We may have to abandon concrete to fight climate change, architectural experts say

The building material seems so ubiquitous — what can we use in its place?

Image result for big think: We may have to abandon concrete to fight climate change, architectural experts say
Photo credit: Victor on Unsplash

    • Concrete is a surprisingly dangerous contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.
    • For years, architects haven’t been concerned with these emissions since concrete buildings last for so long; their carbon footprint is spread out over their entire lifespan.
    • However, as we approach climate “tipping points,” the front-loaded cost of concrete construction may be too high.

A group of experts at the Architecture of Emergency climate summit in London have identified an unlikely source of greenhouse gas emissions: concrete.

“If we invented concrete today, nobody would think it was a good idea,” said architectural engineer and panel member Michael Ramage. “We’ve got this liquid and you need special trucks, and it takes two weeks to get hard. And it doesn’t even work if you don’t put steel in it.”

The four billion tons of concrete produced for construction each year accounts for 8 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, mainly through the production of clinker. Clinker serves as a crucial binding element in cement, the primary ingredient of concrete, and is produced by heating limestone and clay to around 1,400°C (about 2,500°F). Heating limestone (CaCO3) to these temperatures, however, causes a chemical reaction called calcination that results in lime (CaO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) as a waste product. Roughly half of concrete’s carbon dioxide emissions is due to calcination, while another 40 percent comes from burning fossil fuels to heat up limestone to the point where this chemical reaction can occur. The last 10 percent comes from the fuel used in the mining and transportation process.

Eight percent might seem like a large slice of the world’s carbon dioxide pie, but architectural experts haven’t been particularly concerned about this figure until recently. The reason why has to do with concrete’s longevity. Normally when calculating a building’s total carbon emissions, said Phineas Harper of Dezeen magazine, architects take the amount of carbon needed to construct a building and divide it over the building’s total lifespan. “That gives you your per-year carbon emissions,” said Harper. However, in our current climate situation, this kind of thinking is “dead wrong.”

Had we taken climate change more seriously a hundred years ago, this would probably be fine. But as it stands today, we have only a few short years before we reach climate “tipping points,” events that create negative feedback loops in the climate that are very difficult to reverse. The melting of polar ice, which reflects sunlight and contains locked-away greenhouse gases, is a well-known example of such a tipping point. So too is deforestation in rainforests, which increases the likelihood of local droughts, killing even more trees.

As a result, the front-heavy carbon load of concrete buildings inadvertently contribute more to climate change than any straightforward calculation may suggest.

Looking for alternatives

So, if we can’t build sustainably with concrete, what other materials can we build with? Ken de Cooman, founder of BC Architects & Studies, discussed how his firm is using materials primarily formed from the earth, like compressed-earth bricks. There are also biocomposite materials, which are formed out of natural fibers embedded in a matrix. Hempcrete, for instance, is a biocomposite of hemp and lime that is actually carbon negative since hemp absorbs CO2 as it grows.

Interestingly, one of the best candidates for replacing concrete in construction projects is something of an old-fashioned solution — timber. One might wonder if using timber is all that wise given the importance of forests in maintaining the health of our environment, this might seem counterintuitive. Ramage acknowledged that building out of timber would require sustainable practices. In order to make construction using timber sustainable, a number of trees would have to be planted for every tree that is cut down. And, added Ramage,”It’s important to remember that every kilogram of timber we build with holds the equivalent of 1.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide.” Unlike concrete, timber stores carbon dioxide, lowering a building’s overall carbon footprint.

As an example of this, architect Andrew Waugh described a building his firm built in North London.

“We built the entire building from solid timber from the first floor up. So all the internal walls, external walls, lift shafts, staircases, all in timber. … It’s about 2.8 trees per person that live in that building and for every one of those trees that was cut down to build that building five more were planted in its place.”

Timber is growing in popularity as a construction material, both because of its greater sustainability and because of advances that have enabled it to be used in taller buildings, like cross-laminated timber. These developments have not left the concrete industry too happy, which has taken out advertisements emphasizing the flammability of timber buildings and the environmental impacts of cutting down trees.

“We must be doing something right,” said Waugh, “because, much like the tobacco industry in the 1980s and 1990s, Big Concrete is beginning to fight back.”

