Farewell Paris, Bonjour Coal (V. Nader)

Expect more heavy pollution in the USA under a Trump presidency.

This week on “Keeping up with the Soft Wood Lumber Dispute,” Prime Minister Trudeau tweeted the following last Thursday on June 01st:

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His action plan to support the softwood lumber industry involves “$867 million in measures to support forest industry workers and communities affected by U.S. measures targeting softwood lumber.” The funding will be used for various activities that support workers and, as mentioned last week, expand the industry overseas to Asia and diversify beyond the US. Moreover, the plan mentions that Canada will continue to force the US to reconsider their decision as “a negotiated settlement is not only possible, but in the best interests of both countries. This tells me that Canada is acquiring Trump’s business lingo to, hopefully, communicate with him in a way in which he will better understand.

What’s more, Trudeau’s tweet was on the same date that President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that deals with reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Trump decided this shortly after the 43rd annual G7 meeting as he felt that “compliance with the terms of the Paris accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.” He retweeted those in support of his decision:

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Trump’s retweets of his supporters and the surge on Wall Street are attempts to convey the economic benefits of withdrawing from the pact, however he fails to note the environmental disadvantages. Trudeau was quick to respond and tweeted the following:

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Clearly upset with Trump’s decision, he stated that “we will also continue to reach out to the U.S. federal government to discuss this matter of critical importance for all humankind, and to identify areas of shared interest for collaboration, including on emissions reductions.”

Trump’s reasoning to withdraw is that the use of coal energy is economically beneficial for the US as, according to him, it will aid in job creation and saving money. Thus, he cannot be part of a climate agreement that aims to reduce GHG emissions and divests from non-renewable fossil fuels. Unfortunately, this has various negative environmental implications and reverses the many years of effort former US president, Obama, put in towards addressing climate change.

Former president Obama’s administration had many ambitious plans for combatting climate change, some of which are detailed in The Canadian Environment in Political Context. She notes that his “plan is the boldest made by any American president on the issue of climate change” (page 298), which completely contrasts with President Trump’s belief that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese government for financial gain. However, due to US’ withdrawal, Canada might continue trade of fossil fuel with the US opposed to searching for new markets in the Asia because we no longer experience pressures “to commit to a Paris protocol target that is in line with that of the United States” (Olive 2016, 299). Nonetheless, I do not think this is likely because of Trudeau’s Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and his absolute abhorrence to Trump’s policies. Canada’s target, under the Paris Agreement, is GHG emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

So, what does Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and revival of the coal industry mean for the environment? Well, it is safe to say a lot of bad things for the environment. Coal cannot be clean and involves high consumption of water and heavily pollutes the air. Air pollution results in acid rain, loss in biodiversity and species’ habitats, health risks, and much more. I understand that Trump, as a businessman turned president, is trying to maximize profits and jobs, but he is very poor at cost-benefit analysis. The costs outweigh the benefits and jobs can be generated through the implementation of renewable resources. I think this decision goes against all of the progress that has been made as of late, but we can only hope for the best and see how ‘renegotiations’ of the deal go.

 

 

 

 

 

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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:

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

New Student Blogger: Victoria Nader

Starting May 2017, I have a new summer student blogger! Let me introduce you to Victoria Nader.

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Nader is pursuing an Honours Bachelor’s of Arts degree at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She is completing a major in Canadian Studies with a double minor in Political Science and French Language Studies. She is passionate about marginalized communities in Canada and conveys this through her work as Food Centre Coordinator at UTMSU’s Food Centre where she provides healthy and environmentally sustainable solutions for food insecure students. In her leisure, she enjoys personal fitness, nature, and looking at memes.

US and Canada Environmental Relations

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

Green Party Win in BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back, and yet far away

The academic year passed in a whirlwind. In the winter semester I taught three classes and feverishly read American environmental news. I hardly had time to think let alone write. It is probably for the best – as news on Trump and the environment was overwhelming, and would likely drive a thinking person into a deep depression. Most days I would squint as the New York Times loaded onto my screen. I am afraid to take it all in at once. What Executive Order has he passed now? What lake or park or ecosystem is under invasion today? Nature cannot hide from America.

I just finished my yearly migration from the crowded ant hill of Southern Ontario to the grassland pIMG_2803rairie ecosystem. My husband and I had a summer home built on a small lake in Saskatchewan. It is a dream come true: a place all our own where we can think and write. Last night was our first night here. A restless, almost sleepless night. It will take some time to get used to the silence. How can anyone sleep in all this silence?

 

The lake is still this morning. I am sitting at my laptop with my coffee. The environment, or specifically wilderness, is at my doorstep. I am thinking about transborder governance this morning as I work to finish up an edited volume on Canada-US environmental governance. I wonder if Trump’s policies will impact my homeland. The wilderness is under threat these days. And migratory birds like myself are on high alert.

