Liberals unveil ambitious climate action plan with few details on how they would hit targets

Environmental proposals would push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050, party says

Liberal Ottawa Centre candidate Catherine McKenna announced the party’s climate action plan at a news conference today. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The Liberals are promising to push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050, joining the European Union and countries making the same pledge at the United Nations in New York City this week.

The Liberal Party’s plan is to set legally-binding, five-year milestones to reach net-zero emissions in 30 years. The party says the net-zero plan would be based on the advice of scientists, economists and other experts, as well as consultations with Canadians — but it’s offering scant details so far on exactly how the target would be met.

Net-zero means some sectors could still emit carbon pollution, but those emissions would be offset by other actions such as planting trees.

The Liberal plan also promises to exceed Canada’s 2030 emissions goal.

Ottawa Centre Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna, who has been serving as federal environment minister, said Canadians have a stark choice to make on climate policy in this election.

“Conservative politicians want to stop this progress. They want to follow (Ontario Premier) Doug Ford’s example, where it’s free to pollute, where we cancel programs that are helping businesses, schools, hospitals, people save money and do right by the environment,” she said during a campaign event at a local Ottawa company that transitions homes and businesses to solar power.

“That is exactly what [Conservative Leader] Andrew Scheer would do, too.”

‘Moral responsibility’ to act

Pressed by reporters on how the Liberals would achieve the ambitious targets, McKenna was light on specifics. She would not say if pursuing a net-zero target would require an increase in the carbon tax, or what penalties could be imposed for not meeting legislated emissions targets.

McKenna said the path forward would be charted by an expert panel, adding climate change represents both a moral responsibility and an economic opportunity for Canada.

The climate change plan would include bringing in something called a “Just Transition Act” to give workers in affected sectors access to training, support and new opportunities to adapt to the transforming economy.

In August, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May offered a similar proposal to transition oil and gas sector workers to green energy jobs. MORE


Dispatch From the NYC Climate Strike

Image result for the independent: Dispatch From the NYC Climate Strike
More than a quarter million people marched in New York for their future on Friday, many of them children. Photo: Sue Brisk.

They put the number at 300,000 — but who knows? The important thing wasn’t the number. A new generation made an unforgettable coming out. Later in the day, after returning home possessed with an ecstatic kind of exhaustion, we read about the rallies in 185 countries, an unprecedented uprising everywhere on Earth — for the Earth.

We were invited to march with the indigenous leaders from Amazonia.  They were in town for the United Nations General Assembly, as were representatives of 193 countries, and Greta Thunberg. Of all the institutions of our civilization, it is the UN that has kept up the call of our emergency, with the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (commonly called the IPCC reports). The timing of it all grew the drama, starting with Thunberg’s arrival like a Charles Lindbergh in reverse, sailing on a carbon-free boat from Europe.

The climate movement has had its leaders, but now in retrospect, they look like a pack of John the Baptists waiting for Greta Thunberg. Her spectral presence is indispensable. Hero-worship seems not the right idea for an uprising for the Earth. We have the vague feeling that the haranguing of Naomi Klein and Bill McKibbon and Rebecca Solnit and David Attenborough were necessary as educators, but inspiring a mass movement among the consumerized public was not something they could accomplish.

Our previous big protest was in 2014 with the People’s Climate March (PCM).  Snaking through the iconic buildings of Midtown, New York, it had its radical shadow event the following day, Flood Wall Street.  The flood will always be remembered for the image of the hand-cuffed man in the surprisingly realistic-looking polar bear suit. (Inside was Peter Galvin from the Center for Biological Diversity).  The mainstream PCM event had numbers comparable to this weekend’s strike, although it didn’t have the aura of the worldwide uprising of the children’s strike.

This event was of, for, and by the children, and their hero childlike in aspect, although Thunberg’s voice has an ageless quality,  formidable, coldly scolding dithering business leaders and politicians.) The strike seemed to combine the radical nature of the Flood Wall Street occupation with the larger mass protest. The whole thing lacked the participation of institutions and famous people. And it makes us wonder if the big institutions and big names inhibit mass action, even as they labor with their radical gestures to inspire our revolutionary emotions.