Many of the methods we can employ to address climate change can seem radical. After all, many climate change activists ask that we stop engaging in many activities that have been a part of our lives for decades. But the climate crisis didn’t suddenly arise out of nowhere — it’s these activities that have, bit by bit, added momentum to this phenomenon.

Reversing that momentum will mean cutting back on fossil fuels, eating meat, building in concrete, and many more activities that we have taken for granted. SOURCE


What is the Future of Concrete in Architecture?

Linda McQuaig on how private enterprise took over Canada’s public wealth

Ontario Power Generation's Sir Adam Beck Generating Complex. Image: Ontario Power Generation/Adam Beck Complex/Wikimedia CommonsImage: Ontario Power Generation/Adam Beck Complex/Wikimedia Commons

In the 2015 federal election, author and journalist Linda McQuaig ran for Parliament as an NDP candidate in the riding of Toronto Centre. Her opponent was Liberal candidate Bill Morneau, who won the riding and went on to become minister of finance.

During the campaign, Morneau and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau championed the idea of creating a Canadian infrastructure bank, which would “provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects.” The bank would help finance things like public transit and housing, by borrowing the funds from the public through the sale of bonds to Canadians or their pension funds. People in Canada would finance the construction of infrastructure they benefit from (and own it, collectively).

“I thought it was a good idea,” McQuaig told me in a recent phone interview. “But he was being dishonest.”

After meeting the Wall Street tycoon Larry Fink, who manages BlackRock (one of the world’s largest investment funds) at a Davos meeting in 2016, Trudeau quickly changed his tune. Private capital could have a role in public infrastructure — in fact, he asked BlackRock to help his government design the bank.

In 2017, the prime minister and Morneau introduced the Canada Infrastructure Bank. The Crown corporation gives private capital the opportunity to invest in and own the infrastructure that is built for people in Canada. This “bait-and-switch” is the subject of the first chapter of McQuaig’s latest book, The Sport and Prey of CapitalistsHow the Rich are Stealing Canada’s Public Wealth.

“Private finance looks for investments that make profits of seven to nine per cent,” says McQuaig. “Governments can borrow at low costs. You throw out that advantage if you bring in private finance.”

You also hand over any potential future profits, which otherwise could be reinvested in public programs. That’s exactly what happened when, in 1999, Mike Harris sold Ontario’s Highway 407 for $3.1 billion, in what McQuaig calls “the worst deal of the century.”

The toll highway, built in a public-private partnership, had been constructed by the NDP government of Bob Rae, who promised that the tolls would only be used to pay off the building costs, which might take about 30 years. Since its sale to the consortium 407 International, tolls have risen by more than 300 per cent. In 2014, 407’s owners reaped almost $900 million — all of it from Ontarians driving on a publicly financed highway. The highway has been valued at upwards of $27 billion.

As the book’s subtitle makes clear, McQuaig is interested in more than just our disastrous history of privatization. The bulk of The Sport and Prey of Capitalists tells a different, little-known history of public enterprise in Canada.

“When I say public wealth, it is services, benefits, things that we can publicly benefit from. Public wealth to me is a way to capture the notion that something is of value to all of us,” says McQuaig. “One of the things I was trying to do in the book, to get people motivated, was to tell them these stories about public enterprise and the kind of battles we had to go through to achieve them.”

Ontario Hydro is one such example. Adam Beck, a Conservative MPP and mayor of London, Ontario, played a key role in bringing together people from municipalities across the province to campaign for a public power utility in Ontario in the early 1900s. The campaign was successful. After the 1905 provincial election, the Conservative government rejected a corporate syndicate’s application for rights to water power at Niagara Falls. Premier James Whitney declared “that the water power all over the country should not in the future be made the sport and prey of capitalists and shall not be treated as anything else but a valuable asset of the people of Ontario.”

Such examples should inspire us, says McQuaig: “The odds against achieving these things back then were as bad then as today. But they managed to make it a popular enough movement.”

The book includes chapters describing the creation of Connaught Labs, a publicly owned pharmaceutical company that pioneered research into vaccines and new disease treatments; public banks like the Alberta Treasury Branch; and the Canadian National Railway, which helped establish nation-wide radio stations, the foundation for the CBC.

Progressives and radicals won’t necessarily praise all her examples of Canadian public enterprise (the development of the Avro Arrow — an innovative military fighter-jet created in the late 1950s, for example) but one can’t ignore the vital importance of harnessing government investment for the public good.

