Germany to close all 84 of its coal-fired power plants, will rely primarily on renewable energy

FILE---In this Jan.6, 2019 file photo water vapour rises from the cooling towers of the Joenschwald

In this Jan.6, 2019, file photo water vapor rises from the cooling towers of the Joenschwalde lignite-fired power plant of Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG in Brandenburg, Germany. (Patrick Pleul / AP)
Germany, one of the world’s biggest consumers of coal, will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years to meet its international commitments in the fight against climate change, a government commission said Saturday.

The announcement marked a significant shift for Europe’s largest country — a nation that had long been a leader on cutting CO2 emissions before turning into a laggard in recent years and badly missing its reduction targets. Coal plants account for 40% of Germany’s electricity, itself a reduction from recent years when coal dominated power production.

“This is an historic accomplishment,” said Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the 28-member government commission, at a news conference in Berlin following a marathon 21-hour negotiating session that concluded at 6 a.m. Saturday. The breakthrough ended seven months of wrangling. “It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it,” Pofalla said. “There won’t be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038.”

The plan includes some $45 billion in spending to mitigate the pain in coal regions. The commission’s recommendations are expected to be adopted by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

“It’s a big moment for climate policy in Germany that could make the country a leader once again in fighting climate change,” said Claudia Kemfert, professor for energy economics at the DIW Berlin, the German Institute for Economic Research. “It’s also an important signal for the world that Germany is again getting serious about climate change: a very big industrial nation that depends so much on coal is switching it off.”

Students demonstrate as Coal Commission meets to decide on future production, Berlin, Germany - 25 Jan 2019
Students demonstrate outside the federal chancellery during a meeting of the country’s coal commission in Berlin on Friday (Adam Berry / EPA-EFE/REX)

The decision to quit coal follows an earlier bold energy policy move by the German government, which decided to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. MORE

Tsilhqot’in First Nation opens B.C.’s largest solar farm

The project, which will generate enough energy to power 135 homes and $175,000 in annual revenue, is being celebrated as an important milestone in the nation’s economic independence

Chief Russell Myers Ross

There were times over the last five years, when Chief Russell Myers Ross wondered whether his dream of creating a solar farm would ever become a reality.

There were studies and more studies, funding applications, community discussions and back and forth talks with BC Hydro and the provincial government. Then there were little hitches, such as deciding on the Riverwest Sawmill site, 80-kilometres west of Williams Lake, and then discovering that one parcel was partially owned by another company.

“We had to find a way to make it 100 per cent our ownership … It took $80,000 to sort of buy them out,” Myers Ross said.

Once construction started, with apprentices from the six Tsilhqot’in communities learning the trade, the weather refused to cooperate, even though the Chilcotin is among B.C.’s top five solar hotspots. Instead of the expected sun, torrential rains brought monsoon conditions to the area in July as construction workers tried to lay cables in muddy trenches.

“You feel like it’s never going to be done,” said Myers Ross, vice-chair of Tsilhqot’in National Government and chief of Yunesit’in First Nation.

Tsilhqot’in Solar Farm

The Tsilhqot’in Solar Farm. Photo: EcoSmart

Project granted 25-year power purchase agreement with BC Hydro

Last month the 3,456 panel solar farm held its grand opening and is now waiting for BC Hydro to complete the hookup so power from the sun can flow into the grid.

The Tsilhqot’in company that oversaw the project, Dandzen Development Corporation, has a 25-year electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro.

Susie Rieder, BC Hydro spokesperson said there is not yet a firm date for “completion of the interconnection process.”

The solar farm is one of five shovel-ready projects with “significant Indigenous Nations involvement” approved last year as part of a benefit agreement with BC Hydro. The program was suspended indefinitely when, following approval of the Site C dam on the Peace River, the province ordered BC Hydro to reconsider its power procurement policies.

Myers Ross is happy that the Tsilhqot’in project squeezed in under the wire and, even without the final connection and despite the construction challenges, he is breathing a sigh of relief.

“This is a really rewarding one for me personally,” he told The Narwhal.

Russell Myers Ross Tshilquot'in National Government

Chief Russell Myers Ross. Photo: Tsilhqot’in National Government / Facebook

“This is the first project to generate our own source of revenue for our Tsilhqot’in organization and the community, which is significant for our overall goal of self-sufficiency,” he said.

