Elizabeth May weighs in on whether elected officials could be criminally liable for their climate policies

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May talked about criminal liability for climate change shortly before running into B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver on Alberni Street. They were in Vancouver for the Pride parade.
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May talked about criminal liability for climate change shortly before running into B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver on Alberni Street. They were in Vancouver for the Pride parade.CHARLIE SMITH

The leader of the Green Party of Canada has warned other politicians that they could face legal consequences in their lifetimes if they fail to take the climate crisis seriously.

“The bar here for caring about the climate isn’t to have policies better than the Conservatives,” Elizabeth May told the Georgia Straight before today’s Vancouver Pride parade. “The bar has to be: have you set a course and do you have a plan to hold to 1.5 degrees Celsius global average temperature increase [since the start of the Industrial Revolution] and not go above that?

“And if you don’t have that plan in place, then you are as culpable as much as the oil executives and the deniers,” May continued. “Because as [350.org cofounder] Bill McKibben says, incremental steps—baby steps—are just another way of losing, but losing more slowly. It doesn’t mean you’re a climate leader and it doesn’t mean you’ve taken the responsible action that any responsible leader should take.”

May’s comments came in the wake of a talked-about tweet by former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell.

Campbell, also a former justice minister, claimed over the social-media platform that oil companies have committed “crimes against humanity” by knowingly concealing the impact of their products on the climate.

Kim Campbell

@AKimCampbell

This is precisely why I have said that the oil companies have committed CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY! All the factors are there: KNOWLEDGE of the truth and DELIBERATE action to CONCEAL (“becloud”) the truth to save their profits while preparing to protect themselves! Nuremberg worthy! https://twitter.com/senwhitehouse/status/1157290669657993222 

Sheldon Whitehouse

@SenWhitehouse

A federal judge in Rhode Island just wrote a really interesting decision about climate change.

Pretty strong stuff from a Republican-appointed, fact-based federal judge.

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May, a former lawyer, acknowledged that it’s “extremely hypothetical” to talk about criminal sanctions against politicians for their climate policies. But she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of that occurring in the future. MORE

Governments Created the Housing Crisis. Here’s How They Can Fix It

The roots of our housing crisis: austerity, debt and extreme speculation.

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‘Developers were only too happy to keep building safety deposit boxes in the sky, helping domestic and foreign capital — rather than people — find a home.’ Photo by Magnus Larsson, Creative Commons licensed.

We’re now 10 years on from the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Or, as our national mythology puts it, 10 years since Canada breathed a deep sigh of relief as the crisis mostly grazed our economy and financial system.

Since 2008, we’ve had 10 years of congratulatory back-patting over our system of financial regulation, 10 years of low inflation and low interest rates, 10 years of periodically oil-driven economic growth — and 10 years of exploding housing prices, of renovictions and demovictions, of working people pushed out of some cities and a real estate investment bonanza for the homegrown and foreign rich.

The neoliberal state we’ve inherited prides itself on not interfering with or, god forbid, regulating markets and financial flows except when inaction might be systemically destabilizing. Unfortunately for the government, our housing sector needs patching up — even if it means breaking out the red tape.

Both Ontario and British Columbia have instituted foreign buyers taxes. B.C. has also implemented a mildly progressive property tax on homes valued at over $3 million and increased property transfer tax rates. Vancouver has an empty homes tax starting this year.

These measures, which are welcome and contributing to cooling the two most haywire housing markets (Vancouver and Toronto) in terms of both sales and price growth, are nonetheless insufficient to the scale of Canada’s housing affordability crisis.

Luckily, the alternative policy toolbox is full for those willing to make use of it. Here are some of the sharper implements:

    • The direct provision of non-market housing. The public sector should be an aggressive “builder of first resort” that embarks on a massive build-out of high-quality, democratic, non-market housing that the poor, working and middle classes can afford. Direct publicly provided housing, private non-profit housing, co-ops and community land trusts are all good options. Not only would a rapid build-out eliminate some of the current stigma around social housing, it would directly challenge both the primacy of the market and the prices it currently sets. And it would pay for itself in the long run, courtesy of the joint magic of state-backed credit, existing public urban land and cross-subsidization.
    • Stronger tenant protections and rent controls. These measures help people stay in their homes, reduce potential future income streams from land and bring tenancy closer to ownership in terms of stability, security and control.
    • An end to exclusive zoning in cities. We can carefully dismantle the system of exclusion that maintains a false scarcity of land and keeps significant portions of our cities off limits to renters and workers. At the same time, we should introduce measures to capture any increases in land values to incumbent owners and redirect that money to the public good.
    • Reform of the tax system. Several tax changes would make housing less attractive as an investment relative to other assets and generally increase carrying costs. These include progressive and overall higher property taxes geared toward the taxation of land value at the local level, taxes on capital gains from short-term speculation at the provincial level, and an end to preferential treatment of capital gains at the federal level.
    • More generous public pensions. Less pressure on housing as a retirement asset would bring the value of homes and land more in line with their role as places to live.

