and it will cost $1.15 billion. Wataynikaneyap Power is hoping to start construction on the project by 2018 once all approvals are secured. Once complete, the project will provide more than 10,000 people living in remote First Nation communities in northwestern Ontario with a more reliable, cheaper and cleaner supply of electricity. The project construction will create new business opportunities and skills development for the local communities. The project will also help alleviate load growth restrictions, where previously the amounts of homes were either fixed to a certain supply because the power supply couldn’t keep up with new homes.

Phase%202-page-001

There are however some concerns about the construction of new power lines. Community meetings have expressed concerns about the power lines, arguing that they will disrupt migration patterns for birds and animals that people rely on for food. Off the top of my head, one concern I could think of is downed power lines. A few winters ago, there were some ice storms that caused some tree branches to break off and disconnect some cables. Northern Ontario is not known for having mild winters, so I’d expect downed lines to be a common occurrence. However, I’m not an expert in Northern cable lines.

The benefits environmentally and financially are numerous. Over 40 years the connection will save $1 billion for the 16 communities. Load growth restrictions will be removed and the community will finally be allowed to grow their businesses and residential zones. The project is expected to create over 680 jobs in Ontario during the construction period. The project will make a large infrastructure investment in hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and transit in Ontario and help promote a low carbon economy. Finally, the plan will help improve a more secure retirement for Northern residents.

So, here’s my review on the scenario. This has to be cooperation between Federal and Provincial governments. Anyone who has taken POL250 should know that the Federal government’s jurisdiction is First Nations and reserves; the Provincial government’s jurisdiction is power generation. The first phase started sometime in 2015, when the Conservative government was in power (this isn’t really important to the blog, just a fun fact). So power generation had switched from the Federal government – who will be saving a majority of the cost since they were the ones who paid for the diesel and is a major funder of First Nation communities – will be transferred to the Provincial government. The benefits of improving the lives of First Nation communities because of this cooperation between the two levels of government are good for all of Canada. While I’m not sure how much of a contributor to our carbon emission the diesel generators were, I’m quite sure removing the generators will help us achieve our COP21 targets. Furthermore, the costs of the diesel that are now removed from the Federal government can be put somewhere else, hopefully towards our deficit. For Ontario, as I said above, power generation is our jurisdiction. The 10,000 extra users of energy will greatly benefit the 40% stake taxpayers have for Hydro One. Maybe I should buy Hydro One stock.

What are we doing about HFCs?! (A. Koundourakis)

Diplomats from around the world are meeting this week in Vienna with a goal to ultimately decrease the use of a potent greenhouse gas: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). This meeting is a huge step forward for the Montreal Protocol, where 200 countries are trying to iron out the finer details on the agreement to cut the use of HFCs used in heating and air conditioning by amending the ozone protection treaty that was signed in 1989. HFCs, under the Montreal Protocol, were outlined as a substitute for the ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons in 1987. However, unluckily, HFCs are about three times as potent as the world’s current annual out of carbon dioxide between now and 2050. The mandates issued out by the meeting to reduce HFCs could strengthen the Paris Climate Agreement and move the Montreal Protocol into the 21st century.

Cn5Z7c3W8AA5O4a

This meeting has introduced initiatives to replace HFCs with more climate and environmentally friendly alternatives which are estimated to avoid a rise of 0.5C by 2100 and 0.1C by 2050. In order to achieve these targets, each country has agreed to continue using the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund (MLF) – it’s a mechanism through which donor countries helped developing countries phase out CFCs and other ozone destroying and climate damaging chemicals – and to provide sufficient additional financial resources to help countries meet new HFC commitments. There is also a way to ensure that certain exemptions are available as the phase downs proceed. This addresses the fear that alternatives won’t be ready for use when the phase down limit kicks in. These alternatives have usually been a point of contention in the past, pretty much because it is hard to universally agree on particular alternatives for something. One example is HFO-1234yf, this is a hydrofluoro-olefin. Essentially they are hydrogen, fluorine and carbon atoms with at least one double bond between the carbon atoms. To give you a picture of how much better HFO is than HFC, I’ll use their Global Warming Potential, which compares the impacts of different gases on global warming. HFCs have a GWP of 12-14,000. HFOs have a GWP of 4.

Countries such as India and China are now joining the US, Canada, Mexico, the EU and others at the negotiating table. One country that a lot of my resources like to commend is Saudi Arabia, which had usually been a past obstacle. I’m sort of suspicious that Saudi Arabia has joined the coalition mostly because their money originally came from oil. Perhaps they see that oil isn’t their future anymore. I’ve been reading a lot of articles in the past about Saudi Arabia having to adapt and change with non-oil trends. So I get the impression that their interests have changed. China, which is the world’s largest HFC producer, has moved forward with a proposed timeline. North America, India, the EU, several Island States and African groups have offered timelines as well to help lower HFCs in their respective atmospheres.

