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:

Oilsands emissions

It’s finally happening: after years of stalling by the Progressive Conservatives, Alberta’s new NDP government announced Thursday it will double the province’s meager carbon levy on large emitters by 2017.

Industry and environmentalists alike welcomed the decision, while also saying it doesn’t go far enough. 

Currently, any facility that emits more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year must reduce its emissions by 12 per cent below typical performance or pay $15 per tonne for emissions over the baseline. By 2017, the new framework will require companies to lower emissions by 20 per cent below typical performance, with a $30-per-tonne levy for emissions above that target.

It’s not going to drive the meaningful reductions or give the market incentives that we need,” said Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute.

Oilsands air pollution

“Transparent,” “credible, “world-class” — those are just a few of the words that have been deployed to detail the aspirations of the one-year-old organization tasked with monitoring the air, water, land and wildlife in Alberta.

But there are a lot of questions about whether the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA), funded primarily by industry, has lived up to its goal to track the condition of the province’s environment.*

Unlike the Alberta Energy Regulator, which the new NDP government is considering splitting into two agencies to separate its conflicting responsibilities to both promote and policy energy development, AEMERA hasn’t spent much time in the public spotlight — yet.

Last October, Alberta’s auditor general slammed the agency for releasing its 2012-2013 annual report in June 2014, well after when it should have been released. The auditor general also said the report “lacked clarity and key information and contained inaccuracies.”

Pope Francis has released his long awaited encyclical, or teaching document, on climate justice and the environment, and it flies in the face of everything climate deniers stand for.

The encyclical is officially called “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home,” and it makes a compelling case for humanity’s moral responsibility to “protect our common home” by tackling the root causes of two of the greatest interlinked global crises of our time: climate change and poverty.

Despite the federal Conservative government’s seven-year attack on carbon pricing as a “job-killing carbon tax,” Canada is actually making progress provincially on pricing carbon pollution.

Without any direction from the federal government, Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and recently Ontario have all introduced systems that require polluters to pay for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions they produce (as we’ve pointed out elsewhere in this series, those systems have had varying success).

But without an overarching carbon pricing system there is only so much the provinces can accomplish. 

There’s nothing stopping the federal government from attempting to help provinces and territories strengthen and expand their existing GHG programs,” Katie Sullivan, North America policy and climate finance director at the International Emissions Trading Association, said.

Ottawa could provide model rules, methodologies, guidance, tools and centralized infrastructure and architecture for a variety of program elements,” she said. “The federal government could play a valuable ‘enabling’ role.”

This is a guest post by Charles J. Reid Jr., professor of law at the University of St. Thomas.

It is a line repeated with tiresome regularity in right-wing circles: Pope Francis has no business proposing solutions to the crisis of global climate change. He is not a scientist, they say. He should stick to morals and to matters of faith and doctrine.

Pope Francis' defenders point out that climate change is a moral question. If the destruction of the planet's ecological health is not a moral concern, then what is? But while climate change is certainly a moral issue, it is something much larger and more significant than that. It is a threat to the common good of the world.

Stephen Harper’s participation in the G7 leader’s declaration to decarbonize the global economy by 2100 was a massive headline generator in Canada, and not surprisingly so.

For a Prime Minister who has openly mocked the idea of carbon pricing, mercilessly driven an expensive (both financially and politically) energy superpower agenda and earned a reputation for pulling out of or stalling climate negotiations, the very idea of an ‘end’ to fossil fuels would seem … counterintuitive.

Although the shock of seeing Harper even touch something called ‘decarbonization’ is still reverberating, experts were quick to point out a long-term goal that shoves off concrete climate policy is likely just what Canada was hoping for.

In the wake of the NDP’s new majority government in Alberta, Steve Williams, the CEO of Suncor, announced that he believes climate change is happening and the right way to address it is a carbon tax that applies to both producers and consumers.

Well it’s pretty obvious what happened here. Steve Williams read Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” and was so inspired by her vision of a just, sustainable future that he set short-term considerations of profit aside for his deeply held moral convictions, in preparation for his eventual ascension unto heaven. Or maybe there’s something else going on…

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signed on to a G7 commitment to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2100 and make significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The move will “require a transformation in our energy sectors,” Harper said at a news conference in Garmisch, Germany.

Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights,” he said. “We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon emitting sources of energy — and that work is ongoing.”

According to federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, an earlier draft of the G7 committment sought full decarbonization by 2050, but both Canada and Japan fought to weaken the declaration. 

The final version of the G7 leader’s declaration states: “We emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century.”

“We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavour.”

This is a guest post by Andrew Gage, staff counsel with West Coast Environmental Law.

Canada is not a super-power. We’re geographically large, but small in terms of population. And when it comes to climate change we’re used to hearing politicians say that we’re “only” responsible for about two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — so what we do to stop our contribution to climate change doesn’t matter.

West Coast’s climate work focuses on the reality that we can’t keep pretending that greenhouse gas emissions are not a deadly serious problem. The world (including Canada) is experiencing disastrous flooding, sea-level rise, extreme storms, droughts and heat waves, increased frequency and intensity of forest fires, the spread of pest species and other climate-related impacts here and now. Because of the scale of the damages, even smaller contributions are responsible for devastating results.

Raise Your Hand Canada Feature Image

After a rough year of collapsing oil prices and the embarrassing dethroning of Alberta’s longtime Progressive Conservative government, the oil and gas industry could use a win. The latest campaign from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) was probably designed to be one.

Alas.

Pages