As Trudeau Clings to Power, Progressives in Canada Celebrate Victory of ‘Green New Deal Squad’

Now, said Naomi Klein, his Liberal party “will be pushed by a new squad of climate champions—on the inside and outside—demanding a #GreenNewDeal.”

GND squad
Eight candidates endorsed by the Our Time campaign who supported a Green New Deal for Canada won seats in the country’s elections Monday. (Photo: 350 Canada/Twitter)

Taking stock of the results from Monday’s national elections in Canada, in which Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clung to power but lost a majority in Parliament, climate campaigners are treating the victories of eight progressive candidates who ran on a bold Green New Deal for the country as a crucial opportunity.

Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein tweeted that “Liberals lost their majority and will be pushed by a new squad of climate champions—on the inside and outside—demanding a #GreenNewDeal.”

In May, a coalition of Canadian youth, artists, workers, Indigenous peoples, scientists, and faith leaders—including more than 60 organizations, unions, and associations—launched a Pact for a Green New Deal.

That followed the launch of Our Time, a non-partisan campaign backed by international environmental group 350.org and local hubs across the country that urged voters to support candidates who endorsed a Green New Deal. Eight Our Time candidates were elected Monday, according to the campaign.

The winners backed by Our Time were Leah Gazan, Don DaviesPeter JulianJenny KwanNiki AshtonDaniel BlaikieAlexandre Boulerice, and Matthew Green.

Following their victories Monday night, Our Time circulated a petition to “call on MPs from across the political spectrum to come together to form a government that will tackle the climate crisis and growing inequality, that will respect Indigenous rights, and create millions of good jobs.”

Moving forward, “Trudeau will not form a formal coalition with any of the three smaller parties in Canada. Instead he will rely on their support on a vote-by-vote basis,” according to The New York Times. The country’s four main parties are the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, and Bloc Québécois.

The progressive New Democratic Party, led by Jagmeet Singh, “started the campaign with 39 seats, sitting in third place,” reported CBC. “As election night came to a close, the party’s caucus had shrunk to roughly 24 seats, according to CBC‘s projections, leaving it behind the Bloc Québécois,” which promotes Quebec nationalism and sovereignty.

Trudeau, the 47-year-old son of late former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, became leader of the Liberal party in 2013 and prime minister in 2015. Since then, the Liberals have had a definitive majority in Canada’s House of Commons, but are now set to lose about 30 seats in the wake of Monday’s election.

“The Liberals lost support in every province across Canada in yesterday’s federal election, and it cost them their majority government. But it wasn’t enough to cost them power,” CBC reported early Tuesday. “Trudeau will remain prime minister because voters in Quebec and Ontario didn’t want to give the job to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.”

Moving forward, “Trudeau will not form a formal coalition with any of the three smaller parties in Canada. Instead he will rely on their support on a vote-by-vote basis,” according to The New York Times. The country’s four main parties are the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, and Bloc Québécois.

The progressive New Democratic Party, led by Jagmeet Singh, “started the campaign with 39 seats, sitting in third place,” reported CBC. “As election night came to a close, the party’s caucus had shrunk to roughly 24 seats, according to CBC‘s projections, leaving it behind the Bloc Québécois,” which promotes Quebec nationalism and sovereignty.

Trudeau, the 47-year-old son of late former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, became leader of the Liberal party in 2013 and prime minister in 2015. Since then, the Liberals have had a definitive majority in Canada’s House of Commons, but are now set to lose about 30 seats in the wake of Monday’s election.

“The Liberals lost support in every province across Canada in yesterday’s federal election, and it cost them their majority government. But it wasn’t enough to cost them power,” CBC reported early Tuesday. “Trudeau will remain prime minister because voters in Quebec and Ontario didn’t want to give the job to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.”

This year’s race between the Liberals and Conservatives grew closer in the run-up to the election as Trudeau faced a corruption scandal as well as revelations that he dressed in brownface and blackface makeup multiple times several years ago. Trudeau apologized for the costumes, denounced his past actions as “racist,” and said he “deeply” regretted them.

