Policy

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 Rachely 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?

Does the Harper Government Have the Credibility to be Re-Elected?

prime minister stephen harper

This is a guest post by author and filmmaker Michael Harris. The article originally appeared on iPolitics and is republished here with permission.

From the cold porches of January, 2015 stretches out like a thousand miles of gravel road.

The country is facing an election that will be nasty, brutish and long — from now until the vote occurs, whenever that may be. The writ period is essentially meaningless. Under the Conservatives, it’s always game on.

True to his word, Stephen Harper has transformed the country, largely by stealth. Canada is now a nation that spies on its friends, guests and citizens. It accepts foreign intelligence even when there is a likelihood that it was obtained by torture. The government lies to the electorate on policy matters. It accuses veterans of exaggerating their injuries in order to take the taxpayer for a ride. It washes its hands of any stake in the fate of 1,200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. It does not practise unite-and-lead politics, but divide-and-conquer stratagems. A government, by any democratic measure, in disgrace.

Report: Federal Departments Muzzling Scientists, Engaging in Political Interference

stand up for science rally, zack embree, muzzling scientists, canada

Media policies in most Canadian government departments do not effectively encourage open communication between federal scientists and journalists, says a report released Wednesday.

Published by Evidence for Democracy (E4D) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), the report said more than 85 per cent of the 16 departments studied were assessed a grade of C or lower in terms of openness of communication, protection against political interference, rights to free speech, and protection for whistleblowers.

The 22-page report also said that when compared to grades for U.S. departments (scored by the Union of Concerned Scientists), all but one Canadian department performed worse than the U.S. average.

Overwhelmingly, current media policies do not meet the basic requirements for supporting open communication between federal scientists and the media,” Katie Gibbs, E4D’s executive director and an author on the report, said in an accompanying media release.

These policies could prevent taxpayer-funded scientists from sharing their expertise with the public on important issues from drug safety to climate change,” Gibbs said.

Future of Our Climate Depends on Next Fifteen Years of Investment, New Report States

fossil fuel subsidies, clean energy, better growth better climate, kris krug

Investments in renewable energies and low-carbon infrastructure can help the environment and the economy at the same time, says a comprehensive new report released Tuesday.

The report — Better Growth Better Climate — found that about US $90 trillion will likely be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy systems over the next 15 years, unleashing multiple benefits including jobs, health, business productivity and quality of life.

The decisions we make now will determine the future of our economy and our climate,” Nicholas Stern, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, said in a media release.

If we choose low-carbon investment we can generate strong, high-quality growth – not just in the future, but now. But if we continue down the high-carbon route, climate change will bring severe risks to long-term prosperity,” he said.

Felipe Calderón, Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, said the report refutes the idea that humankind must choose between fighting climate change or growing the world’s economy.

That is a false dilemma,” Calderón said. “Today’s report details compelling evidence on how technological change is driving new opportunities to improve growth, create jobs, boost company profits and spur economic development. The report sends a clear message to government and private sector leaders: we can improve the economy and tackle climate change at the same time.”

Canada Needs Some Serious Climate Honesty

climate oilsands, kris krug, mark jaccard, harper government

This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University. 

In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government asked me and four other economists if we agreed with its study showing huge costs for Canada to meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. We all publicly agreed, much to the chagrin of the Liberals, NDP and Greens, who argued that Kyoto was still achievable without crashing the economy. It wasn’t.

As economists, we knew that the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien should have implemented effective policies right after signing Kyoto in 1997. It takes at least a decade to significantly reduce emissions via energy efficiency, switching to renewables, and perhaps capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and oilsands. Each year of delay jacks up costs.

Mr. Harper’s government knew this too. Years later, when environment minister Peter Kent formally withdrew Canada from Kyoto, he charged the previous Liberal government with “incompetence” for not enacting necessary policies in time to meet their target.

Katie Gibbs: Canada's War on Science is Raising a New Generation of Science Advocates

Katie Gibbs. DeSmog Canada.

There has been a lot of discussion around Canada’s “War on Science” over the last two years, prompted by a major gathering of scientists in Ottawa during the summer of 2012 who announced the “Death of Evidence” in the country. The scientists marched in response to the infamous Budget Bill C-38 that killed funding for numerous federal science positions and research labs coast to coast. The rally’s lead organizer, scientist Katie Gibbs, says the Death of Evidence protest made way for a whole new breed of young Canadian scientists who are eager to stand up and defend their laboratories. It’s about more than just science, says Gibbs, it’s really all about democracy.

