How corporations still get away with secret lobbying in B.C.

A full year after the province claimed it would make B.C. the ‘most transparent lobbying regime in Canada,’ major loopholes remain — leaving secret, unregistered lobbying completely legal

David Eby BC Lobbying

“The most transparent lobbying regime in Canada.”

That’s what Attorney General David Eby told British Columbians they were getting when the provincial government announced amendments to lobbying rules last year.

“Big money and political insiders have had too much influence for too long,” Eby said. “These changes are long overdue and build on our continuing work to strengthen B.C.’s democracy for all British Columbians.”

Eby’s comments are part of a long line of promises from the B.C. NDP to clean up politics, eliminate big money donations and ferret out corporate influence — which includes Bill 54, the province’s lobbying amendment act introduced last October.

But in spite of much talk and limited action, the secret lobbying of elected officials remains a common practice in B.C. today, according to Duff Conacher, coordinator of Democracy Watch, an Ottawa not-for-profit focused on making Canadian governments and corporations more accountable.

“Secret, unethical lobbying is very easy to do in B.C. still,” Conacher says. “[The NDP] started with very strong rhetoric, but they didn’t follow through.”

Conacher says all of the recently announced changes — including a strengthened two-year ban on lobbying for politicians or high-level bureaucrats after leaving office — only apply to those who officially register with B.C.’s Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists.

But if you are not being expressly paid to lobby, or do less than 50 hours of in-house lobbying a year, registration isn’t required.

And if you’re unregistered, your interactions are not reported, documented or scrutinized by government or any public watchdog. In other words, at any moment in B.C., an unknown number of unregistered lobbyists are working to influence elected officials on the sly, and it’s completely legal.

‘It’s a sad joke’: gaping holes in lobbying law

This is not just a B.C. problem.

Conacher is calling for broad changes to how Canadian governments regulate lobbying and political donations, noting that lobbying loopholes are found at the federal, provincial and territorial level across the country.

Over his 26-year career in democracy advocacy, he has observed that governments only take action on closing loopholes in the wake of scandal, and in the case of the NDP, to create the impression that the wild west days of the BC Liberals, who ruled the province from 2001-2015, are over.

But not much has really changed, says Conacher, as he reads aloud over the phone from Section 2 of B.C.’s Lobbyist Registration Act. The province’s lobbying rules do not apply to oral or written submissions made to a public office holder concerning the “enforcement, interpretation or application of any Act or regulation.” Nor do they apply to the “implementation or administration of any program, policy, directive, or guideline” by a public office holder.

“It’s a sad joke,” he says. “That almost [exempts] everything. What else is there? The biggest loopholes that allow for secret lobbying in B.C. are still in the law.” MORE

VCIB buys CoPower, eyes expansion of its green finance model

CoPower head of marketing Greg Overmonds (from left), head of capital formation Trish Nixon, co-founder David Berliner and head of projects Jonathan Frank pose for a photograph in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2019. Photo by Carlos Osorio

David Berliner has been interested in conserving and protecting the environment since he was a teenager. Now, he has a chance to make a real difference.

His youthful days canoeing through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario have given way to a green financing platform he co-founded in his late 20s called CoPower Inc. CoPower lends to green projects with steady, predictable returns and pools that debt into bonds it then offers to investors with as little as $5,000 to spare.

Now Berliner is poised to tap into significant capital – and potentially a half-million new customers – after one of Canada’s biggest credit unions bought his young company this summer in a deal announced on Thursday and expected to close later this month.

CoPower co-founder David Berliner explains the young company’s business model during an interview at its Toronto office on Sept. 12, 2019. Photo by Carlos Osorio

Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB), a subsidiary of Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity), is set to acquire CoPower. Vancity wanted to expand its sustainable-financing operations, Jay-Ann Gilfoy, chief executive of VCIB told National Observer, and CoPower offered a great opportunity to do so.

“When the opportunity came up to acquire (CoPower), we thought, ‘Wow, we get the instant team, we get the brand recognition, we get the great work they’ve done on the bond platform.’ It fits within the sphere of the things that we are looking to do in the bank,” she said in a Sept. 26 interview with National Observer before the announcement. “It just seemed like a natural sort of extension of what we were already doing, trying to get money to need.”

