Here’s to a New Year for Climate Change Policy and NAFTA Negotiations (N. Esak)

As 2018 finally rings in, so do new opportunities for the federal government to begin implementing influential changes in climate change policy and the North American Free Trade Agreement. These topics have been a major talking point both in Canada and internationally this past year, and with 2018 rolling in now is the time for these topics to switch from just discussions to action.Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 8.18.55 PM

Photo 1: Carbon pollution in an industrial factory

 

Climate change policy has been a huge topic discussed for 2018, especially with the release of the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. One of the major legislations part of the framework include the federal government imposing a carbon price as part of their zero-emission strategy to phase out coal-fueled energy by 2030 (Rabson, 2017).  The federal government plans on imposing this tax on the provinces not able to fulfil their standards on their own. The plan looks to price carbon at $10/tonne this year and then phase to rise $10 each year after until 2022 where it will be $50/tonne (Rabson, 2017).

Manitoba and Saskatchewan decided to not join the climate change framework, however they did release their own climate change plans this past fall. Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, publically stated that it was a good sign that these provinces were at least recognizing climate change issues, but their current plans will not be able to meet the federal governments goals and standards if not improved (Rabson, 2017). With climate change expected to be the main topic in the G7 leader’s summit in Quebec, the federal government needs to start implementing the legislations found in the Pan Canadian Framework, including carbon tax, across all provinces as quickly as possible in order for Canada to be seen as a top international leader in climate change and sustainability among its other G7 peers (Rabson, 2017).

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Photo 2: U.S President Donald Trump speaking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

This year is also an important year for determining the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Trump and his government being very vocal towards their attitudes of its current state. Despite the fact that Trump’s issues of the NAFTA Agreement may stem from his views of Mexico, Canada is at risk of dangerous consequences with this agreement being changed for the worst. The benefits of this agreement has allowed for the free trade of goods between the US, Canada, and Mexico since its implementation in the 90’s, providing economic benefits for all three countries (Simpson, 2018).

This past week cabinet ministers headed to the United States in efforts to promote NAFTA negotiations. In the previous year there have been minimum movements towards NAFTA from past negotiations, so Canadian trade negotiators are under pressure to make sure that this new round of talks start to go towards Canada’s favor (Simpson, 2018). It is important that Canada not only makes sure that the NAFTA agreement stays implemented, but also reiterate their goals of increased environmental and sustainability provisions and regulations to combat climate change issues. Although this will most likely be a difficult task considering the current US government’s stance on environmental issues at this point, it will be necessary that Canadian representatives focus on the economic advantages long-term of implementing environmental and climate change policies (Simpson, 2018).

I think it’s safe to say that the federal government has a lot of work ahead of them this year. While 2017 was the year of discussion on the issues of climate change and NAFTA, 2018 needs to be the year of the implementation of their targets. However, with the Trump era not making it easy, Canada needs to push now more than ever to make their environmental goals become a reality.

 

 

References

Rabson, M. (2017, December 08). Ottawa is Dragging its Feet on Climate Change Plan, Critics Say. Retrieved January 07, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/federal-climate-framework-1.4439184

Simpson, K. (2018, January 05). Canada’s NAFTA Charm Offensive Kicks into High Gear. Retrived January 07, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cabinet-ministers-visit-us-to-promote-trade-1.4472822

 

 

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Checking-in on Trudeau

Justin Trudeau has been our Prime Minister for 767 days, including today.  According to the TrudeauMeter, he has achieved 58 of his 226 campaign promises and has a subsequent 72 in progress. His “broken promises” entail 38 thus far. So, he appears to be doing fairly well. He has kept twice as many promises as he has broken.

If we look at the environment section of the Meter, he made 29 promises grouped by TrudeauMeter into clean tech, climate change, national parks, and water. Overall, he has kept only 6 promises:

  1. He attended the Paris climate summit and came home to establish the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Sustainable Growth
  2. canceled the Northern Gateway Pipeline
  3. expanded the Learn to Camp program
  4. Provided free admission to all National Parks in Canada for 2017 (you still have a few weeks to take advantage of this!)
  5. restored 1.5 million in annual funding for freshwater research
  6. restored 40 million for funding federal ocean and science monitoring programs

He has broken 4 pledges:

  1. he did not rapidly expand the federal fleet of electric vehicles
  2. he did not phrase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry
  3. he did not re-do the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion review
  4. he did review the elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act by the Harper gov’t

Of the remaining 19 pledges, 14 are in progress and 5 have yet to be started at all.