Katie Gibbs was known around the lab as the graduate student who cared deeply about the implications of her science. “While I was doing my PhD, I was kind of the rabble-rouser on the floor. You know, I always had volunteers coming to the lab to pick up posters, or storing protest signs under my desk, that sort of thing,” she told DeSmog Canada.

Most of the professors she worked with didn’t participate in any kind of advocacy, she said. “My supervisor, in particular, he wouldn’t even write a letter to the editor.”

In the summer of 2012, however, it wasn’t Gibbs pushing for the Death of Evidence rally, the event that forced Canada’s science crisis into the public eye. Instead a group of professors at the University of Ottawa began organizing a public event and turned to Gibbs when they realized they needed someone brave to be the face of the march.

What was interesting was that it was a group of professors that started thinking around the rally. My supervisor poked his head into my office one day and said a bunch of professors were meeting to talk about doing something in response to the Omnibus Budget Bill. He said, ‘does anybody want to come,’ and I was like ‘hells yeah!’” Gibbs said, adding she became lead organizer after that meeting.

Global Wind Day Celebrates Wind Energy as Major Player Worldwide

wind energy

It may not rank in popularity with the World Cup but a growing interest in Global Wind Day (June 15) continues to underscore the significant contribution that the emissions-free electricity-generating technology is making to mitigate the worst excesses of burning fossil fuels.

No longer considered an alternative energy source, the wind power sector is now present in more than 80 nations and had generated a global cumulative installed capacity of 318,105 megawatts (MW) by the end of last year.

Despite having to still fight the NIMBY factor in some places, or craven politicians beholden to the business-as-usual coal, oil and gas lobbies, the wind power industry is proving it is already a dependable component of the low-carbon economy that humankind needs to embrace if it is to survive.

The statistics are indisputable.

Obama’s New Climate Plan Leaves Canada in the Dust

In the ongoing battle to win approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada has repeatedly justified its climate inaction by pointing to the fact that it shares similar emission reductions targets to the U.S. In August of last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even wrote a letter to President Barack Obama inviting “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” if such efforts would help green-light the Keystone XL.

But this week’s announcement that Obama will use his executive authority to introduce a nationwide emissions reduction plan that targets more than 1,000 of the country’s most highly polluting power plants might leave Canada squarely in the dust.

Obama’s new plan — already being called the “most ambitious anti-global warming initiative of any U.S. president” — will introduce new standards by 2015 to decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of power plants (responsible for 40 per cent of the country’s carbon pollution) by 30 per cent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

Canada's Climate Incoherence is Killing Keystone XL

Keystone XL protest 350.org

This post originally appeared in Maclean's magazine and is republished here with permission.

There’s no shortage of blame being passed around in the wake of another delay in the U.S. regulatory approval process with respect to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline which, it was announced recently, will now drag on for at least another six months.

Among other reasons cited for the decision, the Calgary Herald’s Deborah Yedlin and others have cited a lack of greenhouse gas policies applied to Canada’s oil sands. Yedlin is direct, saying that, “the evidence to date suggests (that the Harper government hasn’t listened to what is being said in Washington) because the Harper government has not moved on anything resembling a policy on greenhouse gas emissions.”

I think she’s right, to a point, but I think the problem is not that we haven’t been listening, but that our governments, both in Edmonton and in Ottawa, have yet to establish a coherent vision on anything which includes the words climate change and oil sands.

All the Positive and Helpful Things in the IPCC Report No One Will Talk About

climate change, IPCC

If you’ve come across any of the recent headlines on the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, you’re probably feeling pretty low. The doom and gloom levels were off the charts. And understandably so. Major nations across the globe – especially Canada – are dragging their heels when it comes to climate change action. Canada, sadly, doesn’t have any climate legislation.

But maybe that’s because Canada was waiting for a group of the world’s most knowledgeable scientists to come up with a report for policy makers — you know, something to outline useful guidelines to keep in mind when looking to get your country out of the climate doghouse.

Well, Canada, you’re in luck. Here are some of the IPCC report’s most useful guidelines for responding to the multiple and growing threats of climate change:

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