The feeling was mutual for Berliner.

“Vancity is similarly focused on using finance to solve big problems,” he said during an interview in an exposed-brick meeting room at the five-year-old company’s downtown Toronto office.

CoPower, which launched one of Canada’s first countrywide green-bond funds for retail investors several years ago, has so far focused on backing solar panels, heat pumps, energy-efficient retrofits to residential and commercial properties, and energy storage.

While green money typically flows into large-scale projects, CoPower’s model focuses on community-scale green projects, which use the funds to offset significant upfront equipment, installation and other costs. The company’s investment is paid off over time as it pockets some or all of the initial cost savings.

The Vancity-CoPower deal comes at a pivotal time, @5thEstate reports, with proven technologies to reduce energy consumption or generate feed power in the market — but with limited financing available to accelerate their deployment.

“That’s increasingly the best bang for our buck,” Berliner said. “Instead of having one big power plant far away, sending electrons to a city, having solar and wind and geothermal and batteries integrated into the fabric of our community is where more investment dollars are going.”

Jay-Ann Gilfoy, chief executive of VCIB, speaks to National Observer on Sept. 26, 2019. Photo by Carlos Osorio

The deal comes at a pivotal time, with proven technologies to help buildings and communities reduce their energy consumption or generate their own feed power in the market — but with limited financing to accelerate their deployment.

Gilfoy said part of the problem is that banks are almost exclusively geared to use money to create more money.

“Our goal is actually to make sure that things are starting to shift and change in the world that make it a better place to live,” she said. “Our goal, clear and simple, is to get money that doesn’t normally flow into where it’s needed.”

For CoPower — which has raised and deployed some $30 million across more than 1,100 projects — Vancity’s $27.4 billion in total assets and assets under administration presents a sizable heft the startup could use to greatly expand its addressable market and investment footprint.

Gilfoy said part of the problem is that banks are almost exclusively geared to use money to create more money.

“Our goal is actually to make sure that things are starting to shift and change in the world that make it a better place to live,” she said. “Our goal, clear and simple, is to get money that doesn’t normally flow into where it’s needed.”

For CoPower — which has raised and deployed some $30 million across more than 1,100 projects — Vancity’s $27.4 billion in total assets and assets under administration presents a sizable heft the startup could use to greatly expand its addressable market and investment footprint. MORE


How coastal communities can prepare for the challenges of storms and rising seas

What can a small or medium sized community do to be better prepared for risks of storms and rising seas?

Image result for daily climate: How coastal communities can prepare for the challenges of storms and rising seasCredit: Coast Guard Newa/Fliker

Major coastal storms commonly kill hundreds of people and wreck homes, businesses and communities.

The three major storms in 2017 – Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria – generated some $265 billion in damages and over 3,000 deaths. In 2018, Hurricanes Michael and Florence caused $50 billion in damages and over 100 deaths. Scientists predict that, as the climate warms, coastal storms will become more intense.

A warmer climate also is melting glaciers and ice sheets and accelerating the rate of sea level rise. Global sea level is likely to rise between 2 and 4 feet by 2100 and continue rising for centuries after that. Unfortunately, along the American coast, the rise in sea level could be 15-25 percent higher due to land subsidence and ocean dynamics.

These higher sea levels will drive future storms farther inland, expanding risks to life and property.

Novel challenges posed by coastal flooding

Storms and rising seas pose some novel challenges for coastal communities. For example, most past coastal flooding has been temporary in that storm surges recede and random in terms of where a storm hits the coast. Factoring in sea level rise requires thinking about permanent flooding that occurs along the entire coast.

Rethinking local planning to add sea level rise requires extending the time horizon for planning from the common 5-20 years to more like 50-100 years. This is especially important for decisions related to infrastructure and public facilities. Novel legal issues involving ownership of land at risk of rising seas, including potential “takings” claims, need to be considered.

Communities also face novel financial risks from the one-two punch of coastal storms and rising seas. Damages to coastal property, and eventual permanent inundation, will reduce property tax revenue and the resources available to recover from a major storm. Removing buildings abandoned to the sea can be another unexpected cost.

