Wind energy destined to become immune to partisan politics

Four major trends are boosting support for more wind energy in Canada

Despite differing policy approaches to renewable energy in Canada, I believe that wind energy is destined to become a non-partisan issue that is supported by all political parties.

Four trends are making wind energy more immune to politics:

    • Firstly, wind energy is the lowest-cost option for new electricity generation.
    • Secondly, it is clean, and clean matters.
    • Thirdly, it is increasingly contributing to the reliability of the grid.
    • Fourthly, wind energy fits well within an evolving and transforming power system.

Let’s look closer at these four trends, starting with affordability.

Customers across Canada are concerned about affordability of electricity. In response, cost is becoming the primary objective of energy policy makers and system operators. This is great news for wind energy.

Wind energy costs have fallen dramatically – by 69 per cent between 2009 and 2018 according to Lazard’s annual study in the U.S. And they are expected to continue falling. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts wind energy costs will drop another 47 per cent between 2017 and 2040.

Here in Canada, recent auctions have secured wind power for as low as $35 per megawatt hour. Wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity generation. Because it has the lowest levelized cost of energy, wind energy has become increasingly attractive as all political parties contemplate how to meet voter demands for lower costs.

Now let’s talk about clean energy.

Wind energy produces no air or water pollution, and does not generate toxic, hazardous or radioactive waste. The technology uses significantly less water than virtually any other form of large-scale electricity generation. Wind energy is a very environmentally-sustainable way to produce power. MORE

Canada to collaborate with California on vehicle emissions standards

Canada has agreed to collaborate with California on vehicle emissions standards, setting the stage for a split with Washington if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to weaken the national standards for fuel economy in the United States.

OTTAWA—Canada has cast its lot with California on vehicle emissions regulations, setting the stage for a split with the U.S. federal government if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to weaken rules that dictate the fuel economy of vehicles sold in North America over the coming years.

In a joint conference call with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced a new agreement to collaborate with the state on regulations to slash greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in the two jurisdictions.

The deal comes as the United States federal government considers whether to weaken national vehicle emissions standards that have been in harmony with Canadian regulations since 2011. The prospect has alarmed environmentalists who consider the standards a key climate achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency, and has raised concerns of a regulatory rift in an auto industry that has been integrated across the Canada-U.S. border since the 1960s.

“It looks like there will be two standards in effect in the U.S. That’s certainly not anybody’s first choice. Competitiveness is incredibly important, and I think having an integrated market with one standard would be preferable,” McKenna said Wednesday.

“But, you know, look — if there are two choices in the U.S., our focus is really how about how do we get meaningful cuts to climate pollution.”

The federal governments in Canada and the U.S. have worked together on vehicle emissions rules for more than a decade. Since 2011, regulations for emissions from new automobiles and light trucks have been aligned, creating a uniform standard for those vehicles across the Canada-U.S. auto industry.

Those standards were set to increase each year until 2025, so that new models would have to keep getting more fuel efficient. McKenna said Wednesday that, according to the current standards, a new light duty vehicle in 2025 will need to burn 50 per cent less fuel than a 2008 model.

McKenna said Wednesday’s agreement with California is meant to ensure emissions standards continue to get more stringent every year, but she and Newsom did not rule out the possibility that the U.S. federal changes could match their ambitions and still allow for a regulatory harmony across the two countries. They said 13 other U.S. states have signalled they intend to stick with California on stricter standards, even if the Trump administration pulls back on the federal regulations. MORE


The Canadian government is making smart investments in electric vehicles


The Green New Deal offers valuable insights on how to drive transformational change. Does it have what it takes to pull it off?

Intro image

If you’re paying attention to climate change or politics, you’ve almost certainly heard of the Green New Deal. It’s ambitious. It’s inspiring. It takes on two of the biggest crises of our time — climate change and economic inequality — and proposes a way forward that just might be up to the task of dealing with both. And it calls for transformational change: changing the structure of how a system works.