The People’s Climate March of 2014 featured glossy advertisements on the walls of subway trains. Today that would inspire comments on the carbon-heavy advertising industry and its zombifying impact on people.  The emergency of our moment goes all the way to the edges. It is easier now to ask about the carbon-emitting that comes from very ordinary domestic living, not just driving and flying.

Thunberg is standing there quietly thundering with all the storms and wildfires. I wonder what the Big Oil and their banking enablers are thinking after that worldwide outpouring.  The Green New Deal must look like an inevitable FDR avalanche of change. Chase Bank’s Jamie Dimon must be taking another look at Greta Thunberg, this braided school girl from Sweden. He makes a $100,000 a day and puts CO2 into the air from every continent with his investments. For the change to be enough to bring back the birds and the frogs and to reassure these angry children, Wall Street will have to be flooded for real. The next step is very close to our shoes. SOURCE

While global leaders messed around, Greta Thunberg and 15 kids got down to business

Thunberg at the UN climate action summit
Thunberg at the UN climate action summit

The United Nations’ secretary-general António Guterres wanted international leaders to bring plans, not speeches to the Climate Action Summit being held in New York today. Greta Thunberg and 15 other young people don’t seem to have much faith in these plans. On Monday, hours after Thunberg addressed assembled leaders at the summit’s opening ceremony, the group of activists announced they were suing five of the biggest carbon polluters in the world—Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey—for violating their rights as children by failing to adequately reduce emissions.

“You are failing us,” Thunberg said, gazing at the crowd with fury. “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.” Together with 15 international young people, each of whom have been affected by climate change, she filed a lawsuit arguing the carbon-polluting countries are violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states children have the right to life, health, and peace. The United States is the only country not to have ratified this convention, and so is not included in the lawsuit, despite its high levels of pollution.

As the children filed a lawsuit, global leaders dutifully presented their plans to address the climate crisis. Though most acknowledged the need for specific action over platitudes—”We believe an ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of preaching,” said India’s prime minister Narendra Modi—their plans varied in substance. Modi, for example, said India plans to increase its renewable energy capacity to 450 gigawatts. But he did not mention coal, India’s largest energy source, or attempts to reduce national emissions.

There were a few specific new plans from those mentioned in the lawsuit: Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, said the country plans to phase out coal by 2038 (a goal first announced earlier this year) and pledged Germany would achieve net zero emissions by 2050. And France’s president Emmanuel Macron called on the European Union to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% before 2030, up from its current commitment of 40%.

But, collectively, the proposed plans aren’t strong enough. “The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control,” said Thunberg. Just ask her partners in the lawsuit.

Ranton Anjain, 17, from Ebeye, the Marshall Island, faces the threat of his country being swallowed by rising sea levels, and diseases from climate change. The heat has created outbreaks of dengue, a mosquito-borne viral disease, which were severe enough to create a state of emergency in the summers of 2018 and 2019. Ayakha Melithafa, 17, who lives on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, has reckoned with her city running out of water. And Deborah Adegbile, a 12-year-old from Lagos, Nigeria, now lives with an increasingly long rainy season, encountering frequent flooding that forces her parents to carry her to school. “A 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us,” says Thunberg, “we who have to live with the consequences.” SOURCE

Climate Protesters and World Leaders: Same Planet, Different Worlds

Credit: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

UNITED NATIONS — This is the world we live in: Punishing heat waves, catastrophic floods, huge fires and climate conditions so uncertain that children took to the streets en masse in global protests to demand action.

But this is also the world we live in: A pantheon of world leaders who have deep ties to the industries that are the biggest sources of planet-warming emissions, are hostile to protests, or use climate science denial to score political points.

That stark contrast comes at a time when governments face a challenge of a kind they have not seen since the beginning of the industrial era. In order to avert the worst effects of climate change, they must rebuild the engine of the global economy — to quickly get out of fossil fuels, the energy source that the system is based upon — because they failed to take steps decades ago when scientists warned they should.