It remains to be seen if the results of the 2019 election will mean more Trudeau-led privatization, given the balance of power in Ottawa. One hopes the NDP will be able to use their position in Parliament to move forward on issues like public investment in infrastructure and programs, reconciliation with Indigenous nations, and climate change.

McQuaig canvasses one potential way to kickstart a “Green New Deal” in the final pages of the book: the expropriation of the GM auto-manufacturing plant in Oshawa, slated to close at the end of the year.

“Trudeau spent $4.5 billion nationalizing the pipeline. That’s taxpayer money being spent on fossil fuels, instead of a green economy,” said McQuaig. “I’d like to see Jagmeet Singh pick up on the plan put forward by workers at the GM plant to nationalize it and make vehicles for green public transit. It seems perfect. It would combine nationalization, action on climate change, and defending workers.”

Ultimately, this is the idea that lies at the heart of McQuaig’s book, for all the stories of privatization that begin it: the public good that we have achieved in the past through collective action and public investment, and the things we could still. SOURCE

Unravelling B.C.’s landmark legislation on Indigenous rights

If passed, the new law will make B.C. the first government in Canada to codify the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Once implemented, it will significantly alter the way major resource projects are approached on Indigenous territories

BC UNDRIP legislation The Narwhal
From left to right: Terry Teegee, regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and his wife, Joan Phillip, a notable environmental and Indigenous rights advocate. Photo: Province of B.C. / Flickr

With a wavering voice, Premier John Horgan spoke to the historic moment as the landmark Bill 41 was introduced in the legislature on Thursday.

“It is truly a great honour to stand in this chamber alongside Indigenous elders, leaders and people to introduce this bill,” the Premier said.

“I’m determined to walk a path of reconciliation.”

“We can have a better future than our past.”

What is UNDRIP and what does it mean for Canada?

Set out in 46 Articles, the declaration calls on state governments to engage with Indigenous nations, communities and cultures in such a way that bolsters the preservation of traditional territories and ways of life.

“It has the capacity to be transformative,” said Merle Alexander, legal counsel for the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and member and hereditary chief of Kitasoo Xai’xais First Nation. “The challenge will be: how do we implement it?”

Alexander, who co-drafted the legislation, said the act is designed to be a framework for reconciliation.

“The potential of this legislation is to create a new baseline,” Alexander told The Narwhal.

“When you enable government to enter into consent-based agreements, it could radically shift almost all government relationships.”

A new era of mutual consent

A major question about B.C.’s incorporation of UNDRIP centres around the question of “free, prior and informed consent” and whether or not it amounts to granting Indigenous peoples the power to veto projects that affect traditional territories.

“Nowhere in the act, nowhere in the declaration, do the words ‘veto’ ever come up. For the first part, it’s fear-mongering,” Alexander said.

Article 32 of UNDRIP grants Indigenous peoples “the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.”

It also says governments “shall consult and cooperate in good faith” with Indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions, in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of “any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”

But Alexander said it isn’t an accurate framing of the issue to say UNDRIP will essentially grant nations the power to override government and industry.

“Veto is about overriding jurisdiction and overruling governments, whereas consent is about agreement and coming together and working through problems and finding solutions,” he said.

“In some ways consent and veto are polar opposites to each other.”

Major projects — including the Site C dam, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and extensive fracking operations in northeastern B.C. — have been widely criticised for being approved by government without the “free, prior and informed consent” of affected Indigenous communities and nations.

First Nation communities regularly find themselves in the position of waging legal battles against projects after they are approved, when major impacts to land and traditional practices can no longer be prevented.

From the legislature floor, Terry Teegee, regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, spoke directly to the claim the new legislation will in effect give Indigenous peoples ‘veto powers.’

“To bring this to a hard point, some people will oppose this law because of their fears of what an era of mutual consent means. There is fear in the idea of sharing power and jurisdiction. I want to say strongly and clearly here this declaration law is not about providing any government with veto rights.”

“Consent is about agreement. It is a process to achieving and maintaining agreement … about respecting our laws as equals and as partners,” Teegee said.

“Consent is the future and most simply put, it’s about coming together as governments, as people seeking to find common ground. Although consultation law has empowered many First Nations in B.C., it has done little to create legal certainty.”