Steps small communities can take to manage flood risks

Flooding in Houston’s White Oak Park. (Credit: mmmH/flickr)

What can a small or medium sized community do to be better prepared for risks of storms and rising seas?

Once a community decides to engage coastal flood issues a key first step is to assess risk and educate the public. States, Federal agencies, and local universities are all good sources of information about the storm and sea level rise risk that a community faces. Education can include teaching kids about these flood risks in school, engaging the business community, and disclosing flood risks to coastal property.

Communities can also develop or revise plans for managing storms and sea level risks. Key ideas here are to plan for both storms and rising seas and to adopt a planning horizon in the range of 50–100 years. In addition, local plans need to be coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions and give special attention to the needs of low income and minority communities.

One of the most challenging aspects of planning for storms and rising seas is evaluating tradeoffs between structural protection (e.g., seawalls) and phased relocation of homes, businesses, and infrastructure to higher ground as seas rise. Communities need to consider short and long-term costs of these options, impacts on the ecological and recreational values of the coastline, and the social and psychological consequences for people in the community.

Communities have a range of regulatory and financial tools to implement coastal flood plans. For example, communities can use regulatory tools to limit new development in areas identified as at risk of permanent inundation by rising seas.

Communities can also use tax incentives to encourage owners of property at risk of rising seas to gradually step back from risky areas.

Support national investment in safer coasts

Although communities can make progress in preparing for future coastal flood risks acting alone, in many places the scale of the problem and the complexity of solutions will require new and substantially expanded national programs.

What might a new national program look like?

As a first step, the Federal government needs to reform existing programs for flood insurance and disaster relief. The flood insurance program encourages people to stay in risky coastal places that will eventually be inundated by rising seas. Disaster programs do a good job of providing relief after a storm but need to refocus on smarter investments to prepare for and avoid disasters in the first place.

Significant new federal funding is needed for grants for state and local governments to plan for coastal storms and rising seas and for implementation of the plans. Plans need to reflect local needs and conditions but be guided by national frameworks to allocate funding to areas with the greatest needs and to protect the interests of low income and minority populations.

Storms and rising seas are a threat to more than just communities. The federal government needs to work with state and local governments to protect or relocate critical infrastructure, such as military bases, transportation assets, and water facilities. In addition, ecosystems, such as beaches and coastal wetlands, need space to migrate landward as seas rise. The federal government needs to work with states and communities to fit together the puzzle of how best to manage critical infrastructure and ecological resources as coastal communities plan for future flood risks.

Finally, coastal homeowners need help to avoid devastating financial losses as growing flood risks drive down property values and the federal government is best equipped to provide this financial assistance. For example, the federal government could buy risky property well ahead of rising sea levels. Current owners could stay until the property becomes unsafe paying rent but not flood insurance premiums. The federal government would pay local property taxes.

Given the likely increase in coastal storm intensity and steadily rising sea levels, a new federal investment in safer coasts seems sure to happen in time.

A harder question is whether national support will arrive in time to reduce the costs, and toll in lives, that will come with more extensive and permanent flooding.

Communities along the coast can advance their own interests, and those of the country as a whole, by calling on federal agencies and Congress to step up to this important challenge. SOURCE


How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong

Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios.

Transit workers pumped water out of the South Ferry subway station in Lower Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Credit: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

For decades, most scientists saw climate change as a distant prospect. We now know that thinking was wrong. This summer, for instance, a heat wave in Europe penetrated the Arctic, pushing temperatures into the 80s across much of the Far North and, according to the Belgian climate scientist Xavier Fettweis, melting some 40 billion tons of Greenland’s ice sheet.

Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.

Science is a process of discovery. It can move slowly as the pieces of a puzzle fall together and scientists refine their investigative tools. But in the case of climate, this deliberation has been accompanied by inertia born of bureaucratic caution and politics. A recent essay in Scientific American argued that scientists “tend to underestimate the severity of threats and the rapidity with which they might unfold” and said one of the reasons was “the perceived need for consensus.” This has had severe consequences, diluting what should have been a sense of urgency and vastly understating the looming costs of adaptation and dislocation as the planet continues to warm.

In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group of thousands of scientists representing 195 countries, said in its first report that climate change would arrive at a stately pace, that the methane-laden Arctic permafrost was not in danger of thawing, and that the Antarctic ice sheets were stable.

