Many BC Families Missing Out on Free Money for Kids’ Education

A provincial savings grant isn’t reaching those who could benefit most. Which isn’t doing much for inequality.

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B.C. families can receive a one-time payment of $1,200 into their kid’s registered education savings plan when their child is between six and nine years old.

A British Columbia program aimed at helping pay for post-secondary education and encouraging families to save fails to reach four out of 10 people who are eligible.

The low participation rate leaves millions of dollars unclaimed and has observers suggesting there are much better ways to fund education.

“When you hear that there is $1,200 available as a grant for post-secondary education that’s universally available, that sounds great, but we know that the take-up rate for that grant is very low,” said Alex Hemingway, an economist and public finance policy analyst with the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“It sounds nice, but in fact it’s very likely that those who need it most are going to be least likely to get registered and get that funding,” he said. “That means we’re spending public money in a way that’s not going to be distributed as fairly as we would like.”

Families have a three-year window between when a child is six and nine years old to apply for the B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant. All they have to do is open a registered education savings plan at a financial institution and the government will deposit $1,200, which can then grow tax free. MORE

 

Greenpeace loses Norway Arctic oil lawsuit appeal

Image result for Norway Barents Sea petroleum activity

OSLO — An Oslo appeals court approved Norway’s plans for more oil exploration in the Arctic on Thursday, dismissing a lawsuit by environmentalists who had said it violated people’s right to a healthy environment.

The verdict upheld a ruling made by a lower court, rejecting arguments by Greenpeace and the Nature and Youth group that a 2015-2016 oil licensing round that gave awards to Equinor and others had breached Norway’s constitution.

“The verdict is unanimous,” the Borgarting Appeals Court said in its written decision.

But unlike the original district court decision, which found that the use of Norwegian oil by foreign customers was not relevant to the case, the appeals court found that such use abroad should in fact be part of the consideration.

However, the argument was not enough for the court to find in favor of the environmental groups, Borgarting concluded.

Greenpeace immediately said it would appeal the case to Norway’s supreme court.

The lawsuit is seen as part of an emerging branch of law worldwide where plaintiffs seek to use a nation’s founding principles to make the case for curbing emissions.

The green groups argued the government decision contravened local and international law. They cited article 112 of Norway’s constitution, which guarantees the right of current and future generations to a healthy and sustainable environment, as well as the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming.

“The court’s verdict is a big step in the right direction, and the reason is that the right to a healthy environment according to the constitution is acknowledged by the court of appeal,” Greenpeace Norway chief Frode Pleym told reporters.

“The court of appeal also acknowledges that the emissions from Norwegian oil burned abroad are relevant,” he added.

Oil and gas extraction has helped make Norway one of the wealthiest nations on earth, with the third-highest per-capita gross domestic product and a $1.1 trillion sovereign wealth fund stemming from petroleum income.

The government handed out 10 Arctic exploration permits in the contested 23rd licensing round, including three in the southeastern part of the Barents Sea, near Norway’s border with Russia.

Norway’s energy ministry welcomed the verdict.

“The court agrees with the state that the Barents Sea petroleum activity does not contravene the constitution,” the ministry said in a statement.

Oil companies have already drilled exploration wells in some licenses, but have not made any significant discoveries.

Aker BP plans to drill a well in one license later this year.

A win at the appeals court could have set a precedent for other climate cases globally, while limiting exploration by western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer, the plaintiffs said at the outset of the trial.

But while environmental groups said more petroleum resources had already been discovered than could be exploited without breaching the Paris goals, the government argued that any decision to drill was for parliament to make, not the courts.

There has been a surge in climate-related lawsuits in recent years, with campaigners viewing even unsuccessful litigation as an effective way of pressuring governments to be more ambitious about averting climate catastrophe.

Over 1,500 climate-related cases were brought in 28 countries, mostly in the United States, between 2007 and 2020, according to Joana Setzer, a fellow at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics.

