Three councillors appointed to County Environmental Advisory Committee

Image result for Kate McNaughton Prince Edward County

In May, Coun. Kate MacNaughton brought forward a motion to join 27 other Canadian municipalities, including Kingston, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal in declaring a “climate emergency” in the County. She has been appointed to the County Environmental Committee along with John Hirsch and Stewart Bailey

Another important step has been made in the enaction of the Prince Edward County’s Environmental Advisory Committee.

Three councillors, Kate MacNaughton, John Hirsch and Stewart Bailey, were appointed to the committee for this term of council at a meeting Tuesday night.

They will join nine other members, including Mayor Steve Ferguson, in providing and receiving information and advice on how particular environmental and sustainability issues impact the community and recognize many issues with the context of regional, national and global concerns.

The goals of the committee at large are to identify and implement activities which support broadened environmental awareness in the County through public engagement initiatives, draw on the knowledge of members of the community regarding environmental issues and provide advice and information to Council, municipal staff and the public and Bring together experts in environmental matters and representatives of the public to collaboraton initiatives designed to advance environmental aspects of Council’s strategic priorities.

Mayor Steve Ferguson says with a climate emergency already declared, the big responsbility of the three councillors will be work collaboratively with other committee members to assist the rest of council with environmental decisions.

“Whether it’s related to water or air, emissions or greenhouses gasses, their role is to make sure council is guided appropriately to consider environmental concerns for the safety of our kids, grandkids and planet,” he said.

These three councillors will be working under the County’s by-laws, policies and Code of Conduct, along with provincial legislation.

Council also amended the committee’s Terms of Reference to include a nominated representative of Hastings Prince Edward Public Health on Tuesday.

Five members of the public, who will all represent an environmental organization in the area, will be named to the committee by council soon.

Other members include a technical representative of the Quinte Conservation Authority and a youth rep, aged 18-25. SOURCE

Feds, Ontario commit $1.4B for affordable housing for low-income families

Investment is set to run from 2020-2028 with each family receiving about $2,500

The federal and provincial governments made a major housing announcement Thursday in Toronto. (Michael Wilson/CBC

The federal and provincial governments say they will be investing a combined $1.4 billion in a bid to help low-income families in Ontario with housing costs.

Representatives from both governments, as well as city officials, were on hand in the east end of Toronto Thursday morning to make the announcement.

According to a news release, money will be provided directly to families through the Canada Housing Benefit.

The money will be distributed to families who have been identified by the provincial government as being in need, including domestic violence survivors, seniors, people with disabilities, and Indigenous communities.

Those families are already predetermined by the provincial government, said Stephen Clark, Ontario’s minister of municipal affairs and housing.

The investment is set to run from 2020-2028 with each family receiving about $2,500 but that number is subject to change based on individual needs.

Clark also confirmed the families are free to decide how they use the money.

“We’re giving people more flexibility and more choice,” he said.

Ontario is the first province to work with the federal government on this project.

The move is part of a larger federal commitment that will see Ottawa work with all of the provinces and territories to help low-income Canadians find suitable homes.

The commitment is likely welcome news in Toronto, a city dealing with sky-high purchase prices, an extreme shortage of rental units and crumbling social housing. SOURCE

The most courageous climate action isn’t national, it’s in the cities and streets

“It’s time to support young people as they wake up their elders. It may be the only thing that saves us. See you in the streets. I’ll be there, marching beside my daughter.”

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High school students hold placards and shout slogans during a protest to demand action on climate change as part of the Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future in Athens, Greece, November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

What happened in Madrid at the U.N. climate talks seemed like a giant game of chicken with no one willing to move. Actually, it was more like collective breakdown. Leadership by the top four largest emitters was completely absent.

China and the U.S. brought no new proposals to ratchet up their reduction of emissions. India argued for a deadline extension. Europe showed signs of leadership on net zero emissions, but its member countries, notably Poland and the Czech Republic, are holding the EU hostage, waiting for a big payout for their consent.

Sure, there were important little things that happened, but not the big things we need if we’re to preserve a hospitable planet.

