Thank You & Good Bye

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Source: The end of my guest blogging has come! Thank you everyone J

 

Hey Folks!

My time as a guest writer for Professor Olive’s wonderful blog has come to an end and I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Professor Olive for giving me the amazing opportunity to contribute and to the readers for reading.

Over the course of several weeks, I have realized that the subject of environmental politics in Canada is ever-evolving and it is so very fascinating to follow. It is interesting to see how issues arise, develop, and alter and you realize that there are so many parties involved when it comes to environmental politics. My first blog post was about the Canada-US softwood lumber dispute and since then, I have come to, strangely enough, relish the interactions between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump and their conflicting ideologies. It is like a reality show drama for me (which is not too surprising considering their backgrounds…). In any case, I look forward to seeing how matters pan out in the next few years of Trump’s presidency and to see how Canada responds. One thing I have learned, to the contrary of my prior beliefs, is that Canada has a back bone. Until recently, I was under the impression that Canada just succumbs to the whims of the US, but through our actions, especially on the environmental front, Canada has clearly grown up and is standing up to Uncle Sam!

We are dedicated to fulfilling our commitment to the Paris Accord and our many and varied environmental initiatives across Canada only prove our unwavering dedication, despite the opposing and environmentally-degrading actions of Trump. I think it is fair to say that we have surpassed the US in terms of our leadership status due to our desire to actively tackle climate change and work towards making a difference. Canada is truly an environmental global leader and a role model for all countries to emulate. I also revealed through the blog posts that I perceive that we are experiencing the fourth wave of environmentalism and I urge everyone to partake in this period of time as it is historic and momentous. I believe that Canadian society is collectively acknowledging that both resources and species have the ability to disappear, so we must do what we can to protect them.

As a result of producing blog posts, I have learned so much about Canadian environmental politics and I feel inspired. I feel motivated to continue following these matters and to contribute and make a difference myself. I hope that through following this blog, you feel this way too and have become mobilized. Once again, it has been a wonderful experience learning how to write blog posts and I really appreciate this opportunity. As a parting note, I encourage everyone to visit Canadian parks for the minimal time that is left of this summer since entry is free and also… Happy 150th Birthday Canada!

Sincerely,

Victoria Nader

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Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan (by V. Nader)

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Source: The Canadian federal government is employing SARA to protect the threatened boreal caribou.

 

On July 27, the Canadian federal government released the federal action plan proposal for the protection and recovery of the boreal caribou. The following are recovery measures, under three categories, that the federal action plan presents to protect the threatened species:

  • science to support recovery, including the establishment of a knowledge consortium
  • recovery and protection, with a focus on critical habitat
  • reports on progress to ensure that recovery efforts are effective

The boreal caribou are significant to Canadian culture as they are part of our landscape and contribute to our unique biodiversity, so much that they appear on our quarter. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Caribou are barometers for healthy forests. If caribou aren’t doing well, our forests are in trouble.” The fact that the species are threatened with extinction indicate that the forests are not doing well and this is due to the impacts of industrial activity in the boreal. As a result of human actions, such as over-hunting and habitat destruction, their habitat is disturbed and fragmented. This, in turn, has resulted in boreal caribou being susceptible to the attacks from wolves, their natural predators, because they do not have the protection of an intact habitat to survive.

A scientific research found a direct relationship between the total level of habitat disturbance in a caribou’s range and calf survival. This approach was utilized by Environment Canada as a framework from which to create management directives for provinces in the recovery strategy. The strategy directs provinces to maintain or restore a minimum of 65 per cent of each range in an undisturbed condition. This affords caribou only a 60 per cent probability of persistence. Consequently, in 2012, the federal, provincial, and territorial government collaborated and agreed on a recovery strategy for the boreal caribou which fulfills Canada’s commitments under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

SARA was enacted in 2002 by the federal government and its purpose is, essentially, protect and prevent wildlife from disappearing. Seven out of thirteen provinces and territories have stand-alone species at risk legislation. This means that those that don’t, although they possess wildlife acts and regulations, they do not have a piece of legislation that is specific to endangered species and the protection of critical habitat. This is noteworthy because provinces and territories need to ensure that they are trying their best to safeguard various species, such as the threatened boreal caribou. The action plan is partial at this time since it does not address all of the measures, as required in the SARA. Fulfillment of SARA requirements will be accomplished as provinces and territories complete their range plans or similar documents by October 2017.

