How the Green New Deal Is Forcing Politicians to Finally Address Climate Change


Scientists have understood for decades that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it; recent studies, including a landmark report in October from the U.N., have shown that things are even worse than we thought. Global temperatures have already risen 1°C since the Industrial Revolution; if the planet heats by much more than an additional half a degree, we could see some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change, including the death of the world’s coral reefs and the inundation of entire island nations.

That reality has resonated with the public: more than 70% of Americans now understand that climate change is taking place, according to data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. A February NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found that two-thirds of Republicans believe their party is “outside the mainstream” on the issue.

Into this new political reality came the Green New Deal–equal parts policy proposal and battle cry. The resolution, introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, calls for the U.S. to launch a broad “mobilization” to decarbonize the economy while tackling a slew of other social ills. The response was mixed. People loved it. People loathed it. Others were confused by it. But in D.C., where climate has long been relegated to third-tier status, lawmakers could no longer avoid the issue.

Sunrise Movement activists call for a Green New Deal on Capitol Hill

Sunrise Movement activists call for a Green New Deal on Capitol Hill

Aurora Samperio—NurPhoto/Getty Images

Back to top Recycle, Reuse & Redos – A Trans Mountain update

Neb "Redo" press conference - (Photo: Kai Nagata, Dogwood BC)
Press conference with Indigenous leaders and environmental organizations following the release of the NEB’s reconsideration report, Feb. 22, 2019. (Photo: Kai Nagata/Dogwood BC)

There are a number of recent developments on the Trans Mountain file – from the reconsideration (“redo”) of the environmental assessment to unanswered questions about the federal government’s purchase price for the pipeline, and another (much quieter) NEB decision regarding rates for the existing Trans Mountain pipeline. And all of these events have made it increasingly clear that Trans Mountain is a bad deal for Canadians.

The “redo”

The National Energy Board’s (NEB) recent reconsideration report on the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) was, not surprisingly, a huge flop. But at least the report upholds one environmental value: the NEB recycled and reused the vast majority of its previous report, leaving 10 of the 14 chapters completely unchanged, aside from updating footnotes and changing “Aboriginal” to “Indigenous” throughout (because, reconciliation).

The “new” report (which recommended approving the project) did include one new chapter, one rewritten chapter, and minor changes to two chapters, following the 22-week NEB redo. Unfortunately, this did not ‘reduce’ the volume of the 689-page report.

The NEB’s reconsideration process was required after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the 2016 federal approval of TMX in August 2018. The court found that the NEB’s exclusion of marine shipping from the initial environmental assessment resulted in a report so deficient that it could not be considered a valid report for the Cabinet to rely on in its decision.

The court’s ruling also held that constitutionally-required consultation with affected First Nations – a separate process from the NEB review – was “well below the standard” set by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Unsurprisingly, the NEB once again recommended approval of the Trans Mountain Expansion project, suggesting 156 conditions (one less than the 157 it suggested last time), and 16 non-binding recommendations.

As expected, the Board found that the project would likely cause “significant adverse environmental effects” on the endangered southern resident killer whales, and the Indigenous cultural use associated with them. They also found that greenhouse gas emissions from project-related marine vessels would be significant, and that a worst-case oil spill would be significant (duh). MORE

‘All Rhetoric and No Action’: Oil Giants Spent $1 Billion on Climate Lobbying and Ads Since Paris Pact, Says Report

climate policy grades for five major oil companies

A new report by a British think tank estimates that since the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world’s five largest listed oil and gas companies spent more than $1 billion lobbying to prevent climate change regulations while also running public relations campaigns aimed at maintaining public support for climate action.

Combined, the companies spend roughly $200 million a year pushing to delay or alter climate and energy rules, particularly in the U.S. — while spending $195 million a year “on branding campaigns that suggest they support an ambitious climate agenda,” according to InfluenceMap, a UK-based non-profit that researches how corporations influence climate policy.

InfluenceMap cites as an example ExxonMobil’s heavily-touted algae-biofuels research, which the oil giant says “offers some of the greatest promise for next-generation biofuels” with significant climate benefits and has made it the focus of its “The Tiny Organism” ad campaign.

InfluenceMap notes that “detailed disclosures from the company show its goal of 10,000 barrels of bio-fuel a day would equate to only 0.2 percent of its current refinery capacity.”

Oil majors are projecting themselves as key players in the energy transition while lobbying to delay, weaken, or oppose meaningful climate policy,” Edward Collins, author of the new report, said in a statement. “They advocate gradual implementation of market-based and technological climate solutions, but the latest [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report makes clear that urgent policy action and limitations on fossil fuel use are needed to avoid dangerous climate change.” MORE


Big Oil’s Real Agenda on Climate Change

Food companies can make nutrition affordable to low-income consumers with a mix of tech and tradition

Image result for good food is good business

The future of affordable nutrition is the subject of a report released last week from the Institute for the Future and commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Good Food is Good Business” takes a look at forces that will drive opportunities to create more affordable, accessible, appealing and nutritious foods for lower-income consumers during the next decade.

