Forget the praise, Canada’s booming fossil fuel sector threatens human civilization.
Extinction Rebellion rally at the Zenith Energy facility in Portland, Oregon, Alex Milan Tracy/SIPA USA/PA Images
When the Canadian economy surpassed expectations for April 2019 by growing 0.3%, it was met with both concern and celebration.
Media reports applauded the first quarter figures. Bloomberg reported: “Canada recorded a second strong month of growth in April, driven by rebounding oil output that is returning the nation’s economy to a more solid footing.”
While CBC quoted TD senior economist Brian DePatto, who in a letter to his clients wrote: “Thank goodness for energy. Without the surge of activity in that sector, driven by the easing of production restrictions, this would have been a much more modest report.”
Yet this positive narrative veils the bleaker reality of an economy dependent on oil, mining, and gas sectors: the largest emitters of carbon dioxide.
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction increased by 4.5% in April, while oil sands extraction increased by 11%.
According to Statistics Canada’s 2018 annual review, Canadian production of crude oil increased by 8.5% from 2017 to 2018. Similarly, the production of “marketable natural gas” increased by 3.9% in that same period.
Canadian oil exports to the United States also significantly contributed to the growth figures. Statistics Canada reveals that “Canada exported 211.9 million cubic meters of crude oil and equivalent products in 2018 [up by 10% from 2017], which represented 80.1% of total production. Exports via pipelines to the United States [up by 5.3% from 2017] was the primary contributor to the overall increase.”
This economic growth piggybacking on the extraction of crude oil, oil sands, mining and gas contradicts Canada’s effort to peg itself as a global leader in combating climate change.
Dale Marshall, National Program Manager at Environmental Defence and lead writer of the 2018 report‘Canada’s Oil and Gas Challenge’, believes the international community sees the reality behind Canada’s growth: “over the last few years, Canada’s shine has come off the global diplomacy scale. Canada’s oil is some of the dirtiest in the world and has gradually become dirtier.” MORE
Green party Leader Elizabeth May (centre) and Green candidates announce their commitment to ‘just transition’ for fossil fuel workers in Vancouver on Aug. 7, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Wood
The Green Party of Canada is endorsing the work of a task force formed by the Trudeau government to phase out coal power nationwide by 2030 and help workers transition to new jobs, but wants to take the plan a step further.
Party Leader Elizabeth May said Wednesday that the Greens fully support all 10 recommendations made by the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities, which released its final report on coal workers and communities this spring.
At an event in Vancouver on Wednesday, joined by Green candidates from around British Columbia, May said she’d like to implement a similar process with a panel to visit communities dependent on oil and gas.
May said her plan is to ensure no workers are left out of work as the energy industry changes. “We are not at war with fossil fuel workers,” May said. “We are not willing to leave any part of Canada or any community behind.”
National Observer has reported that the task force exclusively researched conditions for coal workers. It recommended a large range of actions, such as $300-million to create a jobs bank, as well as community supports such as transition centres where workers can find information on jobs and training.
The report also found many coal workers felt mistrust for the government, and doubt in its abilities to fulfill promises of a stable transition.
May said visiting communities helped address that mistrust, and will do the same for people in oil and gas. “There’s more trust in honesty. We can say this is the plan, this is the timeline, and how much time do you need to adjust? What are your needs?” she said. “Empowerment and agency are the things that remove fear for all of us.”
She said planning for transitions, as well as oilsands cleanup, should start sooner than later, or else it could result in rushed, inadequate government assistance.
“We have to plan for the cleanup,” she said. “The same guys who drilled the oil wells can help us in reclaiming abandoned oil wells to geothermal power producing.” MORE
Rapidly transitioning to a zero carbon future requires a publicly owned energy system centred on democratisation and decentralisation.
Offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea, Bernd W’stneck/DPA/PA Images
Whether it’s 11 years or 18 months, we haven’t got long to make the big, bold changes needed to prevent global climate catastrophe.
If we’re going to have a chance of preventing widespread disaster, we can’t keep waiting for the private sector to deliver our clean, green energy future. Public ownership is the way to transition quickly to zero carbon, hand in hand with workers, citizens and communities.
Across the world, people are taking energy back
The Transnational Institute (TNI) has tracked cities around the world that are taking control of their local energy supply, sometimes backed by popular votes
The city of Munich in Germany is particularly inspiring. It has committed itself to developing an electricity supply that is 100% municipal and 100% from renewable energy. The council did this because they were tired of waiting for the private companies to make the necessary investments, and they were confident that the city council could do the job better – putting sustainability before profit. By 2025, the utility company aims to produce so much green energy that the entire demand of the city can be met.