Many provinces have tried to prevent caribou from becoming extirpated by employing inadequate solutions, such as killing caribou predators (wolves and bears) or creating barriers between caribous and their predators. These actions are just as damaging to the ecosystem because they are further hurting biodiversity. Instead of inflicting violence against animals, I think provinces and territories need to shift the focus onto ourselves, humans, and recognize the damage that we cause through industrial activities. Perhaps we should take a hands-off approach, literally, and work towards no longer disturbing their habitat. The David Suzuki Foundation has many recommendations for this issue such as restoration initiatives for highly degraded habitat, the government helping industry to understand the importance of preserving the land whilst conducting business, and society changing consumptions habits and holding the government accountable for ensuring that species have the necessary habitat to survive.

I believe we should care about protecting species because of the intrinsic value they offer. At first glance, it may appear that they do not offer direct economic or extrinsic value, so people may think “why should we care?” But species, such as the boreal caribou, contribute to Canada’s diverse ecosystem and are crucial to our well-being, in addition to landscape and culture. In the case of the boreal caribou, it is part of Canada’s rich historical background and gives Canada its unique identity. It would be difficult to imagine Canada without the boreal caribou and it would be so sad to lose the species, or any species for that matter, as a result of human exploitation of resources. I hope that the provinces and territories involved put their full efforts towards restoring the caribou population and adopting sustainable practices involving the protection of all species. Otherwise, the next few generations may not be able to recognize the significance of the caribou on the quarter.

 

#PromiseKept: What is Bill C-18? (by V. Nader)

On July 19, 2017, Bill C-18 became law in Canada after receiving Royal Assent. Bill C-18 is an Act to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, the Parks Canada Agency Act, and the Canada National Parks Act.

The summary of the Act is as follows: “This enactment amends the Rouge National Urban Park Act to set out priorities in respect of factors to be considered in the management of the park. Additionally, it adds land to the park. It also amends the Parks Canada Agency Act to allow the New Parks and Historic Sites Account to be used in a broader manner. Finally, it amends the Canada National Parks Act to modify the boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada.”

The objectives of the Act are to protect the first national urban park’s ecological integrity and transfer land to increase the size of the park. It is said in a statement issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and Parks Canada that “Once complete, Rouge will become one of the largest parks in the world found within an urban setting. It will be 19 times larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park, and 23 times bigger than New York’s Central Park.” This is really exciting and hopefully it will encourage people to visit the park more, which is about an hour drive away from Toronto and accessible by transit.

In related news, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, the park is offering a free shuttle bus service from Toronto to the park from July to October this year. I definitely will be taking advantage of it and I think everyone should too!

Another aim of the Act is to provide greater long-term stability for park farmers and their families. The amendments will do so by replacing one-year leases with leases of up to 30 years. The Rouge National Urban Park website outlines the outcome which is “Farmers can continue carrying out agricultural activities within the park and providing an important source of locally-grown food to the Greater Toronto Area.”

Bill C-18, along with the many other bills that have been enacted this past week, are referred to as a #PromiseKept by the Trudeau administration. On Catherine McKenna’s official website, it states “With the passing of this Bill, our government has followed through on its promise to protect the ecological integrity of Rouge National Urban Park making this a #PromiseKept.”

Moreover, Rouge National Urban Park has been a location in which environmental preservation has been promoted. For example, it has been a place in which citizens could contribute to the protection of endangered species and preservation of wildlife conservation by engaging in a BioBlitz. In fact, the first two BioBlitzes were held in Toronto and they helped to measure an increase or loss in biodiversity in a specific large area. You can learn more about getting involved with BioBlitz here.

I feel that this Act is part of the 4th wave environmentalism that I believe we are experiencing now as it is promoting the preservation of the environment. It also strongly resembles the first wave of environmentalism when the Canadian government realized that resources, such as nature and wildlife, were finite which led to the creation of national parks. I foresee the expansion of the Rouge National Urban Park increasing tourism and, thus, the well-being of people and, most importantly, protecting the area’s ecology and biodiversity.