The 59-page report focuses on national and regional food and beverage companies, multinational food and beverage companies, innovators and input suppliers to the industry. Technological approaches such as artificial intelligence and blockchain are addressed, along with biological ones such as cellular agriculture, the microbiome and cultural zones of innovation.

Low- and middle-income countries rarely show up on the radar of large multinational food companies, so innovation, R&D and business development aren’t often looking at affordable nutrition, the report says. “For those few companies who develop nutritious foods for low- and middle-income markets and survive, their impact remains limited and their scale small. Providing healthier, more nutritious and more affordable foods to lower-income consumers is therefore a grand challenge, shouldered mostly by food aid organizations along with some private-sector actors,” it states. MORE

Youth are preparing to lead in an uncertain future

Canadian students take to the streets in Toronto on March 15, 2019 as part of a global student strike to pressure governments to take serious action to address climate change. File photo by Carlos Osorio

The student climate strike on March 15 made it clear that young people have had enough. We are no longer waiting for others to secure our future. Students took to the streets on that day because we have big problems to solve and what we’re doing right now isn’t working. It’s time to be bold and innovative. It’s time to try something new.

By 2030, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we need to be well on our way to a carbon neutral society. Meanwhile artificial intelligence systems, complex global trade networks, and automation are about to completely reshape how we work. The Institute for the Future, a non-profit educational organization, estimates that 85 per cent of the jobs today’s students will be doing in 2030 don’t exist yet. That means we have to solve long-term problems while navigating a fast-changing world.

Eighty-five per cent of the jobs today’s students will be doing in 2030 don’t exist yet. That means we have to solve long-term problems while navigating a fast-changing world.

Youth will bear the brunt of the impacts of these problems and youth will be the leaders who overcome them. Yet our biggest challenge is that we face issues like climate change, inequality, and disruptive new technologies all at once. This means that leaders need to reach across boundaries, understand issues from multiple perspectives, and radically collaborate. They need to be adaptable, knowledgeable, and connected. So equipping young people with the skills they need to lead and innovate is in everyone’s best interest. The Trudeau government’s most recent budget emphasizes the importance of skills development, while the OECD encourages all its members to develop national skills strategies.


Could Wahkohtowin Help Us Fix Child Welfare?

How a traditional way of seeing the world offers a path for communities today. Last in a series.WahkohtowinProject.jpg
The Wahkohtowin Strengthening Families Program gives people in Winnipeg’s inner city the opportunity to build community and support each other, says Leslie Spillett. Photo supplied by Sarah Buhler.

For Leslie Spillett, Wahkohtowin isn’t an idea or principle — it’s a way to live.

Wahkohtowin, a Cree teaching about kinship, connectedness, and a responsibility to care for each other and the world, informs every area of her life, says Spillett. Including her work with children and families.

“In terms of Wahkohtowin, that’s, I guess, my practice… what I’ve done as an Indigenous woman. My friendship kinship systems are within the community, my ceremony kinship systems are in the community… My work, I wanted to make that the same.”

Wahkohtowin translates to “kinship” in Cree. The principle is much broader, extending to an appreciation of the connectedness of all living things and the responsibility to reflect that in the way we live. (Read more about Wahkohtowin in a previous Tyee story.)


Banks pumped $1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the Paris climate deal

Your checking account is funding climate disaster.

[Source Images: yamonstro/iStock, seamartini/iStock]

After the Paris climate agreement in late 2015, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon spoke publicly in support of the agreement, which calls for finance flows to be “consistent with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions.” But despite his rhetoric, between 2016 and 2018 his bank ramped up funding for fossil fuels, pouring $196 billion into financing coal, Arctic oil and gas, fracking, tar sands, and other fossil fuel projects. If you bank at Chase, your money might have helped fund drilling in the Amazon rainforest.

In total, according to a new report from a group of environmental nonprofits, the 33 largest global banks collectively provided $1.9 trillion in financing for fossil fuels. Of that, $600 billion went to 100 companies that are aggressively expanding fossil fuel projects at a time when climate scientists say that the world needs to rapidly transition to renewable energy.