We propose that you would have easy access to data and information, and could give your feedback and ideas online, on the phone or in a shopfront on every high street. You’d be a member of ‘Participate: Energy’ – the new, democratically accountable organisation representing energy users. Energy reps will sit on supervisory boards, alongside trade union reps and civil society reps – like environmental NGOs, fuel poverty groups, renters’ unions and local community groups.
Public planning processes would include large scale meetings every five years, annual reporting back, open board meetings and citizens assemblies for difficult or controversial issues.
We need local, regional and national conversations about our energy future. Andrew Cumbers explains how in Norway, the publicly owned company Statoil was set up in 1972 in order to control the use of oil in the interests of the ‘whole of society.’ Although Norway now needs to transition beyond oil, we can still learn from this example. The company was subject to a lot of democratic scrutiny and debate in parliament and a new, independent ‘Petroleum Directorate’ was created, with responsibility for regulating and controlling North Sea oil and gas resources, which led to better health and safety for workers.
The conversations should involve organisations and groups who understand the challenges in the energy supply chain. Controversial, extremely damaging extraction techniques like fracking should be outlawed altogether. Asad Rehman has argued the Green New Deal will be dirtier than we think as the technology often depends on extracting rare minerals from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chile.
Protesters, joined by faith leaders and members of Extinction Rebellion Toronto, took over the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets in downtown Toronto on June 10 as part of a demonstration to declare a climate crisis. Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn
A group of activists in Toronto say they’ll deliver a petition with more than 45,000 signatures to the CBC Friday morning, asking the broadcaster to host a federal leader’s debate on climate change ahead of the October federal election.
The petition was organized by four advocacy groups: Leadnow.ca and North99, along with the climate-change-focused 350 Canada and OurTime, which recently made headlines with a campaign for a Canadian Green New Deal. In a statement, LeadNow said the CBC has a responsibility as a public broadcaster to “provide a platform about this unprecedented national emergency so voters can clearly see where leaders stand on climate and what they’re prepared to do about it.”
“We look to political leaders to lead on serious issues like climate change, but there’s so much misinformation and confusion,” said Amara Possian, Canada Campaigns Manager with 350.org. “A federal leaders’ debate focused on climate change and a made-in-Canada Green New Deal will give voters much-needed clarity on which parties have the best strategy to tackle the climate crisis head on.”
The environment has emerged as the top election issue for Canadians, found a study released Thursday by the Digital Democracy Project.
In the statement, the advocacy groups pointed to wildfires in Western Canada, heat waves in the east and north, shorelines that are disappearing as sea levels rise and severe floods — all extreme events that are becoming more frequent due to the climate emergency.
CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson said the public broadcaster recognizes how important climate change is, and that will be reflected in its election coverage.
A group of activists plan to deliver a petition with over 45,000 signatures to CBC headquarters in Toronto Friday, demanding the broadcaster hold a federal leaders’ debate on the climate emergency. Story by @EmmaMci #cdnpoli
“As I’m sure you are aware, CBC News has covered climate change extensively, and we will continue to do so,” Thompson said in an emailed statement. “As to whether or not there will be a debate specifically about climate change, that question is best asked of the Leaders’ Debates Commission.”
The commission is an independent organization established by the federal government earlier this year to co-ordinate two leaders’ debates before federal elections. The CBC is one of a group of media organizations appointed by the commission to produce and stream the debates, as part of the Canadian Debate Production Partnership.
A worker fertilizes a field in Pereaux, N.S., on April 22, 2016. File photo by The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan
Canada will not be spared the impact of food shortages and price shocks if global warming is not kept below 2 degrees Celsius, a new report suggests.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is releasing a report today on the impacts farming, forestry and other uses of land have on climate change, as well as the impacts a warming planet will have on those industries.
Last fall, another report from the panel showed the planet had already warmed up almost 1 C compared to pre-industrial times.
The Paris climate change agreement is straining to keep global warming below 2 C and as close to 1.5 C as possible.
The latest report shows that if the planet’s temperature rises more than 2 C, there will be sustained disruptions in food supplies all around the world; warming between 1.5 C and 2 C will produce periodic food shocks.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, says the report is further proof of the tipping point the world faces if people do not do more to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of global warming. SOURCE
It’s a tragic missed opportunity. The new report on land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shies away from the big issues and fails to properly represent the science. As a result, it gives us few clues about how we might survive the century. Has it been nobbled? Was the fear of taking on the farming industry – alongside the oil and coal companies whose paid shills have attacked it so fiercely – too much to bear? At the moment, I have no idea. But what the panel has produced is pathetic.
