Why Should Canada's First Ministers Embrace the Clean Energy Economy? Because It's 2016

Solar panel installation

This is a guest post by Mitchell Beer, which originally appeared on GreenPAC.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial/territorial premiers meet in Vancouver on Thursday, they’ll be searching for agreement on the pan-Canadian climate framework that Trudeau promised to introduce within 90 days of the 2015 United Nations climate summit in Paris.

It’s a big enough, ambitious enough agenda. But the real question facing First Ministers, and the elephant in the room that will dominate their deliberations, is bigger still. It comes in two parts:

What kind of economy do we want for Canada in the 21st century? (Because it’s 2016!)

And however that’s answered, is the plan realistic against anything we know about the future shape of global energy use?

Low Expectations for Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s High Emissions

The summer of 2010 was a bad year for Saskatchewan. Record floods, winds, and hailstorms led to 175 communities declaring states of emergency, and costing the province over $100 million. “The Summer of Storms” also made it the worst year ever for insurers, with $100 million in crop insurance payouts.
Premier Brad Wall, a man once described by Maclean’s as “standing athwart history yelling ‘I’m not sure about this!’ ” responded to the string of natural disasters with a telling quote: “The one thing the province cannot control is the weather,” he said.
Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, the type of extreme weather that cost it so dearly in 2010 is symptomatic of what models predict for the province under a changing climate.
Sure enough, extreme weather was yet again making headlines and shutting down entire cities in 2014.
On carbon emissions, the province is Canada writ small: both are small emitters in their larger contexts, yet large emitters per capita. Saskatchewan is the biggest carbon source per capita in the country, with three quarters of the province’s energy coming from coal and natural gas, although it plans to reduce that to 50 per cent by 2030.
Wall’s philosophy on climate change appears to be to downplay the significance of actual emissions while encouraging innovation in Canada that can be exported to larger emitters — tackling carbon on a larger scale than what can be done in the Canada’s relatively small arena.

That Time We Agreed with Ezra Levant

Ezra Levant

Ezra Levant is at it again. Only this time we aren’t rolling our eyes and quickly closing the Internet browser. No, this time we actually agree with him. Hear us out.
Last week Levant’s right-wing online news and opinion outlet The Rebel complained to the Alberta premier’s office about three incidents where Rebel staff were allegedly barred from government events. In its response last Friday, the government defended its policy.

“Our client’s position remains that your client (The Rebel) and those who identify as being connected to (The Rebel) are not journalists and are not entitled to access media lock-ups or other such events,” read a response from an Alberta Ministry of Justice lawyer, posted by The Rebel.

After a few days of outrage, the Alberta government lifted its ban on reporters from The Rebel.

“We’ve heard a lot of feedback from Albertans and media over the course of the last two days and it’s clear we made a mistake,” the premier’s office said in a statement.

While his “reckless disregard for the truth” and bigotry don’t make Levant the best crusader for press freedom, he’s right to argue that the Alberta government should not be in the game of determining who is and who is not a journalist. That opens the door to the government or press gallery of the day to disallow journalists it disagrees with.

The whole affair strikes a chord with us because DeSmog Canada has been on the receiving end of the same kind of treatment here in B.C. — stuck in the middle of a shifting debate about what constitutes a “media outlet” or a “journalist.”

While Canadians Obsess Over Pipelines, Domestic Solar Companies Make Major Investment Moves in India

This is a guest post by Sarah Petrevan, senior policy adviser at Clean Energy Canada, a program of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue.

The big energy story this week in Canada is pipelines. Yet again. 

Why? There’s controversy, for starters, but it’s also the fact that energy exports — especially oil — make up a big chunk of Canada’s exports, and we’re an export-driven economy.

Trans Mountain Oil Pipeline Review ‘Vexed from Outset’

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan

The review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has been plagued by a critical lack of evidence, members of a National Energy Board panel heard in Burnaby last week.

Chris Tollefson, lawyer from the Environmental Law Centre representing intervenors BC Nature and Nature Canada, said the evidence presented in the hearings is insufficient to prevent the panel from discharging its duty under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Fundamentally we say there is a lack of evidence for you to do your job,” he said.

In the Energy East Fight, We All Want the Same Things

Oil spill on beach

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.

Could the Fundamental 'Right to a Healthy Environment' Be a Gamechanger for Community-Led Battles like Shawnigan Lake?

Residents of Vancouver Island’s Shawnigan Lake are currently in B.C.’s Supreme Court fighting a waste discharge permit that will allow five million tonnes of contaminated soil to be dumped in their watershed over the next 50 years.

The ongoing case marks the third legal challenge the community has brought against the B.C. Ministry of Environment for granting the hazardous waste disposal permit to company South Island Aggregates.

The feeling of betrayal in the community is palpable, where frustrations with B.C.’s permit granting process and seeming close connection with industry are running at an all time high.

Sonia Furstenau, Cowichan Valley Regional District elected official for Shawnigan Lake, said people in the community have voiced their opposition to the project since day one.

“First Enlightenment, then the Laundry”: What the Paris Climate Agreement Means for Canada

If you’ve been watching headlines about the historic signing of the Paris Agreement this past weekend, you may be understandably confused.

Does the world’s first climate treaty represent the beginning of the end for fossil fuels or a mere free-market cop out?

Both arguments hold some truth. That’s because the agreement is more form, less substance. That’s what it was intended to be. The real meat of the deal remains entirely undetermined because it has yet to grow on the bones of the treaty.

What countries like Canada actually do to implement the intended outcome of the Paris Agreement — to keep temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions — will determine whether the torrent of analyses we’re seeing, dire or otherwise, have any merit.

There’s this Buddhist idiom that says: first Enlightenment, then the laundry,” Glen Murray, Ontario’s Environment Minister, said at the climate summit in Paris. “This has been the Enlightenment and now we all have to go home and do the laundry to make sure this happens.”

A Mythbusting Guide to the Paris Climate Agreement

Climate Nexus has published a helpful mythbusting page correcting the misinformation that is already being spread about the Paris Climate Agreement. It is rewritten here with permission.

Myths and Facts about COP21, the Paris Climate Agreement

MYTH: “Paris is not legally binding; it won’t change anything. China and India will still emit so much CO2 as to make all US reductions pointless.”

FACT: Paris does have legally binding aspects, and other nations are already taking action.

All the Reasons the Paris Agreement is a Huge Freaking Deal for the Climate

The world collectively agreed to combat global warming with the signing of the first international climate treaty Saturday in Paris.

This is a historic moment. Breathe a sigh of relief everyone. This is good news.

It doesn’t mean the work is done — not by a long shot — and that’s surely something pundits, politicians, campaigners and scientists alike will go to great lengths to hammer home for the foreseeable future.

But it does mean that nearly 200 hundred countries have agreed to work together. What’s more, they’ve more or less agreed on the basis of science and that only came about after a monumental amount of time, energy, diplomacy, negotiation, steadfastness and compromise were all thrown into a giant airport hangar on the outskirts of Paris.

Such accomplishments are not come by lightly. This is as much an important victory for the climate as it is for international diplomacy. Way to go, world.

It sounded like this when it happened:

We all know the vaaaaast majority of people will never take a gander at the actual text of the agreement. But it’s chock-a-block full of really important details that will determine how countries will move forward back home after they depart from the chic Charles de Gaulle airport.

Here are some key high- and lowlights, for your overviewing pleasure.


Subscribe to Analysis