Most defendants are governments, but lawsuits are increasingly targeting bid oil and gas companies, she said.

New lawsuits draw on advancements in attribution science, which can find causal links between carbon emissions and climate-related damage.

Microgrids: An idea whose time has come?

A microgrid on the Blue Lake Rancheria reserve in California

Blue Lake Rancheria)

As the global population grows, so does the demand for electricity. But there are challenges, even now. More than a billion people around the world don’t have access to power grids. According to the Canada Energy Regulator, 200,000 people in Canada are not connected to the North American electrical grid and natural gas distribution pipeline systems.

We’re also seeing natural disasters and major weather events disrupt power supply, causing mass blackouts for days at a time. And when one part of the transmission system breaks down, it can paralyze the whole grid.

Enter the microgrid. A concept that’s been growing in popularity, it’s a power system that can operate independently or work in connection with bigger grids.

A microgrid “contains everything that it needs to provide power to a community,” said Lynn Côté, cleantech lead at Export Development Canada. “You’re not building a system for a million people. You’re building a system for maybe a thousand people, 500, maybe 250.”

Big electrical grids connect buildings to central power sources, such as coal, nuclear and gas plants. When main components stop working, everything can be affected.

A microgrid operates as an island, which can be beneficial during times of crises like storms or outages (or for other reasons). Many are powered by a mix of renewable energy and batteries, with natural gas for backup. Microgrid power isn’t necessarily more reliable, but in communities far from a larger power source, microgrids can alleviate complications because the electricity is stored, owned and controlled locally.

One of the older examples is a microgrid built more than a decade ago in Sendai, Japan, which is powered by a mix of solar, gas and battery. According to Berkeley Lab, which does research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, during blackouts caused by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, the microgrid in Sendai provided power and heat to the teaching hospital of Tohuku Fukushi University.

“Widespread power outages cause a lot of social and economic damage and destruction. And the climate crisis is making all of this worse,” said Jana Ganion, energy director for Blue Lake Rancheria, an Indigenous reserve in California that launched a solar microgrid in 2015.

Millions of people in California had their power shut off last fall because of wildfire risk. Meanwhile, the Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid provided electricity to thousands nearby.

Setting up a microgrid can be an expensive undertaking, especially in dense urban or suburban areas with existing infrastructure. Consumers typically stick with what works, said Côté, and for the majority of Canadians, that means hydroelectric power (nuclear and coal are the next-biggest power sources).

“It’s really hard for certain countries to raise the kind of capital you need [to build a power plant],” said Côté, who has researched microgrids in remote Canadian communities. She said the “autonomy” a microgrid provides “is really important.”

There are nearly 300 remote communities across Canada, many of which rely on diesel-powered microgrids for electricity generation. Over the last decade, the federal government has worked with regional entities to create greener options.

In August, Gull Bay First Nation, north of Thunder Bay, Ont., co-developed a community microgrid that uses solar, battery storage and automated control technology to help reduce diesel use, according to Ontario Power Generation. It’s the first of its kind in Canada.

Côté said that in addition to making remote areas more self-sufficient, microgrids could help communities access clean drinking water by providing the power to treat it. SOURCE

UK citizens’ climate assembly to meet for first time

Randomly selected 110-strong panel will try to come up with a plan to tackle global heating

 The assembly will discuss policies such as bringing forward the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Ordinary people from across the UK – potentially including climate deniers – will take part in the first ever citizens’ climate assembly this weekend.

Mirroring the model adopted in France by Emmanuel Macron, 110 people from all walks of life will begin deliberations on Saturday to come up with a plan to tackle global heating and meet the government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The assembly was selected to be a representative sample of the population after a mailout to 30,000 people chosen at random. About 2,000 people responded saying they wanted to be considered for the assembly, and the 110 members were picked by computer.