My Letter to Parks Canada

The Government of Canada opened consultations about Parks Canada a few months ago. Essentially, the government was asking Canadians an important question:

“How should Parks Canada respond to the environmental and social changes it is facing in managing national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas?”

On Friday, I took some time to write to Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, about our national parks and why they must be protected for NATURE. She has promised Canadians a response in a few months time. I will keep you in the loop. In the meantime, I want to share my letter (some of the language is borrowed from CPAWS, the NGO that encouraged me to write the letter):

Dear Minister,

I am a Canadian from the prairie grassland ecosystem. Currently, I am a professor of political science and geography at the University of Toronto, where I study and teach environmental policy. My area of expertise is species at risk and biodiversity conservation. I cannot stress enough to you the importance of parks in Canada. Through the Species at Risk Act the federal government has the authority, and legal responsibility, to recover and protect COSEWIC listed endangered and threatened species. Given the limitations of the Canadian constitution, the federal government – as you are well aware – only has jurisdiction over federal lands, some aquatic species, and migratory birds. Federal lands do not amount to much across the ten provinces. However, national parks are federal lands. Thus, the federal government can – and should – use that land for nature first.

I am writing to you today to insist that you refocus Parks Canada on protecting nature as the first priority in our national parks. Conservation biology suggests that we need HALF for nature. Yes, 50% of our land should be for nature. This means that the federal government must stop expanding the development footprint in our national parks, particularly in Banff and Jasper. Natural resource extraction is important in Canada, but it does not belong in our national parks. No “ifs, ands, or buts” about it. The federal government needs to re-invest in science and ecological monitoring to guide park management. This is especially relevant in light of Donald Trump’s administration in the US. If Canada does not speak up for science, who will? The world – and nature – needs us today more than ever. The federal government must create more new national parks and national marine conservation areas. We made a promise – to the international community, to all Canadians, and to future generations. We need to protect more habitat. From sea to sea to sea. Canada is the second largest country in the world by landmass and we have less people than California. We are obligated to the world to protect nature. If not us, who?

I know you love parks Ms. McKenna. I follow you on twitter. I love parks too. The Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan is my favourite park. The prairie grassland system is fragile and in serious danger. It is possible that grasslands will go extinct from Canada. Can you imagine? We need the Grasslands National Park. We need more parks where nature is safe at home.

 

Sincerely,

Andrea Olive

Assistant Professor

Political Science and Geography

University of Toronto Mississauga

Andrea.olive@utoronto.ca

Pan-National Climate Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

 

Yes to Kinder Morgan: No to Northern Gateway (Pipeline Politics)

In a long awaited decision by the Liberal government, Justin Trudeau finally announced that his government is APPROVING the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.

As the map from CBC illustrates, this pipeline runs from Edmonton to Burnaby. Essentially it takes bitumen from Alberta and carries it through the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast where it can be loaded onto huge tankers for shipping.

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This is obviously not good news for the environment on so many fronts – especially climate change and endangered species (or soon to be endangered species).

The Trudeau government is also approving Line 3 – which is really a replacement for an existing pipeline from Hardisty to Lake Superior in Wisconsin, as shown in the CBC map below.

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Justin Trudeau also announced that his government is rejecting the Northern Gateway pipeline. As the CBC map below shows, this is the pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Kitimat – cutting through the Great Bear Rainforest.

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Trudeau is rejecting the Northern Gateway pipeline because “the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline.” Interesting that he is invoking an environmental reason to reject to this pipeline – since the other pipelines also run through ecological sensitive areas for wildlife and plants.

This is a big day for pipeline politics in Canada. It is hard to see how climate change is a top priority for a government that just approved two major pipeline projects – both of which rely on further exploitation of the dirty bitumen in Alberta, and both of which rely on oil tankers to move oil across important bodies of water.

Trump and the Environment

Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday, November 8th, took most of the world by surprise. It certainly took me by surprise.

In the past few days there has been a lot of speculation (and worry) and the implications of a Trump presidency on the environment.

I am still speechless. But I want to provide a list of some useful/insightful commentary.

  1. My colleague Matt Hoffmann (political science, University of Toronto) wrote an informative piece on his blog.  (It is also a good blog of follow if you are interested in climate change more broadly).
  2. Scientific American wrote a piece on Trump’s selection of Myron Ebell to head his EPA transition team. Ebell is a well-known climate skeptic.
  3. The Guardian has a good piece on what Trump means for the global climate change efforts.
  4. The Globe and Mail asks what Trump means for climate change plans in Canada.
  5. The New York Times has run many pieces of relevance here, but I will link you to Andrew Revkin’s opinion.

That is a good list to get you started. Overall, there is reason for real concern. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding what Trump may or may not do. So far, his only action has been to appoint a climate skeptic to lead the EPA transition team. That does not bode well or set a good tone for the next 4 years.

However, as many authors in the above links remind you: US states and cities do have REAL power when it comes to the environment. There is reason for concern, but there is also reason to be hopeful.