The Lake Is Speaking To Us: Nuclear Waste In Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territory?

 

ONE KILOMETRE FROM THE LAKESHORE, 680 metres below ground, a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) has been proposed by Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The DGR will be the home for 200,000m3 of low and intermediate level nuclear waste.

On January 31st, 2020, the members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) will vote on this proposal.

We, Biidaabinokwe (Neyaashiinigmiing) and Waasekom (Saugeen), are two grassroots members of the SON advocating for the inclusion of the Water in nuclear power and waste decisions in our home territory.

We launched “G’ganoonigonaa Zaagigan |

The Lake Is Speaking to Us,” a campaign to honour the voice of the Water as well as to listen and to advocate for them.

Legacy of the Nuclear Industry within our Territory

On the eve of the vote, we hope our call is heard.

The Bruce Power Nuclear facility is located in Kincardine, Ontario, Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territory. This facility produces 30% of Ontario’s electricity.

The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is the world’s largest active nuclear power plant with eight pressurized heavy water reactors and is second in the world in energy produced. Ontarians depend on this energy, yet, few likely know the full price paid for this type of energy production.

The impacts and potential threats to the lake and land are immense.

Every seven seconds Bruce Power Nuclear takes an Olympic size swimming pool from Lake Huron into its condensers. The water is later released back into the lake, but 10 degrees warmer than when it came in.

Since the 1960s, nuclear waste has been steadily accumulating through operations at the Bruce site. Low and intermediate level nuclear waste from both Pickering and Darlington stations are transported daily to the Western Waste Management facility also located at the Bruce site. When the facilities are decommissioned this radioactive waste has been proposed to be included in the DGR containments.

Some of the intermediate and high-level waste will remain radioactive for 100,000 to 1,000,000 years.

When it comes to nuclear waste, there is no end in sight. Bruce Power was just approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to begin their Major Component Replacement project that will extend the plant’s life for another 50 years.

Ontarians must be pressured to conserve and enact energy efficient solutions (Canadians use five times the world’s average energy consumption) and leaders must come up with energy strategies that rely much more on renewable sources.

Responding to Our Sacred Responsibility

For years, both the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation have vigorously advocated for our rightful place as decision makers in our Territory.

After years of advocacy and pressure from our political leaders, OPG finally recognized our right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in 2013, followed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) in 2016 (NWMO is looking at sites in Ontario to locate a deep geologic repository for all of Canada’s high-level nuclear waste and one of those sites is in our Territory).

Over the last few years, SON members have been contemplating the issues, getting informed and discussing these issues through a community engagement process.

As Anishinaabek and original peoples of these lands, it is a sacred responsibility to ensure our Ancestor Lake Huron’s well-being is considered, respected, and that their ability to provide life to all is protected.

Through Anishinaabe worldview, we look back and forward seven generations, however it is also said that we are incapable of truly seeing beyond the seventh generation. Our decisions today must consider the beings who will endure beyond even our best generational thinking. The long-term storage of nuclear waste will have forever impacts on the entire Great Lakes ecosystem and on all of us.

With the many issues in mind, we as Anishnaabek look to our values, teachings and law. We must take up our Sacred Responsibility and consult with the Lake and the non-human beings that hold the entire ecosystem in balance. We must do our part to petition, inquire, and build relationships with the water in order to properly understand the impacts the decision we make now will have on future generations.

Finding a Forever Solution to Nuclear Waste & the “Rights” of Lake Hur

This week, on January 31, 2020, we, Biidaabinokwe and Waasekom, are voting “no” to the question OPG is asking of us.

We cannot support the construction of the DGR project. The SON has not had the opportunity to explore other options for long-term nuclear waste storage and the issues more broadly. In fact, we have a commitment from OPG that legacy issues must be addressed, however, that work is still underway. Additionally, it is worth noting that First Nations in our territory did not create these issues. The SON was not consulted in the development of the Nuclear facility in the first place.

When it comes to a DGR for low and intermediate level nuclear waste so close to Lake Huron, the answer seems simple. However, a yes or no vote to this project is not a solution for the long-term storage of nuclear waste. It will continue to accumulate above ground in an aging waste management facility.