The solar farm, with panels lined in 216 sections on a two-hectare site, will provide 1.25 megawatts, creating 1,500 megawatt hours of power annually, which is enough to power about 135 homes.

The project is expected to generate about $175,000 a year in annual revenue.

“It’s not a big moneymaker. It is sort of modest, but it gets us on our way. It’s a big accomplishment and it is one of the first building blocks to getting revenue and being able to use the money where we want to allocate it, with no strings attached,” Myers Ross said.

Project entirely Indigenous owned and operated

The project is the largest solar farm of its kind in B.C. and the only one that is 100 per cent owned and operated by a First Nation.

The final result is “pretty impressive,” said Gabe Pukacz, a Yunesit’in councillor and construction manager for the project.

Specialists and companies familiar with solar installations, such as EcoSmart, were hired to help with technical aspects, but many of the skills were learned by the on-the-ground workers as the job progressed, Pukacz said.

“It was pretty good. The workers made life easy … All my labourers were Tsilhqot’in,” he said.

Now, everyone is waiting for the hookup. Pukacz said.

“It will be interesting to find out what the capabilities of producing power will be during the least efficient sunlight hours in November,” he said.

‘A huge economic win for our nation’

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tsilhqot’in National Government tribal chair, hopes the solar farm inspires other Indigenous communities — in Canada and around the world — to look at clean power opportunities.

“Energy and electricity has been lacking in the territory for a long time, despite one of the longest stretches of hydro in Canada, so we welcome the opportunity for business and to improve the well-being of our people,” Alphonse said in a news release.

Chief Joseph Alphonse

Chief Joe Alphonse of the Tl’etinqox Nation stands outside the band office in Anaham, B.C. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

In B.C., Indigenous led solar projects include plans by the Upper Nicola Band for a huge solar farm on the Quilchena Reserve and the T’Souke First Nation on Vancouver Island that has been providing solar power to homes on the reserve for more than a decade.

Even with power expected to be generated by Site C, there is increasing evidence that more renewable energy sources will be needed as B.C. makes the transition to clean energy. A University of Victoria study, released this week, found that in order to electrify transportation, which produces one third of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions, the province will need to generate up to 60 per cent more electricity.

In a move in that direction, the provincial government announced this week that, as part of its CleanBC program, $16.5-million will be available to remote, diesel-dependent communities to help with capital costs of renewable electricity projects. Most of the communities eligible to apply for Renewable Energy for Remote Communities funds — which are available through Coast Funds and the Fraser Basin Council — are Indigenous and off-grid.

For the Tsilhqot’in and others living in the surrounding area, the solar farm will beef up the weak 250-kilometre power line that runs from Williams Lake to Tatla Lake, which has prevented some industries from locating to the area and has forced some businesses to partially rely on diesel generators.

Other projects may follow as the Tsilhqot’in Nation Government is currently creating a clean energy plan, looking at the territory and considering what might be available from micro-hydro, geothermal and biomass.

The push for economic independence comes in the wake of the 2014 landmark title case, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Tsilhqot’in hold Aboriginal title to about 1,750 square-kilometres of land.

Tsilhqot'in solar farm

The Tsilhqot’in solar farm on the former site of the Riverwest Sawmill, 80-kilometres west of Williams Lake. Photo: Kai Nagata

Other economic development projects under consideration include boosting tourism in Xeni Gwet’in, a mobile concrete batch plant to help with housing and infrastructure construction and a chip mill.

The need to look for new avenues of revenue that fit with Indigenous culture and traditions has been underlined by the Tsilhqot’in in light of crashing caribou populations, lack of salmon and hunting restrictions on moose following the 2017 wildfires that saw wildlife populations reduced or moving to other areas.

“The solar farm is a huge economic win for our nation,” Alphonse said. SOURCE

Inside the Green party’s push for new housing policy

The Greens have released a discussion paper on affordable housing. TVO.org speaks with leader Mike Schreiner about trying to find comprehensive solutions for complex problems

Ontario Green party leader Mike Shriener

Green leader Mike Schreiner represents the Guelph riding. (Fred Lum/CP)

You can’t be a political party in Ontario, it seems, without having some kind of meaty housing policy. And the Greens, now, are no exception. At its annual convention this past weekend, in Scarborough, the Green Party of Ontario introduced a discussion paper for its members to chew over in coming months as the party develops a comprehensive housing plan. Last week, ahead of the convention, TVO.org spoke with Green leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner about the discussion paper, what’s up for debate, and what’s off the table as the party moves forward.

