We Asked Two Experts to Evaluate Each Party’s Climate Plan

At this point, which has the best chance of reducing emissions in a just way?

What are the four major parties offering on the climate file? Trudeau photo by Canada 2020, Creative Commons licensed; Scheer photo by Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press; Singh photo from Wikimedia.

…Here is what Turcotte [ Pembina Institute] and Fenton [350 Canada]  think thus far about the federal climate plans. Their remarks, which come from separate interviews, have been edited for length and clarity.

Conservative Party of Canada: A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment

Climate target: Unspecified

Defining feature: Gets rid of Canada’s current carbon pricing system. Replaces it with a policy requiring companies that emit over 40 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year to pay into a research and development fund for green technology.

Turcotte: “I would say that it does not offer us progress, it’s not offering us policy continuity. In 2019, you do not dismantle climate plans, you do not dismantle policy, you build on them. One of the key tenets of this plan is to scrap the price on pollution. That’s not a good policy decision. It will not send a good signal to industry. If we’re putting in policies then taking them away, industry is not going to know what to do.”

Fenton: “It’s a plan to expand fossil fuel production. It’s a plan to blow past climate targets. The technology we need we already have. Solar energy is already the cheapest form of energy on the planet. What we need to do is massively invest in deploying it. They’re talking about the idea of inventing our way out of this crisis without ever having to address the fact that we’re digging up and burning so many fossil fuels.”

Liberal Party of Canada: Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

Climate target: A 30-per-cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. This is the target Canada agreed to at the 2015 Paris talks and would contribute towards halting global temperature rise at 2 C.

Defining feature: Implements an economy-wide price on carbon emissions. Some of the revenue is returned to individuals as tax rebates, while large industrial emitters pay into a different system.

Turcotte: “What carbon pricing does is that because of the flexibility it offers the private sector and industry to reduce emissions, they’ll make investments on their own terms in innovation and adopting low carbon technologies. You’re getting to that objective but much more cost-effectively. But there’s still a 79-megatonne emissions gap in meeting the Paris target under their plan. So we’ll be looking to see how they’re acknowledging this head on and putting forward solutions to bridge it.”

Fenton: “The Liberals haven’t put out anything looking forward to this election. I think they have an opportunity to articulate a much bolder vision. The problem is they’re still operating as if we have 30 or 40 years to tackle this crisis, and they’re bringing in policies and making decisions that would have totally worked if it was 1992 right now. What their plans completely fall short on is the actual urgent timeline we’re working on.”

New Democratic Party: Power to Change — A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs

Climate target: Vows to reduce emissions in line with what is required for stabilizing global temperature rise at 1.5 C, but doesn’t give a specific percentage target. Says it will achieve a 450-megatonne reduction by 2030, which works out to a 37-per-cent reduction of emissions below 2005 levels.

Defining feature: Promises to spend $15 billion to help create 300,000 jobs in industries driving the low-carbon transition, in addition to support for carbon pricing.

Turcotte: “I think any plan has to address the just transition conversation. We need to create buy-in for climate action by making sure that all Canadians feel like there’s a place for them, so those that work in incumbent industries feel like they’re not just being told, ‘well sorry you’re out of a job.’ Not everyone who’s working in the coal or oil and gas industry will work in the renewable energy industry, but there’s a huge opportunity there.”

Fenton: “Overall I think it’s a really solid-looking plan that’s far and above anything I’ve ever seen from the NDP before. They really get that we have to connect social issues along with climate and environmental issues. There are some things about it that are still a little bit worrying. A promise to get to what the science says is necessary in terms of emissions reductions, rather than an actual plan to figure it out, is always something that makes me a little bit worried.”

Green Party of Canada: Mission: Possible — The Green Climate Action Plan

Climate target: A 60-per-cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. This is double the current Liberal target and in line with what the IPCC says is needed to stabilize global temperature rise at 1.5 C.

Defining feature: A 20-point plan that includes a promise to maintain carbon pricing, create millions of jobs ensuring all Canada’s buildings are carbon neutral and banning the fracking of natural gas.

Turcotte: “There is warranted criticism on our climate target under Paris that it’s not doing our fair share, that 30 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels would not be sufficient in terms of our contribution to the problem. So we need to do more. There’s no doubt that the role of the oil and gas industry will need to shift. It’s a conversation that’s really difficult that the Greens are very bravely trying to encourage Canadians to have by putting this forward.”