We propose to be a part of the process to get to a forever solution. That means asking some important questions. Do we hear? Do we honour and respect our Ancestor? Do we, as human beings, truly know the impacts of the decisions we make every day: to leave the lights on, to elect political leaders that ignore energy over-consumption issues, to deregulate business and corporations who over-extract?

If we know the impacts those decisions are having, what are we doing about it?

Like so many of our Elders and Knowledge Keepers have been saying, it is time we all take responsibility (including OPG & Bruce Power) in our relationship to the water and derive our direction from there. It is time that Lake Huron takes up their rightful place in the decision-making processes as our wise Ancestor who’s connection to Mother Earth gives and sustains life for all.

Our commitment to Anishinaabe notions of consent go beyond the standard FPIC principles.

An Anishinaabe version of consent should not only fully consider the impacts on our communities but the impacts that this forever decision will have on our Ancestor Lake Huron. By including their voice, we can move towards better embracing a forever solution.

SOURCE

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Petition for the immediate dismantling of Pickering Nuclear Station

Climate change splits the public into six groups. Understanding them is key to future action

A young girl holds a sign that says "stop gambling with our future" during a climate change rally.

PHOTO: We must create a chorus of different communities demanding a viable future. (Getty: Mark Evans)

In Australia there is now widespread public acceptance of the reality of climate change; we seem to see its effects almost hourly.

But the electorate still votes for political parties with environment policies that I would call recalcitrant, and with significant groups of climate deniers in their ranks.

The issue of climate change has become a battle of ideologies, values and worldviews, something that has become much more pronounced in the last decade thanks to our political class and to parts of the media.

Knowing what we know about human beings, our psychological and evolutionary makeup, there’s no evidence that these divisions are going to be broken down by more scientific evidence or just the passage of time — not that we have much time to spare.

And we should not assume that as climate change becomes worse, these divisions will start to heal.

For these reasons, I have long been keen to understand the ways people respond to climate change — and the language we need to use to convince people to take action.

Six groups of people

Last year I spent time with researchers at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which has conducted countless scientific studies on public opinion and behaviour around climate change.

Much of what they do is informed by the Six Americas study, a segmentation first conducted in 2009.

It measures the American public’s climate change beliefs, attitudes, risk perceptions, motivations, values, policy preferences, behaviours — including voting patterns and media consumption — and underlying barriers to action.

It groups the public into six different segments, varying in size and well differentiated in terms of their attitudes to climate change and their views about action.

  • The Alarmed: This group is fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and already taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it.
  • The Concerned: This group is also convinced that the globe is warming and that it’s a serious problem, but have not yet engaged with the issue personally, including not always voting for political parties with strong climate policies.
  • The Cautiousthe Disengaged and the Doubtful: These groups represent different stages of understanding and acceptance of the problem. None are actively involved.
  • The Dismissive: This group is very sure that climate change is not happening, and often actively involved as opponents of a national effort to reduce emissions. Some of them are in significant positions of power in government, industry and the media.

 

As someone who has spent about 15 years listening to Australians talk about climate change, this approach immediately resonated with me. It made sense. MORE

 

California has an orphan well problem. Here’s what Alberta can learn from it

Alberta’s inventory of orphaned wells in need of decommissioning has swelled to 3,406. File photo courtesy Alberta Energy Regulator

The well is currently sitting idle on Popowich’s property about an hour-and-a-half drive east of Edmonton, which he had planned to sell to fund his retirement. But so-called “orphan wells,” which have no financially-viable owner, can leak, presenting an environmental risk that has proved a tough sell.

“We got screwed,” Popowich said in a phone interview. “Who wants to deal with a well that’s in limbo because the regulator hasn’t done a good job?”

Meanwhile, regulators in California have successfully compelled Exxon Mobil, which sold a batch of offshore orphan wells to a company that later went bankrupt, to help the state plug and clean up the site. Though the state’s approach to orphan wells has been deeply flawed in the past, it’s now taking strident steps to address them, an approach Popowich said Alberta could learn from.

“There’s no political will to fix it (in Alberta),” Popwich said. “It’s just, keep kicking the can down the road and let it stumble along.​​​​

In most North American jurisdictions, the owner of an oil or gas well that is done producing is responsible for plugging it, decommissioning it and returning the land to its original state. Wells become orphaned when their owners go bankrupt and shut down, leaving the cleanup costs at risk of falling to taxpayers.