So, his environmental track record isn’t great. That said, the federal government does not have a lot of constitutional jurisdiction when it comes to the environment. The provinces have most of the power in this domain.

Of course, he can expand electric vehicles for the federal fleet. And he has been working on this – Catherine McKenna is often tweeting about her electric car. The key part is he did not accomplish this “rapidly.”

Phasing out subsidies. That is federal. He should have done that by now.

Re-examine the Kinder Morgan review. Yes, should have been done.

In terms of the Navigable Water Protections Act… I believe his government is doing this. You can see the federal review here. The government accepted all 11 recommendations that came through Parliament’s Standing Committee on Transport, and you can see that document here. So the TrudeauMeter might be judging the government too harshly here – or they at least need a category for “kinda-kept the promise.”

My sense of Trudeau’s first 2 years in office is that he made more progress on climate change than Harper did in his 10 years in office. The Pan-Canadian Framework is weak, but so is the federal government when it comes to climate change. The federal government is only as strong as the provinces on the climate file. Trudeau does have all provinces talking about climate change and seriously mulling over a price on carbon. This is progress.

Trudeau was also thrown a major curveball with the election of Trump. Trudeau thought he and Clinton would champion environmental issues – and indeed, I believe, they would have.

On all transboundary environmental issues, which are most issues, the Trudeau government is only as strong as the Trump government. And Donald Trump pretty much took his globe shaped soccer ball and went home.

 

Mistake not including Carbon Tax in Saskatchewan’s New Climate Change Strategy Plan? (N. Eska)

The province of Saskatchewan made an announcement on Monday December 4th – their new climate change strategy plan titled ‘Prairie Resilience: a Man-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy.” However, the main news buzzing about this new climate strategy plan is its lack of a carbon price. Minister of Environment in Saskatchewan, Dustin Duncun, discussed this strategy, addressing how through this new plan, “The province will give large emitting facilities in oil, gas and mining “flexible compliance options” (Hunter, 2017).

Duncan defends the fact that carbon taxation is missing from the plan, stating that the goal of the province is both to allow their industries to grow and to stay competitive with the rest of the global industrial world, while also being mindful of environmental factors. He argued this idea by stating “We want to see the economy continue to grow and, for some industries, that means that their emissions will grow. It’s not a cap-and-trade program where we’re capping absolutely the amount of emissions” (Hunter, 2017).

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna addressed her views on the new climate change strategy plan in a Facebook post soon after the announcement, addressing her concerns on the direction the province is taking towards climate change. She stated how “Based on what’s in today’s plan, Saskatchewan’s price likely wouldn’t hit our standard, because it applies only to heavy industry instead of being economy-wide”. Moreover, this plan is also going against this Liberal federal government’s aims towards $10 per tonne of carbon emissions in the start of 2018 before prices rise to about $50 per tonne (Hunter, 2017).

The main issues of this plan are the fact that there are no targets or aims the province tries to achieve regarding how many greenhouse emissions they plan on reducing, says University of Alberta energy economist Andrew Leach (The Canadian Press, 2017). “The biggest hole in Saskatchewan’s plan is its limited scope” said Leach, “They’re not touching their transportation, home heating, commercial and industrial energy use at all with this policy” (The Canadian Press, 2017).

It is no surprise that Saskatchewan did not include a carbon tax to their policy as they had opposed to this federal government’s carbon tax plans since its announcement (Fraser, 2017). It doesn’t look good, however that the province is prioritizing industrial and economic growth over environmental and climate change progress with this new plan. Time will only tell whether this plan proves to be successful as Minister of Environment in Saskatchewan wishes, or if this will continue to push Saskatchewan back from reducing their carbon emissions.