Fenton: “In some ways the NDP plan is strong where the Greens’ is weaker and vice versa. The Greens are a lot clearer on the specific science-based targets. There’s nothing in the Green plan that’s really clear on what the actual mechanical steps of the just transition are other than we’re going to retrain workers. Things like a job guarantee are in my mind a critical part that’s missing from the platform.”  [Tyee]


Tailings dam failures linked to hefty bonuses for mine managers: report

Study of four catastrophic dam collapses — including one at B.C.’s Mount Polley mine — finds bonus schemes encourage managers to take more risks in the name of short-term profits

Image result for the narwhal:Tailings dam failures linked to hefty bonuses for mine managers: report
Mount Polley Mine’s tailings pond and tailings pile. Production was ramped up at the Mount Polley mine before a tailings pond breached in 2014, causing one of B.C.’s worst environmental disasters. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

Generous bonuses for mine managers, rewarding them for cutting costs or increasing production, are linked to tailings dam failures, a new research paper has found.

The paper, published in the journal Resources Policy, pulled on a previous 2015 study that found a relationship between dam collapses and ramped up production or cost-cutting measures and carried the idea to the next level by looking at bonus schemes.

The new study, which documents four catastrophic collapses, including the failure of the Mount Polley tailings dam in B.C. in August 2014, found that all four companies had increased production or reduced operating costs prior to tailings dam failures.

Imperial Metals ramped up production before dam collapse

Imperial Metals, which owns the Mount Polley copper and gold mine, increased production by 23 per cent in the second quarter of the year over the previous financial quarter.

The first quarterly report for Imperial Metals in 2014 showed average daily production was 18,791 tonnes, which was lower than usual because of snowfall and mechanical issues, while the second quarterly report shows production increased by 23 per cent to 23,930 tonnes a day “significantly over the budgeted throughput rate.”

Imperial Metals, in common with many mining companies, did not disclose incentives offered to middle managers, but two companies out of the four case studies showed hefty bonus schemes for managers and the practice is believed to be widespread in the mining industry.

“We believe that the bonus system used to recompense middle management encourages managers to take more risks in order to generate short-term profits at the risk of serious long-term accidents,” said the paper, authored by Margaret Armstrong, Renato Petterd and Carlos Pettard.

Advances in mining technology have made it possible to exploit lower grade deposits, despite decreasing commodity prices, which means disposing of more rejects and putting more pressure on tailings facilities.”

“Year after year, managers keep taking risks with a low probability of occurrence, but with potentially catastrophic consequences. These risks are compounded by shortages of experienced staff, due to the cyclical nature of the industry and the retirement of the baby-boomer generation,” it says. MORE


Methane emissions from oil and gas exploration are under-reported

Image result for the conversation: Methane emissions from oil and gas exploration are under-reported
A seismic line (petroleum exploration corridor) traverses a wetland in northern Alberta. Eamon MacMahon

Wetlands in Canada’s boreal forest contain deep deposits of carbon-rich soils, made up of decomposed vegetation (peat) that has accumulated over thousands of years. Globally, peatlands store twice as much carbon as all of the world’s forests combined. Protecting this carbon store is critical in the fight against climate change.

But the amazing capacity of boreal peatlands to store carbon is being curbed by oil and gas exploration.

Our recent study in the journal Nature Communications shows how vast networks of seismic lines — long clearings constructed for petroleum exploration — increase greenhouse gas emissions from boreal peatlands. In Alberta alone, these undocumented emissions would boost Canada’s national reporting of methane in the category of land use, land-use change and forestry by about eight per cent.

And, regrettably, that’s probably an underestimate.

Petroleum and peatlands

Oil sands deposits in Alberta. Government of Alberta


Alberta has immense petroleum deposits, including the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world. The bulk of these deposits are found in the northern part of the province: a landscape that also contains an abundance of peatlands.

When most people think of northern Alberta’s petroleum industry, they envision the large surface mines located near Fort McMurray. Yet most of the province’s oil and gas, including 97 per cent of the oil-sands area, is found in reservoirs that are too deep for surface mining.

Across much of Alberta, petroleum companies use deep wells to access oil and gas….

In the hunt for subsurface petroleum deposits, oil and gas companies construct seismic lines. Seismic lines are linear features, two metres to 10 metres wide, cut through the forest using bulldozers or other types of machinery.

Once cut, seismic lines provide access for field crews to place geophones and other types of survey equipment to search underground for petroleum reservoirs. This form of exploration has been taking place in Alberta since the 1940s.

