emissions

Here’s Why Canada Needs Federal Carbon Pricing Leadership

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.”

Harper Agrees to End Use of Fossil Fuels by 2100, Make Deep Cuts to Emissions by 2050 at G7 Summit

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.”

Kitimat Residents ‘Muzzled’ From Speaking Out On Rio Tinto Alcan’s Plan to Increase Air Pollution

Lis Stannus remembers how serious the problem of acid rain was in Ontario when she lived on a farm near Lake Huron as a child. So when Rio Tinto Alcan informed Kitimat residents of its plans to increase sulphur dioxide pollution — a key contributor to acid rain —she couldn’t understand why no one fought back.

Nobody was speaking out,” Stannus said, “and I found it amazing that those people who should have been speaking out weren’t.”

Rio Tinto Alcan received a permit from the B.C. government in 2013 that allowed the company to increase production of aluminum at its smelter in Kitimat, leading to a 56 per cent increase in sulphur dioxide emissions. Currently, both the government and Rio Tinto Alcan are defending that permit in front of a tribunal acting for the B.C. Environmental Appeals Board in Kitimat.

Rio Tinto Alcan says its ‘modernization’ of the smelter is now 94 per cent complete although the tribunal has the power to rescind the province’s permit, putting the immediate future of the plant in question.

Rio Tinto Alcan Polluting Kitimat Airshed to Save Money, Tribunal Hears

When the B.C. Ministry of Environment approved Rio Tinto Alcan’s application to modernize its aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C., local resident Emily Toews assumed that would mean an improvement in the plant’s emissions.

But the modernization project, which will increase the plant’s production, will raise sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 56 per cent from 27 to 42 tonnes per day.

Toews, who suffers from asthma, told a tribunal in Kitimat Monday she decided to remain in Kitimat in 2010, rather than move to West Kelowna with her husband, because she had “previous knowledge that the modernization project would reduce emissions.”

The tribunal, hosted by the B.C. Environmental Appeals Board, is entering its third week in Kitimat after two weeks in Victoria. The board began investigating the government's approval of the Rio Tinto Alcan modernization project after Toews and fellow Kitimat resident Lis Stannus asked it to overturn the decision, saying increased sulphur dioxide emissions endangered their community's health.

The project, granted approval from the B.C. government in 2013, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the smelter, but not sulphur dioxide emissions because Rio Tinto Alcan was not required to introduce scrubbers, commonly used in smelters to remove the pollutant from airborne emissions.

Canada’s Emissions Cost the World 8,800 Lives and $15.4 Billion Every Year

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.

Alberta’s First NDP Climate Victory May Have Nothing to Do With the Oilsands and Everything to Do With Coal

Back in March when the prospect of a majority NDP government in Alberta was still a twinkle in Rachel Notley’s eye, the to-be premier introduced a motion to phase out the province’s use of coal for electricity by 2030.

The evidence is clear that it is time to phase out coal powered electricity in the province in Alberta. Coal is one of the single largest pollutants in Alberta. It costs our health care millions of dollars every year and is a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, urging then premier Jim Prentice and the Progressive Conservative party to “do the right thing.”

So now that Notley has taken the reins, will she follow through with her own ambitious plan?

Experts Slow Clap for Canada’s Late and 'Inadequate' Climate Target

Months after most countries revealed national climate targets in the lead up to the December 2015 UN climate summit, Canada has finally announced its contribution to global emissions reductions — and its commitment is getting a failing grade from the climate community.

The NewClimate Institute rated Canada's target as “inadequate.”

In rating Canada ‘inadequate,’ our lowest rating, we note that other governments will have to take a lot more action to make up for the hole left by Canada’s lack of ambition — if warming is to be held to 2˚C,” said Niklas Höhne of the institute.

Canada is promising to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

According to Climate Action International, Canada is unlikely to meet that target, even though it is much weaker than commitments made by other industrial nations.

B.C.’s Prized Carbon Tax: A Primer

B.C.’s carbon tax has been called both elegant and a template for the rest of the world. Because it increases taxes on things we don’t want (emissions), reduces taxes on things we do want (income), is popular with the public and has actually worked to reduce the province’s carbon footprint, it’s been called a win-win-win-win.

So how does it work?

Pretty simply: if you burn fossil fuels (oil, gasoline, natural gas, etc.), you pay the tax. British Columbians see the tax on their heating bills and at the pump when they fill up their cars. But because the system is designed to be revenue neutral, British Columbians also see the benefits of the tax feeding back into the system, benefiting consumers through tax credits and breaks.

Every dollar collected by the government through the tax (approximately $1 billion annually) is funnelled back to the people of B.C.

Cap and Trade in Quebec and Ontario: A Primer

Cap and trade is in the new kid in town as far as carbon pricing goes in Canada. In April, just before the Premiers' Climate SummitOntario made headlines by announcing it will join Quebec’s cap and trade system, which is linked to cap and trade in California.

So just how does it work? Here's our short primer.

The system was first adopted by Quebec in 2013 (although it’s worth noting the province did impose a tax on gas and diesel fuel back in 2007).

The benefits of emissions trading, beyond ensuring the climate goal is reached in a measurable manner, is that business has flexible compliance options and ‘carrots’ — incentives for making smart, economic business decisions,” Katie Sullivan, director for North America and Climate Finance at the International Emissions Trading Association, said.

Like Alberta’s carbon levy, Quebec’s system puts a price on emissions above a certain level.

'Woe is Us': Oil Industry a Hot Mess After NDP Alberta Victory

While Jim Prentice and his Progressive Conservative cadre lick their wounds after last night’s landslide victory by the New Democratic Party and leader Rachel Notley, punditry about the oil industry’s place in the transformed province is in full force.

Even before the results were in, Canadians were being warned new leadership in Canada’s oilpatch will mean very scary things for the economy: fleeing investors, abandoned projects, market uncertainty.

Now that the victory bells have rung, the hand-wringing has leveled up.

The NDP win is “completely devastating,” for the energy industry, Rafi Tahmazian, fund manager for Canoe Financial LP, told Bloomberg.

The oil patch will pack up and leave,” Licia Corbella, editor of the Calgary Herald’s editorial page, tweeted. “Woe is us.”

Yet many other onlookers are saying fresh leadership in Alberta could bring long-overdue policy changes that not only benefit a broader cross-section of society, but industry itself, by remedying systemic imbalances that have granted an unhealthy amount of power to oil interests for far too long.

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