Agreement in Paris Paves Road For The End of Fossil Fuels

paris climate conference cop21

History was made tonight in Paris as the leaders of 195 nations agreed to an ambitious, science-based pact to move the world away from the fossil fuels that are to blame for the rapid increase in global temperatures.

After two weeks of negotiations here in the airport hangars of Le Bourget, 195 parties have signed a global pact that will curb global warming pollution and rapidly escalate the growth of the clean energy solutions the world needs.

The consensus here is that the Paris deal on the table is a good one. Could it be better? Of course. But this deal is about as good as it is going to get from a consensus process involving 195 countries.

Why Alberta’s Climate Plan Won’t Stop the Battle Over Oil Pipelines

Burnaby Mountain protest against Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

An article published last week in the National Post that claims a “secret” deal was struck between oil companies and environmentalists has ruffled many feathers — from corporate big wigs in Calgary to environmental activists on the West Coast.

According to Claudia Cattaneo’s story, Alberta’s climate change plan — which introduced a carbon tax, phased out coal-fired electricity and put a cap on oilsands emissions — was “the product of secret negotiations between four top oilsands companies and four environmental organizations.”

I’m not sure how secret any of that was given that all of those players could clearly be seen on stage with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley when she announced the plan, but the story goes on to state: “The companies agreed to the cap in exchange for the environmental groups backing down on opposition to oil export pipelines, but the deal left other players on the sidelines, and that has created a deep division in Canada’s oil and gas sector.”

The remainder of the story goes into how various oil companies have their knickers in a twist over the deal.  You’d think environmentalists would be dancing in the streets about that, but no — it’s actually hard to say who’s more outraged: environmentalists, who bristle at the idea of a secret deal and who don’t think the agreement is strong enough, or oil companies, who don’t think the new regulations will help them gain the market access they’re so desperately seeking.

Let’s just all hold our horses for a second.

What We Know About Canada's Position on the Six Most Hot Button Issues at the Paris Climate Talks

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.

Five Numbers You Need to Know to Understand Canada’s Role at the COP21 Paris Climate Talks

Even though the COP21 climate talks in Paris only began Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already made waves, thrusting Canada back onto the international stage amid excitement and applause.

Yet climate experts are quick to point out Trudeau has a lot of work to do to bridge the gaps between the talk and the walk when it comes to meaningful climate action.

The international climate negotiations ongoing in Paris will continue on until the end of next week and onlookers will have to wait to know what shape the final outcome will take.

But for now, here are five numbers you need to know to understand Canada’s role in the world’s most important climate negotiation to date.

‘It’s a New Day’: Why Environmentalists Need to Change Their Strategy Under Trudeau Government

Ottawa climate protest

Nine and a half years. That’s how long Stephen Harper was prime minister of Canada — a long haul for environmentalists, who were all but shut out of Ottawa and often antagonized by the federal government.

Now that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have taken the helm, advocates have high hopes for a course correction on the environment and energy files. But after nearly a decade of working under hostile conditions, environmentalists need to make a course correction of their own if they want to effectively influence public policy, experts say.   

If I was running a large ENGO and my file was climate, it’s a new day,” said Allan Northcott, vice-president of Max Bell Foundation, which runs the Public Policy Training Institute to train non-profit leaders in how to effectively advocate for policy changes.

The opportunity is different, so it’s going to require a different plan, a different strategy.”

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?

Trudeau Said He is 'Disappointed' By Rejection of Keystone XL. But Is He Really?

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has been Prime Minister for nearly 72 hours and for a large number of people, Canada is well into the 'Everything is Awesome' phase of his tenure.

But for some, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's honeymoon is already over. It ended around noon when he released a statement on Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, describing his administration as “disappointed.” To them it is a glaring “told-you-so” moment — one that exposes Trudeau once and for all as a corporate, right-of-centre wolf in progressive’s clothing. 

But what if it's not that moment? 

If anything, Canadians have seen that Trudeau is a savvy politician. During these early days in office he’s got a lot of politicking to do — and not just with Canadians worried about the climate.

In the same statement that Trudeau expressed his disappointment, he also pivoted to focusing on clean energy jobs.

The Government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts and create the clean jobs of tomorrow,” the statement read.

So before anyone gets themselves in a tizzy, let's take a look at Trudeau's position on pipelines more generally and explore the nuance of today's important announcement.

Canada Now Has a Minister of Environment AND Climate Change

Miniser of Environment Catherine McKenna

Leaders in Canada’s environmental community are expressing optimism about the appointment of lawyer Catherine McKenna as Minister of Environment and Climate Change at a swearing in ceremony in Ottawa Wednesday morning.

Including climate change in the environment minister’s title signals how high a priority this issue is to our new federal government,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada.

As a lawyer, McKenna focused on international trade and competition and co-founded a charity focused on advancing human rights in the developing world.  She was also a legal adviser and negotiator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor. A video on her website shows her biking around Ottawa with her three children.

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. 


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