Too often the Crown does not engage in good faith consultation and negotiations and First Nations are turning to the courts to resolve these issues, Teegee said.

“One of the greatest uncertainties for project development in B.C. is not knowing if a project has the consent of affected First Nations. Laws that are co-developed … will deliver economic, legal certainty and predictability in this province.”

Teegee said the province has come a long way in respecting Indigenous self-determination and decision-making in recent years, pointing to very recent but ultimately rejected plan to turn a sacred lake in Tsilhqot’in territory into a tailings pond for a mine.

The task of adhering to the principles of UNDRIP presents a unique case in provinces such as B.C., where the vast majority of the landscape is considered unceded Indigenous territory, meaning treaties haven’t been signed.

Unceded land in B.C. is often referred to as Crown land, although that designation can be misleading because much of the province falls within traditional territories that have not been ceded but have not been claimed under title rights (as in the case of the Tsilhqot’in Nation).

Map of Canada, showing treaties. Map: Native-land.ca

Major clashes over natural resource projects, such as recent blockades to prevent the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on traditional Wet’suwet’en territory, occur on unceded lands where Indigenous peoples have been guaranteed the right to fish, hunt and practice their traditional ways of life in perpetuity.

Forest management a natural place to start

Jack Woodward, an Aboriginal rights lawyer who served as legal counsel on the landmark Tsilhqot’in title case, said while Aboriginal rights and treaty rights are governed by the constitution, the province can look for ways to support reconciliation within its own jurisdiction.

He pointed to the way old-growth forests are being managed by BC Timber Sales, saying it is a matter of policy, not legislation.

Old-growth forests are a valuable heritage resource for First Nations because they contain the last archaeological record of pre-contact through culturally modified trees, Woodward said.

“That’s what UNDRIP speaks to and what’s referred to in the proposed legislation but the actual process on the ground is what is going to matter and they’re going to have to give way to make significant change.”

An enormous, freshly fallen western redcedar in a BC Timber Sales-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni. The Nahmint Valley is in traditional territories of the Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations. Last year, the Hupacasath sent an open letter calling on the provincial government to halt old-growth logging in the Nahmint and work collaboratively with the band to protect the area’s old growth and, especially, the biggest trees and monumental cedars. Photo: TJ Watt

Alexander said the process of prioritizing where to start on UNDRIP implementation will begin now, but he agrees forestry is a logical place for improvement.

“It does make sense that forestry might be a very tangible and smart place to start,” he said. “The Jenga game has sorta collapsed a bit on forestry and it needs to be re-built.” MORE


Lawsuit: Exxon accused of lowballing oil sands climate risk

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton Alta, on Friday, December 28, 2018. File photo by The Canadian Press/Jason Franson

Alberta’s oilsands are at the centre of a court battle in New York this week that legal experts say could affect future climate lawsuits in Canada.

“The evidence that’s coming out through this case is absolutely relevant to other lawsuits,” said Martin Olszynski, a University of Calgary professor who teaches environmental law.

New York’s attorney general is accusing Exxon Mobil of misrepresenting the risks oilsands operations face as governments move to fight climate change.

In the case filed a year ago, the state claims Exxon told investors that it was evaluating projects based on a carbon price that was much higher than the one used in calculations. That led investors to believe they faced a lower risk and also inflated evaluations of Exxon’s oil reserves.

Exxon has tried twice to block the case. The company’s lawyer, calling the accusations bizarre and twisted, argued Tuesday that Exxon did nothing wrong.

Although the lawsuit deals with a wide array of the multinational’s operations, the oilsands feature prominently as Exxon is a major player through its subsidiary Imperial Oil.

“In these parts of its business, Exxon often applied a much lower price per ton to a small percentage of its (greenhouse gas) emissions … and held those lower costs flat far into the future,” court documents say.

“Exxon in effect … create(d) the illusion that it had fully considered the risks of future climate change regulation and had factored those risks into its business operations … The company was exposed to far greater risk from climate change regulations than investors were led to believe.”