But can it deliver? Based on my research on how to drive transformational change, I think it can. But in order to do so, it needs to continue to gain traction on two key elements that make such change possible.

People can feel big change is needed, but the path forward is not clear. The Green New Deal offers a potential path forward.

The first key ingredient in transformation is fertile ground — a widespread understanding that things are becoming untenable and something has to change. The timing is ripe in the case of the climate crisis. Massive, global scientific reports on the dangers we face have recently been published (examples here and here), youth climate activism around the world is on the rise, and climate change is becoming an increasingly salient issue for U.S. voters. It’s also ripe with respect to wealth inequality, which is at historic highs in the United States.

The success of the Green New Deal will depend on continued and increasing frustration about climate and inequality. In short, people can feel big change is needed, but the path forward is not clear.

The Green New Deal offers a potential path forward. Importantly, it starts by asking what is necessary, rather than what seems possible. By definition, transformation means a fundamental change in the system, so asking what is possible in the current system is not a likely path to transformation.

The second key ingredient is the presence of a “collective” — a large, intentionally organized group — at the center. Transformative change takes more than an individual, or even a group of individuals. It doesn’t simply capture the imagination of many people; it offers ways for people to contribute. In a collective, individuals are involved as more than members or employees. They make identity with the collective a core part of who they are and what they do. A collective develops a shared identity around a shared purpose, and can take the grassroots energy bubbling up around an issue and focus it in ways that turns it into powerful transformational work.

The collective at the roots of the Green New Deal is the Sunrise Movement — an American element of a thriving global youth climate movement. The Sunrise Movement grabbed onto the Green New Deal idea and took bold action — most memorably occupying the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the orientation of new members of Congress. Since then, Sunrise has been organizing around the Green New Deal all over the country, recently wrapping up the Road to the Green New Deal Tour that included more than 200 town hall meetings.

Importantly, the energy and action behind the Green New Deal has grown beyond the Sunrise Movement. The Green New Deal exists at the federal level not as an overly prescriptive policy proposal, but rather as a resolution that balances broad, shared purposes (addressing climate change and economic inequality) with some, but not all, specifics (e.g., fast decarbonization through rapid expansion of renewable energy, building upgrades and energy efficiency combined with millions of good-wage jobs).

At the same time, local- and state-level green new deal proposals also have been introduced around the country. These changes are examples of how the Green New Deal is already changing mainstream conversation and practice. The changes are early evidence of the Green New Deal’s transformative power. MORE

Connecting the Dots: Insane Trade and Climate Chaos

Imagine a world where food routinely gets shipped thousands of miles away to be processed, then shipped back to be sold right where it started. Imagine cows from Mexicobeing fed corn imported from the United States, then being exported to the United States for butchering, and the resulting meat being shipped back to Mexico, one last time, to be sold. Imagine a world in which, in most years since 2005, China has somehow managed to import more goods from itself than from the USA, one of its largest trading partners.

This may sound like the premise of some darkly comic, faintly dystopian film – albeit one geared towards policy wonks. But it’s no joke – in fact, it is the daily reality of the global economy.

The above examples are all instances of ‘re-importation’ – that is, countries shipping their own goods overseas only to ship them back again at a later stage in the production chain. And these are far from the only instances of this head-scratching phenomenon. In the waters off the coast of Norway, cod arrive every year after an impressive migratory journey, having swum thousands of miles around the Arctic Circle in search of spawning grounds. Yet this migration pales in comparison to the one the fish undertake after being caught: they’re sent to China to be fileted before returning to supermarkets in Scandinavia to be sold. This globalization of the seafood supply chain extends to the US as well; more than half of the seafood caught in Alaska is processed in China, and much of it gets sent right back to American grocery store shelves.