“That expansion figure is particularly worrying for us,” says Alison Kirsch, lead researcher for the climate and energy program at the Rainforest Action Network, one of the nonprofits behind the report. “Previous analysis has shown that the potential carbon emissions from fossil fuel reserves already in production would take us beyond two degrees of warming, let alone 1.5 degrees.”  MORE

Muir: Critical thinking on energy more significant than ever

People gather to protest the oil industry in Victoria. The B.C. city’s holier-than-thou attitude toward energy companies has to be contrasted with its enthusiasm for more CO2-spouting cruise-ship tourism.JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Recently, an American campaign urging cities to demand money from oil companies because of the cost of climate change mitigation arrived in British Columbia. It had some early success, sort of.

Almost immediately, the mayor of the hydrocarbon-reliant Whistler resort lit up social media in all the wrong ways by putting his signature to a ransom letter directed at one of Canada’s most innovative energy companies, Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. He was just days into the job and had not yet learned the hazards of signing whatever the administrator puts on your desk. Enraged Albertans cancelled their Whistler plans and the mayor quickly back-pedaled.

The city of Victoria was drawn into the same campaign. As one Alberta critic said in response, the scenic capital’s holier-than-thou attitude toward energy companies has to be contrasted with its enthusiasm for more CO2-spouting cruise-ship tourism, an activity persistently trumpeted as a foundation of the city’s green economy.

Cities produce up to 80 per cent of global greenhouse gases, according to a study published in the journal Sustainability. Despite their postcard settings, Whistler and Victoria have all the attributes of major cities, with high-density housing and consumption-intensive lifestyles and access to airports.

Suppose we do pursue an immediate and wholesale rush into non-hydrocarbon energy. What does that look like? Numerous think tanks agree that trillions of dollars of investment are needed to meet Canada’s mid-century climate goals and reduce CO2 emissions by 80 per cent. Yet, what’s unfolding today in Canada is simply chaotic. MORE

The water justice movement’s fight against commodification and extractivism

Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr

An overview of the water justice movement in Canada and the ways in which power is manufactured and deployed in water governance.

Water is a cross-cutting issue among many social movements in Canada and in Indigenous nations. The water justicement movement here is diverse and includes grassroots groups, individual activists, Indigenous nations and groups, environmental and labour organizations, scientists, workers and many others.

They work on broad range of issues including calling for justice in the face of drinking water advisories in First Nations communities, Nestlé and other bottled water takings, oil and gas drilling, pipelines, mining, fracking and liquefied natural gas (LNG), public-private partnerships, nuclear waste and other threats. There are also localized movements fighting mega quarries, logging and so much more.

The various struggles within the water justice movement overlap at times. The underlying messages and principles throughout all of these fights are often “water is life,” “water is sacred,” “water is not for sale” and “water is a human right.”

Power is manufactured and deployed through:

  • The creation of laws or policies: For example, Bill C-69 which includes the Canadian Navigable Waters Act, has significant impacts on water, yet fails to obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous nations, cutting many out from decision-making processes.
  • Policing and criminalization of dissent: There are a lot of examples where governments and police criminalize Indigenous peoples and settler activists for defending lands and waters such as the Line 9 pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline, fracking in Elsipogtog First Nation and the raid on Wet’suwet’en territory earlier this year, and protect corporate interests instead.
  • Land or property: Whether land is designated Crown land, private property or recognized as Indigenous territory gives some people power and leaves others out of decision making.
  • Messaging, language and framing particularly in the media: Messaging can be based on false assumptions. For example, messages like “the fossil fuel industry is the only way to create jobs” or “pipelines, fracking and bottling water are good for the economy” are based on the false assumption that the current capitalist economy is good for everyone.
  • Knowledge and access to information: Public-private partnerships are often kept secret — like in the case of Winnipeg — and that inhibits a community’s ability to engage in genuine democratic debate.



Breakthrough: Water Apocalypse

Despite Earth’s surface being covered with water, there is very little water to drink. Saltwater oceans make up 97 per cent of the water on Earth. Glaciers at our polar caps lock up two per cent of our fresh water. Seven billion people and millions of animal species share just one per cent of the water available on our planet. With climate change savaging weather systems and our population rising, scientists and engineers are struggling to find local solutions for the global water problem.

England could run short of water within 25 years

Jagmeet Singh stands up to hate and inequality

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with media following caucus on Nov. 29, 2017 in Ottawa.

Commentator, historian and writer Christo Aivalis explores Jagmeet Singh’s first week in Parliament as the first racialized person to lead a major federal party in federal Canadian politics. In this Youtube commentary, Aivailis notes that, while Singh has much to offer, perhaps his key strength comes in how he is a steadfast enemy of both social intolerance and economic inequality.

But most important is how he links the two. The federal NDP leader states clearly that we will never rid ourselves of intolerance, prejudice, and distrust until we address systematic inequalities in the Canadian economy. In short, Singh is the alternative, both to Andrew Scheer and Maxime Bernier’s dog-whistle conservatism, and to Justin Trudeau’s disingenuous progressivism.