The goal is to get as close as possible to a final deal, so that the ministers can close the remaining gaps this week and in the months ahead, sign the HFC phase down amendment to the Montreal Protocol in Kigali this October. On Friday and Saturday this past week, ministers have convened for a high level “Meeting of the Parties”, where they developed the specific language of the HFC amendment and built four existing proposals and solutions. Steve Yurek, president of the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, said that updating the Montreal Protocol is one of the rare cases in which the industry appears to welcome new regulations. He also noted that updates to the Montreal Protocol will create predictability for producers and manufacturers.

This is good. I’m happy that we’re addressing HFCs instead of CO2 this week. Usually, most people think of CO2 when they think of climate change, but it’s a myriad of gases that contribute to global warming. CFCs are much more potent that CO2, so addressing it this week is particularly important for consumers and producers of refrigeration products. I’m delighted to see that countries are negotiating together for a better and cleaner world. I’m still reluctant to jump on the bandwagon and praise the coalition simply because it is politics and things change, but there remains a cautious joy. I hope that the countries are able to implement phase downs and I hope that they provide incentives for consumers to reduce their current HFC use. There are so many different alternatives to so many of the things we already do that it doesn’t necessarily come down to the government, but it comes down to us. Negotiations look good so far and we just need to wait. Good luck.

Drought in Ontario: A Grim Reality (U. Khan)

I was driving home earlier this week, and I noticed that a lot of the lawns on my street seemed very dry and almost yellow in colour. After doing some research online, I was surprised to find out that Ontario has been under increasingly drought-like conditions over the past few months. If you read my earlier blog on the forest fire in Fort McMurray, you will remember the fact that an increase in the number of droughts is one of the effects of climate change. The current conditions then serve as a reminder to us about what can happen in the future as a result of climate change. Large scale droughts will be a major cause of concern for Canada as we have a major agricultural sector in our economy. We need to adopt policies that not only manage these changing conditions but also stop further damage to the environment.

Untitled

Accumulated Precipitation in Ontario over the last two months. Source: AAFC

Toronto has received only 26 mm of rain in June, compared to an average of 71.5 mm of rain that fell in June during 1981 and 2010. The lack of rain is not the only problem, in areas that have received rain comparable to their usual average, the rain has come in intense downpours of 30-40 mm at a time. Although rain is great to relieve drought conditions, such a large amount of water cannot be absorbed by the drought ridden arid ground surface. This causes the water to flow and run-off before it can be absorbed. This can also lead to flash floods and even soil degradation.

The agricultural sector in Ontario is facing smaller crop yields and higher costs this year due to the drought. Farmers have to water their crops for an increasing number of hours. Jason Verkaik, chairman of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association says that he has been watering his crops for 20 hours a day, 6 days a week. Normally he would water them for 3 or 4 nights a week. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada(AAFC), extremely dry conditions now stretch from the Ottawa Valley to the Niagara Peninsula. The conditions are that of severe drought event, which happens approximately once every two decades.

 

What is being done?

The city of Guelph has declared a Level 2 Red watering restriction. This means that outside water use is now restricted to only to essential things. Lawn watering and washing vehicles is prohibited at home. Non-compliance to the restrictions can lead to a ticket of $130. Although the Region of Peel has no such restriction in place, there are a few things we can do that will conserve outdoor water use:

  • Water early in the morning or late in the afternoon to stop water loss from evaporation
  • Grow flowers and trees that do not require an abundant amount of water
  • Add mulch to your garden, this will help retain moisture and protect your lawn from water loss

More tips can be found at the Region of Peel website

The Ontario Climate Change Action Plan released earlier this year had various ideas that help to combat climate change. The government had unveiled an $8.3 billion to combat the problem of climate change, and faced criticism for the large spending. The floods that impacted Ontario in the past few years and this drought are evidence of the fact that there is a direct impact of climate change on the lives of Ontarians and the government needs to act. The Action Plan is a step in the right direction, and the government needs to be make sure that the targets presented in the plan are met in a timely fashion. The economic losses from these natural disasters are going to start adding up, and spending money to stop the problem from occurring might be better over the long term for both the environment as well as the economy.