 TVO.org: How many prior assumptions are you bringing to this discussion? You are the party leader, but the discussion paper doesn’t dictate your views to the party.

Mike Schreiner: No, this is a discussion paper to engage a wide variety of stakeholders in a really comprehensive solution to unlock affordable housing in Ontario. I think one of the concerns I’ve had is that a lot of the discussion has been too narrow. Things like, “If we just open the Greenbelt for development and increase housing supply, we’re going to solve the problem” or “If we impose rent control, we’re going to solve the problem.” But I think it’s much more complex and needs a more comprehensive solution than that. And I think one of the roles the Green party can play, that I can play as an independent MPP, is to bring a more non-partisan perspective and one that looks at best practices around the country and around the world.

TVO.org: The way these discussions are usually framed involves people saying things like “nothing is off the table,” but you mentioned the Greenbelt, so I’ll ask: I’m assuming the Green party is not going to support opening up the Greenbelt?

Schreiner: Oh, yeah, there are certain things that are not on the table for us — I want to be really clear about that. For me, it’s about how we unlock affordable housing in a way that protects the people and places we love. One of the concerns I have is, if we continue to pave over the Earth’s ability to absorb excess water, for example, we’re going to just escalate the risks associated with flooding, especially as we address the climate crisis. So one of the motivations for me in doing this is to look at a lot of the options out there that will allow us to increase the amount of affordability in the housing market without opening the Greenbelt, without threatening prime farmland, without paving over our wetlands and green space. But also without the solution being, I think, a false choice between single-family-detached urban sprawl and 80-storey towers. There are a lot of other options in between, and, if you look around the world, there are a lot of creative solutions being implemented.

For me, the question is, what can we learn from around the world and apply to Ontario and the distinctive characteristics of our communities?

TVO.org: When we talk about housing as an environmental issue, we tend to talk about increasing density, making neighbourhoods more transit-compatible, and hoping for that virtuous cycle that sees people drive less and take transit or bike or walk more. But there’s also resistance to change in a lot of neighbourhoods. What do you think the province’s role is here?

Schreiner: I think the province’s role is in making sure that we zone neighbourhoods appropriately for mixed use, that we remove restrictions for things like laneway housing, secondary suites, triplex, duplex-type buildings. And, you know, I often think there’s an education and public-engagement role the province can play as well. Obviously, you’re not going to alleviate everyone’s concerns about changing the character of neighbourhoods, but I think there are ways in which we can preserve the character of neighbourhoods if we can get past the discussion where it’s either single-family detached homes or a massive tower. We can densify our cities at a human scale and do it in a way that maintains the character of neighbourhoods.

TVO.org: In the United States, a number of state legislatures have simply taken powers away from municipalities on the grounds that they were not permitting enough housing to be built. What’s your perspective on that? What’s the proper role for local municipalities?

Schreiner: The role the province should play is to establish the rules of the game, the density targets, issues around urban-boundary expansion. But I think its important to allow municipalities some flexibility to determine how they’ll best meet those criteria within their own communities and not have everything dictated from Queen’s Park. So I wouldn’t go as far as that. We did include some examples of the West Coast in the discussion paper, in part so that people would just know what approaches other places are taking.

TVO.org: The question of housing is bigger than owning or even renting. You’ve got a section in the paper about supportive housing and shelters. In government, there’s often a temptation to try to find clever ways to avoid spending more money, but is that really an option here?

Schreiner: Sometimes, the discussion is too focused on, let’s say, young middle-class families who are trying to access homeownership — without thinking about other ways that there are affordability barriers. And, sometimes, we say “affordable housing,” and people immediately think we’re talking about people who are un-housed. To me, an important part of the solution, and an important contribution we can make, is that housing is really a continuum. So if you have affordable opportunities for seniors, for example — to either downsize out of their family home into an affordable retirement community, or maybe something like co-housing — then you open up more homes for people who are in the years when they’re having children and need more space.

So there are trickle-down effects all through the continuum if you can unlock that. I’ve heard statistics that there’s as many as 40,000 homes available if we can unlock bottlenecks in that continuum. And I think that we also need to look at vacation homes and Airbnb and the pressure those are putting on housing, taking units out of the market. Speculation, vacant units, people just purchasing homes or condos and hanging on to them as investments. There’s no single silver-bullet solution.

