Stephen Leahy

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Stephen Leahy is the 2012 co-winner of the Prince Albert/United Nations Global Prize for Climate Change reporting . A Canadian, Leahy is the senior science and environment correspondent at Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS) based in Rome. His work is also published in National Geographic, The Guardian (UK), New Scientist, Al Jazeera, Earth Island Journal and others. His website: To continue this work at a time of severe cutbacks and closure of many media, Leahy launched Community Supported Journalism, please visit the link and offer your support. 

Salmon Farmer Cermaq Dismantles Ocean Pen Near Tofino Following Two-Week Occupation by First Nations, Locals

A new salmon farm in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island was dismantled and hauled away this week after being occupied by members of Ahousaht First Nations and local supporters from Tofino.

This is the very first salmon farm that’s pulled out of B.C. because of protesters,” said Alexandra Morton, an independent salmon research scientist who has documented the devastating impacts of salmon farms on wild salmon and other marine species. Morton was part of the two-week occupation.

Lennie John, an Ahousaht man, was the first to tie his boat to the floating fish pens in the long narrow channel near the eastern shore of Flores Island with its intact ancient cedar rainforest and many creeks supporting runs of wild salmon. This is also home of the Ahousaht First Nations. Cermaq, a Norwegian-based salmon farming company (recently purchased by the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi) was granted permits this summer to install its 16th farm in Clayoquot Sound.

We blocked Cermaq’s access and told them they were trespassing,” John, an Ahousaht tourism business owner, said.

Could Canadian Lawyers Replicate the Landmark Dutch Climate Victory?

Dutch climate victory

The courts are “our best hope for averting dangerous climate change” believes Dutch lawyer Roger Cox who recently won what may be one of the most important legal cases this century.

Last June a court in The Hague ruled the Dutch government had to increase its carbon dioxide emissions cuts from 17 per cent to 25 per cent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Canada’s 2020 target is an increase of about seven per cent over its emissions in 1990 and it will not make that target.

Although the right-wing Dutch government fought the case, it will comply with the judgment, Cox said during a presentation at the Osgoode Hall Law Society Tuesday evening in Toronto. The event was hosted by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a non-partisan think tank.

Cox represented an environmental group, the Urgenda Foundation, and almost 900 citizens in the two-year case. They argued the Netherlands is obligated to cut emissions between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020 since all developed countries, including Canada, agreed to this at the UN climate negotiations in Cancun in 2010.

The big question is: could the decision be replicated in Canada?

Marilyn Baptiste Wins Prestigious Goldman Prize, Elevates Indigenous Struggle Against Mines

Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation in British Columbia has won the prestigious $175,000 Goldman Prize  for her five-year effort to prevent construction of the Prosperity gold and copper mine 600 kilometres north of Vancouver.

I hope the Goldman award will bring world recognition to help us protect our land,” Baptiste told DeSmog Canada.  “We’d like to improve our lives, but our land and water comes first.”

That simple statement echoes the words of millions of indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world facing governments and industries intent on extracting minerals, oil, coal, gas and timber from their lands.

It’s the same story everywhere,” she said.

However, the beginnings of a new story may be in the works in Canada. Baptiste is a member of the Tsilhqot’in people who won a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2014 that granted aboriginal title to more than a 1,750-square-kilometre area in the Cariboo-Chilcotin area.

Proponents of Renewable Energy Will Own the 21st Century, Say Leaders at World Congress

Vancouver city council’s unanimous decision to commit to running on 100 per cent renewable energy is the kind of political leadership the world desperately needs says Jørgen Randers, professor of climate strategy at the Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway.

Despite the looming catastrophe of climate change the market will choose to do nothing,” Randers said in the keynote speech at the ICLEI World Congress 2015, the triennial sustainability summit of local governments in Seoul, South Korea.

Nor will voluntary actions on climate be enough. Strong legislation, intelligent policy and collective action are the only ways to keep humanity from a nightmare future, said the former business executive who still sits on boards of major corporations.

Cities Emerge as Climate Leaders at World Congress But Still Need More Government Support

Cities are responsible for 70 per cent of global CO2 emissions but they can save the planet by greening one community at a time said Vancouver’s David Cadman at the close of the ICLEI World Congress 2015, the triennial sustainability summit of local governments in Seoul, South Korea.

We can do it. We must do it,” Cadman, the retiring president of Local Governments for Sustainability, told some 1,500 delegates from nearly 1,000 cities and local governments in 96 countries on April 11.

The majority of climate actions and most plans to reduce CO2 emissions are happening at the city level, Cadman told DeSmog Canada in Seoul.

Experts Call for Moratorium on New Oilsands Development Until Climate, Environmental Impacts Assessed

A moratorium on any new oilsands expansion is imperative given Canada’s failure to properly assess the total environmental and climate impacts Canadian and U.S. experts say in the prestigious science journal Nature.

