The Nitty Gritty on Alberta’s Coal Phase-Out

It’s a sentence that feels weird to write: by 2030, Alberta will have shuttered the 18 coal-fired power plants that currently generate around 55 per cent of the province’s electricity, with two-thirds of that power replaced by renewable sources.

The stunning move was announced as part of Alberta’s climate change policy framework that was released on Sunday. According to the government, only 12 of the 18 coal-fired power stations would have been phased out by 2030 under the previous arrangement.

The immediate health benefits of such a move are tremendous.

Kim Perrotta, executive director at Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), says that coal accounts annually for an estimated 107 premature deaths, 80 hospital visits and almost 5,000 asthma-related sick days in Alberta, costing the province around $300 million.

Prior to the government’s announcement, over 40 organizations — including the Alberta Medical Association and Asthma Society of Canada — made a joint call for an accelerated phase-out on health grounds.

We see the air quality benefits that are fairly immediate that would be felt by the people in Alberta,” Perrotta says. “But we also want to reaffirm that as an organization run by physicians, we actually believe climate change is the public health challenge of the century. So we think this is a huge win for public health in terms of the the immediate benefit for Albertans but also for the long-term benefits for public health around the globe.”

Coal is responsible for 17 per cent of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions and six per cent of emissions nationwide.

Canada's New Climate Change Minister 'Excited' To Tackle Emissions. Is this For Real?!

It’s already big news that Canada now has a Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.

But it might be even more newsworthy that McKenna is promising that Canada will be a constructive player at the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris next month.

After years of international scrutiny for playing an obstructive role in international climate negotiations and a former environment minister who performed awkward linguistic gymnastics to avoid using the words “climate change,” McKenna’s enthusiasm signals a new era for Canada’s role on the global climate stage.  

Speaking outside Parliament Wednesday after her first day in office, McKenna said she is “really excited” to get down to work on Canada’s climate file.

It’s going to be a lot of hard work. This is a really important file. It’s a really important file to Canadians — both the environment but also tackling climate change. We need to be ambitious and I’m ready to work hard and get down to action,” McKenna told the CBC. “This is why I got into politics: to make a difference. I have three kids and this portfolio could not be more important to their future.”

Cutting Carbon Could Create Nearly 1 Million Jobs in B.C. by 2050: New Analysis

British Columbia has been praised the world over for its wildly successful carbon tax which, according to polls, the majority of British Columbians actually like paying.

Now a new analysis shows that B.C.’s efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions is compatible with growing jobs and a strong economy in coming decades.

The report by Clean Energy Canada shows that while pursuing strong climate policies the province could add 270,000 new jobs to the market by 2025 and possibly triple that figure to 900,000 by 2050.

The analysis, conducted by Navius Research, also found the economy would enjoy steady growth, about two per cent per year, at the same time as bringing new opportunities to sectors and communities across the province.

We hear a lot of fear mongering claims that climate action is going to hurt our economy. But this research shows the opposite,” Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, said. “We found that B.C. can cut carbon pollution — and still create hundreds of thousands of new jobs across all sectors and see the same level of economic growth we would otherwise. That’s a big win for British Columbians, for businesses, and for our climate.”

In other words, climate leadership pays off,” Smith said.

Is it the Beginning of the End for the Alberta Oilsands?

A new report from Oil Change International challenges industry’s common assumption that the continued production of oilsands crude is inevitable.

The report, Lockdown: The End of Growth in the Tar Sands, argues industry projections — to expand oilsands production from a current 2.1 million barrels per day to as much as 5.8 million barrels per day by 2035 — rely on high prices, public licence and a growing pipeline infrastructure, all of which are endangered in a carbon-constrained world.

As the report’s authors find, growing opposition to oil production — especially in the oilsands, which is among the most carbon intensive oil in the world — has significantly altered public perception of pipelines, a change amplified by the cross-continental battles against the Enbridge Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, TransCanada Energy East and TransCanada Keystone XL pipelines.

According to the report’s authors, production growth in the oilsands hinges on the construction of these contentious pipelines because the existing pipeline system is currently at 89 per cent capacity.

Alberta’s Climate Consultations: The Good, The Bad and The Downright Crazy

Much of the country is understandably pre-occupied with Monday’s federal election. But while we have all been watching the national drama unfold, something monumental happened in Alberta.

In a nutshell: big coal is pushing for renewable energy and big oil is re-iterating its push for a carbon tax.