They come from all age brackets and their selection reflects a 2019 Ipsos Mori poll of how concerned the general population is by climate change, where responses ranged from not at all to very concerned. Of the assembly members, three people are not at all concerned, 16 not very concerned, 36 fairly concerned, 54 very concerned, and one did not know, organisers said.

The selection process meant those chosen could include climate deniers or sceptics, according to Sarah Allan, the head of engagement at Involve, which is running the assembly along with the Sortition Foundation and the e-democracy project mySociety.

“It is really important that it is representative of the UK population,” said Allen. “Those people, just because they’re sceptical of climate change, they’re going to be affected by the steps the government takes to get to net zero by 2050 too and they shouldn’t have their voice denied in that.”

The UK climate assembly differs from the French model in that it was commissioned by six select committees, rather than by the prime minister. Their views, which will be produced in a report in the spring, will be considered by the select committees but there is no guarantee any of the proposals will be taken up by government.

Jim Watson, a professor of energy policy at University College London, is one of four experts who will guide the members of the public in their decision-making. He acknowledged the scale of the challenges they faced in finding solutions to reaching net zero by 2050, which he said was “a hell of a job”.

As well as four experts to the assembly, a panel of advisers including representatives from the Confederation of British Industry, Trades Union Congress, National Farmers’ Union, environmental NGOs and renewable energy companies have helped provide the questions on which assembly members will be asked to give their views.

The key subjects to be considered will include transport, agriculture, domestic energy, and how consumerism is driving global heating. As well as policies such as bringing forward the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040, the panel will consider technological solutions to cutting carbon emissions. Watson said many technological initiatives were surrounded by hype. “It is really important we get across [to the assembly members] not just that the option is x, but what the status of that option is in the world,” he said.

The assembly will meet for four weekends. On the third weekend they will begin making decisions about ways to meet the net zero target.

A spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion, which is calling for the government to create and be led by the decisions of a citizens’ assembly on climate, said they welcomed the fact that such assemblies were being used in mainstream politics. “However, because it is not commissioned by the government it is not what we are looking for. We want something with real teeth, that has actual power to influence policy,” she said. SOURCE

Attention all young organic farmers in Prince Edward County! This bursary is just for you!

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The County Sustainability Group is pleased to announce a 2nd year for our Bursary for Young PEC Organic Farmers. $1000 will be awarded annually in May to a young farmer in Prince Edward County who best demonstrates the values of ecologically sound , sustainable farm practices which regenerate soil health, protects vital resources such as water and biodiversity, reduces the need for synthetic inputs and prioritizes renewable energy sources.

Our group recognizes the importance of farmers and agriculture to our rural community and province.

In particular, we are grateful for sustainable farmers who are doing their utmost to protect the health of the land and all living creatures by implementing best practices.

We want this award to demonstrate our gratitude and help their long term success in the very challenging occupation of farming. Farmers feed cities and provide us all with nutritious food that far too often is taken for granted. Without their dedication and commitment to their craft, imagine how different our world would be?

We especially acknowledge , with this bursary, the challenges faced by young farmers just starting out in organic farming or trying to maintain or expand an existing operation. This is an expensive undertaking and not for the faint of heart. Every little bit can help, perhaps going towards new seeds, greenhouses,equipment, soil revitalization, irrigation,livestock,land leases, renewable energy or any number of important aspects of modern organic farming.

Applicants should demonstrate an understanding of the goals of Ecological Farmers of Ontario (EFAO). Candidates should submit their application letters describing their reasons for being considered for this award by April 30th to Don Hudson at valleypine.hudson@gmail.com or Don Ross at ecodonross@hotmail.com

A winner will be selected and award money presented by May15th in order that it can be put to good use early in the growing season. If no suitable candidates should come forward this year, the award money will carry forward to 2021 when 2 – $1000 awards may be presented or a single recipient could receive $2000.

Ongoing funding for this bursary will be generated by proceeds from our annual CSG Rain Barrel & Composter Sale held on the final Saturday of May ( see www.rainbarrel.ca/csgpicton ) This year’s sale on May 30th continues to also fund our PECI student environmental bursary award in memory of Fred Holtz.