The documents allege Exxon lowballed by $30 billion the impact of carbon pricing on 14 Alberta oilsands projects. They claim carbon costs at the Kearl project in northern Alberta were understated by 94 per cent.   MORE

The climate is changing: Greta to march in Vancouver today

Climate strikers took to the streets in Vancouver on Sep. 27, 2019, as part of a global climate strike. Photo by Chris Yamikov via Flickr Commons

Sustainabiliteens, a youth climate advocacy group in Vancouver, will lead a march alongside Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in an historic moment today.

16-year-old Thunberg has inspired youth around the world to strike from school on Fridays to protest government inaction on climate change in a movement she calls Fridays for Future.

This Friday for Future she will be in Vancouver joining organizers in a “post-election climate strike,” showing that teens are keeping up the pressure on Trudeau’s new minority government to take more action on climate change.

The march will begin with an address from Indigenous leaders including Musqueam activist Audrey Siegel; Ida Manuel from Secwepemc Nation; hip-hop artist Dakota Bear; David Suzuki and his daughter Severn Cullis-Suzuki; Sustainabiliteens organizers and Thunberg.

The climate strikers will gather at Vancouver Art Gallery in the downtown core at 11:00 a.m. and plan to begin their march at 11:30 a.m.

Greta Thunberg


I reached the Pacific Ocean!

View image on Twitter

Thumberg’s visit comes shortly after she participated in a rally in Edmonton last week. Last month, she attended a global strike march in Montreal where 500,000 people marched. On the same day, 150,000 marched in Vancouver.

While in Montreal, she met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and afterwards told media “he’s obviously not doing enough” to act on climate change, but that she tells all politicians to do the same thing: “act on the science.”

Vancouver schools have tweeted at Thunberg asking her to visit their students, and not surprisingly, she’s gotten more invitations than she can keep up with.

Lori Boland@LoriBoland

@GretaThunberg a million thanks for inspiring all these young climate change activists at False Creek Elementary. . . https://twitter.com/JenLFisch/status/1187445905760239616 

Jen Fischer@JenLFisch

@GretaThunberg Please come visit us! Our Climate Club @ False Creek Elementary School in #Vancouver would be so THRILLED to meet & host you!

She tweeted on Tuesday that she was unaware of any invitation from Victoria and had “definitely not declined it” because of emissions from public transportation.

“I try to visit as many places as I can, but there’s unfortunately not enough time to visit everywhere,” she wrote.

Greta Thunberg

This Friday October 25th I’ll join the climate strike in Vancouver, BC!
11am at Vancouver Art Gallery.

View image on Twitter

Greta Thunberg

PS. I don’t know anything about an invitation to Victoria, and I have definitely not declined it because of “emissions” from the public transport ferry. Just so you know:)
I try to visit as many places as I can, but there’s unfortunately not enough time to visit everywhere.

“She is fearless, earnest, passionate about the planet and determined,” wrote Chika Unigwe for The Guardian. “But so are her peers.”

“Born in a wealthy country, to parents who can afford to accommodate their daughter’s convictions, and in a culture where children are encouraged to speak up, Thunberg has intersecting privileges,” Unigwe continued. “She is aware of this and regularly mentions her fellow youth activists in her speeches, to remind journalists that there are others working alongside her.”

Perhaps most famously in Canada is Autumn Peltier from Wikwemikong First Nation, who is a long-time water protector who has spoken in the UN and to the prime minister. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez from Mexico, of Mashika descent, gave his first speech at 6 years old and founded an international environmental group called Earth Guardians. And Ta’Kaiya Blaney from Sliammon First Nation began writing her first protest song (against the Northern Gateway pipeline) at eight years old, and has spoken and sang at the UN, Idle No More events, and Occupy Wall Street.

B.C. Premier talks pipeline, Western separatism at economic summit

Horgan wonders why Albertans feel animosity toward federal government that bought a pipeline

Vancouver Island Economic Summit audience members listen to a speech from B.C. Premier John Horgan on Oct. 23 at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he can’t understand some of the reasoning behind separatist sentiment in Western Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-election.

“I understand the prime minister has said he is proceeding with Trans Mountain today,” Horgan said. “I have to scratch my head and say why is there such enormous animosity toward the federal Liberal government that bought the pipeline for the express purpose of getting it built?”

Horgan joined the Vancouver Island Economic Summit at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo via video conference Oct. 23. The premier’s comments were in response to a series of questions about Western separatism, whether British Columbia can maintain good relations with its neighbours and how can he continue to justify “blocking the primary export product” of Alberta if he supports Canadian unity.