 

 

 

References

D.C. Fraser (2017, December 04). No Carbon Tax in Saskatchewan Govermemt Climate Change Plan. Retrived December 04, 2017 from http://leaderpost.com/news/saskatchewan/no-carbon-tax-in-sask-s-climate-change-plan

Hunter, A. (2017, December 04). No Carbon Tax in Sask. Government Climate Change Plan. Retrived December 04, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/no-carbon-price-tax-sask-government-climate-change-plan-1.4431724

The Canadian Press. (2017, December 04). Saskatwean Climate Change Plan Includes Buying Carbon Offsets, No Carbon Tax. Retrived December 04, 2017, from http://www.news1130.com/2017/12/04/saskatchewans-climate-change-strategy-includes-buying-carbon-offsets/

 

 

COP23 and Gender Equality in Global Climate Change Policy (N. Esak)

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Photo: Panel discussion during Bonn 2017 COP23 conference

 

Last week the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) commenced for its 23rd session for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany (IISD, 2017). Running from November 6th-17th, the conference’s main aim was to define international goals and actions which would “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” as well as ways to maintain a global temperature risen of below 2C (Heine, 2017). One of these goals introduced was the increased inclusion of the role of women in global climate action.

The Fiji Presidency addressed the importance of introducing a Gender Action Plan which all governments a part of the conference would agree to follow. This plan would involve recognizing the role of woman in global climate change issues and integrating them in the decision-making process for global climate policy (United Nations, 2017).

When thinking about systematic solutions for climate change, I would have to admit, gender inclusivity wasn’t a topic I would quickly think of as a high priority in climate change issues. However, after readings an article on the Guardian which was retweeted by Canadian environmental minister Catherine McKenna my views have shifted. The unfortunate reality is that woman globally have been receiving the major consequences of climate change (Heine, 2017). They have been disproportionally affected by climate change as they have obtained the blunt of negative affects while also been deprived of the resources or voice to deal with and address these issues (Heine, 2017).

 

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Photo: COP23 Negotiator Nazhat Shameen Khan addressing the Gender Action Plan

 

Studies have shown that woman and children globally are more than 14x more likely to be killed or wounded from natural disasters, which are increased due to climate change (UN Women, 2017). Moreover, due to the losses associated with climate change induced natural disasters, especially in the global south, girls are more likely than boys to leave school to help pay the bills and increased domestic chores (UN Women, 2017). These increased responsibilities and traumas placed upon woman coupled with gendered systematic barriers have kept woman from having any political voice or decision-making power.

Allowing woman and local communities to be major decision makers in global climate change will allow for a more democratic and inclusive decision-making system (Heine, 2017). Inclusive community based systems which involve the voices all stakeholders, marginalized or not, is what is needed to occur in order for global climate policy to be the most effective. However, it is not enough to just have female policymakers in the discourse on climate change, but woman directly impacted by horrible climate change costs, especially indigenous communities and those in the Global South.

Addressing this issue on a large global stage as the COP23 conference was a great push in the right direction for the future of global climate policy and it is essential that all governments involved in the conference agree on this Gender Action Plan. Hopefully in the following two years this plan will lead to increases in female policymakers, especially from indigenous communities and the Global South, in order to bring gender equity to global climate change policy.

References

Heine, H. (2017, November 15). Global Climate Change Action Must be Gender Equal. Retrived November 26, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/15/global-climate-action-must-be-gender-equal?CMP=twt_gu

IISD. (2017). UNFCCC COP23. Retrived November 26 2017, from http://sdg.iisd.org/events/unfccc-cop-23/

United Nations. (2017, November 13). COP23 recognizes the role of women in climate action. Retrived November 26, 2017, from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2017/11/un-climate-conference-recognizes-the-role-of-women-in-climate-action/

UN Women. (2017). Why is Climate a Gender Issue? Retrieved November 26, 2017, from https://www.uncclearn.org/sites/default/files/inventory/unwomen704.pdf

Protests in Queens Park on the Discontinuation of Nuclear Power (N. Esak)

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Photo: Indigenous and environmental group demonstrations in Queens Park

 

Last Thursday, November 9th, a large protest occurred in Queens Park by a number of indigenous and environmental groups. The groups demonstrations centered on the discontinuing of nuclear power usage in Canada. They at first gathered during a panel in the University of Toronto, and then migrated to Queens Park as the demonstration grew larger, even starting a drum circle. (Gignac, 2017)

Nuclear power uses radioactive metals such as uranium and plutonium to release energy as heat through changes in the nucleolus (BBC, 2014). The main advantage to this method of power is that fossil fuels are not burned into the atmosphere and releasing CO2 emissions. It is because of this benefit that many countries look at nuclear power as a valuable option for an energy source (BBC, 2014).