We appreciate the support our community has shown for this event and welcome any extra donations an individual or business may wish to make to assist in the ongoing funding of either of these bursaries.


 

James Hansen: No Time for Despair

We have no time for despair.  Nor is there good reason to despair.  Yes, as I noted recently the Wheels of Justice turn slowly.  But they can be turned, and we will achieve justice soonest if we are smart and have a realistic view of the world.

“Shell’s Crude Awakening” in the 27 January issue of Time provides reasons for optimism, as well as need for continued resolve and hard work.  Shell is beginning to bend under the pressure of the Dutch public, but additional pressure is needed before it will be transformed into an energy company that will be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

As Dan Galpern, my legal adviser, and I argued at the recent COP25 meeting in Madrid, it is important to use lawsuits to ratchet up the pressure on the fossil fuel industry.

Roger Cox, pictured on the right above, deserves accolades for his success in the Urgenda (Urgent Agenda) case in the Netherlands and continued pressure on Shell.  Upon returning from a trip to the Netherlands in 2012 to help launch that case, I was irritated (Galileo and the Fireflies) by Roger’s decision to base Urgenda’s challenge to federal policy on the 2°C IPCC ‘guardrail’ target for limiting global warming.  It turns out he was right: the international target assured that even conservative Dutch scientists supported him.  Seven years later, Urgenda won their historic case, requiring the Dutch government to phase down emissions faster.  As wheels of justice go, that was pretty fast.

The other historic case, by Our Children’s Trust against the U.S. federal government, suffered a setback last week when a federal appeals court voted 2-1 to dismiss the case.  That is not the end of the story, though.  As Joe Robertson points out, the opinion of the two majority judges is logically incoherent: the Court exists to redress grievances protected by the Constitution, yet they conclude they are not empowered to do so.  The more reasoned opinion of dissenting Judge Staton includes “…plaintiffs’ claims adhere to a judicially administrable standard.  And considering plaintiffs seek no less than to forestall the Nation’s demise, even a partial and temporary reprieve would constitute meaningful redress.”

Our requested redress no doubt flummoxed the majority judges.  However, as both a Plaintiff and Expert Witness in the case, I note that our “ask” is based on science that the Defendants will not be able to refute: a plan is needed to reduce atmospheric CO2 to some value south of 350 ppm, if we are to avoid unacceptable consequences such as eventual loss of coastal cities.

Thanks to the slow pace of the wheels of justice, we can no longer achieve that CO2 target in an acceptable period solely by reducing the rate of fossil fuel emissions.  But that is no reason to despair.  And we should not be frightening vulnerable young people with gloom and doom pronouncements.  The problem can still be solved.  Our planet has a bright future.

The ridiculous climate statement – even from politicians – goes something like: “we have 10 years, 7 months, x days until the carbon budget is used up and we are doomed!”  IPCC should be censured for initiating that nonsense, and wrongly frightening young people.  We are already in carbon overshoot, but that does not mean that the problem is unsolvable.

Instead of despair, we should celebrate how far we have come.

I was stunned to hear U.S. Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg precisely describe Carbon Fee & Dividend as the central pillar of his plan to address climate change.  Underlying economic forces unleashed by a rising carbon fee will do more to move us to a clean energy future than all the laws and regulations that can be imagined.  The public would accept a rising carbon fee/tax, if and only if 100% of the money is distributed to the public so as also to address wealth disparity.

That is not enough, however.  The fossil fuel industry, if we allow them to get away with it, will build an infrastructure that locks young people into a future of gas + renewables – and increasing climate change.  The fossil fuel industry is spending large amounts of money campaigning against nuclear power, for the purpose of locking in gas + renewables.

Massive amounts of power will be needed for drawing down atmospheric CO2, for producing liquid fuels, and for desalinization, as well as for an electricity-dominant energy system.  Young people will get fracked and gassed, if there is no viable alternative for baseload electric power.