 

Corporation Emission Cooperation (A. Koundourakis)

Just this past week about 20 Canadian companies signed on to join the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC). The company compositions range from finance to air lines. What this organization does is bring together governments, businesses and civil society groups to identify and address the key challenges to successfully using carbon pricing as a way to combat climate change and was officially launched at COP21. Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, had worked with each company in order to draw their attention to the costs and opportunities of putting a price on carbon. Carbon pricing uses the market to influence companies into choosing cleaner decisions. The idea is that companies will improve innovation in order to reduce carbon emissions, thereby removing any financial burdens of a carbon tax.

CPLC+Canada+announcement

Catherine McKenna meeting with company leaders from across Canada to commit to being private sector partners of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC).

By joining CPLC, each member company will agree to advance carbon pricing by working with each other towards the goal of a carbon price throughout the globe. Each CPLC member will agree to three commitments: strengthen carbon pricing policies to redirect investment proportionate to the scale of the climate challenge; bring forward carbon pricing policies and strengthen existing ones to better manage investment risk and opportunities; and enhance cooperation to share information, expertise and best practices.

While researching the subject I found an interesting note by The UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System. They had researched financial and monetary policies, regulations, standards, disclosure requirements, credit ratings, listing requirements and indices, while also analyzing the effectiveness of each in aligning financial systems with sustainable development. They have concluded that Canada could benefit from this policy in order to achieve our climate commitments. The Federal government has committed to integrating the economy and the environment, while also ensuring that the financial system serves the needs of Canadians.

According to an MIT publication, air transportation is becoming a source of particular concern for three reasons: the industry will continue to maintain its reliance on liquid fuels; CO2 emissions are forecast to double or triple by 2050, making them the fastest growing sources of CO2; and since emissions from aviation occur at high altitude, they result in greater climate impacts than the equivalent from ground sources. The fact that Air Canada is one of the 20 companies that have recently signed to this CPLC pact is inspiring. Either Air Canada will finally purchase a new line of planes for their fleet or they will continue to strengthen their baggage restrictions. I personally hope they update their fleet; the planes are beginning to look a little old.

While all this sounds good and nice, there are two challenges we face in order to determine a course of action: how best to charge carbon polluters and how to most effectively use the revenues that are generated. Some provinces already have cap and trade programs or something similar, while other provinces are just starting. On top of that, some companies are looking to introduce their own form of internal carbon pricing. So obviously, the government shouldn’t be a barrier to a company’s competitiveness while introducing their own carbon plan. However, with Ontario’s projected temperature increases to reach 4C to 8C over the next 30 years, we better come up with something.

British Columbia had introduced a carbon tax in 2008, where they tax $21 per ton of CO2 emissions. Their fuel consumption is also down by 16% over the past 6 years. According to CPLC, the province is now home to a growing clean energy with a combination of 200 companies that generate $1.7 billion in revenues annually. This observation of 200 companies generating $1.7 billion in revenues isn’t really anything remarkable to be honest. Each company averages $8.5 million in annual revenue. There are mineral and gold companies around the world that alone have that make billions in revenue. Just a quick Google search will do. So I think that statement by the CPLC isn’t particularly inspiring for carbon pricing.

Recently, the CPLC released an Executive Briefing paper explaining their message to advance carbon pricing. The article concludes that businesses and governments have increasingly been employing carbon prices to drive a cost efficient transition to a low carbon economy; there is little evidence to support that carbon pricing has an effect on company competitiveness; and finally, competitiveness can be addressed through political engagement and targeted policies. It doesn’t have an academic paper kind of feel that I’m used to reading, but it outlines its argument. They argue that Sweden, which at 137 Euros per ton of CO2 has the highest carbon price in the world, has seen GDP growth increase by 60 % with a reduction of 25% in greenhouse gas emissions. They conclude that the science is there, it just needs the commitments.

feature_carbon_pricing_graphic_inline

A graphic of global emissions trading systems and carbon taxes. Several of these countries are participating in CPLC. (World Bank).

Overall, I’m not necessarily opposed to a price on carbon. A lot of government officials, universities, and business leaders agree that carbon pricing is necessary to cut emissions. I just don’t want much of the burden being transferred to the little guy. In Europe, the EU’s Emissions Trading System covers 45% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. In order to help curb emissions, they reduce the total emissions allowances by 1.74% every year. So, in theory, emissions should be 21% lower in 2020 than they were in 2005. This is good, but something is off: allowances are 4.85 euros per metric ton. Researchers at a think tank called Resources for the Future, argue that the price is below the level that could spark transformational innovation and investment. The California/Quebec carbon price also puts little pressure on emission reductions. However, now that China is preparing to start a national carbon market next year, it may help reduce carbon emission levels, while also remaining relatively competitive. For Canada, let’s wait and see what the results show.