However, the main disadvantage to this energy source, and the reason as to why many oppose to it, is that nuclear fuels are both non-renewable and unable to break down. Therefore, the toxic wastes associated to nuclear power are required to be stored either in containers or underground. This hazardous waste, if spilled, can create very dangerous hazards not only to its environment, but to the health of those surrounded by the toxic nuclear waste (BBC, 2014).

This is not the first instance of Indigenous groups protesting against nuclear power. In fact, members of the Algonquin tribe have been protesting the halting of uranium mining in Kingston, Ontario since 2007. Other groups in Saskatchewan and Alberta have also been publically opposing nuclear mining and power plants for more than a decade as well. (AAFNA, 2017)

The protesters in this demonstration stressed that the consequences of accidental release of these radioactive wastes were too dangerous for this method of power to be used. They also claimed that the current provincial and federal government do not have sufficient enough policies to moderate and adapt to nuclear waste management. The president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Dr. Gordon Edwards, for instance expressed during the demonstration the lack of consideration for nearby municipalities and First Nations groups as many nuclear power industries are near major rivers and lakes (Gignac, 2017).

A spokesperson for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, on the other hand, stated that radioactive waste disposal is “tightly regulated and safe for living” (Gignac, 2017). But, for indigenous communities, the earth isn’t just a space where you live, but is a spiritual being which has deep connection to them. “Would you poison your mother?” one protester stated, “that’s really what we’re doing when we poison mother earth” (Gignac, 2017). The only way to ensure the ‘purity’ of mother nature, is the priority towards renewable energy use and minimal waste through CO2 emissions and nuclear waste substances.

 

The Climate is Changing, but is Canada Really Prepared for the Consequences? (N. Esak)

170901090133-01-irma-harvey-0901-super-169.jpgPhoto: Satellite view of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane

With two devastating hurricanes hitting the United States consecutively, it is important to discuss what is impacting the severity of these storms. Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma resulted in devastating losses both in the southern United States and parts of South America. While climatologists do say that climate change may not be the direct cause of these natural disasters, they are certain that increases in warmer temperatures and rising sea levels are making these natural disasters more severe than they would originally be (Dangerfield, 2017). Therefore, the consequences of these hurricanes have made the issues of climate change clearer than ever. But, should Canada prepare to see the costs of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change as well?

According to Environment Canada’s senior climatologist, Dave Phillips, hurricanes higher than a category 3 are normally very unlikely in Canada due to the country’s cold water temperatures (Dangerfield, 2017). Although, due to increases in air and water temperature from global warming, there is a strong possibility that hurricanes in Canada can increase in their intensities, creating greater risks for Canadian cities near Atlantic waters.

It may not be all that surprising, however, that our neighbours in the United States are moving away from climate change and sustainable policies, whether it was with their withdrawal from the Paris Agreement to having a chief of the EPA not believe in the link between CO2 emissions and climate change. Even through tweets from the most powerful leader of the country, Donald Trump previously stated that he thinks that the concept of climate change was created by the Chinese in order to “make US manufacturing non-competitive”, demonstrating that issues on climate change are far from a priority for the US at the moment, despite their recent hurricanes.

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As for Canada on the other hand, both Trudeau and his government have continuously stated their commitment to improving its climate change and sustainable policies, with Trudeau himself stating in the United Nations General Assembly in New York “And for our part, Canada will continue to fight for the global plan that has a realistic chance of countering it. We have a responsibility to future generations and we will uphold it.” (Gaouette, 2017).

However, a fall audit conducted by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, reveled discrepancies between what this current government has been publically stating and what has actually been implemented. In her report, Gelfand gave the government “a failing grade” to 14 out of 19 governmental departments, including Environment and Climate Change Canada and Infrastructure Canada. She stated that the failing grade of these agencies were because that they have yet to implement “successive emission-reduction plans” which can be adaptable to target the economic and environmental impacts of climate change (Harris, 2017).  The federal government has responded to these claims from the report, stating that the history of the Harper government has made the process of implementing climate change plans much slower, making it impossible to meet their 2020 targets (CBC Radio, 2017).

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Photo: The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand

As the consequences of climate change are being felt right now with the intensity of hurricanes and other extreme weather issues, it is clear that the Canadian government needs to be doing more than just speaking on its commitment to climate change, but acting on it. Based on the tragedies of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, we cannot afford to wait any longer to implement lasting environmental policies. Hopefully this fall audit was a wake-up call for Canadian government to begin on acting rather than simply preaching on its commitments.