Compounding the insanity of re-importation is the equally baffling phenomenon of redundant trade. This is a common practice whereby countries both import and export huge quantities of identical products in a given year. To take a particularly striking example, in 2007, Britain imported 15,000 tons of chocolate-covered waffles, while exporting 14,000 tons. In 2017, the US both imported and exported nearly 1.5 million tons of beef, and nearly half a million tons of potatoes. In 2016, 213,000 tons of liquid milk arrived in the UK – a windfall, had not 545,000 tons of milk also left the UK over the course of that same year.

On the face of it, this kind of trade makes no economic sense. Why would it be worth the immense cost – in money as well as fuel – of sending perfectly good food abroad only to bring it right back again?

The answer lies in the way the global economy is structured. ‘Free trade’ agreements allow transnational corporations to access labor and resources almost anywhere, enabling them to take advantage of tax loopholes and national differences in labor and environmental standards. Meanwhile, direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels, on the order of $5 trillion per year worldwide, allow the costs of shipping to be largely borne by taxpayers and the environment instead of the businesses that actually engage in it. In combination, these structural forces lead to insane levels of international transport that serve no purpose other than boosting corporate profits.

The consequences of this bad behavior are already severe, and set to become worse in the coming decades. Small farmers, particularly in the global South, have seen their livelihoods undermined by influxes of cheap food from abroad; meanwhile, their climate-resilient agricultural practices are actively discouraged by the WTO and ‘free trade’ agreements. And food processing and packaging – both critical for food that’s going to be shipped a long way from where it was produced – account for a significant proportion of the global food system’s greenhouse gas emissions.



Free-trade deal with U.S. and Mexico divides regions
Canada’s oilpatch pays America $60 million a year to export crude — and new trade deal may not help
With the new NAFTA, “there is no Alternative”

How to have a Useful Conversation about Climate Change in 11 Steps.


Something I’ve learned through working in mental health and education for 20 years is that nobody likes being told what to do.

And I think sometimes, when we want to talk about topics like climate change with friends or family, or with a stranger on social media, we too quickly launch into proclaiming the superiority of our opinions. We lecture more than we listen, and this gets in the way

A key question is this:

How can we have productive conversations about climate change, conversations that result in the people being more engaged, informed, and willing to do something different?

Here is an 11-step guide that will get results.

Step one: 

Know thyself. Before you have a conversation with someone else, it’s important to start with having a conversation with yourself (thank you Richard of City Atlas).

Begin with asking yourself the question, “Why does climate change matter to me?” Spend time becoming familiar with your own thoughts, emotions, assumptions, stories, and consumption habits. Ask yourself the questions included in the 11-step map, and really listen to everything you have to say.

This will give you an invaluable foundation of self-understanding and self-awareness, and will make you well prepared to have your first conversation.

Step two:

Appreciate that, like any skill, having a conversation about climate change takes practice. It’s best to start small and work your way up; just like if you want to lift weights, you start with lighter weights and train up to lift heavier ones.

Begin by choosing someone you know well and who is open to having the conversation. This 11-step approach is not for taking on trolls or deniers. It’s for talking with regular people who just aren’t used to talking about climate change. So choose a friend, and set yourself up for a win, so you can build your skills and enhance your confidence.

Step three:

Begin the conversation by asking for consent. Just be direct and gentle, and say, “I was wondering if we could talk about climate change,” or “I’d like to talk about climate change with you, would that be okay sometime?” Maybe say this when it’s relevant to the present conversation, or just go ahead bring it up because it’s important, it’s been your mind, and you want to talk about it.

Remember, when you do bring it up, make sure your friend has the freedom to say “yes” or “no.” Nobody likes being told what to do, but people do like when you give them respect and space.

If they say “no,” accept their answer and let it be. It’s none of your business why they don’t want to talk about it. If the answer is “yes,” ask them when they’d like to talk and agree to a time. Again, consent.

If they ask why you want to talk about climate change, tell them, “I think it’s important to talk about, and I’d like to know what you think, and, if it’s okay, maybe share what I think.” Your job is to lead with curiosity, make space, and mostly just listen. MORE