James Wilt

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James Wilt is a freelance journalist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a journalism degree from Mount Royal University in Calgary. He regularly contributes to DeSmog Canada, and has also written for VICE Canada, CBC Calgary, Alberta Oil, Fast Forward Weekly and Geez magazine.

Canada in Hot Seat for Resource Policies at UN Racial Discrimination Hearing

John Ridsdale

Indigenous leaders from northern British Columbia are calling on the UN to investigate whether ongoing industrial development of Indigenous lands and waters constitutes a violation of UN conventions this week.

Canada is up for review by the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In a submission, tribes from B.C.’s northwest said Canada’s environmental assessment laws continue to measure money instead of impact.

One of the signatories is Deneza Na’Moks (John Ridsdale), a hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en. He travelled to the UN on the heels of the recent approval and then cancellation of Petronas’ plans to build a pipeline and the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the Skeena River estuary.

Where On Earth Is Manitoba’s Climate Plan?

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Pallister initially seemed very serious about confronting greenhouse gas emissions — a position that came as a surprise to many given the history of Canada’s conservative politicians sidestepping the tricky issue of climate change.

The party’s election platform pledged to “work with the federal government and other jurisdictions as we develop a made-in-Manitoba climate action plan.”

After winning a massive majority in April 2016, it hired Canadian climate policy legend and campaign manager David McLaughlin as senior adviser on the file.

An online survey was extended for an additional two weeks in March to allow for more public input.

These were all impressive things from a government led by Pallister, who had previously served as an MP in Stephen Harper’s notoriously anti-climate policy government.

But nearly 16 months later, the plan has never materialized.

Indigenous Law Legend Thomas Berger To Lead B.C. Into Trans Mountain Pipeline Battle

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain protest

The new B.C. NDP government has officially taken its first major step in attempting to stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

On Thursday morning, it announced it will seek intervener status in upcoming legal challenges to the federal approval of the pipeline.

The announcement helps to fulfill what was pledged in the now-famous NDP-Green “confidence and supply agreement” to “immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

Perhaps the most significant part of the announcement was who the B.C. government hired as external legal counsel for the process: Thomas Berger, one of the most renowned lawyers in Canadian history, especially in the realm of Indigenous and environmental rights.

Here’s a quick explainer about who Berger is, and what message this hiring sends.

Five Ways Alberta Can Raise the Bar on Methane Regulations

Flare stacks

Environmental organizations, labour groups and technology companies are calling on Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to take decisive action on methane emissions from oil and gas activities.

Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, with 25 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Methane is a huge component of natural gas, so Alberta generates a lot of the stuff because it gets vented in all sorts of ways once you start digging around beneath the earth’s surface.

In an open letter the groups call on Alberta to go above and beyond the draft federal regulations on methane.

Alberta can lead the country’s methane reduction efforts and keep good job opportunities in the oil and gas sector from going to waste,” the letter reads.

Sounds nice, right?

10 Things Albertans Might Actually Like About Their Carbon Tax

Calgary Green Line LRT Carbon Tax

It’s been a full six months since Alberta introduced its economy-wide carbon levy and the sky has not fallen.

In fact, unlike what many politicians and pundits were predicting ahead of the implementation of the $20/tonne carbon levy, the cost of gasoline at the pumps hasn’t spiked — and has in fact been consistently lower than when politicians like Jason Kenney and Derek Fildebrandt made photo ops by filling jerry cans ahead of January 1, the date the carbon tax took effect.

The question now is less about whether the carbon price is going to be implemented, and more about what the revenue — $3.85 billion over three years — is actually going to pay for.

Here are 10 ways carbon levy revenues are being used to create a better quality of life and lower emissions in Alberta.

Industry Sways Feds to Allow Offshore Drilling in Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area

North Atlantic right whales

If an ocean valley becomes federally protected but seismic work and offshore drilling is allowed in more than 80 per cent of the territory, is it really federally protected?

That’s the question facing Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is currently working on the final regulations for the 11,619 square kilometre Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area off the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

The proposed regulations published on June 24 in the Canada Gazette included significant allowances for offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling, as well a reduction by more than one-third in the actual size of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) from the original area plotted out in 2007.

The government admitted the regulations came about after fossil fuel lobbyists “raised concerns with respect to limitations on potential future activities.”

Why We Need to Clean Up Mining if We Want a Renewable Energy Economy

Solar panels mining

A massive open-pit copper mine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about solar power.

But the construction of photovoltaic panels actually require a wide range of metals and minerals to build. Nineteen, to be exact, including silica, indium, silver, selenium and lead. Most can be found or produced in Canada.

And as demand for solar panels continues to rapidly increase in coming years — up to a 17-fold global increase between 2015 and 2050, according to the International Energy Agency — significant quantities of these metals and minerals will be required.

The Problem With Climate Doomsday Reporting, And How To Move Beyond It

The Banker Sculpture. Photo: University of Sydney

It’s not often that an article about climate change becomes one of the most hotly debated issues on the internet — especially in the midst of a controversial G20 summit.

But that exact thing happened following the publication of a lengthy essay in New York Magazine titled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, Economic Collapse, a Sun that Cooks Us: What Climate Change Could Wreak — Sooner Than You Think.”

In the course of 7,200 words, author David Wallace-Wells chronicled the possible impacts of catastrophic climate change if current emissions trends are maintained, including, but certainly not limited to: mass permafrost melt and methane leaks, mass extinctions, fatal heat waves, drought and food insecurity, diseases and viruses, “rolling death smog,” global conflict and war, economic collapse and ocean acidification.

Slate political writer Jamelle Bouie described the essay on Twitter as “something that will haunt your nightmares.”

It’s a fair assessment. Reading it feels like a series of punches in the gut, triggering emotions like despair, hopelessness and resignation.

But here’s the thing: many climate psychologists and communicators consider those feelings to be the very opposite of what will compel people to action.

EXCLUSIVE: NEB Quietly Grants Pipeline Companies Permission to Keep Repair Locations Secret

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association integrity dig

Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) has quietly stopped requiring pipeline companies to post the geographic coordinates of repairs, DeSmog Canada has learned.

The federal pipeline regulator cites “public safety” as the reason for deciding to limit information on the specific location of “integrity digs” to examine cracks, corrosion or dents — but critics argue the decision compromises the ability of Canadians to access information about the safety of pipelines.

Often times, hundreds of integrity digs will take place in certain areas of pipeline, raising questions about the quality of that section of line, said Emily Ferguson, an environmental consultant and founder of Line 9 Communities.

When you see integrity data on a map, you can see these clusters of where there might be issues,” Ferguson said. “I think that’s something that is obviously in the best interest of the pipeline companies not to have that publicly released.”

Three Indigenous Perspectives on Canada 150 in the Era of Pipelines, Dams and Mines

Caleb Behn Canada 150

The massive “Canada 150” celebrations of July 1 are finally over, leaving little in their wake but hangovers, a multi-million dollar price tag and mountains of trash.

But for some Indigenous peoples in Canada, the festivities remain a visceral reminder of their continued dispossession from ancestral lands and waters. That’s especially true for those on the frontlines of megaprojects — pipelines, hydro dams, oil and gas wells, liquefied natural gas terminals and mines — that infringe on Indigenous land rights.

DeSmog Canada caught up with three Indigenous people directly involved in local struggles to resist such projects.

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