The problem is that it concentrates on just one of the two ways of counting the carbon costs of farming. The first way – the IPCC’s approach – could be described as farming’s current account. How much greenhouse gas does driving tractors, spreading fertiliser and raising livestock produce every year? According to the panel’s report, the answer is around 23% of the planet-heating gases we currently produce. But this fails miserably to capture the overall impact of food production.
The second accounting method is more important. This could be described as the capital account: how does farming compare to the natural ecosystems that would otherwise have occupied the land? A paper published in Nature last year, but not mentioned by the IPCC, sought to count this cost. Please read these figures carefully. They could change your life.
The official carbon footprint of people in the UK is 5.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year. But in addition to this, the Nature paper estimates that the total greenhouse gas cost – in terms of lost opportunities for storing carbon that the land would offer were it not being farmed – of an average northern European diet is 9 tonnes a year. In other words, if we counted the “carbon opportunity costs” of our diet, our total footprint would almost triple, to 14.4 tonnes.
Why is this figure so high? Because we eat so much meat and dairy. The Nature paper estimates that the carbon cost of chicken is six times higher than soya, while milk is 15 times higher and beef 73 times. One kilo of beef protein has a carbon opportunity cost of 1,250kg: that, incredibly, is roughly equal to driving a new car for a year, or to one passenger flying from London to New York and back.
These are global average figures, raised by beef production in places like the Amazon basin. But even in the UK, the costs are astonishing. A paper in the journal Food Policy estimates that a kilo of beef protein reared on a British hill farm whose soils are rich in carbon has a cost of 643kg, while a kilo of lamb protein costs 749kg. Research published in April by the Harvard academics Helen Harwatt and Matthew Hayek, also missed by the IPCC, shows that, alongside millions of hectares of pasture land, an astonishing 55% of UK cropping land (land that is ploughed and seeded) is used to grow feed for livestock, rather than food for humans. If our grazing land was allowed to revert to natural ecosystems, and the land currently used to grow feed for livestock was used for grains, beans, fruit, nuts and vegetables for humans, this switch would allow the UK to absorb an astonishing quantity of carbon. This would be equivalent, altogether, the paper estimates, to absorbing nine years of our total current emissions. And farming in this country could then feed everyone, without the need for imports.
People tend to make two massive mistakes while trying to minimise the environmental impact of the food they eat. First, they focus on food miles and forget about the other impacts. For some foods, especially those that travel by plane, the carbon costs of transport are very high. But for most bulk commodities – grain, beans, meat and dairy – the greenhouse gases produced in transporting them are a small fraction of the overall impact. A kilo of soya shipped halfway round the world inflicts much less atmospheric harm than a kilo of chicken or pork reared on the farm down the lane.
The second mistake is to imagine that extensive farming is better for the planet than intensive farming. The current model of intensive farming tends to cause massive environmental damage: pollution, soil erosion and the elimination of wildlife. But extensive farming is worse: by definition, it requires more land to produce the same amount of food. This is land that could otherwise be devoted to ecosystems and wildlife. MORE
A new UN report points to how we can all personally take steps to stop climate change.
Greenpeace offers free diet plan to save the planet. Just take the pledge!
Released today, the report reveals how industrial agriculture has expanded across the planet at a phenomenal rate, chewing up forests and other natural areas to produce cheap crops and meat. Unsurprisingly, this is also contributing to the climate crisis.
And while this may sound like another far-removed problem which leaves us feeling disempowered, it turns out the solution is closer than you think. It’s on your plate.
That’s right: this new report highlights how the consumption of meat has more than doubled in the last fifty years, and urges people to shift towards sustainable plant-based diets to solve the climate crisis.
The science is clear: if we want to fight climate change, it is crucial to change what we eat. Shifting our diets towards plant-based foods while reducing our meat consumption is not only one of the most effective ways to fight climate change, it also offers solutions to many related challenges, from food scarcity to water pollution to biodiversity loss.
This is why Greenpeace is calling for global meat consumption and production to behalved by 2050. To meet that goal, we need everyone, including you, on board. Will you sign the #LessMeatMoreVeg pledge?When you do, you will receive a FREE guide with recipe ideas to help you incorporate more plant-based protein into your diet.
A small change in all of our diets can have a huge impact on scaling back the global climate crisis and protecting nature. We are now facing a clear fork in the road: we can keep on with business as usual and risk degrading our only home even further, or we can take concrete steps now in order to protect our planet for future generations. Because ultimately, shifting our diets away from meat and dairy towards plant-based foods is not only good for our health, but also the health of the planet.