TVO.org: I’m hearing you talk about speculation, and there’s a section in the discussion paper about “housing being used as a bank.” The Green party hasn’t historically been a doctrinaire left-wing party that’s totally opposed to capitalism. Is this an area in which you see an argument for more government?

Schreiner: I think there are two areas where government involvement is critically important. One of those, and it’s a point you made earlier and I should have answered your question better: we do need more government money going into the system. Since governments really pulled back from co-op and social housing, we’ve seen the affordability challenges grow, and I think we are going to need to have more government investment. That being said, big chunks of our discussion paper talk about “how do we create incentives for the private sector to be involved in affordability solutions?” So we’re not saying government has all the answers, but we are going to need government investment in some areas, particularly around housing the most vulnerable. I think the other way in which government involvement is important is just using taxing powers to reduce speculation and deal with vacancy issues. I think the previous government made some positive steps with the foreign-buyers tax; my perspective is if we’re going to address speculation, let’s not limit it to foreign buyers who are speculating in the market. Let’s look at anyone speculating in the housing market. SOURCE

RELATED:

Three Serious Solutions to Vancouver’s Housing Crisis

 

He’s Urged a Guaranteed Income for Years. Are We Ready Yet?

Hugh Segal on his new book ‘Bootstraps Need Boots: One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty.’

HughSegalPolkaDotTie.jpg
Former Tory senator Hugh Segal: ‘A completely affordable and sustainable proposition.’ Photo via the Basic Income Canada Network.

Hugh Segal sees no contradiction in being a conservative who’s long advocated a way to deal with poverty that some call a radical form of wealth distribution.

And as tech disrupts and the gig economy makes jobs more precarious, his idea has been talked up by noted people of many ideological stripes. Barack Obama, Milton Friedman, Elon Musk, cabinet secretaries for Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, take your pick. All have endorsed, to some degree, a guaranteed basic income.

Segal can take satisfaction in not only advocating the policy early, but helping to craft a real-life pilot project in Ontario (shut down by the incoming Doug Ford government).

Now, after an election that signalled growing division in Canada, Segal suggests a guaranteed income could help build bridges.

“There are disagreements and there are strong differences in points of view, but the way you build national unity is by having national projects with which everybody can identify,” he told The Tyee. “Let’s be clear: 75 per cent of Canadians think a basic income would be a good step forward. And, there is an expert committee looking at a basic income in British Columbia.”

John Diefenbaker ignited Hugh Segal’s interest in politics, which led to him joining and eventually running for the legendary prime minister’s Progressive Conservative Party. But it was Joan Baez who inspired Segal — a Paul Martin-appointed Conservative senator from 2005 to 2014 — to consider the far-reaching implications of poverty.

As he recounts in his recently released book, Bootstraps Need Boots: One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Povertypublished by UBC Press, Segal and a fellow high-school classmate landed an exclusive interview for their student magazine with the American folk-music icon in Montreal during her anti-Vietnam War concert tour in the early 1960s.

“The battle for civil rights and the battle against the war are really the same battle,” Baez told the teens in her suite at the Windsor Hotel. The draft caught up poor, mainly African-American and Hispanic young men denied the advantages their Caucasian counterparts had through university deferments or “parents well-connected enough to work the system,” Segal writes.

Baez’s linkage of war and human rights to poverty resonated with Segal, who grew up in a poor Eastern-European Jewish immigrant family in Montreal’s working-class west end. He never forgot where he came from as he rose up the ranks of Canada’s political establishment to serve as Brian Mulroney’s chief of staff and eventually as a parliamentarian, and advanced the need for a guaranteed annual income as the most effective way to alleviate poverty.

Now 69 and serving as both the Matthews Fellow in Global Public Policy at Queen’s University in his hometown of Kingston, Ont., and a senior advisor at Toronto law firm, Aird & Berlis LLP, Segal recently spoke to The Tyee about his book and the challenge of getting poverty on the agendas of parties and on the minds of parliamentarians.

Here is what he had to say…

On how a basic annual income would work:

“It would work the way the Guaranteed Income Supplement works for seniors. Everybody has to file their taxes. If you fall beneath a certain level, you’d be automatically topped up.

“The proposal that I made to the Province of Ontario was that rather than the present level of welfare, which is fairly rule-laden, massively over-administered, and forces the people who work in those departments to be auditors and police officers about how people are living as opposed to helping people out of poverty.