Canada is Committed to Paris (V. Nader)

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Minister of Environment and Climate Change announces $72 million in funding for building a more sustainable Canada. Source.

Last week we discussed how the Government of Canada reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Accord at the G7 meeting, and boy have they done so! This past week, on June 23rd, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change joined forces with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to tackle the issue of climate change. They announced that they are providing $72 million of funding for 48 projects in communities across Canada to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and overcome other climate change obstacles. Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, tweeted the exciting announcement:

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)

 

 

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Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change reaffirms Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement at the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Environment Source: NewEurope

In continuation of last week’s post about the 43rd G7 meeting, the G7 Environmental Ministers and European Commissioners responsible for environment and climate met for the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Environment in Bologna, Italy between June 11 – 12, 2017. The Ministers from the G7 countries, less the United States in light of their withdrawal from the Paris Accord, came together to reaffirm their commitment to the 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

The goals of the 2030 Agenda are “to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. We resolve also to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities.” The seventeen SDG’s can be seen below:

sustainablegoals

Source: WeForum

In the issued Communiqué, which outlines the meeting and its initiatives, it discusses how the G7 countries will fulfill their obligation to the Paris Accord. The first being achieving the long-term goal of “limiting global temperature increases to well below 2°C, pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C” and, secondly, “jointly mobilizing US$100 billion annually by 2020 from public and private sources to support climate action in developing countries.”

However, the footnotes of the Communiqué show the U.S’ unwillingness to cooperate. It states “We the United States of America continue to demonstrate through action, having reduced our CO2 footprint as demonstrated by achieving pre-1994 CO2 levels domestically. The United States will continue to engage with key international partners in a manner that is consistent with our domestic priorities, preserving both a strong economy and a healthy environment. Accordingly, we the United States do not join those sections of the communiqué on climate and MDBs [multilateral development banks], reflecting our recent announcement to withdraw and immediately cease implementation of the Paris Agreement and associated financial commitments.”

Trump

The U.S. refuses to commit financially to the Paris Agreement because President Trump believes it is economically disadvantageous for their country. Funnily enough, on the same day of the conference, Trump did not release a single tweet about the conference, but rather tweeted a Fox News article which announced the opening of the first coal mine during Trump’s presidency. The article discusses how the mine may bolster the local economy in Pennsylvania.

I find the US statement hilarious because the reduction of the CO2 footprint was an outcome during Obama’s presidency and it was a result of a shift from coal to natural gas energy for which he heavily advocated. Due to this shift, in 2013, “energy-related carbon dioxide emissions actually declined 3.8% in 2012 even though the U.S. economy grew 2.8% that year, according to data by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s encouragement of coal energy will most definitely not ensure the preservation of a healthy environment and it will increase their C02 footprint to post-1994 levels.

In great contrast, Catherina McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, released multiple tweets from the conference which showcased her enthusiasm for reaffirming Canada’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda and threw some shade at Trump. Some of her tweets can be seen below:

 

Catherine McKenna also expresses through her tweets her displeasure at the aforementioned footnote left by the U.S. and she rejects Trump’s desire to renegotiate stating that “Paris agreement is not open for renegotiation although we are in the phase of negotiating the rules.”

What does this mean for the environment? Well, as mentioned earlier, the U.S’ reintroduction of coal energy will reverse all of the previous administration’s efforts to lower CO2 emissions and will be detrimental to their environment. For Canada, our environment will improve because McKenna is dedicated to the Agreement and, as her tweet suggested, there may be a price on pollution and ameliorated policies to combat climate change.

US and Canada Bicker, yet Again, About Soft Wood Lumber (by V. Nader)

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Trudeau is clearly displeased with Trump’s anti-subsidy tariff on softwood lumber imports! Photo Credit

 

Last month, on April 24, 2017, President Trump announced that his administration would impose a tariff of up to 24 per cent on imported Canadian softwood-lumber effective September 07, 2017. This, unsurprisingly, evoked disapproval from the Canadian federal government and a joint statement released by Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, and Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, which stated, “The Government of Canada disagrees strongly with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to impose an unfair and punitive duty. The accusations are baseless and unfounded.” However, this is not the first time Canada and the United States disagreed over softwood-lumber. In fact, it is one of many dating back to the early 1980s. As pointed out in The Canadian Environment in Political Context, the trade dispute “is arguably the most significant one between Canada and the United Sates and one of the most notable trade disputes worldwide in the twentieth century” (Olive 2016, page 162).