Relying on the climate change panel’s assessment, economists estimated that the economic hit would be small, providing further ammunition against an aggressive approach to reducing emissions and to building resilience to climate change.

As we now know, all of those predictions turned out to be completely wrong. Which makes you wonder whether the projected risks of further warming, dire as they are, might still be understated. How bad will things get?

So far, the costs of underestimation have been enormous. New York City’s subway system did not flood in its first 108 years, but Hurricane Sandy’s 2012 storm surge caused nearly $5 billion in water damage, much of which is still not repaired. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey gave Houston and the surrounding region a $125 billion lesson about the costs of misjudging the potential for floods.

Flooded roads in Beaumont, Tex., after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

The climate change panel seems finally to have caught up with the gravity of the climate crisis. Last year, the organization detailed the extraordinary difficulty of limiting warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius), over the next 80 years, and the grim consequences that will result even if that goal is met.

More likely, a separate United Nations report concluded, we are headed for warming of at least 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. That will come with almost unimaginable damage to economies and ecosystems. Unfortunately, this dose of reality arrives more than 30 years after human-caused climate change became a mainstream issue.

The word “upended” does not do justice to the revolution in climate science wrought by the discovery of sudden climate change. The realization that the global climate can swing between warm and cold periods in a matter of decades or even less came as a profound shock to scientists who thought those shifts took hundreds if not thousands of years.

Scientists knew major volcanic eruptions or asteroid strikes could affect climate rapidly, but such occurrences were uncommon and unpredictable. Absent such rare events, changes in climate looked steady and smooth, a consequence of slow-moving geophysical factors like the earth’s orbital cycle in combination with the tilt of the planet’s axis, or shifts in the continental plates.

Then, in the 1960s, a few scientists began to focus on an unusual event that took place after the last ice age. Scattered evidence suggested that the post-ice age warming was interrupted by a sudden cooling that began around 12,000 years ago and ended abruptly 1,300 years later. The era was named the Younger Dryas for a plant that proliferated during that cold period.

At first, some scientists questioned the rapidity and global reach of the cooling. A report from the National Academies of Science in 1975 acknowledged the Younger Dryas but concluded that it would take centuries for the climate to change in a meaningful way. But not everyone agreed. The climate scientist Wallace Broecker at Columbia had offered a theory that changes in ocean circulation could bring about sudden climate shifts like the Younger Dryas.

And it was Dr. Broecker who, in 1975, the same year as that National Academies report playing down the Younger Dryas, published a paper, titled “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” in which he predicted that emissions of carbon dioxide would raise global temperatures significantly in the 21st century. This is now seen as prophetic, but at the time, Dr. Broecker was an outlier.

Then, in the early 1990s, scientists completed more precise studies of ice cores extracted from the Greenland ice sheet. Dust and oxygen isotopes encased in the cores provided a detailed climate record going back eons. It revealed that there had been 25 rapid climate change events like the Younger Dryas in the last glacial period.

The evidence in those ice cores would prove pivotal in turning the conventional wisdom. As the science historian Spencer Weart put it: “How abrupt was the discovery of abrupt climate change? Many climate experts would put their finger on one moment: the day they read the 1993 report of the analysis of Greenland ice cores. Before that, almost nobody confidently believed that the climate could change massively within a decade or two; after the report, almost nobody felt sure that it could not.”

In 2002, the National Academies acknowledged the reality of rapid climate change in a report, “Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises,” which described the new consensus as a “paradigm shift.” This was a reversal of its 1975 report.

“Large, abrupt climate changes have affected hemispheric to global regions repeatedly, as shown by numerous paleoclimate records,” the report said, and added that “changes of up to 16 degrees Celsius and a factor of 2 in precipitation have occurred in some places in periods as short as decades to years.”

The National Academies report added that the implications of such potential rapid changes had not yet been considered by policymakers and economists. And even today, 17 years later, a substantial portion of the American public remains unaware or unconvinced it is happening.

Melt water poured into a fjord in western Greenland this summer when a heat wave that smashed records in Europe moved over the island.
Credit. Caspar Haarl’v/Associated Press

Were the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica to melt, sea levels would rise by an estimated 225 feet worldwide. Few expect that to happen anytime soon. But those ice sheets now look a lot more fragile than they did to the climate change panel in 1995, when it said that little change was expected over the next hundred years.