On Monday, at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, comes a glimpse of how far presidents and prime ministers are willing to go. The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, expects around 60 countries to announce what he called new “concrete” plans to reduce emissions and help the world’s most vulnerable cope with the fallout from global warming.

The problem is, the protesters in the streets and some of the diplomats in the General Assembly hall are living in separate worlds.

“Our political climate is not friendly to this discussion at this moment,” said Alice Hill, who specializes in climate policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Multilateralism is under attack. We have seen the rise of authoritarian governments.”

“We see these pressures as working against us,” she said. “We don’t have leadership in the United States to help guide the process.”

President Trump, in fact, has rolled back dozens of environmental regulations, most recently reversing rules on auto emissions, saying that they were an unnecessary burden on the American economy. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro wants to open the Amazon to new commercial activity. In Russia, Vladimir Putin presides over a vast, powerful petro-state. China’s state-owned companies are pushing for coal projects at home and abroad, even as the country tries in other ways to tamp down emissions. Narendra Modi of India is set on expanding coal too, even as he champions solar power.

The latest report by a United Nations-backed scientific panel, meanwhile, projected that if emissions continue to rise at their current pace, by 2040, the world could face inundated coastlines, intensifying droughts and food insecurity. Basically, a catastrophe.

Protesters in Manhattan on Friday. 
Credit: Mark Abramson for The New York Times

At a press briefing ahead of the Monday summit, Mr. Guterres was bullish on what he described as a new willingness by governments and companies to address climate change seriously. He said he hoped “a very meaningful number of countries” would declare their aim to reduce carbon emissions significantly and aim to be carbon-neutral by 2050. MORE

Investments to address climate change are good business

“Greta Thunberg, Paris, France, 22 Fevrier” by Stephane_P via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 August 8, 2019
Rachel Warren from the Tyndall Centre at UEA is one of an internationally respected group of scientists who have urgently called on world leaders to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change. The School Strikes are today, Friday 20 September. A UN Climate Change Summit in New York is about to begin.

According to their study published in Science today, reducing the magnitude of climate change is also a good investment. Over the next few decades, acting to reduce climate change is expected to cost much less than the damage otherwise inflicted by climate change on people, infrastructure and ecosystems.

“Acting on climate change” said lead author Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, from the ARC Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia, “has a good return on investment when one considers the damages avoided by acting.”

The investment is even more compelling given the wealth of evidence that the impacts of climate change are happening faster and more extensively than projected, even just a few years ago. This makes the case for rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions even more compelling and urgent.

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg explained the mismatch: “First, we have underestimated the sensitivity of natural and human systems to climate change, and the speed at which these changes are happening.  Second, we have underappreciated the synergistic nature of climate threats – with the outcomes tending to be worse than the sum of the parts. This is resulting is rapid and comprehensive climate impacts, with growing damage to people, ecosystems, and livelihoods.”

For example, sea-level rise can lead to higher water levels during storm events. This can create more damage. For deprived areas, this may exacerbate poverty creating further disadvantage. Each risk may be small on its own, but a small change in a number of risks can lead to large impacts.

Prof Daniela Jacob, co-author and Director of Climate Services Centre (GERICS) in Germany is concerned about these rapid changes – especially about unprecedented weather extremes.

“We are already in new territory,” said Prof Jacob. “The ‘novelty’ of the weather is making our ability to forecast and respond to weather-related phenomena very difficult.”

These changes are having major consequences. The paper updates a database of climate-related changes and finds that there are significant benefits from avoiding 2oC and aiming to restrict the increase to 1.5oC above pre-industrial global temperatures. MORE


At UN Climate Summit, Green Funds, Collective Commitment in Focus

Sticky issues such as delivering on the $100 billion Green Climate Fund are also likely to be discussed at the forum.

At UN Climate Summit, Green Funds, Collective Commitment in Focus
Young people protest at the San Francisco Federal Building during a Climate Strike march, September 20, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Kate Munsch

New Delhi: On September 23, when the world meets at the UN Climate Summit in New York, world leaders will speak about their commitment to preventing dangerous climate change impacts by keeping global temperature rise under two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

At the same time, sticky issues such as delivering on the $100 billion Green Climate Fund and the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) based on the different capabilities of economies are likely to be discussed at the forum.