“Those welfare programs across Canada generally do not pay more than 50 per cent of what it takes to be at the poverty line or a little bit above.

“Moreover, all those programs have restrictions as to whether or not you’re allowed to work. If you did work while you’re on welfare, and depending on the province, money earned would be clawed back, becoming a huge disincentive to try to find a spot in the workforce.

“Seventy-per-cent of Canadians who are beneath the poverty line have jobs. Some, in our big cities, have more than one, but can’t get above the poverty line because of the costs in their jurisdictions.

“So the notion that this is about people who sit on their couch, eat bonbons and watch soap operas is an ancient right-wing trope for which there is simply no justification.”

On why it’s not bizarre to imagine left and right working together on solving poverty:

“All the major social and economic improvements that have made a difference in people’s lives have really come from a multi-party source.

“[Co-operative Commonwealth Federation premier] Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan started universal health insurance in the early 1960s. Mr. Diefenbaker, when he was prime minister, asked Mr. Justice Emmett Hall of the Supreme Court [of Canada] to study that for the country as a whole. When Justice Hall submitted his report, Mr. Diefenbaker had been defeated by Mr. [Lester] Pearson, a Liberal in a minority government, who worked with the provinces to bring in a system whereby we had universal health insurance across Canada.

“The first guaranteed annual income supplement started from the Progressive Conservatives in a minority government in Ontario in 1975. It started because in a standing committee on social affairs, the New Democrats and the Liberals made a motion to reduce the minister of Community and Social Services’ salary to one dollar because of the lack of engagement on seniors’ poverty. We had just been through an election campaign, and I was the legislative assistant to the premier [Bill Davis]. Rent control had come up in the campaign, but seniors’ poverty had not.

“I asked: why can’t we figure out what the issue is? When we did, the numbers were so clear; 35 per cent of seniors in Ontario who were mostly women were living below the poverty line. The province brought in the guaranteed annual income supplement and it had support across the legislature. It spread to a few other provinces, and then the federal government introduced the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors, which means that no Canadian resident, who is 65 and older, would live on less than $1,200 a month.

“These things become part of the universal consensus of what is fair and just in a mixed-market economy, and I think that’s the best way this poverty issue is going to be addressed.”

On whether he is a member of any political party:

“No, I’m not.”

On the chance afforded by Canada’s new minority Parliament:

“I am quite optimistic. I would say that probably the coalition most supportive of moving ahead on this file to begin with would be the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens. It’s been part of the Green platform for over 10 years.

“The Liberals also deserve credit for the child benefit which has lifted some 800,000 kids out of poverty across the country, and I can understand why having done that three or four years ago that they weren’t prepared to go the next step to a basic income for working-age people. But this is a new Parliament, and there’s a new mandate, so I think it’s a time of some opportunity.

“And who knows, the way in which it’s put forward, there may be some thoughtful Conservatives who are more than prepared to push within their party for a more rational and open-minded approach. But I don’t expect the leadership to be there on this as an issue.”

On why Prince Edward Island could offer the next test case:

“There is now a Red Tory Progressive Conservative government in minority elected in Prince Edward Island with the Greens as the official Opposition. There is a resolution that was passed by the legislature and articulated in the throne speech that there should be a basic income. A Special Committee on Poverty is meeting now on how to put that together, and I appeared before the committee to discuss what I had the privilege of doing in 2016 for [former Ontario Liberal] premier [Kathleen] Wynne in terms of the plan for a basic-income pilot, which was launched in 2017.

“I’m hoping that the new mix in Parliament will allow people who care about poverty in different parties to work together and try to establish a national basic-income pilot, which could be run in P.E.I., where about 22,000 residents out of about 157,000 people live beneath the poverty line.”

On who is ‘deadly opposed’:

“Here are the people who are deadly opposed to it: all the civil servants in every finance department across Canada. Why? Because when you have a program that says as the Guaranteed Income Supplement does for seniors that if you reach a certain age you have a statutory right. That means that money will be spent whether civil servants think it’s a good idea or not, every year. That reduces their control; that reduces their influence; and that reduces their ability to maintain the spending discretion of their minister.

“The other group opposed quite often is the far left: union organizers and others who are normally well-intentioned and whom I broadly tend to support. But on this issue, they’re afraid it will do away with public-service jobs in welfare departments across Canada, and it is their duty to protect the jobs of their members.