In the years since, data has shown that both Greenland and Antarctica have been shedding ice far more rapidly than anticipated. Ice shelves, which are floating extensions of land ice, hold back glaciers from sliding into the sea and eventually melting. In the early 2000s, ice shelves began disintegrating in several parts of Antarctica, and scientists realized that process could greatly accelerate the demise of the vastly larger ice sheets themselves. And some major glaciers are dumping ice directly into the ocean.  MORE



Goodbye, America: Greta Thunberg to Sail Again After Climate Talks Relocate

Greta Thunberg at a rally in New York on Sept. 20, one of many climate demonstrations around the world that week.
Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

Greta Thunberg is sailing across the Atlantic, again. It’s much sooner than she had planned, but not before she makes her mark in the United States.

Ms. Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, was scheduled to set sail from Hampton, Va., on Wednesday morning. This time, she will hitch a ride with an Australian couple that sails around the world in a 48-foot catamaran called La Vagabonde and chronicles their travels on YouTube.

La Vagabonde will take roughly three weeks to reach Spain, where Ms. Thunberg hopes to arrive in time for the next round of United Nations-sponsored climate talks.

“I decided to sail to highlight the fact that you can’t live sustainably in today’s society,” Ms. Thunberg said by phone from Hampton on Tuesday afternoon. “You have to go to the extreme.”

Ms. Thunberg doesn’t fly because of the outsize greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. And so her trip from Europe to the United States was also by boat — a racing yacht that set off from Plymouth, England, and arrived in New York harbor to much fanfare in August.

Greta Thunberg

So happy to say I’ll hopefully make it to COP25 in Madrid.
I’ve been offered a ride from Virginia on the 48ft catamaran La Vagabonde. Australians @Sailing_LaVaga ,Elayna Carausu & @_NikkiHenderson from England will take me across the Atlantic.
We sail for Europe tomorrow morning!

View image on Twitter

Her slow travel plans needed to be quickly changed. First came a wave of street protests in Santiago. Chile said the climate talks could no longer be held there. Spain offered Madrid as the venue, and Ms. Thunberg found herself suddenly needing another ride across the ocean.

“It turns out I’ve traveled half around the world, the wrong way,” she said on Twitter. “Now I need to find a way to cross the Atlantic in November… If anyone could help me find transport I would be so grateful.”

Help came from Riley Whitelum, an Australian who has been sailing around the world with his wife, Elayna Carausu. “If you get in contact with me, I’m sure we could organize something,” he responded.

In the span of a week, the voyage was organized. Mr. Whitelum and Ms. Carausu will be joined by a British professional sailor, Nikki Henderson, for this voyage. Ms. Thunberg’s father, Svante, will accompany her back across the ocean, as he did on the westward trip.

The couple’s 11-month-old son, Lenny, will also be onboard, meaning that Ms. Thunberg, who is usually the only child in rooms full of powerful adults, will not be the youngest person in the crowd. “Finally,” she said.

Ms. Thunberg’s extraordinary rise stems, in large part, from the fact that she is a child.

She was 15 when she decided she would skip school and sit in front of the Swedish Parliament, holding a homemade sign that read, in Swedish, “School Strike for the Climate.” She credits her single-minded focus on climate action to what she calls her superpower: Asperger’s syndrome, a neurological difference on the autism spectrum.

Word spread of her solo act of civil disobedience. It buoyed the efforts of other young environmental activists and inspired hundreds of school strikes. Young people organized with the tool that they best know how to use: the internet, mobilizing by the millions, from Melbourne to Kampala to Bonn to New York City. Their anger, like hers, embodied the frustration of their generation at the incongruously slow pace of action in the face of definitive science.

Ms. Thunberg’s fame has grown in the United States. A collection of her speeches, most of them previously published, has been released in a new anthology by Penguin Press. Her angriest speech, delivered to world leaders at the United Nations in September, has been used in a death-metal remix. The likeness of her face is painted on a mural on the side of a building in San Francisco.

Threats of violence have come at her too, along with attacks aimed at her medical condition.