Seismic lines are linear clearings two to 10 metres wide that have been constructed for petroleum exploration. Sarah ColeAuthor provided 

More than 1.8 million kilometres of seismic lines have been cut in Alberta alone, enough to circle the planet 45 times. This little-known feature is by far the most common type of industrial disturbance in Alberta’s boreal forest.  MORE


Can addressing over-consumption save our planet?

Illustration: Max Pixel

The moment I bring up the topic of over-consumption of material goods in any conversation, I feel that I am being perceived as someone with an anti-development agenda. However, nothing could be further from the truth. For me, the issue of over-consumption needs attention at the highest levels in government and corporations as it has a significant hand in environmental destruction including climate change while making inconsequential impact on well-being and long term happiness.

Let me first define what I mean by ‘over-consumption’. We all find many products as superfluous without meeting any real need. Of course, marketeers are very effective in persuading that we will be miserable if we do not have them. I believe we are wasting precious human effort and creativity in producing different types of ineffective soap, toothpaste, cleaning agents and cosmetics that do not help but are potentially harmful for the environment; candy, breakfast cereals, packaged snacks, processed food and beverages with poor nutritional value; fast fashion clothing; avoidable cluttery furniture; frivolous household goods and appliances. The consumption is further exacerbated as products are made in such a way that they have a short lifespan by deliberately designing them to fail after some time (planned obsolescence) and creating a perception that they need to be replaced by influencing fashion trends (perceived obsolescence) causing over-consumption.

Overproduction and over-consumption of material goods has caused serious destruction across the planet. To make these products, it takes natural resources that are extracted through mining or grown resulting in exploitation of finite natural resources, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and local ecosystem collapse. The production process generally involves prodigious amount of freshwater depleting groundwater and exacerbating water stress. The energy used to make these things is largely produced from non-renewable fossil fuels adding to global warming and climate change. Furthermore, all of this consumption entails insane amounts of packaging waste.

Countless surveys and scientific studies have revealed that once the basic needs are met, buying material things does not result in any marked improvement in well-being. The excitement of a new thing wears off quickly. For instance, the pleasure one derives from a high end mobile phone or a designer suite wears off in a few days and leaves the consumer unsatiated and craving for more new things. Yet, a lot of us find ourselves trapped in this vicious cycle of working hard to be able to buy things that one does not need, that do not add to the quality of life and do not result in sustained enhancement in well-being.

When we talk about reducing impact, companies and government are still not questioning what is produced and how useful some of these products are. It seems as though there is a sacred law of ‘market economy’ and ‘consumer choice’ that cannot be questioned. We forget that laws of market economy are broken all the time when it suits large corporations or governments’ interest.  MORE


Climate Change Is the Symptom. Consumer Culture Is the Disease.

Shell is not a green saviour. It’s a planetary death machine

Don’t buy the greenwash. Shell’s initiatives, which have won over many conservation groups, are dwarfed by its investment in oil and gas

 ‘Shell’s ‘cash engines’, according to its annual report, are oil and gas. There is no sign that it plans to turn the engines off.’ Photograph: Gregory Bull/AP

It is hard to believe it needs stating, but it does. The oil industry is not your friend. Whatever it might say about its ethical credentials, while it continues to invest in fossil fuels, it accelerates climate breakdown and the death of the habitable planet. You would think this point was obvious to everyone. But over the past few weeks, I have spoken to dozens of environmentalists who appear to believe that Shell is on their side. I’ve come to the bizarre conclusion that there is more awareness of the oil industry’s agenda within the arts than there is among conservation groups.

Two months ago, Shell announced a $300m fund for “investing in natural ecosystems” over the next three years. This, it claims, will help to “support the transition towards a low-carbon future”. By paying for reforestation, it intends to offset some of the greenhouse gases produced by its oil and gas extraction. In conversations with environmental campaigners from several parts of the world, I keep hearing the same theme: Shell is changing, Shell is sincere – so shouldn’t we support it?