 

Indigenous and Environmental Movements in the Cancellation of the Energy East Pipeline (N. Esak)

Picture1Photo: Protesters in Ottawa against the Energy East Pipeline

TransCanada announced this month that they will not be proceeding with its Energy East pipeline proposal. This cancellation sparked a variety of opinions among opposing sides from critics such as Alberta’s Premier, Racheal Notley and representatives of Irving oil who had strong economic incentives to the pipelines, to those considering this cancellation as a victory such as Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and many environmental NGO’s.

The pipeline, if passed, would have brought more than 1 million barrels of crude oil every day from the Alberta tar sands to the eastern Canadian ports. This would have required the creation of a 1,400km pipeline across Quebec and New Brunswick as well as altering an existing pipeline already in the path (Greenpeace, 2017).

Picture2Photo: Map of potential Energy East pipeline route

The federal government announced that their reasoning for halting the pipeline was due to dropping oil prices (TransCanada, 2017). Initially when the pipeline was being proposed the cost of oil was at more than $80 a barrel. Although due to years of delay in the pipelines production, the price of oil then dropped to about $50 a barrel, which made the creation of the pipeline less of a necessity (Ballingall, 2017)

However, it could be said that that these delays were the leverage those opposed to the pipeline needed in order to stop its production. The pipeline was initially arranged be approved in 2014, but delays from environmental groups, NGO’s, as well as First Nations communities pushed the dates for approval back, giving time for the market price of oil to naturally drop. Once the price had enough time to drop on its own, there was less of an economic incentive for the federal government to approve the pipeline’s production.

One instance of these delays can be demonstrated in St Lawrence Port where environmental groups from the David Suzuki Foundation, Nature Quebec, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society were awarded a temporary injunction to stop exploratory work from TransCanada for the Energy East pipeline due to the projects risk of threatening beluga whales nursing in that area. It was found in this case that the Quebec minister of environment was incorrect in granting the permit for that project as they had not done enough research on the environmental impacts to do so, creating a delay in the pipelines approval (CBC News, 2014).

Another instance of delay was initiated by First Nations communities in December of 2013 when leaders from variety of First Nations communities assembled in Gatineau Quebec and demanded to not only be stakeholders but full partners when it came to the decisions made towards the pipeline’s construction. If made, the pipeline would have crossed by and affected 180 indigenous communities in its path. They stated that the company was violating their treaty rights by not consulting with these communities during every step of the process. This lead to their multi-million dollar suit towards TransCanada, creating more delays in the pipelines production (Tucker, 2017).

Although this is most definitely not the end for oil pipeline proposals in Canada, the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline is proof of the strong impact collective action and social movements can have in even the largest projects. As Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake stated “Both the Northern Gateway fight and this Energy East one show that when First Nations stand together, supported by non-Indigenous allies, we win” (The Canadian Press, 2017).

 

References

Ballingall, A. (2017, October 05). TransCanada ends bid to build Energy East pipeline after ‘careful review of changed circumstances’. Retrived October 22 2017, from https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/10/05/transcanada-ends-bid-to-build-energy-east-pipeline-after-careful-review-of-changed-circumstances.html

CBC News. (2014, September 23). TransCanada work on St. Lawrence oil port suspended by court. Retrived October 22, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/transcanada-work-on-st-lawrence-port-suspended-by-quebec-court-order-1.2775613

The Canadian Press. (2017, October 05). What’s being said about the end of TransCanada’s Energy East. Retrieved October 22 2017, from http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/what-s-being-said-about-the-end-of-transcanada-s-energy-east-1.3620833

The Energy East Pipeline (n.d). Retrived October 22, 2017, from http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/campaigns/Energy/tarsands/Energy-East-Pipeline/

TransCanada (2017, October 05). TransCanada Announces Termination of Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline Projects. Retrived October 22, 2017, from https://www.transcanada.com/en/announcements/2017-10-05-transcanada-anounces-termination-of-energy-east-pipeline-and-eastern-mainline-projects/

 Tucker, B. (2017, October 13). Social movements played a huge part in derailing Energy East: Opinion. Retrived October 22, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/social-movements-energy-east-1.4344080

 

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.

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:

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:

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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.