Close to 500 individuals (including at least one alien — more on that to come), companies and NGOs submitted proposals to Alberta’s Climate Change Advisory Panel (chaired by University of Alberta economics prof Andrew Leach) about the kind of policies they think the new government should introduce to address spiking greenhouse gas emissions.

The significance of this for Alberta’s climate politics cannot be overstated. After years of stalling or stifling meaningful conversations, the province has now pulled off one of the country’s most important and interesting climate consultation processes.

The submissions, now accessible online, largely consist of the classic combo of recommendations from the usual suspects: phasing out coal-fired power plants, incentivizing renewable energy sources and introducing a proper carbon tax.

But there were also some fairly surprising sources of support for such recommendations.

Posse of Premiers to Join Trudeau at Paris Climate Summit

One month from now, arguably the most significant climate negotiations the world has ever seen will begin in Paris — and Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau plans on being there with a gaggle of premiers in tow, a show of Canadian representation unimaginable in previous years.

The COP21 UN-led climate summit is organized around one seemingly impossible outcome: a binding international climate agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she has been planning on attending the negotiations for several months. “I’ve already booked my ticket,” she said in a statement e-mailed to DeSmog Canada, adding she’s “delighted” Justin Trudeau will be in attendance.

I’m delighted…we’ll have a real full contingent. I think almost all premiers are already planning to attend.”

Manitoba NDP Premier Greg Selinger confirmed he will attend the negotiations as well.

Yes, I think you’re going to see a pretty good turn out this year,” he told DeSmog Canada.

Conservatives ‘Had No Intention’ of Dealing with Climate Change: Mark Jaccard

For more than two decades, Mark Jaccard has been penning “report cards” about Canada’s environmental track record. The results haven’t been pretty.

Jaccard, a veteran professor in Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, notes his annual evaluations were harnessed in the mid-2000s by Stephen Harper (then serving as federal opposition leader) as arguments for why the Conservatives deserved a shot at governing the country.

Those report cards were used as “a way of saying ‘look how incompetent the Liberals are, they haven’t done anything on climate, we’re not going to achieve Kyoto but let us get into power and we will set a new target in 2020 and implement regulations immediately to achieve that target,’” Jaccard recalls.

The Conservatives eventually formed a minority government in 2006 and became the majority government after the 2011 election.

Jaccard’s latest report card, released on October 6, concludes the Conservative Party has since “implemented virtually no policies that would materially reduce emissions” despite making significant emissions pledges for 2020 and 2050.

Experts Call on Federal Parties to Find Pathway to Low-Carbon Economy

A diverse group of experts, scholars, First Nations and civil society organizations recently released a sweeping program that shows just how Canada can transition to a low-carbon society.

Building on a March 2015 report, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, a group of academics from Sustainable Canada Dialogues reached out to individuals and groups from across Canada in an attempt to engage society in the question of our low-carbon transition.

The result, Acting on Climate Change: Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians, brings together a broad range of insight from across the social and political spectrum.

The report comes on the heels of an open letter (attached below) to federal leaders, calling for a “national dialogue on climate change policy.” The letter, released by 60 academics with Sustainable Canada Dialogues, states a national conversation is needed “to identify socially acceptable transition pathways to a low-carbon society and economy.”

We hope each party will enrich its position with ideas put forward by Canadians, before, during and after this election campaign, to restore Canada’s global leadership as a champion for the environment.”

Catherine Potvin, editor of the new report, writes 2015 is an important year for climate intervention.

Four Lessons Canada Needs to Learn from the Oil Crash

It’s easy to assume the plummet in energy prices will be a boon for the fight against climate change as emissions-intensive oilsands projects are cancelled or put on hold, but experts say that will only be the case if we learn some lessons from the current downturn.

Here are the four key factors that will determine whether Canada cuts emissions during this downturn or simply moves from “heroin to methadone,” as one expert puts it.

Volkswagen Got Caught Cheating Emissions Reporting. Will B.C.?

This is a guest post by Andy Skuce.

Volkswagen has admitted to cheating on emissions tests of some of its diesel vehicles. The full story has not yet been made public, but Volkswagen seems not to be an isolated case. There are indications of widespread gaming of emissions testing in the European automobile industry, with regulators and governments turning a blind eye to cheats and being reluctant to introduce testing procedures that would measure actual emissions in real-world conditions. 

There are some parallels with the estimation of emissions in the natural gas industry in British Columbia, where officially-sanctioned emissions rates are far lower than in other jurisdictions, compliance inspections are non-existent and methodologies do not include state-of-the art field measurements.


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