The First Thing Canada Can Do in Paris is Admit Why UN Climate Talks Have Failed for Two Decades

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 Subsidizes the Fossil Fuel Industry by $2.7 Billion Every Year. Where Does That Money Go?

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?

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.”

The Liberals Just Restored Canada’s Long-Form Census. Here’s Why That Matters

Canada’s new Minister of Innovation, Science and Development, Navdeep Bains, told reporters on Parliament Hill on Thursday that the federal government is restoring the mandatory long-form census just in time for its next rollout in 2016.

Canada conducts a census every five years by sending an eight-question form to Canadian households. However, one-fifth of those households traditionally received a mandatory 61-question census that provides the government with much more insight into the lives of Canadians.

In 2010, the Harper government cancelled the mandatory long-form census, replacing it with a short voluntary survey developed by Statistics Canada. Researchers said the data provided through the voluntary survey lacked detail, leaving major gaps in knowledge about areas with poor survey response rates.

Munir Sheikh, the former head of Statistics Canada, resigned in protest.

Bains said the decision to reinstate the long-form census falls into the government’s commitment to rebuild scientific knowledge in Canada.

Our plan for an open and fair government starts with the reinstatement of the mandatory long form census,” Bains tweeted.

Why Wasn't Climate a Defining Canadian Election Issue?

This article originally appeared on Climate Access.

Those who work on climate change were both chuffed and chagrined by its role in Canada’s federal election campaign, which peaked last week with the victory of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and defeat of Conservative incumbent Stephen Harper.

The environment” — a catch-all concept that often encompasses concern about climate change — consistently ranked close to economy and healthcare on voters' list of top priorities. Oilsands and climate change issues took up nearly a quarter of the first leaders debate, commanding more than twice the airtime they did in 2011. Several media outlets ran editorials calling on all parties to take a strong stance on reducing GHG emissions or put a price on carbon.

To quote professor and commentator George Hoberg, “energy and environmental issues have become central to Canadian electoral politics.”

Despite all of this, climate change didn’t have a significant impact on the election’s outcome. Fundamentally this was a campaign about values where action on global warming was bundled into a broader set of aspirations and ideas that Canadians said yes to on October 19th. 

Is B.C. Prepared for An Oil Spill? The Short Answer: No.

British Columbians must learn from mistakes made following the Exxon Valdez and BP Deepwater Horizon oil spills and prepare oil spill community response plans, renowned U.S. marine toxicologist Riki Ott is warning.

Transport Canada, along with the industry-funded Western Canada Marine Response Corporation and the Canadian Coast Guard are in charge of oil spill response on the west coast, but recent incidents like the bunker fuel leak in English Bay show a lack of communication and spotty response can leave local governments and communities on the sidelines.

Speaking at a community workshop in Victoria organized by Georgia Strait Alliance and Living Oceans Society, Ott said the risk of an oil spill off the B.C. coast increases as more tankers and other vessels ply the crowded waters. Communities must be ready to deal with a disaster, she said.

Oil doesn’t spill on federal and provincial land. It spills in someone’s backyard,” Ott said, warning that people also need to be educated about health hazards that come from breathing oil-laden air, diseases suffered by clean-up crews absorbing toxic chemicals through their skin and the decades-long effects on marine species and wildlife, ranging from mutations to extirpation.

When it happens, it’s really too late. You have to put all your energy into prevention and it’s really important to have a plan,” she said.

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.

Free Documentary Shows How Conservative Staffers Led Voters to Wrong Polling Stations During 2011 Election

Kelly McCullough says she is angry with herself for believing the information provided to her in an automated call that led her to the wrong polling station during the last 2011 federal election.

I was very empathetic to people who were at the polling station because clearly they had received several people who had come. They had to let me and other people in my position know that we had foolishly believed what we shouldn’t have,” McCullough says in a new documentary about voter suppression mischief in Canada by filmmaker Peter Smoczynski.

The film, “Election Day in Canada: The Rise of Voter Suppression,” is available in a draft screener form online until midnight, October 18.

In 2011 voters across Canada received automated phone calls, also known as robocalls, that notified them their polling station has been relocated when they in fact had not. Other calls seem designed to harass voters with fake calls from opposition parties late at night or on holidays.

The new documentary film shows how these and other ‘voter suppression’ tactics, such as placing the name of candidates on ballots who were not in the running, were used to the benefit of the Conservative Party of Canada.

River Supplying Water To Alberta Oil Sands Operations At Risk From Drought

A new study casts doubt on the long-term ability of the Athabasca River to supply the water Alberta’s oil sands industry relies on.

Water is allocated to oil sands operations based on river flow data collected since the 1950s, but that doesn’t necessarily represent an accurate assessment of the Athabasca River’s flow variability over the longer term, according to a report published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Andrew Nikiforuk’s Latest on the Fracking Craze should be Required Reading for MLAs

This is a guest post by Ben Parfitt, resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It orginially appeared on

Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down

— Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty

In the mid 1960s, the world’s two superpowers hit on a novel idea to try to coax more oil and natural gas from the ground. In what they hoped would prompt the release of “endless fountains of fossil fuels,” first the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and then the United States of America detonated nuclear bombs belowground.

The hoped-for geysers of fuel never materialized. Instead, nearby oil and gas wells became contaminated with radioactive gases that in some cases later broke to the surface and swept over the homes of unsuspecting residents. Groundwater was polluted. And giant subterranean craters filled with cancer-inducing gases that no public power utility in its right mind would touch.


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