Horgan said he is keenly aware of the opinions of many Albertans, explaining that his relationship with Alberta’s former NDP premier deteriorated over the pipeline issue.

“I had one of my dear friends, Rachel Notley, become just an acquaintance over time over this issue,” he said. “So I know on a personal level how passionate the Albertans feel.”

The premier pointed out that B.C.’s electoral map following the federal election is a mixture of blue, orange, red and green and not a “sea” of blue and later said that it is important to move beyond a “partisanship” mentality and focus on issues that matter to people. He also said he’s satisfied with the results of the federal election.

“I’m encouraged that there is a new and diverse, dynamic House of Commons that will be working together, as we have been doing here in Victoria, trying to get past the partisanship, which is fundamental to our electoral process but is not always in the best interest of our governance,” Horgan said.

When it comes to Alberta, Horgan said he has a “working relationship” with Premier Jason Kenny.

“He has been focused federally and his sights have been set on Ottawa, but I’m sure the time will come when he will be looking back at British Columbia.”

Currently, the Horgan government is appealing a recent B.C. Court of Appeal decision which ruled he cannot implement laws restricting the amount of bitumen flowing into the province, taking the argument to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Horgan explained to the audience that his position on Trans Mountain is well-known and the province is “legally obliged” to follow the directive from the National Energy Board.

“As the Trans Mountain pipeline proceeds, I will be issuing permits as instructed, I will not be obstructing for the sake of obstructing but I want to make sure I protect those things that are important to at least half the people in this room, if polls are correct,” Horgan said. SOURCE


Eric Denhoff: Why are Albertans so damned angry?

B.C. makes history with legislation to implement UN declaration on Indigenous rights

“Most simply put, it’s about coming together as governments, as people seeking to find common ground,” said Terry Teegee, Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations in B.C.

Chief Terry Teegee leaves the legislative assembly joined by, from left, Premier John Horgan, B.C. Green party Leader Andrew Weaver and B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson after an announcement about Indigenous human rights being recognized in B.C. with new legislation, in Victoria on Oct. 24. CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C. made history Thursday as the first province in Canada to introduce legislation aimed at adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which left local First Nations and industry hopeful for an improvement to the status quo.

The legislation, introduced by Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, mandates that government bring its laws and policies into harmony with the aims of the declaration, often referred to by its acronym, UNDRIP.

On the order paper as Bill 41, the legislation doesn’t set out a timeline for completion, but Fraser said it “is about ending discrimination and conflict in our province, and instead ensuring more economic justice and fairness.”

“Let’s make history,” he told the legislature Thursday, in front of an audience that included leaders from the First Nations Leadership Council.

There will be those who find any change difficult “because they’ve grown accustomed to the status quo,” said Indigenous leader Bob Chamberlin, but they shouldn’t fear UNDRIP’s principle of Aboriginal consent and shared decision-making for resource development.

“Right now, we essentially have one-size-fits-all consultation, which doesn’t work,” said Chamberlin, a former first vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and recent unsuccessful NDP candidate on Vancouver Island in the federal election. “If it worked, we wouldn’t be in the courts (with) everything being dragged out.”

UNDRIP requires governments to obtain “free and informed consent” from Indigenous groups before approving any project affecting their lands or resources, but Fraser said that doesn’t equate to a veto over development.
CP-Web. First Nations Speaker Cheryl Casimer speaks to the press after Premier John Horgan announced Indigenous human rights will be recognized in B.C. with new legislation during a press conference at the provincial Legislature in Victoria, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C. Premier John Horgan echoed Fraser, stating that neither the legislation nor the UN declaration itself includes language that would grant a veto over resource projects. For industry, the proof of success on that point will have to come from implementation, said Greg D’Avignon, CEO of the Business Council of B.C.

“Whenever you bring something new in, there is always a difference in perception and interpretation of what it is and what it isn’t, D’Avignon said. “Government has been clear today that this is not a veto and that they retain their right for decision-making and we will hold them to that obligation.”

Indigenous leaders addressed the concern in speeches to the legislature.

“Some people will oppose this law because of their fears about what an era of mutual consent means,” said Terry Teegee, regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in B.C., adding that making history “is not for the faint of heart.”