“In recent years, Justin Trudeau has positioned himself as a champion of progressivism in the era of Donald Trump and the ascent of far-right populism in Europe,” noted NBC News. “He has welcomed Syrian refugees, pushed for gender parity in Cabinet positions, legalized assisted suicide and vowed to tackle gun violence, among other rebuttals to the rightward tide through much of the West.”

However, as Canada’s head of government the over past four years, Trudeau has elicited intense criticism for his climate record, especially since he announced last year that the government would buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline despite concerns about specific dangers of that pipeline’s delayed expansion project as well as broader worries about the mounting threats of the climate crisis.

As Common Dreams reported in April, a study commissioned by the government found that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world—findings that CBC News columnist Neil Macdonald said at the time “should inspire naked fear.”

Based on the election results, it’s possible that growing fears about the climate crisis did influence voters Monday. In an op-ed for Common Dreams Tuesday, Canadian journalist and novelist Gary Engler pointed out that “the only political party that denies climate change is caused by humans won less than two percent of the vote despite its high profile leader, former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier.”

“The anti-immigrant, right wing People’s Party of Canada, formed by a self-described libertarian after he narrowly lost the vote to become Conservative leader, failed to elect even a single member of Parliament,” Engler explained. “The four parties that do offer climate action plans (of varying seriousness) collected almost 65 percent of the vote.” SOURCE

 

The Green New Deal and the case for a radical economic reboot

Two new books argue for profound change to break the political logjam on climate change

FILE -- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks alongside Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) at a news conference about the Green New Deal, in Washington, Feb. 7, 2019. New York lawmakers have agreed to pass a sweeping climate plan that calls for the state to all but eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. (Pete Marovich/The New York Times) Credit: New York Times / Redux / eyevine For further information please contact eyevine tel: +44 (0) 20 8709 8709 e-mail: info@eyevine.com www.eyevine.com
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey (right) at a news conference about the Green New Deal in Washington in February © New York Times/Redux/Eyevine

Ever since the renowned Nasa scientist James Hansen started issuing dire public warnings about the risks of man-made climate change in the late 1980s, the same question has haunted environmental campaigners: how to get political momentum behind an “invisible” and global problem whose impacts would not be felt for many years?

Attempts to outsource the answer to some grand international bargain in succeeding decades have done little to abate the volumes of carbon still belching into the atmosphere. Wealthy countries such as the US have bridled at binding global targets, while national regulations have simply shifted emissions from wealthy countries to those with less exacting environmental rules.

Earlier this year, two American progressive politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey, launched the latest attempt to break the political logjam. Granted, their “Green New Deal” is more of a political brand than a practical programme. But it sets out to provide that elusive energising factor by tying climate action to the notion of greater social justice within the US.

The deal offers jobs for millions to restore US infrastructure, extends universal healthcare and proposes switching to local community-led renewable energy systems with the aim of reaching 100 per cent renewable power in the next 10 years.

The goal is to make decarbonisation a defining national mission rather than an internationally mandated chore.

It is not the first time a “Green New Deal” has been touted. But the original, cooked up by the US journalist Thomas Friedman in 2007, gained little traction.

Conceived as a mission that would bolster US energy security as well as (happily) saving the planet, it argued for a technological revolution; one where the government showered fiscal incentives to replace fossil fuels with unlimited green power.

Friedman’s was a consumer-friendly vision; one where western knowhow bailed us out without us actually having to change our lifestyles very much.

A decade on, proponents of the latest Green New Deal, such as the activist Naomi Klein, are much less optimistic about the ability — or will — of western private capital and technology to solve the world’s environmental woes. In On Fire, the longstanding critic of corporate globalisation argues for a much more comprehensive economic reboot.

“Markets play a role in this vision, but markets are not the protagonists of this story — people are,” she writes. “The workers who will build the new infrastructure, the residents who will breathe the clean air, who will live in the affordable green housing and benefit from the low cost (or free) public transit.”

