My grandparents came here from Japan at the beginning of the 20th century. Although it would be a one-way trip, the perilous journey across the Pacific was worth the risk. They left behind extreme poverty for a wealth of opportunity.
But Canada was different then, a racist country built on policies of colonization, assimilation and extermination of the land’s original peoples. My grandparents and Canadian-born parents, like indigenous people and others of “colour”, couldn’t vote, buy property in many places or enter most professions. During the Second World War, my parents, sisters and I were deprived of rights and property and incarcerated in the B.C. Interior, even though Canada was the only home we’d ever known.
A lot has changed since my grandparents arrived, and since I was born in 1936. Women were not considered “persons” with democratic rights until 1918. People of African or Asian descent, including those born and raised here, couldn’t vote until 1948, and indigenous people didn’t get to vote until 1960. Homosexuality was illegal until 1969!
Canada joined a powerful new negotiating bloc of countries coordinating a push for a strong, legally binding climate agreement at the Paris COP21 negotiations.
This week Canada joined the High Ambition Coalition of both rich and poor countries after entering into dialogue with the EU to learn more about the initiative, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Caitlin McKenna’s office told DeSmog Canada.
The Coalition, which the Guardian first reported has been meeting in secret for six months, includes 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific as well as the EU and the U.S., which joined the group on Tuesday. News is just breaking that Brazil has also joined the illustrious group.
Within the negotiations the Coalition is calling for a clear long-term temperature goal in the Paris climate treaty, as well as strong review rules and a system for keeping track of how well nations are meeting their climate targets.
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.
Canada will provide $150 million in support for renewable energy in Africa, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced at a G7 African Renewable Energy Initiative session during the COP21 climate talks in Paris on Monday.
The pledge is part of the African Renewable Energy Initiative, an ambitious plan to bring 10 GW of renewable energy to the continent by 2020 and scale that up to 300 GW by 2030.
“Here in the city of lights, it is impossible to accept the fact that millions of household in Africa are still in the dark,” McKenna said.
Africa is home to more than 640 million people without electricity and an additional 120 million that rely on firewood and charcoal for fuel. In sub-Saharan African two out of three people have no access to electricity.
“However it is possible to change this,” McKenna said, adding renewable energy is not only efficient but can also reduce poverty.
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.
Earlier today at a meeting of Commonwealth nations in Malta, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that his government would increase its Green Climate Fund commitment to $2.65 billion.
Here's a quick rundown what that actually means.
The Green Climate Fund was set up as part of the United Nations climate negotiation process, with a goal of raising $100 billion from both the public and private sector by 2020. The wealthiest countries at the negotiating table have been under pressure to contribute more money to the Green Climate Fund.
The idea behind the Green Climate Fund is to overcome a major sticking point in the UN climate treaty process, which is that developing nations are being asked to invest in renewable energy technology and take measures to reduce the impacts of climate change, but do not have nearly the money needed to do so.
Mark Jaccard is professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University.
The other day I heard an environmental advocate argue that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needed to make an ambitious commitment at the UN Paris climate summit (COP 21) to atone for all the “climate fossil” awards won by our previous prime minister. I’m not so sure.
Remember when newly elected President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? He hadn’t yet done anything. Apparently the Nobel committee bestowed the award simply because he was not George W. Bush. In the same vein, Trudeau will be welcomed because he is not Stephen Harper.
I am not saying, of course, that Trudeau should just go to Paris and smile. But to make a real contribution, he will need to be brutally honest about why UN negotiations have failed for over two decades and equally honest about why Canada’s emission reduction efforts have also continuously failed.
Canada’s fossil fuel industries are the recipients of $2.7 billion US ($3.6 billion CDN) in handouts each year, despite a promise from all G20 nations, including Canada, to eliminate subsidies in 2009.
About $1.6 billion US of those subsidies came from the federal government with the rest distributed by the provinces, according to a new report from Oil Change International.
The report finds G20 countries spend about $452 billion US each year to prop up their oil, gas and coal industries.
The Liberals promised to “fulfill Canada’s G20 commitment to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry,” in their election platform. The party singled out the Canadian Exploration Expenses tax deduction as too generous to industry, saying the tax break should only kick in if companies are completely unsuccessful in their resource exploration.
“The saving will be redirected to investments in new and clean technologies,” the party platform says.
But the Canadian Exploration Expenses tax deduction isn’t the only place where companies can take advantage of a generous subsidy system.
So were else is the money coming from and going to?