Days ahead of the summit, called by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres to urge nations to enhance their ambitions to meet targets, India’s environment secretary C.K. Mishra said the group of like-minded developing countries (LMDCs), G-77 developing nations and Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) are likely to underline the CBDR principle, or the principle of equity at the summit.

India, which is on target to achieve its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) – efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change – is unlikely to make any enhancement to commitment at the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“We are among only five countries [along with Ethiopia, the Philippines, Costa Rica and Morocco as per] whose NDCs are on track to achieve the two-degree target. We are already doing what is supposed to be done. The $100 billion promise is far from being fulfilled. Like-minded country groups will raise these issues,” Mishra said.

In 2010, developed countries had agreed to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020. Only about 10.8 billion dollars has been committed till this year.

No negotiations at the summit

There will be no negotiations at the summit, which will later take place in Chile in December at the 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). But with extreme weather events staring in the face, activists and experts are hoping that world leaders, particularly those who are not in line to meet the 2-degree target, will at least express their intention to meet it and have a strategy on how industry can switch to a low-carbon trajectory.

India, along with Sweden, will make a presentation on transforming the industry sector to meet the 1.5-degree target of global warming. “Our presentation will be on making steel, aluminium, chemicals, cement etc. on switching from grey to green,” Mishra added. PM Narendra Modi will make a statement on India’s plans and role also.

“My understanding is that the summit is not a replacement for the negotiations under the UNFCCC. The Entire world should recognise it and not push countries like India in a defensive space. The UN Summit is an opportunity to discuss the scale of the problem and climate emergency,” said Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). MORE


Naomi Klein on climate strikes, Greta and the Green New Deal

Author Naomi Klein says mass mobilization will be key in fighting climate change. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Listen to the full episode25:59

Millions of climate strikers all across the world took to the streets on Friday — and there’s another major climate protest planned for next Friday, too. Today on Front Burner, we talk to Naomi Klein, author of the new book On Fire: The Burning Case for the Green New Deal about Greta Thunberg, the Green New Deal, and why she thinks mass mobilization around climate change may be the only thing that can help us avoid global warming’s most devastating effects.

“If you don’t believe in social movements, and if they make you kind of queasy and they seem kind of messy, then you should feel really pessimistic, because it’s actually our only hope.” SOURCE

‘How dare you’: At UN climate summit, Greta Thunberg slams world leaders in emotional address

Merkel, Modi detail their countries’ commitments to combat climate change


Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, which produces more carbon emissions than all countries but the U.S. and China, detailed India’s commitments to combat climate change on Monday in New York. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg on Monday opened the United Nations Climate Action Summit with an angry condemnation of world leaders for failing to take strong measures to combat climate change. “How dare you?” she said.

Days after millions of young people took to the streets worldwide to demand emergency action on climate change, world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York City on Monday to try to inject fresh momentum into stalling efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Thunberg, visibly emotional, said in shaky but stern remarks at the opening of the summit that the generations that have polluted the most have burdened her and her generation with the extreme impacts of climate change.

UN Secretary General António Guterres has warned governments that they would have to offer action plans to qualify to speak at the summit, which is aimed at boosting the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat global warming.

Leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the one-day gathering, alongside companies working to promote renewable energy.

Merkel said Germany would double its spending to fight climate change to €4 billion ($5.8 billion  Cdn), while Modi pledged to increase his country’s commitment to renewable energy, as well as spending the equivalent of $50 billion Cdn through 2025 to shore up water conservation efforts.

Watch: Montreal mayor Plante on how cities can fight climate change

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told the United Nations that cities are on the front lines in the fight against climate change. 4:15

Among the day’s other initial announcements was one from the Marshall Islands, whose president, Hilda Heine, said she would seek parliamentary approval to declare a climate crisis on the low-lying atoll, which is already grappling with sea level rise. MORE