A courageous group of countries, including Denmark, other Nordics, and Canada, announced intentions to adopt science-based targets. That’s a start. We are told that this group, along with 15 others, are ready to announce a net zero commitment early next year and that they plan to rally others to join them. Europe’s net zero agreement could come by March.

That’s better than nothing. And, in some ways, it’s similar to the momentum-building we witnessed at the Paris climate talks in 2015. There, a coalition of countries rallied others to keep warming targets to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, which is what scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst of climate chaos.

But we’re nowhere near that target. Current national commitments would allow for warming of 3.2-degrees Celsius. The difference between 1.5 and 3.2 degrees is the difference between livability and ongoing catastrophes for the planet, millions of its species, and human communities.

This is where Greta Thunberg’s rage – and many others’ – is spot on. This is a horrendous failure on the part of national leaders.

That’s why we hoped we could rally national governments in Madrid to commit to more ambitious measures to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees.

Our window is closing. This moment – between the Paris climate talks in 2015 and the end of 2020 – is when national governments are supposed to proclaim goals that collectively keep the planet to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temps, instead of 3.2 degrees.

And the only way we’ll be able to do that is if we agree to a goal of net zero emissions by 2050. That would require all four big emitters to set stronger long-term goals.

What’s holding them back, of course – in China, the U.S., India and Europe – are their fossil fuel industry interests and fossil-invested financial partners.

Meanwhile, everyone else gets it. Cities, states, regions, businesses, and youth get it. Leaders from each rallied as hard as they could in Madrid.

The city, state, and corporate determination to act is so inspiring. (Check out the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance’s game changers as just one example of the leadership here.) This community has grown by leaps and bounds since Paris. They’ve shown creativity and purpose in proposing their own levels of ambition required to solve the climate crisis.

Most inspiring of all, though, were the hundreds of youth that demonstrated inside Madrid’s conference center, on behalf of millions of youth demonstrating globally this year, demanding their elders do better. They are a powerful rebuke to fossil fuel interests and their bankers. In Madrid, their courage – when they were forcibly removed from UN climate talks, shoved out of the building, and banned from re-entering – is deeply inspiring. Imagine if presidents and prime ministers were this courageous.

Going forward, this is where the most interesting climate action will be. Youth leaders, discouraged by the lack of government response to the climate emergency, are training their sights on bad corporate actors. Woe to fossil fuel and banking executives who face demonstrations by Greta and her peers in the coming year.

She won’t be alone. We all need to stand with Greta outside financial and fossil fuel industry corporate offices, holding their feet to the fire. And governments must listen, too, and show up at the next climate talks with plans to avoid more than a 1.5-degree level of warming. Otherwise, these kids, and the rest of us, are toast.

It’s time to support these young people as they wake up their elders. It may be the only thing that saves us. See you in the streets. I’ll be there, marching beside my daughter. SOURCE

 

Depression and suicide linked to air pollution in new global study

Cutting toxic air might prevent millions of people getting depression, research suggests

 Skopje in North Macedonia is Europe’s most polluted capital city according to the WHO. New research suggests links between air pollution and mental illness. Photograph: Georgi Licovski/EPA

People living with air pollution have higher rates of depression and suicide, a systematic review of global data has found.

Cutting air pollution around the world to the EU’s legal limit could prevent millions of people becoming depressed, the research suggests. This assumes that exposure to toxic air is causing these cases of depression. Scientists believe this is likely but is difficult to prove beyond doubt.

The particle pollution analysed in the study is produced by burning fossil fuels in vehicles, homes and industry. The researchers said the new evidence further strengthened calls to tackle what the World Health Organization calls the “silent public health emergency” of dirty air.

“We’ve shown that air pollution could be causing substantial harm to our mental health, making the case for cleaning up the air we breathe even more urgent,” said Isobel Braithwaite, at University College London (UCL), who led the research.

Meeting the EU limit could make a big difference, she said. “You could prevent about 15% of depression, assuming there is a causal relationship. It would be a very large impact, because depression is a very common disease and is increasing.” More than 264 million people have depression, according to the WHO.