“They often talk about the need for programs that will deal with the implications of poverty, but they don’t like the idea of a direct-cash transfer.

“Of course the other group opposed is the far right that says if you pay people to do nothing they will do nothing, and argue that we can’t afford it, when in fact there’s no evidence to back that up.”

On whether it would be too expensive:

“[Ottawa member of Parliament] Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative finance critic, asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer what it would cost to take my proposal for the Ontario basic-income pilot and make it a national program. The answer was that initially it could cost about $76 billion, but before we would reduce the federal programs that it would replace. That would take it down to about $44 billion.

“But remember Ontario alone spends $10 billion on welfare and disability support. So if the basic-income program replaced that, there would be a further saving and you’d have savings of similar proportionality in every province.

“The notion that we would spend about $20 billion to reduce poverty and all the negative pathologies of it strikes me as a completely affordable and sustainable proposition.”

851px version of DougFordWavesBlur.jpg
Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford: Shortly after taking office he scuttled a basic-income pilot project not one year old.‘He purports to be for the people,’ says Segal, ‘and I guess that doesn’t include low-income people.’

On poverty absent from debates in the recent federal election:

“We had three TV debates and it did not come up.

“The same thing happened in 2011 and I called Steve Paikin, who was the moderator of the English debate, and I said, ‘How come poverty didn’t come up?’ He said, ‘We did polling and people didn’t raise it as an issue,’ and I said, ‘Steve, the people who are living beneath the poverty line are in such a desperate, daily scramble to make sure there’s lunch for the kids, to make sure there’s money to pay for the heat or that they’re not behind in their rent that they don’t have time to do long polling surveys on the phone.’

“So the notion that they would leave that out was quite surprising.”

On whether he and Bernie Sanders, who calls for a ‘living wage,’ are on the same page:

“A living wage is really about, through contract-compliance, government saying to suppliers that they have to pay better than the minimum wage to their employees. I don’t disagree with that as an interesting way forward. But it is different from a statutory guarantee that no resident of Canada will fall beneath a certain basic amount that they need to live with some modest measure of dignity and self-respect.

“It’s not the same as the living wage. It’s complementary to it. But I think it’s a different approach in terms of the fundamental socioeconomic responsibility we have to our fellow citizens. I say this as someone who’s been a Progressive Conservative all my life.

“My brand of conservatism has always been about equality of opportunity. It’s been about inclusion and stability in the context of our parliamentary traditions. It’s not about necessarily having the state over-legislate; it’s not about neo-conservative selfishness with respect to constantly lowering taxes so the state loses the capacity to do what it should be doing, which has become part of the brand of the federal Conservative party — and conservatives in other parts of the world, to be fair.”

On Doug Ford, who killed the basic-income pilot program in Ontario just after taking office:

“He purports to be for the people, and I guess that doesn’t include low-income people. That’s not good enough. That’s not the kind of inclusive progressive conservatism that has always been, by and large, the brand in places like Ontario.”

On how a basic annual income helps the whole economy:

“It’s about providing liquidity for an economy overall.

“When I was in the Senate and part of the government caucus at the time, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. bought $362 billion worth of performing mortgages from the banks to keep them liquid during the collapse of the U.S. credit system in ′06, ′07 and ′08. That was the right thing for Mr. Harper to do.

“But if CMHC, which is owned by the Canadian taxpayer, has that capacity, how come we don’t have the ability to provide liquidity for individuals who fall beneath the poverty line — in many cases, for no fault of their own. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

On how a guaranteed income relates to climate change:

“What we know about climate change, natural disasters and serious and frightening weather [is that] low-income people pay the biggest price. They have the least level of resilience to fight back, to deal with what happens to their property or their part of the world. Therefore, the notion that we would tackle climate change, which we need to do as an absolute top priority without addressing poverty, makes no sense at all.

“All the pathologies that cost our society so much — early sickness and hospitalization; bad educational outcomes for kids; family violence; not doing well with the law, running into substance-abuse issues — are all driven by poverty.”

“The editor said, ‘We simply want the answer to one question: Why are you the most prominent conservative on the side of a basic income guarantee? How did that happen? What happened in your life?’ And I said, ‘Why would anyone care?’

“They made the case that if people understand how someone who identifies as a conservative who believes in things like a productive economic system and fair profits, but also believes in a basic income, and read how you came to that conclusion, that may broaden the base of people who are prepared to give some consideration to this means of reforming our welfare system.