Klein’s book is a collection of essays spanning the past decade, which chart her growing despair at environmental degradation and conclusion that any solution must involve radical and urgent economic change. The story moves from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010, through the wildfires of western Canada, the refugee crises in Africa and the Middle East all the way to the Vatican, where Pope Francis is attempting an extraordinary “ecological conversion”. These journeys have left her with a profound mistrust of the way markets allocate resources. Klein argues that we must change more than just our energy sources; we must master our urge to dominate the natural environment — what she calls our “expansionist, extractive mind-set”.

This is partly a long-lensed critique about humanity’s relationship to nature. As a Canadian, Klein is acutely aware of her own country’s history, and the way early colonial settlers treated it as “their God-given larder”, killing first the native species, such as auks and beavers, for profit, before turning to its woodlands and mineral resources. MORE

 

 

UN report blasts ‘abhorrent’ housing conditions of Canada’s Indigenous people

Leilani Farha, UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, speaks during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on Oct. 3, 2018. AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/REUTERS

A United Nations report is highlighting the role “abhorrent” housing conditions play in the poverty and exploitation that Indigenous people face in Canada and around the world.

The report, presented to the UN General Assembly on Friday, examines the lack of access to secure housing both in cities and on reserves and its effect on the rights of Indigenous people in countries including Canada, Australia and Tanzania.

“The Special Rapporteur finds that housing conditions for Indigenous peoples around the world are overwhelmingly abhorrent and too often violate the right to adequate housing,” the report reads.

“(Indigenous people) are more likely to suffer inadequate housing and negative health outcomes as a result, they have disproportionately high rates of homelessness and they are extremely vulnerable to forced evictions, land-grabbing and the effects of climate change.”

Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, noted that housing shortages are severe enough in Canada’s North that some people in Indigenous communities are forced to sleep in shifts.

“There’s 15 people living in a home that’s the size of a trailer, so of course they have to sleep in shifts when there’s only so much room,” she said.

The report also highlights poor water systems on many Canadian reserves.

“In a country with more fresh water than anywhere else in the world, 75 per cent of the reserves in Canada have contaminated water, with communities such as Attawapiskat declaring a state of emergency,” it reads.

The report also says Indigenous people in Canada and around the world who live in urban areas deal with racism from landlords, presenting another hurdle to accessing housing.

The report linked a lack of housing as a factor that exacerbates Canada’s ongoing problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“Lacking secure, adequate housing, Indigenous women often become the targets of further violence because of their gender and their Indigenous identity,” it says.

Farha said one of the main goals of the report was to link the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP) to the UN’s legislation on the right to adequate housing.

“The right to housing under international human rights law is something that is legally binding on governments in Canada,” said Farha. “That’s really important because the UN’s DRIP isn’t a legal instrument in the way that the treaty for the right to housing is.”

She said she hopes making that connection will put more pressure on the Canadian government to act on issues that predominantly affect Aboriginal people. MORE

Sorry—organic farming is actually worse for climate change

The practice cuts greenhouse-gas emissions only if you ignore the inconvenient fact that it requires a lot more land.

A farm.
PHOTO BY IVAN BANDURA ON UNSPLASH

Organic practices can reduce climate pollution produced directly from farming – which would be fantastic if they didn’t also require more land to produce the same amount of food.

Clearing additional grasslands or forests to grow enough food to make up for that difference would release far more greenhouse gas than the practices initially reduce, a new study in Nature Communications finds.

Other recent research has also concluded that organic farming produces more climate pollution than conventional practices when the additional land required is taken into account. In the new paper, researchers at the UK’s Cranfield University took a broad look at the question by analyzing what would happen if all of England and Wales shifted entirely to these practices. 

The good news is it would cut the direct greenhouse-gas emissions from livestock by 5% and from growing crops by 20% per unit of production. The bad news: it would slash yields by around 40%, forcing hungry Britons to import more food from overseas. If half the land used to meet that spike in demand was converted from grasslands, which store carbon in plant tissues, roots, and soil, it would boost overall greenhouse-gas emissions by 21%.