MORE

 

Premier Ford cries poor but subsidizes $700 million for fossil fuel consumption

“Last year, the cash-strapped Government of Ontario provided nearly $700 million of public money to expand natural gas, fund tax exemptions for aviation and rail, and support tax cuts for coloured fuel use in agriculture,” writes Vanessa Corkal.

When it comes to cutting taxes, the Government of Ontario has been clear on priorities. It has made efforts to reform seemingly unpopular or inefficient taxes in an attempt to balance the budget and make public spending more efficient.

But one glaring fiscal inefficiency has escaped the spotlight.

In the last year alone, Ontario provided nearly $700 million in subsidies for fossil fuel consumption.

Yes, you read that right. Last year, the cash-strapped Government of Ontario provided nearly $700 million of public money to expand natural gas, fund tax exemptions for aviation and rail, and support tax cuts for coloured fuel use in agriculture.

Let’s be clear: subsidies in themselves are not inherently bad public policy. A subsidy that supports, say, expansion of energy access can be a smart use of money if it benefits the greater population.

Even at the best of times, though, fossil fuel subsidies produce negative side effects. They incentivize pollution and distort the market, unfairly handicapping clean energy alternatives. They significantly stunt Canada’s urgent need to combat climate change and slow our transition to a low-carbon economy. MORE

The (small) Green Machine: How the Green party election campaign is gearing up for its biggest chance yet

Green Leader Elizabeth May enters the House of Commons with the newly sworn in MP Paul Manly this spring.

OTTAWA—At a certain point this summer, Kim Hughes admits, things started to look “pretty overwhelming” for the Green Party Riding Association of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.

In a place that, like pretty much everywhere else, has never elected a Green candidate to the House of Commons, there was a deluge of people that wanted to run. At its peak, a whopping nine candidates were mounting bids for the Green nomination this year, including the head of the riding association, who was among the four who duked it out to the end.

That left Hughes, who volunteered for the first time to work phones and pamphleteer in the last federal election, to take over as chief executive officer in the riding — “an auspicious title for a volunteer position,” she says — and manage the crowded contest as the next campaign was approaching fast.

But the heft of the task didn’t overshadow what Hughes hopes it means: that a surge of interest has positioned the Greens to do something that, for them at least, is momentous and unprecedented — win more than a single seat in a federal election.

“Usually people don’t want to jump on a ship that’s going to drown,” Hughes said by phone recently from her home in Shawnigan Lake, B.C. “They jump on a ship that they think is going to make it to the other side.

“They see there is possibility.”

The lure of that possibility is enhanced by recent history. In 2017, the Greens won three seats on Vancouver Island in the B.C. election, and they now hold the balance of power in Victoria. In Prince Edward Island this year, the Greens became the official opposition for the first time in a Canadian legislature. And then there was Paul Manly, the filmmaker and activist who won the federal byelection in Nanaimo-Ladysmith on May 6 and joined longtime leader Elizabeth May as the only Greens ever to win federal seats.

In the wake of these successes, and with a series of polls suggesting more and more Canadians are willing to vote Green, the coming campaign may well present an opportunity unlike anything the party has seen. In trying to seize it, the Greens face an array of challenges, from their history of defeat to the limited finances and ground operations of a smaller party that didn’t spend a single dime on local campaigns in more than a quarter of all ridings in 2015. MORE

Canada’s Divisions Are Hardening

Two polls show we’re succumbing to populist emotions that drove Trump’s rise.

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According to a recent poll, only eight per cent of Conservative supporters think climate change is an important issue, in stark contrast with other parties. When we can’t even decide on what’s important, our version of democracy doesn’t work.Photo via Andrew Scheer Flickr.

The American political sickness has infected us. And it’s hard to see how our democracy can cope.

Start with an Angus Reid poll released last month. It asked people to set out the three most important issues facing the country.

Climate change and environment, said Canadians. For 40 per cent of us, the issue was among the three most important.

The poll found 65 per cent of Liberal supporters considered it among the three most critical issues; 58 per cent of NDP supporters; and 71 per cent of Green voters.

But only eight per cent of Conservative supporters cited climate change and the environment as an important issue. MORE

Video: Doug Ford says his support of Donald Trump is unwavering

 

 

Energy efficiency makes sense and it doesn’t need a carbon tax


Energy efficiency should be seen as a resource and is one of the cheapest ways to save money, say columnists.POSTMEDIA

You can find thousands of Albertans working in energy efficiency if you look in the right places. They work in industries you might not think of as “green,” like construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, professional and business services and utilities.