Even with a moratorium it will be very difficult for Canada to meet its international promise to reduce CO2 emissions that are overheating the planet according to government documents as previously reported by DeSmog.

Continuing to approve pipelines and new projects guarantees Canada will not meet the Harper government’s Copenhagen emissions reduction target,” said Wendy Palen, an ecologist at Simon Fraser University. 

These are the plain facts Canadians need to be aware of,” Palen, a co-author of the Nature commentary, told DeSmog.

Canadians also have no idea of the overall ‘big picture’ of the impacts of oilsands production and transport because each project is assessed in isolation.

New Study: High Seas Represent $148 Billion Carbon Sink

carbon sink high seas global ocean commission

Marine life in the high seas soak up twice as much CO2 from the atmosphere as Canada emits every year, a new study by the Global Ocean Commission revealed Tuesday.

Scientists estimate that phytoplankton absorb and bury more than 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 in the seabed every year.

This would be news to readers of the Globe and Mail’s detailed two-page spread on the Global Ocean Commission report, which failed to mention this vitally important carbon reduction service (or that it is worth an estimated $148 billion a year).

Additionally, if governments ended fishing in the unclaimed oceans beyond 200-mile economic zones, near-shore fish catches would soar, even more carbon would be safely removed from the atmosphere and the oceans would be healthier said co-author of the study Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre.

The high seas are like a failed state. Poor governance and the absence of policing and management mean valuable resources are unprotected or being squandered,” said David Miliband, co-chair of the commission and former foreign secretary of the United Kingdom.

Governments like Japan, Spain, the U.S. and China subsidize fishing fleets to destroy the high seas by overfishing and deep-sea bottom trawling to the tune of $152 million a year.

Here’s the kicker: The dollar value of all the fish caught way out there is actually negative when costs like fuel and subsidies are subtracted. Turns out high seas fishing fleets get 25 per cent of their income from subsidies according to a 2009 analysis by Sumaila.

Critics Concerned Pipelines, Tankers Reason for Downgrading "Threatened" Status of Humpback Whales

humpback whale mike baird

This week the federal government was legally obligated to establish protected habitat for threatened North Pacific humpback whales. Instead the Harper government suddenly moved to take the humpback off the “threatened species” list. That would eliminate the legal requirement under Canada’s Species At Risk Act for protecting habitat along the British Columbia coast.

The government based the downgrade on a recommendation made by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the independent scientific body that designates which wildlife species are in trouble, in 2011.

Critics have noted the decision eliminates a major obstacle to both the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. After the conditional approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline by the National Energy Board's joint review panel, the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre launched a legal complaint on behalf of B.C. Nature requesting the government's recovery strategy for humpback whales be taken into consideration.

A federal recovery strategy for humpback whales on the B.C. coast released in October cited potential increased oil tanker traffic as a danger to dwindling populations. The recovery strategy, released after a five-year delay, also noted the danger toxic spills posed to critical habitat.

If built, the two pipeline projects would increase oil tanker traffic from eight to 28 per month, increasing the risks of collisions with whales, potential spills in vital habitat and excessive noise.

DeSmog Investigation into Faulty Natural Gas Emissions Reporting Prompts Response from B.C. Government

natural gas pipelines BC for fracked gas and LNG

The B.C. Ministry of Environment stands by its “implausibly low” estimate of methane leaks from the natural gas sector according to an official “information note” triggered by DeSmog's two-part article series last May.

The DeSmog investigation revealed methane leaks were likely 7 times greater than the B.C. government is reporting based on data from US studies. The real climate impacts of those leaks would be like adding at least three million cars to B.C. roads.

DeSmog's findings were subsequently confirmed by international energy experts in June. “Canada appears to have vastly underestimated fugitive emissions (leaks) from gas exploration in British Colombia [sic],” possibly because of “inadequate accounting methodology” they reported.

Their report documents studies and data from other countries showing methane leaks range between 2 and 9% of total production compared to B.C.'s reported 0.3%. This difference is “substantial” they said.

Young and Restless: Canadian Youth Dismayed at Canada's Climate Performance

(WARSAW, Poland) — “I'm ashamed to tell anyone here I'm a Canadian. When they find out they say 'ohh we pity you',” said Leehi Yona, a 20-year old Montrealer who attended the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland.

“All Canadians would be outraged if they knew how Canada behaves on the world stage,” Yona, a student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, told DeSmog on the last day of the two-week negotiations. She's in Warsaw with the US Climate Action Network, a coalition of environmental groups.

“I'm determined to tell as many Canadians as I can what's happening in Warsaw.”

About 12,000 people are involved in the climate treaty negotiations known as COP 19. At least 1,500 are members of environmental and civil society organizations. In a nutshell, COP 19 is step towards creating a new climate treaty by 2015 to keep global warming to less than 2˚ C and to help poor countries survive the mounting impacts.