Among other things, organic farming avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms, all of which can boost the amount of crops produced per acre. Instead, organic farmers rely on things like animal manure and compost, and practices such as crop rotation, which involves growing different plants throughout the year to improve soil health. 

The study notes that these biological inputs produce fewer emissions than nitrogen-based synthetic fertilizers, notably including the highly potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Separately, the use of manure and longer crop rotations can increase the amount of carbon stored in soil

The emissions impact of the meat, milk, and eggs produced from organically raised livestock is more complicated. On the one hand, emissions can increase because animals don’t plump up as fast without hormones, supplements, and conventional feed. That, for instance, grants cattle longer lives in which to belch out methane, another especially powerful greenhouse gas. On the other, allowing animals to spend more of their lives grazing on open grasslands may stimulate additional plant growth that captures more carbon dioxide, while cutting emissions associated with standard feeds.

But the bigger problem, for both crops and livestock, is that these practices end up requiring a lot more land to produce the same amount of food.

After all, the whole point of synthetic fertilizer is it boosts crop yields, by providing a “fixed” form of nitrogen that promotes plant growth. The legumes that organic farmers have to rotate in to help convert nitrogen into more reactive compounds in the soil end up cutting deeply into other food crops they could otherwise grow, the study notes.

Specifically, the switch to 100% organic practices would require 1.5 times more land to make up for the declines, which would add up to nearly five times more land overseas than England and Wales currently rely on for food. That difference is amplified by the fact that the UK’s agricultural system produces particularly high yields compared with other parts of the world.

The study found larger effects than some earlier papers. Notably, a 2012 meta-analysis in Nature determined that organic farming yields are between 5% and 34% lower than those from conventional agriculture, depending on the specific crops and practices. In addition, a 2017 Nature Communications study estimated that switching to organic farming would increase land use by only 16% to 33%.

By evaluating the entire farming system of England and Wales, the new study helps to address some of the criticisms of earlier organic emissions assessments, which were often limited to specific farms or crops, says Dan Blaustein-Rejto, associate director of food and agriculture at the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank that promotes technology solutions to environmental challenges.

“Looking at the farm scale doesn’t really tell you what a large-scale transition to organic would look like,” he says. “Only a study like this, that takes a system-wide perspective, really does.”

The world does need to find ways to cut the emissions and environmental pollution from synthetic fertilizers. But the trick is to clean up these practices in ways that don’t require converting more land to agriculture, or forcing large parts of the world to go hungry.

Among other paths, a number of researchers and startups are trying to develop novel agricultural inputs that could cut emissions without reducing yields, crops that take up more of the nitrogen in soil, and various meat and milk alternatives. SOURCE

 

Small Adjustments to Wind Turbines Can Reduce Impacts on Birds, New Study Finds


PHOTO CREDIT: WIND DENMARK

About 150,000 birds are affected by wind turbines every year in the United States, from collisions with equipment to changes in bird habitats due to wind disturbance, construction, and other factors, according to a recent study published in the journal Energy Science. But simple changes, such as building taller turbines with shorter blades, can help significantly reduce these impacts, the study found.

The research analyzed data from 1,670 wind turbines and 86 bird observation routes across 36 states between 2008 to 2014.

“We found that there was a negative impact of three birds lost for every turbine within 400 meters of a bird habitat,” Madhu Khanna, professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois and co-author of the new study, said in a statement. “The impact faded away as the distance increased.”

Khanna and her colleagues suggested that turbines be placed outside a one-mile buffer zone around high-density bird habitats. Taller turbines with shorter blades also resulted in fewer bird deaths and other negative impacts. “No single technology is such that it is only beneficial and has no negative consequences,” Khanna said. “You can minimize the effect by making the recommended adjustments.”