Perhaps her most famous American encounter was with President Trump in the corridors of the United Nations. He didn’t see her. But she saw him, flashing icy daggers with her eyes. Asked what she was thinking in that moment, Ms. Thunberg said, “It speaks for itself.”

Ms. Thunberg said Tuesday that she hoped La Vagabonde would bring her to Spain safely and on time. After that, she was looking forward to going back home to Stockholm and hugging her two dogs. “Traveling around is very fun and I’m very privileged to have the opportunity to do so, but it would be nice to get back to my routines again,” she said.

5 global trends shaping our future

Pump jacks and wind turbines near Stanton, Tex. Renewable energy is on the rise globally.
Credit: Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles are spreading far more quickly around the world than many experts had predicted. But this rapid growth in clean energy isn’t yet fast enough to slash humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions and get global warming under control.

That’s the conclusion of the International Energy Agency, which on Tuesday published its annual World Energy Outlook, an 810-page report that forecasts global energy trends to 2040. Since last year, the agency has significantly increased its future projections for offshore wind farms, solar installations and battery-powered cars, both because these technologies keep getting cheaper and because countries like India keep ramping up their clean-energy targets.

But the report also issues a stark warning on climate change, estimating that the energy policies countries currently have on their books could cause global greenhouse gas emissions to continue rising for the next 20 years. One reason: The world’s appetite for energy keeps surging, and the rise of renewables so far hasn’t been fast enough to satisfy all that extra demand. The result: fossil fuels use, particularly natural gas, keeps growing to supply the rest.

“Without new policies in place, the world will miss its climate goals by a very large margin,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director.

Here are some of the report’s main takeaways:

ImageA coal mine in West Bengal, India.
Credit…Rebecca Conway for The New York Times

The world’s consumption of coal, the dirtiest of all fuels, is starting to stall. The report notes that global investment in new coal-fired power plants has slowed sharply in recent years, as countries like India are increasingly finding that a combination of solar panels and battery storage can often be a cheaper way to produce electricity.

Under current policies, the report predicts that renewables such as wind, solar and hydropower will surpass coal as the world’s dominant source of electricity by 2030, growing to 42 percent of global generation. Coal would drop to 34 percent. Natural gas, which is cleaner than coal but which still produces plenty of planet-warming emissions, is also poised to cut into coal’s market share.

Still, the agency notes that coal is far from dead: Hundreds of coal plants that have already been built in Asia are only 12 years old on average and are capable of operating for decades to come. It will be extremely difficult for the world to rapidly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the report warns, unless these existing plants are run less frequently, retired early or retrofitted with technology to capture their carbon dioxide pollution and bury it underground. This carbon capture technology remains costly and has struggled to gain traction.

For years, it’s been much cheaper for most countries to build wind turbines on land. But in places like Europe’s North Sea, energy companies have recently been erecting large turbines offshore that can harvest the stronger and steadier winds over the ocean. And costs are falling fast, making the technology an increasingly attractive option for some countries.

Offshore wind now supplies 2 percent of the European Union’s electricity; the agency expects production there to increase ninefold by 2040. Companies are also planning major new offshore wind farms in the United States, China, South Korea and Japan. If developers can overcome regulatory and permitting hurdles, offshore wind could become a vital tool for slashing emissions in the years ahead.
An electric car factory in Xi’an, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock 

Last year, consumers around the world bought 2 million electric cars, spurred by a combination of falling battery costs and generous vehicle incentives in places like China and California. The agency expects purchases of electric cars to accelerate worldwide and, as a result, predicts that global gasoline and diesel use for cars could finally peak by the mid-2020s.

But this projection comes with a caveat: Even as countries promote electric cars, a growing number of people in the United States, Europe, China and India are also buying larger S.U.V.s, which consume more gasoline than conventional cars. In 2000, just 18 percent of passenger vehicles sold worldwide were S.U.V.s. Today, it’s 42 percent.

If this love affair with S.U.V.s continues, the report notes, it could wipe out much of the oil savings from the nascent electric-car boom. One key question, then, is whether carmakers can figure out how to manufacture, and convince people to buy, battery-powered versions of popular S.U.V. models.

In addition to switching to cleaner sources of energy, countries can also curb their emissions by improving the energy efficiency of their factories, homes and vehicles through policies like building codes and fuel economy standards.