Andrew Yang is the one candidate in Iowa who seems to have the most complete understanding of the energy and climate story.  Yang, of all the candidates, gave the shortest, best answer to the Des Moines Register question about their climate policy: Carbon Fee & Dividend.

In addition, with Cory Booker’s withdrawal, Yang is the one remaining candidate with an understanding of the crucial role of United States leadership in nuclear technology.  That technologic leadership, and our young people’s future, depend upon investment and support from the government comparable to the support that brought down the cost of solar energy.

Yang’s party, unfortunately, has a history of hostility toward nuclear power, our largest source of carbon-free energy, with smallest environmental footprint, as discussed in Fire on Planet Earth.  Some candidates espouse a ‘Green New Deal,’ characterized by limited understanding of the energy/climate problem, but by an $XX trillion price tag.  One thing is assured: if they get the nomination, they will lose the election.

Yes, I know, young people are afraid of hurting their Boomer hippie grandparents’ feelings.  Of course, they meant well when they paraded against nuclear power.  It was identified as the next villain, after the Viet Nam war ended.  But what is more important: their feelings or your future?

As with Obama, it is said that Yang has no chance.  But a message can be sent to the other 49 states: we all had best take a closer look at this guy, for the sake of the future of young people. SOURCE

Doomsday Clock nears apocalypse over climate and nuclear fears

The Bureau of Atomic Scientists unveil the clock

The symbolic Doomsday Clock, which indicates how close our planet is to complete annihilation, is now only 100 seconds away from midnight.

he Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) said on Thursday that the change was made due to nuclear proliferation, failure to tackle climate change and “cyber-based disinformation”.

The clock now stands at its closest to doomsday since it began ticking.

The idea began in 1947 to warn humanity of the dangers of nuclear war.

graphic shows the clock
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Last year the clock was set at two minutes to midnight – midnight symbolises the end of the world – the same place it was wound to in 2018.

BAS President Rachel Bronson told reporters in Washington DC on Thursday that the time was now being kept in seconds rather than minutes because the “moment demands attention” and that the threats level is worsening”. She said the world was now menaced by powerful leaders who “denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats”.

The decision is made by the BAS Science and Security Board, which includes 13 Nobel Laureates. For the first time this year, the board was joined by members of The Elders – a group of international leaders and former officials first founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007.

“We must act and work together,” said former UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, a member of The Elders. “Not a single country or person can do it alone. We need all hands on deck and we can all work together.”

Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump give different takes on climate change

Former California Governor Jerry Brown, another member of the panel, said: “Dangerous rivalry and hostility among the superpowers increases the likelihood of nuclear blunder. Climate change just compounds the crisis. If there’s ever a time to wake up, it’s now.”

Astrophysicist and panel member Robert Rosner said: “The fact that the clock is now a mere 100 seconds from midnight signals really bad news,

“What we said last year is now a disturbing reality in that things are not getting better.

“Past experience has taught us that even in the most dismal periods of the Cold War, we can come together. It is high time we do so again,” he added.

The clock was first created by US scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the world’s first nuclear weapon.

World is getting warmer graphic

Georgetown University Professor Sharon Squassoni told reporters that the threat from nuclear weapons had increased, in part due to the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, North Korean nuclear weapons development and continued proliferation from countries such as the US, China and Russia. She called the situation “dangerous” and demanding of an “urgent response”.

The committee warned of another threat, particularly ahead of the US presidential election in November: “government-used cyber-enabled disinformation campaigns to sow distrust in institutions and among nations”.

Board member Robert Latiff called “untruths, exaggerations and misinterpretations” a problem that could lead to the “wholesale trashing” of scientific evidence. Deepfake videos, he said, “threaten to undermine truth from fiction”. SOURCE

Former Irish President Mary Robinson said “the world needs to wake up”, equating her reaction to that of “an angry granny”.