Learn More About Climate Change in Canada

The issue of how to deal with climate change in Canada is a controversial one, with various levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — all taking different approaches to tackling this important issue.

climate change canada

(Image credit: 10 10 on Flickr)


Up until the election of the new Trudeau federal government in October 2015, Canada had been roundly criticized both domestically and internationally for its lack of action on climate change. 

While progress was stymied at the federal level, there has been progress over the last few years at the provincial government level, namely in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which have both committed to a cap-and-trade system.

Up until recently, British Columbia was heralded as a leader on climate change, introducing the first carbon tax in the world in 2008. A study by researchers at the University of Ottawa found that the B.C. carbon tax had reduced fossil fuel use in the province by 19 per cent since its inception, when compared to the rest of the country.

However, in 2013 the B.C. government froze planned increases in the carbon tax, calling into question the government's commitment to climate action. The B.C. government now says it plans to keep the freeze on the carbon tax until at least 2018.

Climate change and environmental protection remain hot topics in Canada, with polls for many years consistently showing these issues as top-of-mind. DeSmog Canada reports regularly on the issue of climate change in Canada and we index all of that news in the section that follows below.

  


DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on Climate Change in Canada 
 
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This very long piece is the last of a four-part series on B.C.’s climate action plan. Part One addressed B.C.’s GHG reduction targets. Part Two addressed how that plan is at risk of being co-opted by Big Oil. Part Three took a closer look at the B.C. Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations for the carbon tax. This analysis explores how the oil and gas industry, and especially the LNG industry, might financially benefit from hidden subsidies recommended by that advisory body.

Like so many other governments around the world, British Columbia’s Liberal government led by Premier Christy Clark has been duped by the barons of Big Oil.

Beguiled by the petroleum industry’s promises of new investment and jobs, the Clark government has repeatedly proved itself a patsy in acceding to the LNG industry’s every demand.

In the process, it has subjugated B.C.’s global-leading 2008 climate action plan to its misguided vision for the unchecked exploitation of non-renewable natural gas.

It has broken its own law, in failing to meet B.C.’s legislated targets for provincial greenhouse gas reductions.

Count on Hawaii — tied for No. 1 as the the state with the highest percentage of renewable energy — to deliver yet another blow to B.C.’s lofty liquefied natural gas (LNG) ambitions.

On July 15, the state’s public utilities commission recently shot down a proposed $4.3 billion takeover of the Hawaiian Electric Companies (which provide 95 per cent of the state’s electricity) by Florida-based NextEra Energy in a 265 page ruling.

NextEra, the largest provider of the wind power in the U.S., was positioned to play a key role in financing the importing of 800,000 metric tons per year of LNG from FortisBC’s Tilbury LNG storage facility in Delta for use in an upgraded power plant on the west coast of Oahu.

The deal, struck in May between a Fortis subsidiary and the Hawaiian Electric Company, would have lasted for 20 years beginning in 2021. The LNG would have been exported by WesPac Midstream via its proposed terminal on the Fraser River.

The Site C dam, advanced as the province’s showcase clean energy project by the B.C. government, Tweet: New report: #SiteC will cause significant environmental damage without any significant #climate benefit http://bit.ly/29RAOLg #bcpoliwill cause significant environmental damage without any significant climate benefit, according to a new report from the University of British Columbia.

Authored by Rick Hendriks from Camerado Energy Consulting, the report found Site C, a BC Hydro megadam proposed for the Peace River near Fort St. John, will not provide energy at a lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rate than other alternative energy projects.

The government stated that the unprecedented level of significant adverse environmental effects from Site C are justifiable, in part, because the project delivers energy and capacity at lower GHG emissions than the available alternatives,” Hendriks, an energy consultant with more than 20 years experience analyzing large-scale hydropower projects, said.

Our analysis indicates this is not the case.”

Comparing BC Hydro’s own data on Site C and alternative energy scenarios, the report found the megadam provides no substantial benefit over other renewable sources like wind and solar.

This is the second of a four-part series on B.C.’s climate action plan. Part One addresses B.C.’s GHG reduction targets. Part Two addresses how that plan is at risk of being co-opted by Big Oil. Part Three takes a closer look at the B.C. Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations for the carbon tax. And Part Four focuses on how the oil and gas industry stands to profit from that advisory team’s proposed climate action plan.

In accepting its mission as defined by the government, the Climate Leadership Team (CLT) also implicitly accepted the government’s plan for increased emissions from LNG and from other carbon-intensive development.

As laudable as the CLT’s climate action plan is in most respects, it is wrongly predicated on accommodating the oil industry’s vision for increased fossil fuel extraction.

Which is to say, it is innately co-opted by its mandate, which is wedded to the acceptance of an overriding economic plan for carbon-fueled growth.

That is not to suggest that all, or even a majority, of the CLT members support that economic vision. Far from it.

After decades of insufficient or insincere attempts to address emissions from Canada’s fastest growing source of climate pollution, a new government-sponsored oilsands advisory group may help resolve political gridlock surrounding the nation’s most contentious natural resource by bringing together industry, environmental and indigenous stakeholders.

The Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG) is tasked with helping the province implement a new emissions cap for the oilsands that limits greenhouse gas output to 100 megatonnes per year and will also advise on reducing the overall environmental impacts of production, according to a government statement released Wednesday.

According to Tzeporah Berman, the group's co-chair and a well-known environmentalist, the composition of the advisory group represents a notable shift in the political landscape.

Let's be clear: under previous governments environmental leaders had very little access and were outright ridiculed by many ministers and departments,” Berman told DeSmog Canada. “First Nations leaders were simply shut out. Climate change was denied.”

Tweet: ‘A lot has changed in a year in #Alberta and it is opening up new conversations.’ http://bit.ly/29UdURT @Tzeporah #ableg #bcpoli #cdnpoliA lot has changed in a year in Alberta and it is opening up new conversations.”

W.A.C. Bennett Dam

People have harnessed energy from moving water for thousands of years.

Greeks used various types of water wheels to grind grain in mills more than 2,000 years ago.

In the late 1800s, people figured out how to harness the power to produce electricity.

Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, hydropower has expanded, producing about 17 per cent of the world’s electricity by 2014 and about 85 per cent of renewable energy — and it shows no signs of slowing.

According to the online magazine WaterWorld, “An expected 3,700 major dams may more than double the total electricity capacity of hydropower to 1,700 GW within the next two decades,” — including in my home province of B.C., where the government has started a third dam on the Peace River at Site C.

Hydropower is the most important and widely used renewable source of energy,” the U.S. Geological Survey says.

But how “green” is hydropower and how viable is it in a warming world with increasing water fluctuations and shortages? To some extent, it depends on the type of facility.

To no one’s surprise, there’s been an awfully wide range of responses to what caused the catastrophic Fort McMurray wildfires.

Some blame climate change. Others peg it on the El Niño and forest management techniques. Still more suggest that now’s simply not the time to be having such a conversation.

But the one thing that appears to unite all sides is “our” alleged complicity in it as North American consumers.

For instance, the National Post’s Jen Gerson argued in a May 5 piece: “We are all responsible for climate change. Fort McMurray simply produces some of the products we all consume.”

On the same day, Elizabeth Kolbert — author of The Sixth Extinction and Field Notes from a Catastrophe — wrote in the New Yorker: “We are all consumers of oil, not to mention coal and natural gas, which means that we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno. We need to own up to our responsibility and then we need to do something about it.”

Such rhetoric is technically correct. There’s no question that if everyone on earth lived an average North American lifestyle, we’d need four planets to sustain the population.

We’re living in a time of records. More renewable energy came on stream in 2015 than ever — 147 gigawatts, equal to Africa’s entire generating capacity — and investment in the sector broke records worldwide. Costs for producing solar and wind power have hit record lows. Portugal obtained all its electricity from renewable sources for four straight days in May — the longest achieved by any country — and Germany was able to meet 90 per cent of its electricity needs with renewable power for a brief period. Clean energy employment and job growth now outpace the fossil fuel industry by a wide margin.

That’s just a portion of the good news. Oil prices have fallen so low that some more damaging activities are becoming unprofitable, a record number of coal companies are going bankrupt or filing for bankruptcy, and fewer coal mines are operating in the U.S.

Woodland Caribou

When the Alberta government released its draft plan to save the province’s dwindling caribou populations from local extinction earlier this month, it was heralded as a major step forward — but big questions remain.

The biggest one: after years of failing to intervene in the caribou crisis, will the new plan be enough to bring them back from the brink of extinction?

It was great news for northwest populations where big protected areas are needed and there’s still time there to ensure caribou recovery,” conservation specialist Carolyn Campbell from the Alberta Wilderness Association told DeSmog Canada.

But when it comes to the Little Smoky range, it’s still not enough, Campbell said.

The problem is the underlying causes of predation are still allowed to worsen in the next five years by restarting logging and by implying energy infrastructure can still go ahead,” she said. “We can’t support the plan continuing to destroy habitat.”

Flathead Basin

Gravel-bed rivers and their floodplains are the lifeblood of ecosystems and need to be allowed to run and flood unimpeded if species are to be protected and communities are to cope with climate change, a ground-breaking scientific study has found.

The broad valleys formed by rivers flowing from glaciated mountains, such as those found throughout B.C. and Alberta, are some of the most ecologically important habitats in North America, according to the team of scientists who have done the first extensive study of the full range of species that rely on gravel-bed rivers, ranging from microbes to bears. The paper was published online Friday in Science Advances.

In the region that stretches from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the northern Yukon, gravel-bed river flood plains support more than half the plant life. About 70 per cent of the area’s bird species use the floodplain, while deer, elk, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears use the plains for food, habitat and as important migration corridors.

While everyone knows that fish rely on rivers, the scientists found that species such as cottonwood trees need the river flood to reproduce and the ever-changing landscape of changing channels and shifting gravel and rocks supports a complex food web.

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