“On that basis, I concluded that maybe I owed it to the thousands of people involved in the basic-income movement and people who are doing advocacy for low-income people across Canada, and that’s why I wrote the book.”

On whether he expects to ever see an end to poverty in Canada:

“If you’re a Red Tory, you are by definition optimistic. Some would say naive and delusional but I prefer to view it as optimistic.”  SOURCE

Canada’s nationwide climate success — electricity


Chart by Barry Saxifrage

All across Canada, electricity generation has been getting much cleaner.

It’s our country’s one big climate success so far.

To illustrate how quickly electric power is being cleaned up, what’s still left to do, and the benefits it brings, I’ve dug into Canada’s latest emissions inventory and created a series of charts below.

The sector that could

Climate pollution by Canadian economic sector, 2005 to 2017My first chart shows how Canada’s economic sectors have changed their climate pollution since 2005.

While most sectors have increased their pollution or made little progress in the climate fight, our electricity sector has shined.

As the green line shows, Canadians have eliminated an impressive 38 per cent of the climate pollution from electricity generation in just over a decade.

To put these shifts into context, I’ve shown Canada’s 2020 climate target on the chart as a gray star. This target was set by the Harper government as part of the global Copenhagen Accord. Specifically, Canada pledged to cut our climate pollution 17 per cent below 2005 levels.

As you can see, the electricity sector is the only one to have done that so far. And it didn’t just hit the target — it cut more than twice as much.

Change in Canada's electricity generation, 2005 to 2017My next chart shows how the electricity mix changed. The big climate pollution cuts came primarily from reductions in coal burning. But there were also significant reductions in burning oil — down 70 per cent — that more than offset the rise in natural gas.

The decline in coal-fired power was replaced (and then some) by increases in zero-emissions sources — hydro, wind, solar and nuclear.

As a result, Canada’s overall electricity generation is now 84 per cent fossil free.

Every province making progress

A primary reason why electricity emissions fell so quickly is because every province worked to clean them up.

“All across Canada, electricity generation has been getting much cleaner. It’s our country’s one big climate success so far,” writes @bsaxifrage

Change in Canadian provincial electricity carbon intensity, 2005 to 2017

My next chart illustrates this rare example of Canada-wide climate progress. It shows how quickly the carbon-intensity of electricity generation has declined in different provinces.

(Note: carbon-intensity is the amount of climate pollution emitted per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated: gCO2e/kWh).

Ontario clearly led the way with an amazing 92 per cent reduction in climate pollution per kWh in just twelve years. Most of that came from ending the burning of coal in their power plants. But a big chunk also came from cutting in half the amount of natural gas they burn for electricity.

Manitoba, Quebec and B.C. also made huge improvements.

Even Alberta and Saskatchewan, which were otherwise busy increasing their overall climate pollution, made progress in cleaning up their electricity.

These real-world examples show that rapid and substantial climate progress can happen in Canada when a broad-spectrum of political parties and provinces decide to act.

Most Canadians now have superclean electricity

As a result of this rapid cleanup, most Canadians now have access to superclean energy.

Canadian provincial electricity carbon intensity in 2017

Who has it? And how clean is it?

My next chart shows you. Each bar shows the carbon-intensity of electricity generated in Canada’s major provinces. And the improvements made since 2005 are shown as dashed boxes on top.

The biggest climate story here is the superclean electricity generated by the four provinces shown on the left side — Quebec, Manitoba, B.C. and Ontario. Eighty per cent of Canadians live in these provinces and have access to this climate-safe energy source.

Those living in Alberta and Saskatchewan, however, still have fairly dirty electricity — as shown in orange on the right. A lot more cleanup must happen here before the families and businesses in these provinces have a climate-safe energy supply.

What’s left to do?

Canada’s electricity sector has two big climate tasks remaining: finishing the cleanup of existing power and generating even more clean energy to replace fossil fuels like the gasoline and natural gas used by vehicles, factories and other buildings. MORE

Surprise! Most of Canada is on track to hit our 2020 climate target


Provinces and territories in blue are home to 85 per cent of Canadians and on track to meet our climate target. Illustration by Barry Saxifrage, base map by E Pluribus Anthony

There’s some very good news about Canada’s progress in meeting its climate targets.

A decade ago, Canada pledged a climate target for 2020 as part of the global Copenhagen Accord. That’s coming due next year.

So how are we doing?