Previous studies have estimated that turbines affect as many as 573,000 birds in the U.S. every year. But the new research, using a larger data set over a longer period of time, resulted in a more conservative estimate of birds affected by wind turbines. SOURCE

What a Liberal minority government means for Canada’s environment

From the carbon tax to fossil fuel subsidies, here are eight things we can expect from a minority government

PM Trudeau arrives in Biarritz. August 22, 2019.

…The Liberals could work with either the NDP or the Bloc Quebecois (or some combination thereof) and remain in power.

Both the NDP and the Bloc have strong environmental platforms — arguably stronger than the Liberals — so if anything the Liberals can be expected to take a stronger stance on environmental issues.

There’s much we don’t know, but here are a few things we can reasonably expect to happen on the environment file.

1) The carbon tax will stay in place

An escalating price on carbon has been the cornerstone of the Liberals climate plan and they’ll have plenty of support to keep the carbon tax in place. The NDP also promised a carbon tax, but vowed to take it a step further by removing exemptions for heavy polluters.

Meanwhile, the Bloc Quebecois proposed that Ottawa impose a carbon tax in provinces where greenhouse gas emissions per capita are higher than average and that the proceeds be paid to provinces where emissions are lower, creating a form of green equalization. Trudeau will almost certainly be concerned about Albertan alienation, so he’ll avoid getting involved in that plan.

2) About those fossil fuel subsidies …

Back in 2015, the Liberals promised to phase out fossil fuel subsidies over the “medium term,” but Environmental Defence estimates the federal government is still handing out $3.3 billion a year to the fossil fuel industry. The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois campaigned on a promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, a policy that enjoys tremendous public support. Could they use their newfound power to push for this phase out to start sooner rather than later?

3) The Trans Mountain pipeline debate is unlikely to be re-opened in Parliament, unless …

While many of the opposition parties might want to re-open this debate, it’s hard to see an opening for them to do so given the pipeline is already approved. Even if the NDP, Greens and Bloc Quebecois wanted to force a confidence vote on it, the Conservatives would side with the Liberals on this one.

However, the Liberals still need to find $10 to $15 billion to build the pipeline.

“The public financing of the project does seem to present a bit of a pickle,” said Kai Nagata of Dogwood, a B.C. democracy group. “It doesn’t seem likely the NDP/Bloc/Greens could vote for a budget with pipeline construction funds, but the Conservative party probably couldn’t stomach voting for everything else.”

Nagata added: “Even the Conservatives should be philosophically uncomfortable with borrowing money, in a deficit, to spend on corporate welfare.”

4) Buh-buy single-use plastics

The Liberals promised to start phasing out single-use plastics starting around 2021. The NDP, meanwhile, wants to intensify that approach by straight-up banning single-use plastics by 2022. Any which way, single-use plastics such as bags and straws are likely going the way of the dodo.

5) Full steam ahead on conservation

The Trudeau government has made significant progress toward meeting its Aichi Biodiversity targets: it pledged to protect at least 17 per cent of terrestrial area and inland waters, and 10 per cent of its oceans, by 2020. A flurry of big new protected areas has moved that along.

The Liberals have also committed to conserving 25 per cent of Canada’s land, freshwater and ocean by 2025 and to working toward conserving 30 per cent by 2030. They also plan to advocate for countries around the world to set a 30 per cent conservation goal.

Additionally, the Liberals have identified the opportunity to reduce emissions by 30 megatonnes by 2030 using natural climate solutions that support efforts to better manage, conserve and restore forests, grasslands, agricultural lands, wetlands and coastal areas — as well ad by planting two billion trees.

The NDP and Greens have also committed to the goal of conserving 30 per cent of land, freshwater and oceans by 2030.

So, watch for more Indigenous protected areasnational parks and marine protected areas.

6) Expect more electric vehicles

The Liberals have set a target of 30 per cent of all light-duty vehicles on the road being electric by 2030. The Bloc Quebecois also support measures to require manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles. And the NDP support maintaining the $5,000 federal incentive for electric vehicle purchases while eliminating federal sales tax on them. One way or another, electric vehicle incentives are here to stay.