Prime Minister Trudeau’s objection to the tariff can be seen in the following Tweets:

tweet

In the first Tweet, he provides a read out of his phone call to Trump in which he expresses that he “will vigorously defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, as we have successfully done in all past lumber disputes with the U.S.”

Shortly after, he urgently speaks with premiers about the issue.

tweet2

 

A week later, he makes it known that supporting softwood lumber producers is a priority across Canada.

The disparate patterns of land ownership in the US and Canada is partly a cause of the dispute. Both the US and Canada have a mixed market economy, but the US’s economic system is based on private ownership whereas Canada combines private enterprise with government regulation. Therefore, “in the United States, the market determines the cost of harvesting most wood because most timber is taken from private land…In Canada, where most timber is harvested from Crown land under provincial control, the price to harvest trees is set by the provinces” (Olive 2016, page 163). As a result, the US accuses Canada of violating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as they are under the impression that Canada’s provincial and federal government unfairly subsidizes the lumber. Canada disagrees because, although the stumpage fees is set by administrative regulations opposed to market competition, the low fees cannot be considered subsidies since the lumber is used in various industries.

I doubt this policy will be effective because it serves to ensure larger profits for American landowners and lumber mills, but to the detriment of American consumers and workers. The joint statement mentioned earlier expressed that the tariff “will negatively affect workers on both sides of the border, and will ultimately increase costs for American families who want to build or renovate homes.” In anticipation of new tariffs, lumber prices have jumped 22 per cent adding nearly $3,600 to the cost of a new single-family home… each $1,000 increase in the median price of a new home makes homeownership unaffordable to 150,000 households.

The US is heavily reliant on softwood lumber imports from Canada because they do not produce enough lumber to meet the nation’s needs. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 33 per cent of the lumber used in the US was imported of which more than 95 per cent came from Canada. Although America is the largest exporter of hardwood lumber (raw lumber), it is too costly for them to produce finished goods (such as softwood lumber) due to high labour costs, hence why they import from Canada. Despite Trump’s interest to endorse protectionism and free enterprise, the tariff can be costly to the livelihood of both Americans and Canadians.

Trump’s desire to renegotiate NAFTA stems from the fact that he wants to ensure that the US fully benefits from the deal. Previously, Trump referred to NAFTA as the “worst trade deal” and wanted to rescind America’s involvement in the agreement altogether, but has decided to renegotiate instead. Since the fees associated with softwood lumber is in a grey area in relation to NAFTA, Trump wants to offset Canada’s low stumpage fees by imposing the anti-subsidy duty. The duty is supposed to ensure that the American forestry industry thrives and that jobs within the US are protected, but it has the potential to do more harm than good as the joint statement revealed. This is part of Trump’s efforts to make America “great again,” although he could very much so be doing the complete opposite.

It can be observed in Trump’s Tweet, which was made three days after his announcement, that he almost threatening both Canada and Mexico by making an ultimatum. It’s either his way or nothing.

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This relates to the environment because softwood lumber is an environmentally friendly building material that satisfies a need for more housing without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, Canada’s International Trade Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, visited China to expand and strengthen lumber trade with the country shortly after Trump’s announcement. Champagne believes “there’s an imperative in China to have more green building material” to combat the issue of climate change. The US knows that they are largest importer of lumber and that the industry is of utmost importance to Canada which is why they are under the impression that Canada will submit to their demands, however Canada is refusing to be bullied and this is seen on Canada Trade’s Twitter page! Only a day after Trump’s announcement, the page made the following Tweets boasting about their softwood lumber trade relations with China and Asia:

 

It is evident that Canada is not willing to settle, once again in this long-winded dispute, and is showing off to the US that they have options (China) and will be more than fine without them. This almost reminds me of an on-again, off-again relationship where a couple fights and tries to inadvertently prove that they can be better off without the other by flaunting their new beau/belle, but secretly want the other to become jealous to get them back. Matter of fact, there should be a reality TV show starring Trump, Trudeau and other related political actors which follows their fun squabbles called Keeping Up With The Soft Wood Lumber Dispute!