To illustrate, I’ve dug into Canada’s latest emissions inventory and created a series of charts below.

The target

Emissions from majority of Canada are on track to match 2020 Copenhagen Accord target

My first chart shows how close most of Canada has come to our target.

See the star highlighted in yellow? That’s Canada’s Copenhagen Accord target, set by the Harper government. It calls for a 17 per cent cut in climate pollution below 2005 levels.

The blue line shows that the combined emissions from all but two provinces are on pace to match the target. The provinces and territories in this blue line group are home to 85 per cent of Canadians.

The solid blue line marks the historical emissions reported so far. The dotted blue line shows government projections for 2020, based on current and proposed policies.

This on-target group includes Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut.

Canada's climate pollution changes from 2005 to 2017

Unfortunately, the good news story turns sour when we include the two remaining provinces — Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Those provinces increased their pollution by 17 per cent.

As the next chart shows, this has erased nearly all the climate progress made by the rest of Canada.

The dashed black line shows Canada’s overall result — just a two per cent reduction. At the rate we are going we will arrive at our Copenhagen Accord target a century too late.

Sadly, as a country overall, we aren’t anywhere close to doing what needs to be done.

The breakdown

My next chart let’s you see what happened at the provincial level.

Canada's climate pollution changes by province from 2005 to 2017

Each province has its own bar showing how many megatonnes of emissions (MtCO2) they’ve added or cut.

Two things jump out.

First, Ontario has led the way by cutting 45 MtCO2. Two-thirds came from eliminating coal burning from electricity generation.

The second big story is Alberta increasing pollution by 42 MtCO2. Alberta effectively erased the climate progress made by Ontario. And the towering black bar reveals the culprit — surging pollution from the oilsands industry.

The Canadian shuffle of “one step forward, one step back” was also repeated on a smaller scale. Saskatchewan increased its pollution by 10 MtCO2, erasing the climate progress made by Quebec and B.C..

One step forward, one step back. That’s why we’re not reducing climate pollution as a country. MORE

LCOE 2019 Subsidized AnalysisMORE

Recording Reveals Oil Industry Execs Laughing About Access to Trump

Recording Reveals Oil Industry Execs Laughing About Access to Trump
United States Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. (Bureau of Reclamation / Flickr)

Gathered for a private meeting at a beachside Ritz–Carlton in Southern California, the oil executives were celebrating a colleague’s sudden rise. David Bernhardt, their former lawyer, had been appointed by President Donald Trump to the powerful No. 2 spot at the Department of the Interior.

Just five months into the Trump era, the energy developers who make up the Independent Petroleum Association of America, or IPAA, already had watched the new president order a sweeping overhaul of environmental regulations that were cutting into their bottom lines – rules concerning smog, hydraulic fracturing and endangered species protection.

Dan Naatz, the association’s political director, told the audience of about 100 executives that Bernhardt’s new role meant their priorities would be heard at the highest levels of the department.

“We know him very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues,” Naatz said, according to an hourlong recording of the June 2017 event in Laguna Niguel provided to Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

The recording gives a rare look behind the curtain of an influential oil industry lobbying group that spends more than $1 million per year to push its agenda in Congress and federal regulatory agencies. The previous eight years had been dispiriting for the industry: As IPAA vice president Jeff Eshelman told the group, it had seemed as though the Obama administration and environmental groups had put together “their target list of everything that they wanted done to shut down the oil and gas industry.”

But now, the oil executives were almost giddy at the prospect of high-level executive branch access of the sort they hadn’t enjoyed since Dick Cheney, a fellow oilman, was vice president.

“It’s really a new thing for us,” said Barry Russell, the association’s CEO, boasting of his meetings with the Environmental Protection Agency chief at the time, Scott Pruitt, and then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “For example, next week, I’m invited to the White House to talk about tax code. Last week, we were talking to Secretary Pruitt, and in about two weeks, we have a meeting with Secretary Zinke. So we have unprecedented access to people that are in these positions who are trying to help us, which is great.”

In that Ritz-Carlton conference room, Russell also spoke of his ties to Bernhardt, recalling the lawyer’s role as point man on an association legal team set up to challenge federal endangered species rules.

“Well, the guy that actually headed up that group is now the No. 2 at Interior,” he said, referring to Bernhardt. “So that’s worked out well.”

Now, Bernhardt is in line for a promotion: The former oil industry lobbyist has been nominated by Trump to be the interior secretary. MORE