These are Albertans like Obi Sadden: In the 1970s, he was a firefighter for the oil and gas industry. Losing his job in the downturn of the 1980s, he was hired by a friend to install insulation. By 2004, he had started his own company — Energy Plus Insulation — which is now a thriving small business in his home of Medicine Hat. Sadden is an energy efficiency worker: Local businesses like his grow when this sector is made a policy priority.

The 51,711 Canadian energy efficiency establishments studied by Calgary’s ECO-Canada in 2019 generated $82.6 billion in revenue and $14.9 billion in employment income. It is projected that the Canadian energy efficiency workforce — numbering around 436,000 in 2018 — will swell by 36,000 this year. Employment in this sector grew by at nearly three times the growth of the rest of the economy.

Energy efficiency touches every part of the economy. A recent study from the University of Calgary found that Canada’s oil and gas sector, for example, is actually outperforming agri-food in terms of the efficiency of its end products.

One of the easiest ways to understand energy efficiency is to see it as a resource. It only costs 2.4 cents to save a kilowatt-hour of electricity in Alberta: This is cheaper than recent wind and solar procurements (although those prices are at historic lows), and cheaper than fossil fuels. If we think of efficiency as the “first fuel,” it is our least expensive source of energy. MORE

Doug Ford Quietly Planning Half a Billion Dollars in Cuts For Low-Income Workers and People With Disabilities

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Post-budget spending plans suggest Doug Ford’s government is quietly planning to cut half a billion from the province’s two main income support programs.

The budget tabled by the Ford government last month already announced plans to carve a billion dollars out of the budget of the ministry that provides funds to income support programs.

Although the budget makes no mention of cutting programs linked to “poverty” or “disabilities,” the Ford government’s more-recent itemized expenditure estimates for 2019-2020 show both Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program are slated for deep cuts.

Ontario Works is an income support program that provides low-income workers with financial and employment assistance. The Ontario Disability Support Program, meanwhile, offers financial and employment assistance for those with recognized disabilities.

According to the Ford government’s estimates, funding for financial assistance under Ontario Works would be $296.3 million lower in 2019-2020 than in the previous year, while employment assistance funding under the same program would drop $10 million.

People with disabilities would see ODSP financial assistance cut by $222.1 million.

Together, the total estimated loss amounts to more than half a billion dollars.

MORE

By the numbers: Clean energy vehicle adoption in B.C.

Transition of the province’s 3.45 million registered vehicles from fossil fuels to electricity very much at the beginning of the beginning

Sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles doubled in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the same time last year in B.C., spurred by a mix of cash rebates and incentive programs.

About six per cent of all vehicle sales here were zero emission and 15 per cent of passenger vehicles, according to Clean Energy Canada.

But the transition of the province’s 3.45 million registered vehicles from fossil fuels to electricity is very much at the beginning of the beginning.

The number of electric and hybrid vehicles registered in British Columbia grew by just 10,500 in 2018, according to figures from the Insurance Corporation of B.C.

The 66,000 electric and hybrid cars and trucks registered in B.C. represent about 1.9 per cent of our total fleet, up from 1.55 per cent in 2017.

True zero-emission vehicles — battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs) — are a fraction of that total. MORE

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Electric car demand is growing, but Ontario is falling behind

 

 

How to suck water from desert air and quench the planet’s thirst

The global water supply is limited, and shortages will affect over 1.8 billion people by 2025. Fortunately, we’ve discovered a way to pull water from thin air – even in the desert

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Jeremy Horner/Panos

THREE MEN in safety goggles stare intently at a clear plastic box filling gradually with fog. Droplets begin to form on the walls. They swell and eventually begin to trickle into the base of the fish tank-like container, forming small puddles. Omar Yaghi smiles broadly and congratulates his colleagues.

This seemingly prosaic moment in a laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, may go down in history as the moment scientists turned the tide against water shortage. “Seeing those water droplets was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” says Yaghi. “It meant I could create water where there is no water.”

That was a couple of years ago. Yaghi is now moving beyond drops and puddles, and breaking out of the lab. In his most recent trials, he sucked significant amounts of water from even arid desert-like air. The secret to it all? A sprinkling of extraordinary synthetic crystals based on a form of chemistry he helped pioneer two decades ago.


A prototype water-harvesting device jointly developed by Omar Yaghi and MIT. It contains a metal-organic framework that captures water from the atmosphere at night. Then the device heats up in the daytime when exposed to sunlight, releasing the stored water as a liquid. No electricity is required.Kyunho Kim, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The potential implications are dramatic. The United Nations says the number of people living in areas of absolute water scarcity, where available supplies are insufficient to meet demand, will rise from 1.2 billion in 2014 to 1.8 billion in 2025. Even places with money to spend on reservoirs, water recycling and technologies like desalination are vulnerable to greater risks of drought as global temperatures and populations rise. Last year, for example, Cape Town in South Africa narrowly avoided “day zero”, the point at which water runs so low that residents are put on survival rations. … SOURCE

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New Device Produces Water From Thin Air – No Electricity Required
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