Climate Change in Canada

climate change canada

(Image credit: Valerie on Flickr)

The issue of climate change in Canada has been controversial, with the federal government government often being criticized for its lack of action. 

See below to learn more about the latest news on climate change in Canada:

This is a guest post by Ecojustice National Program Director Barry Robinson and staff lawyers Charles Hatt and Karen Campbell. It originally appeared on the Ecojustice website.

This article by policy analyst Matt Horne originally appeared on the Pembina Institute website.

Last week, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr 
announced Canada’s intention to apply a climate test to major energy infrastructure proposals. This was the fifth of five new principles they announced to improve environmental assessments in the country.

The change is good news because it will fill a long-standing gap in the country’s environmental assessment process. The standard approach has been to look at individual oil pipeline or LNG terminal proposals without worrying about the oilsands mines or gas fields they’re connected to. The new approach will include the carbon pollution from the project being proposed and the carbon pollution from the development associated with it.

What the federal government hasn’t said yet is how they plan to evaluate the new information and integrate it into their eventual decisions. Here are four questions I’d like to see included in their climate test, using Petronas’s Pacific NorthWest LNG project to illustrate how they might work. In many cases, the federal government — as opposed to the proponent — is in the best position to address these questions.

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and, because the world has continued to increase fossil fuel use, the need to curb and reduce emissions is urgent.

In light of this, I don’t get the current brouhaha over the Trans Mountain, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or the Energy East pipelines. Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel deposits must be left in the ground?

Didn’t our prime minister, with provincial and territorial premiers, mayors and representatives from non-profit organizations, parade before the media to announce Canada now takes climate change seriously? I joined millions of Canadians who felt an oppressive weight had lifted and cheered mightily to hear that our country committed to keeping emissions at levels that would ensure the world doesn’t heat by more than 1.5 C by the end of this century. With the global average temperature already one degree higher than pre-industrial levels, a half a degree more leaves no room for business as usual.

Deep in the northeast Pacific Ocean, The Blob is acting strangely.

When the abnormally warm patch of water first appeared in 2013, fascinated scientists watched disrupted weather patterns, from drought in California to almost snowless winters in Alaska and record cold winters in the northeast.

The anomalously warm water, with temperatures three degrees Centigrade above normal, was nicknamed The Blob by U.S climatologist Nick Bond. It stretched over one million square kilometres of the Gulf of Alaska — more than the surface area of B.C. and Alberta combined — stretching down 100-metres into the ocean.

This is a guest post by David Suzuki. 

The coming year looks bright with the promise of change after a difficult decade for environmentalists and our issues. But even with a new government that quickly moved to gender equity in cabinet, expanded the Ministry of the Environment to include climate change, and offered a bravura performance at the climate talks in Paris, can Canada’s environmentalists close up shop and stop worrying?

Of course not.

The nature of politics includes constant trade-offs, compromises and disagreements. Even with a government sympathetic to environmental issues, we won’t act deeply and quickly enough or prevent new problems because we haven’t addressed the root of our environmental devastation.

The ultimate cause isn’t economic, technological, scientific or even social. It’s psychological.

We see and interact with the world through perceptual lenses, shaped from the moment of conception. Our notions of gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status and the environment we grow up in all limit and create our priorities.

This is a guest post by David Suzuki. 

Like any year, 2015 had its share of good and bad, tragedy and beauty, hope and despair. It’s difficult not to get discouraged by events like the Syrian war and refugee crisis, violent outbreaks in Beirut, Paris, Burundi, the U.S. and so many other places, and the ongoing climate catastrophe.

But responses to these tragedies and disasters offer hope. It became clear during 2015 that when those who believe in protecting people and the planet, treating each other with fairness, respect and kindness and seeking solutions stand up, speak out and act for what is right and just, we will be heard.

More than 60 organisations from around the world are calling for a carbon levy on fossil fuel extraction to help pay for the climate change impacts on the most vulnerable countries.

The Carbon Levy Project declaration argues that fossil fuel companies are causing approximately 70 per cent of the climate change experienced today.

As a result, these companies should have to help mobilise funds to provide compensation for the damage, it says. This would be done through a tax on extraction (as opposed to emissions) the declaration explains.

The world collectively agreed to combat global warming with the signing of the first international climate treaty Saturday in Paris.

This is a historic moment. Breathe a sigh of relief everyone. This is good news.

It doesn’t mean the work is done — not by a long shot — and that’s surely something pundits, politicians, campaigners and scientists alike will go to great lengths to hammer home for the foreseeable future.

But it does mean that nearly 200 hundred countries have agreed to work together. What’s more, they’ve more or less agreed on the basis of science and that only came about after a monumental amount of time, energy, diplomacy, negotiation, steadfastness and compromise were all thrown into a giant airport hangar on the outskirts of Paris.

Such accomplishments are not come by lightly. This is as much an important victory for the climate as it is for international diplomacy. Way to go, world.

It sounded like this when it happened:

We all know the vaaaaast majority of people will never take a gander at the actual text of the agreement. But it’s chock-a-block full of really important details that will determine how countries will move forward back home after they depart from the chic Charles de Gaulle airport.

Here are some key high- and lowlights, for your overviewing pleasure.

Alberta oilsands

A new index of global emissions released Tuesday at the Paris climate talks finds Canada among the worst performing nations when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate policy.

Canada, taking sixth place, ranked only above Korea, Japan, Australia, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia in the 2016 Climate Change Performance Index.

Even though Canada’s position remains low, it represents a slight improvement from last year, when the country came in last out of 58 nations profiled in a 2014-2015 report.

This year’s index report notes a “slight positive trend can be seen in Canada, which improved its performance by two places.”

But report, produced every year for the last 11 years by Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, attributes the majority of Canada’s improvement to the work of the provinces and acknowledges that no visible efforts to improve Canada’s climate standing have been made at the federal level in recent years.

The slight increase in Canada’s standing is due to early indication from the Liberal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada will be a more constructive player on the international climate stage.

This weekend represents a major transition point in the COP21 Paris climate talks.

Negotiators who have been working away to shorten and clarify an international climate treaty will now pass on a draft text to ministers and their lead negotiators for an intense final week of high-level deliberations.

The nearly 200 countries involved in the talks hope to finalize a document by next Friday. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.

The key issues for all parties include climate finance — how wealthy countries will help developing nations transition off of fossil fuels and adapt to climate impacts — as well as loss and damage (which includes the issue of insurance and compensation), human and indigenous rights and whether the global climate treaty will lock in a 1.5 or two degrees of warming target.

A final issue has to do with the legally binding nature of the climate treaty and how the progress of countries — whether or not they are sticking to their own commitments — is reviewed (this issue is generally called MVR: monitoring, verification and review).

So here’s a quick overview of what we know about Canada’s view on each of these hot button points.