7) A lot of Albertans are going to be outraged

With Conservatives winning a higher percentage of the popular vote than the Liberals nationwide, and winning every seat in Alberta and Saskatchewan except for one, Westerners are rightly going to be upset about ending up with so little say in Ottawa. How that will manifest is yet to be seen, but I’d wager a bet it ain’t gonna be pretty.

8) Will electoral reform have its moment in the sun?

The NDP and Greens have long supported a move to proportional representation — an electoral system that would ensure the allocation of seats is more in line with the popular vote than our current first-past-the-post system. With the Conservatives being the latest losers under the first-past-the-post system, one has to wonder if there might be a cross-party push for a referendum on modernizing our electoral system.

Much more will become clear over the coming weeks and months, but for now what we know is that the Liberals will have to work with some combination of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois — and that means that if anything, they’ll have a stronger mandate to take bold action on the climate crisis.

Norway public pension fund severs final link with Canada’s oilsands


Steam generators at Cenovus Energy’s Foster Creek site in northeastern Alberta. Photo by company

Norway’s municipal employees pension fund, the country’s largest, has sold its last remaining stakes in companies with operations in Canada’s oilsands, saying holding them does not align with efforts to keep global heating below internationally agreed-upon targets.

The fund, Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP), last year dumped stocks that drew more than 30 per cent of their revenue from oilsands operations, but on Monday said they can no longer tolerate even those that have five per cent exposure.

KLP, which manages the pensions of Norway’s 900,000 nurses, firefighters and other employees of local governments and state-owned enterprises, said in a statement that it had jettisoned US$33 million worth of equity holdings and US$25 million in bonds from Canada’s Cenovus Energy, Suncor Energy, Imperial Oil (majority owned by ExxonMobil) and Husky Energy, as well as Russia’s Tatneft PAO.

Jeanett Bergan, head of responsible investments at KLP, said in a phone interview that “the message we really would like to get across is that companies and fund managers and investors all need to start managing this risk and making sure that they’re doing everything they can to be part of the transition that all societies need to do.”

Norway, much like Canada, has a sizable oil and gas industry that creates economic activity but also contributes to unsustainable levels of global carbon emissions. The oil and gas sector in Canada is the largest contributor to the country’s carbon pollution profile, contributing over a quarter of all emissions, or 27 per cent according to federal estimates.

“From the emission numbers and everything that is happening around the world, nothing is moving fast enough,” Bergan said. “We’re not close to the 1.5 degree (Celsius) target, we’re not close to the 2 degree target. We’re far from it,” she said, referring to commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2016, to keep global warming from rising more than 1.5 or 2 C above pre-industrial levels.

“Companies and fund managers and investors all need to start managing this risk,” says @JeanettBergan of @KLPkvitrer. “And making sure that they’re doing everything they can to be part of the transition that all societies need to do.”

A centrifugal plant under construction at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake facility. Suncor Energy and Imperial Oil are the two biggest stakeholders in the joint venture near Fort McMurray in Alberta. Photo courtesy of Syncrude Canada Ltd

Canada Pension Plan board looking at fund’s pollution

Global temperatures have so far risen roughly 1 C since humans began building factories and using mechanized manufacturing techniques more than 200 years ago. Human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels has caused all planetary heating since midcentury.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), a Crown corporation, manages over $400 billion including hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil and gas companies such as Enbridge ($385 million), Suncor ($240 million) and Pembina Pipeline ($95 million).

The corporation could not say whether it was considering axing its fossil fuel holdings when contacted by National Observer. It also does not have a stated, specific plan to cut exposure to companies of a certain emissions intensity.

In fact, the fund has just started to ask the question of how much carbon pollution its holdings emit at all.

CPPIB’s 2018 sustainability report looked at 34 per cent of total holdings, the fund’s stake in each emitting company, and determined it emitted 15.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (125 tonnes of CO2e per C$1 million invested and 220 tonnes of CO2e per C$1 million of revenue).  MORE