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Fri, 2014-12-19 13:33Nick Fillmore
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UN Climate Talks Face Long, Hard Road to Paris Next Winter

christiana figureres COP20

With yet another United Nations high level conference making little real progress on slowing climate change, a near miracle will be required if countries are to reach a meaningful and binding global agreement on carbon emissions in Paris next December.

The ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’ document, agreed to on Sunday by 194 countries, is not a new “deal” for the climate, as conference observer Green Party Leader Elizabeth May pointed out. It is a 12-month work plan leading to the final meeting in Paris.

The conference shifted more responsibility for coping with climate change to the developing world. For the first time, an agreement calls on countries with rising economies, such as China, India and South Africa, to pledge action on climate change along with rich countries.

Developing countries have been expecting the North to provide billions-of-dollars to carry the burden of cutting carbon emissions in the South that are cause by northern industrialization. But a special fund set up for this purpose received barely a mention during key sessions.

Sat, 2014-12-13 09:02Carol Linnitt
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10 Things Canada Would Be Doing if We Were Serious About Climate Change

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Right now Canada is participating in the final day of the 20th annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru. The country already caught flack for thinking a progressive stance on hydrofluorocarbons will convince the international community Canada is doing its due diligence when it comes to the world’s problem of growing greenhouse gas emissions. To make matters worse, this week Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in the House of Commons that it would be “crazy” to regulate emissions in Canada’s oil and gas sector, signaling the long-overdue rules are no longer on the table.

Meanwhile in Peru, Canadian delegates are working hard to keep Canada’s oil and gas sector off the climate-negotiating table, despite the genuine efforts from nations across the planet to come to a meaningful agreement for addressing the globe’s growing carbon emissions problem. As a result, Canadian NGOs are saying the country is losing its international credibility. As the disappointing climate talks close today in Lima many countries are saying wealthy nations like Canada are creating an atmosphere of distrust and vulnerability by delaying meaningful, collaborative climate action.

So looking ahead to COP21 in Paris, Canada will have to do more than delay and obscure its climate problems with miniscule good deeds if it wants to show the world we deserve a big kid chair at the negotiations table.

Here are 10 things Canada would be doing if we were actually serious about addressing climate change at COP20 in Lima and beyond.

Wed, 2014-12-10 16:17Carol Linnitt
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Canada ‘Flies Under Radar,’ Skirts Oilsands Issue At COP20 Climate Talks

Leona Aglukkaw COP20 Lima Peru

Canada is “flying under the radar” at this year’s UNFCCC COP20 climate talks in Lima, Peru according to Canada Youth Delegation member Brenna Owen.

Canada’s negotiators are working hard to sidestep the issue of the country’s growing greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector according to Owen, while simultaneously keeping quiet about the oilsands as nations come up with their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) in the global climate agreement.

They’re not going to be able to do that much longer,” she added. “And they’re not going to be able to avoid talking about the tar sands.”

Aleah Loney, another member of the 10-person youth delegation, said the group is eager to push Canada’s ministers and negotiators to address the issue of oil and gas emissions rather than employing evasive tactics to avoid the concerns outright.

Tue, 2014-12-09 21:20Steve Horn
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Like Canada's Harper Government, Obama Administration Muzzling Its Scientists

In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press

An article published in August by The New Republic said “Harper's antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans,” pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that “Bush's replacement,” President Barack Obama, “has reversed course” in this area.

Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion. 

In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists' queries to speak to EPA-associated scientists. 

“We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency,” said the letter.

“We urge you…to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it.”

Mon, 2014-12-08 07:19Allan Northcott
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10 Ways Charities Have Improved Canadians’ Daily Lives

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Few Canadians think about public policy, though it touches our lives in innumerable ways every day. Our collective safety and security, well-being and prosperity do not appear out of thin air. They are, in large measure, the outcomes of a vigorous public policy process.

Charities have a long history of playing important roles in that policy process. Here are just 10 examples of policies that have been shaped by the work of Canadian charities.

