Last week, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced Canada’s intention to apply a climate test to major energy infrastructure proposals. This was the fifth of five new principles they announced to improve environmental assessments in the country.
The change is good news because it will fill a long-standing gap in the country’s environmental assessment process. The standard approach has been to look at individual oil pipeline or LNG terminal proposals without worrying about the oilsands mines or gas fields they’re connected to. The new approach will include the carbon pollution from the project being proposed and the carbon pollution from the development associated with it.
What the federal government hasn’t said yet is how they plan to evaluate the new information and integrate it into their eventual decisions. Here are four questions I’d like to see included in their climate test, using Petronas’s Pacific NorthWest LNG project to illustrate how they might work. In many cases, the federal government — as opposed to the proponent — is in the best position to address these questions.
With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and, because the world has continued to increase fossil fuel use, the need to curb and reduce emissions is urgent.
In light of this, I don’t get the current brouhaha over the Trans Mountain, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or the Energy East pipelines. Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel deposits must be left in the ground?
Didn’t our prime minister, with provincial and territorial premiers, mayors and representatives from non-profit organizations, parade before the media to announce Canada now takes climate change seriously? I joined millions of Canadians who felt an oppressive weight had lifted and cheered mightily to hear that our country committed to keeping emissions at levels that would ensure the world doesn’t heat by more than 1.5 C by the end of this century. With the global average temperature already one degree higher than pre-industrial levels, a half a degree more leaves no room for business as usual.
This is a guest post by Mitchell Beer. It originally appeared on GreenPAC.
The pitched media battle between Mayors Denis Coderre of Montreal and Naheed Nenshi of Calgary shows just how quickly the political debate can get nasty when the things that matter most to us are at stake.
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!
Max Fawcett: What are your thoughts on B.C. saying no to Trans Mountain? Is that game, set, and match for the project?
Kai Nagata: It’s actually entirely consistent with what they said in 2013 about Enbridge, which is basically if you want to come and build a heavy oil project in B.C. you have to follow the campsite rule — you have to leave the province at least as well-off as you find it. It’s actually pretty hard for anyone who proposes to ship dilbit [diluted bitumen, the stuff that’s produced in the Alberta oil sands] to either convince the province that they can clean it up if it spills in the ocean or that it will deliver a financial reward with commensurate with that risk.
Based on those criteria, Trans Mountain and Enbridge are not that different in terms of the characteristics of their projects, so it’s not that surprising to see the environment minister [Mary Polak] say they haven’t met the five conditions.
The coming year looks bright with the promise of change after a difficult decade for environmentalists and our issues. But even with a new government that quickly moved to gender equity in cabinet, expanded the Ministry of the Environment to include climate change, and offered a bravura performance at the climate talks in Paris, can Canada’s environmentalists close up shop and stop worrying?
Of course not.
The nature of politics includes constant trade-offs, compromises and disagreements. Even with a government sympathetic to environmental issues, we won’t act deeply and quickly enough or prevent new problems because we haven’t addressed the root of our environmental devastation.
The ultimate cause isn’t economic, technological, scientific or even social. It’s psychological.
We see and interact with the world through perceptual lenses, shaped from the moment of conception. Our notions of gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status and the environment we grow up in all limit and create our priorities.
Like any year, 2015 had its share of good and bad, tragedy and beauty, hope and despair. It’s difficult not to get discouraged by events like the Syrian war and refugee crisis, violent outbreaks in Beirut, Paris, Burundi, the U.S. and so many other places, and the ongoing climate catastrophe.
But responses to these tragedies and disasters offer hope. It became clear during 2015 that when those who believe in protecting people and the planet, treating each other with fairness, respect and kindness and seeking solutions stand up, speak out and act for what is right and just, we will be heard.
This is a guest post by filmmaker Daniel J. Pierce.
The Wilderness Committee and other forest activists were in court in Victoria on Monday to limit Teal Jones' latest attempt to obtain a new injunction against logging protesters in the Walbran Valley.
Despite appeals from activists and a packed gallery of Walbran supporters, Teal Jones was awarded the injunction, which expires at the end of March, rather than September as they had requested.
The injunction creates 50-meter “bubble zones” around Teal Jones' machines, vehicles and work crews in the Walbran Valley, prohibiting the public from coming within 50 meters of any logging activities within the company's Tree Farm License 46.