The fund sounds big, and it is – until you compare it with Shell’s annual income of $24bn. Shell’s transition towards a low-carbon future is almost invisible in its annual report. Renewable energy doesn’t figure in its summary of financial results. When I checked with the company, it told me it had no discrete figure for its income from low-carbon technologies. Nor could it tell me how much it invested in them last year. But it did pour $25bn of investment into oil and gas in 2018, including exploration for new fossil fuel reserves in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of Brazil and Mauritania. Among its assets are 1,400 mineral leases in Canada, where it makes synthetic crude oil from tar sands. Some transition. MORE

Despite government “commitment to reconciliation” Indigenous over incarceration continues to rise.

maccov02_29_16A Maclean’s investigation in 2016 that spanned nine months uncovered a system designed to put Indigenous Canadians in jail—and keep them there

TTAWA, ON– The Indigenous Bar Association (‘IBA’) expresses outrage at the continually rising rate of Indigenous incarceration. Despite calls to justice by the Nation Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings, the Office of the Correctional Investigator and both former and present Chief Justices, Canada’s abhorrent decarceration attempts are unacceptable.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator found the number of Indigenous people incarcerated has become a human rights issue. Indigenous people are more likely to be incarcerated and are subsequently more likely to be placed in segregation units. Statistics Canada recalls in 2006/2007 the proportion of Indigenous people entered into correctional services at provincial and territorial levels was 21% and 19% at federal institutions. In 2016/2017 those numbers drastically increase to 28% in provincial and territorial institutions and 27% in federal institutions. Indigenous women account for 43% of all custodial admissions.

In 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688 recognized the importance of restorative justice measures for addressing the disproportionate number of incarcerated Indigenous people. The Court found when sentencing an aboriginal offender, a judge must consider any unique systemic or background factors and alternate sentencing procedures to incarceration. Despite the clear guidance from Canada’s highest court, the majority of provinces have not implemented a procedure for producing what have come to be called “Gladue Reports” for Indigenous offenders.

Legal reforms are urgently needed to address systemic discrimination and bias within the justice system. The IBA recommends legal reform focused on equipping Indigenous Nations to regulate offenders in traditional ways.

The IBA calls on Indigenous, Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal governments to immediately adopt the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action 31 and 34, which calls upon the justice system to provide alternatives to imprisonment and to undertake reforms to better address the needs of offending persons with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

The IBA calls upon those same governments to immediately adopt and pay specific attention to the National Inquiry into MMIWG’s Calls For Justice 5.14 and 5.21 which calls for specific attention to the over incarceration of Indigenous women and the implementation of recommendations made by the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Auditor General of Canada.  MORE

Climate scientists leaving Canada due to lack of funding

Canada has been a leader in climate research but a new report finds the country is suffering from a ‘bleed of expertise’ as funding dries up for key programs

Polar Environment Atmospheric Research LaboratoryThe Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) is the most northern atmospheric observatory of its kind. The lab hosts dozens of instruments across three main facilities. The ridge lab sits atop a ridge at an altitude of 610 metres, approximately 12 km from Eureka. It was originally built by Environment Canada in the early 1990s as the Arctic Stratospheric Observatory, but its operation was ended in the early 2000s. A group of academics revived the lab in 2005 and re-opened it as PEARL. The data sets produced by PEARL contribute to a variety of global work, including studying the carbon cycle, ozone depletion, water cycle, air pollution and aerosols. Photo: Dan Weaver

A lack of federal funding is driving away highly qualified Canadian climate scientists and  the vast majority of remaining scientists rely on resources from other countries for their research, according to a report released Wednesday by two non-profit groups.

The report comes less than three months after a scientific study revealed Canada is warming twice as fast as the global average and follows calamitous spring floods in Atlantic Canada and drought and forest fires in the west.

“Canadians are already being affected by climate change,” said Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy, which co-authored the report.

Investing in Canadian Climate Science

“Without continued research … decision-makers will be unable to make informed decisions about any aspect of climate policy.”

The 30-page report examines the state of funding for climate science in Canada based on a survey of scientists in the field.

It concludes that vital work in the atmospheric sciences is being neglected even though funding has increased for climate-related research in ecology and other fields.

Polar Environment Atmospheric Research LaboratoryScientists at the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut. Photo: Dan Weaver

Canada not able to keep climate scientists

The report zooms in on the fate of Canada’s climate change and atmospheric research program. Established in 2000, the program received $110 million from the government to invest in university-based research in climate and atmospheric sciences.

Since funding for the program ended last year, Canada has lacked a dedicated funding stream for climate science, Weaver said. Among other research, the program focused on the changing Arctic ocean, changes in sea ice and snow (primarily in the Arctic) and weather processes.

“All of these topics are linked together into the big question of how Canada’s climate is changing,” said Weaver, a board member for Evidence for Democracy, which promotes the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making in Canada. MORE