1) Laws against drunk driving. Mothers Against Drinking and Driving (MADD) Canada has long played a leading role in advocating for stronger policies against impaired driving. MADD Canada emerged in 1989 from an Ontario-based anti-drinking and driving group that was one of several early pioneer organizations that advocated against drinking and driving.

2) Regulation of tobacco products. The anti-tobacco lobby in Canada dates back to at least the middle of the twentieth century, when the National Cancer Institute of Canada declared there may be a link between lung cancer and smoking. In the subsequent decades, dozens of charities have contributed to the effort to limit the sale and use of tobacco products.

Mon, 2014-11-10 12:08Chris Rose
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Canada Urged to Prepare for 'Climate Migrants' in Warming World: New Report

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In a sign of things to come, a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says Ottawa should create a new “climate migrants” immigration class to prepare for the inflow of people fleeing extreme climate change.

Estimates of the number of climate-influenced migrants range widely, but most projections agree that in the coming years climate change will compel hundreds of millions of people to relocate,” the report says. “Climate change is one factor that interacts with many others to drive population movements.”

Many countries are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than Canada, said the 26-page report — Preparing BC for Climate Migration — published last week

Industrialized countries like Canada have disproportionately benefitted from the combustion of fossil fuels, whereas others who have contributed least to climate change will disproportionately feel its impacts,” the report states.

Canada is the fourth highest per-capita greenhouse gas emitter in the world according to 2008 World Resources Institute climate data (this estimate does not take into account emissions resulting from the burning of exported coal, oil and gas).

Sun, 2014-11-02 06:00Guest
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The Wars At Home: What State Surveillance of an Indigenous Rights Campaigner Tells Us About Real Risk in Canada

This is a guest post by Shiri Pasternak.

Recent revelations that the RCMP spied on Indigenous environmental rights activist Clayton Thomas-Muller should not be dismissed as routine monitoring. They reveal a long-term, national energy strategy that is coming increasingly into conflict with Indigenous rights and assertions of Indigenous jurisdiction over lands and resources.

A “Critical Infrastructure Suspicious Incident” report was triggered by Thomas-Muller’s trip in 2010 to the Unist’ot’en camp of Wet’suwet’en land defenders, where a protect camp was being built on the coordinates of a proposed Pacific Trails pipeline.

Fri, 2014-10-24 07:50Guy Dauncey
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They're Doing it in Germany Part 1: How to Green B.C. Energy

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They’re doing it in Germany: 140 regions of the country have set a goal to become 100 per cent renewable energy regions, covering 30 per cent of Germany’s land and 26 per cent of her people, as we learnt in the June.

Could British Columbia do the same? The climate emergency warnings are dire, and the need is great. When viewed historically, it is clear that the age of fossil fuels represents only the tiniest blip of time. Deep down, we know we need to stop using them.

Here in B.C., 80 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions—the direct cause of climate change—come from burning fossil fuels, so it’s clear that a transition is needed.

So let’s embark on a mental exercise to see what it might involve. Would the transition away from fossil fuels fatally weaken B.C.’s economy, as some conservative thinkers fear? Worse yet, would it drag us back to the dark ages? Are the fear-mongers right? These are important questions to address.

Wed, 2014-10-22 12:17Carol Linnitt
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Hundreds of World’s Scientists Ask Stephen Harper to Return Freedom to Science in Canada

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In an open letter published Monday more than 800 scientists are asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end “burdensome restriction on scientific communication and collaboration faced by Canadian government scientists.”

The Harper government has recently attracted international attention after a report published by a leading research union identified Canadian scientists as particularly hard hit by budget cuts and communications protocols that prevent their freedom of expression.

More than 800 scientists from over 32 countries signed Monday’s letter, drafted by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The letter states “a rapid decline in freedoms and funding” is restricting scientific freedoms in Canada by preventing open communication and collaboration with other international scientists.

Canada’s leadership in basic research, environmental, health and other public science is in jeopardy,” the letter states. “We urge you to restore government science funding and the freedom and opportunities to communicate these finding internationally.”

Thu, 2014-10-09 09:25Chris Rose
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Report: Federal Departments Muzzling Scientists, Engaging in Political Interference

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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.

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