“We know that the finest particulates from dirty air can reach the brain via both the bloodstream and the nose, and that air pollution has been implicated in increased [brain] inflammation, damage to nerve cells and to changes in stress hormone production, which have been linked to poor mental health,” Braithwaite said.

Joseph Hayes, also at UCL and part of the research team, said: “The evidence is highly suggestive that air pollution itself increases the risk of adverse mental health outcomes.”

Other research indicates that air pollution causes a “huge” reduction in intelligence and is linked to dementia. A comprehensive global review earlier in 2019 concluded that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body. MORE

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Revealed: air pollution may be damaging ‘every organ in the body’

 

Oil Producers Are Burning Enough ‘Waste’ Gas to Power Every Home in Texas

Image result for bloomberg: Oil Producers Are Burning Enough 'Waste' Gas to Power Every Home in Texas

  •  Flaring has reached record levels due to lack of pipelines
  •  Operators had to pay customers to take away gas this month

America’s hottest oil patch is producing so much natural gas that by the end of last year producers were burning off more than enough of the fuel to meet residential demand across the whole of Texas. The phenomenon has likely only intensified since then.

Flaring is the controversial but common practice in which oil and gas drillers burn off gas that can’t be easily or efficiently captured and stored. It releases carbon dioxide and is lighting up the skies of West Texas and New Mexico as the Permian Basin undergoes a massive production boom. Oil wells there produce gas as a byproduct, and because pipeline infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with the expansion, energy companies must sometimes choose between flaring and slowing production

Burning Gas

Flaring has increased in the Permian as oil production surges, pipelines fill up

Big Oil's Plan To Buy Into The Shale Boom
A gas flare near Mentone, Texas. Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg

“It’s a black eye for the Permian basin,” Pioneer Natural Resources Chief Executive Officer Scott Sheffield said at Wednesday at an energy conference at Columbia University in New York. “The state, the pipeline companies and the producers — we all need to come together to figure out a way to stop the flaring.”

The amount of gas flared in the Permian rose about 85 percent last year reaching 553 million cubic feet a day in the fourth quarter, according to data from Oslo-based consultant Rystad Energy. Local prices that are hovering near zero will remain “under stress” until more pipelines come online, Moody’s Investors Service said in a note Thursday. MORE

 

Oilsands Firms ‘Morally Responsible’ for Deaths and Destruction from Climate Disasters

Greenpeace’s Yeb Saño explains what a Philippines human rights investigation means for the fossil fuel industry in Canada

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Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Naderev Yeb Saño has long pressed for action against climate change. He led a hunger strike as lead Filipino delegate to the 2013 UN climate summit. Photo: Creative Commons, courtesy tcktcktck.org

Four years ago, the Philippines Commission on Human Rights began posing an incendiary question.

Should 47 of the planet’s most polluting companies have to answer legally for the deaths and suffering caused by climate change?

This includes the more than 6,300 Filipinos who died in 2013 during Typhoon Haiyan, which was made more destructive by rising global temperatures.

Four of the companies named in the investigation are Canadian oilsands producers — Canadian Natural Resources, Encana, Husky and Suncor — and Canadian environmental law experts like York University’s David Estrin presented evidence at hearings held by the commission.

The commission, established in the Philippines constitution, announced its findings last week at the COP25 climate talks in Madrid.

While the commission cannot make legal rulings, it found that the fossil fuel companies under investigation are “morally responsible” for death and destruction linked to their business model. Some legal experts think this could be a starting point for civil and criminal cases against those companies.

The Tyee spoke with Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Naderev Yeb Saño, who was in Madrid for the climate talks, about the implications of the commission’s decision for Canadian oilsands producers and the political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who support them. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

The Tyee: What did the commission decide? What was announced in Madrid last week?

Yeb Saño: The commission basically found that climate change constitutes an emergency situation. And it further concluded that the fossil fuel companies who are respondents in this case played a clear role in worsening climate change and its consequences. It also put forward the idea that climate-related human rights violations may be adjudicated under human rights law and can be addressed by human rights bodies or by other international institutions. This is the first time ever that a human rights body stated that fossil fuel companies can be found legally and morally liable for harms linked to climate change.