On this score, the report has bad news: In 2018, the energy intensity of the global economy, a measure of efficiency, improved by just 1.2 percent, one of the slowest rates in years. And many countries are weakening their policies, including the United States, where the Trump administration plans to roll back standards that would have required more efficient light bulbs.

Mr. Birol noted that there was significant room for improvement in nearly every country. “Two out of three buildings worldwide today are being built without efficiency codes and standards,” he said. “And those buildings can last for five to six decades, so focusing on efficiency is very important.”

This year’s report also highlights the role of Africa, which is projected to urbanize over the next few decades at a faster pace than China did in the 1990s and 2000s. If Africa pursues the same fossil-fuel heavy path to development that China did, greenhouse gas emissions could rise considerably.

But, Mr. Birol said, there are reasons to think that African nations can chart a cleaner path. The continent, for instance, currently has about 40 percent of the world’s potential for solar energy but still has less than 1 percent of the world’s solar panels. “I think energy developments in Africa are going to surprise many of the pessimists,” he said. SOURCE

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A burning case for a radical future: Naomi Klein says UBC needs to get with the program

Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26 Chan Centre

Naomi Klein wrapped up the final leg of her book tour on October 26, presenting at UBC’s Chan Centre for a sold out venue as part of the Vancouver Writers Festival.

Klein opened the event with a discussion on her new book and was joined by Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous land defender from the Secwepemc territories as well as event moderator, UBC School of Journalism Professor Kathryn Gretsinger.

Klein’s seventh book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, focuses on the interconnectedness of what she refers to as simultaneous planetary and political “fires.” These fires are both literal in reference to rising temperatures and climate crisis, as well as in a metaphorical sense; With references to global political crises and the rise of fascism under figures like Trump, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India and Kashmir, and Duterte in the Philippines, to name a few she touched on.

“A clear formula is emerging between many of these fascist figures who are trading tactics,” she said.

In her opening address Klein emphasized themes from her book, particularly that climate destruction systematically intensifies pre-existing societal inequalities and vulnerabilities. She cited the historic 2017 wildfires in BC as an example, sharing that while smoke hung over the entire Lower Mainland for weeks on end, it was Indigenous communities whose wellbeing was disproportionately affected, along with undocumented migrant workers working in BC’s interior.

Klein brought hope to the on-stage conversation by addressing that while political and planetary fires are raging, metaphorical ‘personal’ fires are also on the rise, and continue to spark global social movements, from Haiti to Chile to Lebanon and beyond.

From racism to colonialism, imperialism, neoliberalism, extractivism, eco-fascism, climate destruction, poverty and despair, in Klein’s words, these struggles can be tackled all at the same time rather than as single-voter issues.

“The fight for Indigenous rights and title is absolutely inseparable from the fight for a habitable planet. They are one and the same,” Klein stated emphatically in the two hour event.

Klein’s book is dedicated to the late Secwepemc leader and activist Arthur Manuel. His daughter, Kanahus Manuel — founder of the Tiny House Warriors movement in BC — joined her on stage for the event. Manuel reiterated the interconnectedness of Indigenous land rights as central to movements for climate justice, particularly as the Canadian government has repeatedly stated it’s intent to go on with Trans Mountain Pipeline construction despite a lack of Indigenous peoples’ consent.

Image result for kanahus manuelBearing a broken wrist and a defiantly raised fist, in a voice that was calm and contained, Manuel recounted a chilling incident of police violence from the week before.

“As I stand here today, I have this cast as proof of what Canada does to Indigenous people when they stand up for Indigenous land rights. There are mothers and children on the front lines.

“I don’t want anyone here to ever have to feel how this feels — for the RCMP to come and break your wrist at your home and take you away for three days without medical attention.”

Manuel was referring to her arrest the week before, when she and other Secwepemc land defenders had been resisting as federal pipeline developers encroached onto unceded Secwepemc territories.

“We expected them to deal with the matter in a diplomatic way; this is supposed to be a first world country,” said Manuel.

As Manuel handed the microphone back to Klein, she received a standing ovation from the packed Chan Centre audience, members of the audience joining her in standing with fists raised in unison with her own stance. MORE