“I want to say strongly and clearly here: This declaration law is not about providing any government with veto rights,” Teegee said.

Consent is about a process to achieve agreement, he said, which “is the future.”

“Most simply put, it’s about coming together as governments, as people seeking to find common ground,” Teegee said.

And if that is implemented well, B.C.’s mining industry is cautiously hopeful that such decision-making will “enable greater certainty and predictability on the land base,” according to Michael Goehring, CEO of the Mining Association of B.C.

Goehring said his association’s members have long been “advancing economic reconciliation” through agreements and partnerships with First Nations that reflect UNDRIP’s principles. So the industry welcomes a chance to provide input to government and Indigenous leaders on the plan and implementation of the legislation.

“The truth is, the status quo has not engendered confidence in British Columbia’s economic future, nor has it served British Columbians or B.C.’s Indigenous communities,” Goehring said. “So we approach this bill with cautious optimism.”

Fraser said the legislation was drafted after consultation with a wide range of groups and organizations, including Indigenous, business and government leaders. The declaration contains 46 articles, including that Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination, which means they can determine their political status and pursue economic, social and cultural development.

CP-Web. First Nations Speaker Cheryl Casimer speaks to the press after Premier John Horgan announced Indigenous human rights will be recognized in B.C. with new legislation during a press conference at the provincial Legislature in Victoria, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Another article calls for an independent process to be established to recognize and adjudicate Indigenous Peoples’ rights pertaining to their lands and resources granting them the right to redress or compensation for traditional lands that have been taken, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent. It’s unclear what this will practically look like in B.C., which has almost no treaty settlements with its over 200 First Nations. Horgan said the past is littered with broken promises to Indigenous Peoples, but the law can bring a new future.

“This bill is important because Indigenous rights are human rights,” he said. “We all want to live in a province where the standard of living for Indigenous Peoples is the same as every other community in the province.”

Chamberlin said the province, First Nations and B.C.’s salmon-farming industry used a shared-decision-making process for a deal over salmon farming in the Broughton Archipelago that could be a model for Bill 41’s implementation.

“People are going to say this is time-consuming and expensive,” Chamberlin said. “Well, I think going to court is time-consuming and expensive, and leads to no certainty whatsoever. It doesn’t advance reconciliation, it just hardens the lines, and I think after 150-odd years in Canada we’ve had enough hard lines.” SOURCE


US Justice Dept. Sues California to Stop Climate Initiative From Extending to Canada

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, and Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference in August.
Credit…Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration took another legal shot at California on Wednesday, suing to block part of the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program and limit its ability to take international leadership in curbing planet warming emissions.

In a lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of California, the Justice Department said that a regional system created by California’s air resources board, which caps planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions but lets corporations trade emissions credits within that cap, was unlawful because it included Quebec, Canada. The Justice Department cited the constitutional prohibition on states making their own treaties or agreements with foreign governments.

“The state of California has veered outside of its proper constitutional lane to enter into an international emissions agreement,” Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement.

“The power to enter into such agreements is reserved to the federal government, which must be able to speak with one voice in the area of U.S. foreign policy,” Mr. Clark said. MORE

15 Canadian youths to sue Ottawa for not acting on climate change

They say young people will be more affected than other groups

People hold signs as thousands gather outside Vancouver City Hall before marching downtown during a climate strike in Vancouver on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A group of young people from across the country are suing the Canadian government for not acting on climate change, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

In a statement issued Wednesday morning, the foundation said the youths have each suffered “specific, individualized injuries due to climate change.”

The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed Friday in the Supreme Court of Canada, will allege Ottawa is violating their rights to life, liberty and security of person under section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The youth will also claim the government’s actions violate section 15, which deals with equality, as they say young people are disproportionately affected by climate change.

They will be represented by Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation, and partner with the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation and the David Suzuki Foundation.

“The lawsuit calls on Canada to cease its conduct that is violating the youth’s Charter and public trust rights and prepare and implement a plan that reduces Canada’s GHG emissions in a manner consistent with what best available science indicates is needed for the federal government to protect young Canadians, do its fair share to stabilize the climate system, and avert the catastrophic consequences of climate change,” the foundation said in a statement.

The youth will also take part in a march and rally at the northern steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery Friday, coinciding with Greta Thunberg’s arrival and climate strike in the city.



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