Four Canadian oilsands companies were named in the investigation. What does the commission’s decision mean for companies like them?

This is unprecedented. We’re trying to analyze what this means for the fossil fuel company respondents. What we think the implications of this could be for companies, including those four companies from Canada, is that they will have to face more forms of legal action in the future. The commission was also emphasizing in its statements that the legal liability for causing climate change is in some ways equal to the moral liability. So this sets a precedent in terms of moral responsibility. These companies will have to face that.

Fort McMurray fire
Human rights commission found fossil fuel companies responsible for increasing the risk of wildfires, typhoons and other disasters. Video still from YouTube footage posted by Jason Edmondson.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bought a pipeline with the goal of expanding oilsands production. So if companies that are involved in that industry are morally liable for human rights violations, does that make governments also liable?

In my view, I think the moral liability extends to those who allow fossil fuel companies to inflict harm, especially when it comes to human rights harms, the focus of this case. So if for example, Suncor is held morally liable, or any other company that the government in Canada is supporting, then would make the government complicit in the harms. MORE

 

Crazy Days in Alberta: The Poison Wells File

The province let oil and gas firms create a $100-billion disaster. They expect you to foot the bill.

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Gary Mar, when an Alberta politician, helped shield the oil and gas industry from having to deal with old, leaking wells. Now as an industry lobbyist, he says all Canadians should pay for the mess.

Every day something crazy happens in Alberta to illustrate how thoroughly oil politics have eroded the province’s grip on reality.

Judy Aldous, who hosts a province-wide CBC Radio noon show, recently devoted an hour to one particularly crazy item — orphaned and unreclaimed wells in Alberta.

Guest Gary Mar, CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, argued that federal taxpayers fund tax credits for the oilpatch worth $700 million over three years to help pay for the cleanup.

“All Canadians benefited from this industry and all Canadians should be part of the solution,” he said.

An average listener unaware of the history of the province’s derelict well, pipeline and gas plant liability problem might have concluded Mar was being reasonable.

But Mar, a former provincial Conservative cabinet minister, was really asking for taxpayer’s money to make up for 43 years of misrule by Tory governments. They created the current crisis by failing to require oil and gas companies to provide security deposits to cover their cleanup responsibilities, and by allowing them to put off remediation of inactive wells indefinitely.

That’s how crazy the situation has become in Alberta. Taxpayers are being asked to pay for the failures of government and oil and gas companies by a former politician whose party was responsible for the problem. MORE

 

Converting coal plants to biomass would decimate forests, scientists warn

Biomass Pellets from India – White coal. Author: Kapilbutani [(CC BY-SA 3.0)]

Plans to shift Europe’s coal plants to burning wood pellets instead could accelerate rather than combat the climate crisis and lay waste to woodland equal to half the size of Germany’s Black Forest a year, according to campaigners.

The climate thinktank Sandbag said the heavily subsidised plans to cut carbon emissions would result in a “staggering” amount of tree cutting, potentially destroying forests faster than they can regrow.

Sandbag found that Europe’s planned biomass conversion projects would require 36m tonnes of wood pellets every year, equal to the entire current global wood pellet production. This would require forests covering 2,700 sq km to be cut down annually, the equivalent of half the Black Forest in Germany.

The majority of wood pellets are imported from the US and Canada, “meaning that there’s a huge added environmental cost in transporting the wood from the other side of the Atlantic”, said the report’s author, Charles Moore.

The planned biomass conversions – with Finland, Germany and the Netherlands leading the way – would emit 67m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which would be unlikely to be reabsorbed by growing trees over the timescales relevant to meeting the targets set by Paris climate agreement, warned Sandbag.

In return, the forest-hungry power plants would produce less than 2% of the EU’s electricity needs – the same generation capacity built in Europe every year by wind and solar farm developers.

“It’s impossible to believe coal companies when they argue that the switch to burning forests could be good for the climate,” Moore said. MORE

 

Extinction Rebellion trial jury express regret at convicting activists

Three climate protesters glued their hands to a DLR train at Canary Wharf in April

 Police officers attend the scene of the Extinction Rebellion protest at Canary Wharf DLR station on 17 April. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

A jury has expressed its regret at convicting three Extinction Rebellion protesters who glued themselves to a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf.

Cathy Eastburn, 52, Mark Ovland, 36, and Luke Watson, 30, were convicted at inner London crown court after halting DLR services in London’s financial district on 17 April, as part of a series of protests carried out by XR.

The activists had denied charges of obstructing the railway, claiming the protest was justified because of the threat of climate change.

Since October 2018, XR has waged a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience, including blocking roads, government buildings and other infrastructure, in an attempt to raise the alarm over manmade global warming and environmental destruction.

Image result for guardian: Climate protesters climb on top of train at Canary Wharf

 Climate protesters climb on top of train at Canary Wharf – video

 Climate protesters climb on top of train at Canary Wharf – video

The group encourages activists to allow themselves to be arrested when they break the law and hundreds have been charged and tried for various offences, but XR claims that Eastburn, Ovland and Watson are the first to have faced a crown court trial.

They were arrested during two weeks of demonstrations organised by XR that brought parts of London to a standstill over Easter.

During their protest, Watson, of Essex, and Eastburn, of south London, climbed on top of the train carriage and glued their hands to the roof. Ovland, of Somerset, glued his hands to the side of the carriage.

They had sought to use a defence of necessity, but Judge Silas Reid ruled it out and gave strong directions to the jury to convict the defendants. On Wednesday, after an hour of deliberations, the jury unanimously found the defendants guilty, but the foreman added the decision had been taken “with regret”.

Speaking after the verdict, Reid said he was minded to impose a conditional discharge, referring to the defendants’ “noblest of purpose”. The trio were released on unconditional bail and will be sentenced at the same court on Thursday. SOURCE

 

2020 to be one of hottest years on record, Met Office says

Temperatures are expected to be more than 1.1C above pre-industrial average

A hydrologist checks cracks in the dried up municipal dam in the drought-stricken town of Graaff-Reinet, South Africa, in November 2019. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Next year is likely to be another of the hottest on record, with global temperatures forecast to be more than 1.1C above the pre-industrial average, according to estimates from the Met Office.

The forecast for 2020 is based on observations of trends over recent years that have seen a series of years more than 1C above pre-industrial levels, and bearing what meteorologists said was the “clear fingerprint” of human-induced global heating.

That trend is likely to continue in 2020, the Met Office predicted on Thursday, barring unforeseeable events such as a major volcanic eruption, which would have a cooling effect from the dust thrown into the atmosphere.

Next year is also unlikely to see a strong natural warming event, with no El Niño predicted. El Niño is the weather system in the Pacific that can result in unusually high temperatures, as it did in 1998, which until 2005 held the crown of the warmest year since records began in 1850. For years, that fuelled false claims from some quarters that climate science was wrong and global heating was not occurring.

The hottest year on record currently is 2016, when there was an El Niño effect, and the years since have all been close to the record.

“Natural events, such as El Niño-induced warming in the Pacific, influence the climate system,” said Prof Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at the Met Office. “In the absence of El Niño, this forecast gives a clear picture of the strongest factor causing temperatures to rise: greenhouse gas emissions.”

If the forecast is correct, the world will come even closer to the brink of climate breakdown next year. Scientists have warned that warming of more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels would have damaging effects on the world’s climate.

The first year in which temperatures were certified to be more than 1C above the average from 1850 to 1900 was 2015, so the rate of change has been rapid. If current trends continue, we could breach the 1.5C threshold within two decades.

Greenhouse gas emissions show little sign of abating, however: research published during the UN climate talks earlier this month showed that annual carbon emissions were now 4% higher than they were in 2015, when the historic Paris agreement on climate change was signed.

The Met Office used the same methods last year to forecast 2019 temperatures, and observations this year show that temperatures tracked its central estimate closely. Its forecast for 2020 is for an increase in global average temperature of between 0.99C and 1.23C, with a central estimate of 1.11C.

Temperature rises have been uneven across the globe, with the Arctic heating far faster than the average. Greenland ice is melting seven times faster than in the 1990s, according to research. SOURCE

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