To minimize this risk, many states and provinces compel oil and gas companies to pay a security deposit up-front — often referred to as a security bond — that is set aside for cleanup.

In California, the amount set aside has turned out to be nowhere near enough, prompting calls for urgent action. The state hasn’t properly tracked the issue and the amount of up-front security deposits it has collected is US$500 million short of the estimated cleanup bill. Even the Exxon case will leave some costs to the state.

But California’s problem pales in comparison to the one facing Alberta, which has more relaxed security deposit requirements and has declined to go after previous well owners.

The province’s orphan wells could cost a staggering $8 billion to clean up, the C.D. Howe Institute found in 2017, when Alberta had fewer orphan wells than it does today. The province currently holds a fraction of that, about $200 million, in security bonds, for all wells, orphan and not.

California has an orphan well problem. Alberta’s is worse.

“California has the guts to go after these companies,” said Lucija Muehlenbachs, an economist at the University of Calgary who studies oil and gas liabilities.

“I don’t know if Alberta has the same guts to do that.”

The Alberta government has promised to unveil new rules around well management early this year but has given no indication what the new requirements could include. The office of Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage didn’t respond to a request for comment. MORE

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A Call for Investors to Put Their Money Toward a Green Future

For wealthy Davos men and women, as well as people from less rarefied air, targeted investing is one way to force change on carbon-emitting companies.

Credit…Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Climate change has been a key theme this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with big ideas being bandied about, and big-picture proposals being announced.

A Davos initiative to plant one trillion trees gained the support of President Trump and the United States, a pledge that was met with a rebuke by the young climate activist Greta Thunberg. She said it simply wasn’t enough given the rate at which the earth is warming and forests are being decimated by wildfires.

The winds are shifting. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has set environmental sustainability as a core goal.

For giant money managers like BlackRock and the wealthy Davos men and women, as well as people from slightly less rarefied air, targeted investing is one direct route to begin to force change on carbon-emitting companies.

A new paper, Hedging Climate Change News, from a group of professors at New York University’s Stern School of Business and Yale’s School of Management concluded that creating the best portfolio to mitigate climate change required investors to put money into green strategies but also into existing, non-green companies.

Some of the investments will have to go into companies with high carbon footprints but a strategy to move toward a more sustainable business model.

“If you think about the question of how do we hedge against climate change risk, it’s natural to think the easiest thing to do is to go long green and short brown companies,” said Stefano Giglio, professor of finance at Yale.

“What we found when we tried to aggregate all the information was the optimal portfolio that hedges climate risk is not a long-short bet on green,” he said. “It’s much more nuanced. You want to go into each industry and look at the firms that are the most and least exposed to climate change.”

Stefano Giglio, left, and Bryan Kelly, two Yale professors who contributed to a paper on investing in ways that take climate change into account.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times 

To investors and advisers working with people’s savings, that approach is as nuanced as it is complex.

Some investors with a green focus have been too doctrinaire, which could make this approach challenging, said Rusty Vanneman, chief investment officer of  Orion Advisor Solutions, which manages about $17 billion.

“You could have two people in the same room who agree about the details of climate change investing, but then they start fighting over the nuance,” he said. “Or let’s say the average company has a green score of 50. People don’t want to invest in a company with a score of 55. And they get angry and say, ‘I’m not going to invest if I can’t get 95 or 100.’”

There are, of course, different approaches. Here are a few examples.

The Green Plays. Using funds and making direct investments have long been strategies for people focused purely on companies working to reduce the effects of climate change.

Mr. Vanneman steers such clients to exchange-traded funds, or E.T.F.s, or uses a direct indexin strategy, he said. E.T.F.s are generally inexpensive and allow clients to express a particular view, like investing in water or green energy.

He said one of his firm’s largest green holdings was the iShares Global Clean Energy Fund because it’s a fairly inexpensive way to make energy investments and is large for a green E.T.F., with about $430 million in assets.

One risk, Mr. Vanneman said, is that some of these tailored E.T.F.s are quite small, which could make them more volatile. The firm also likes the Etho Climate Leadership Fund, but it has only $75 million in assets. To counter risks in a small E.T.F., he instructs clients to set the price at which they will buy or sell a given fund.

For wealthier clients, Mr. Vanneman advises a strategy of direct indexing, in which they create a portfolio that mirrors an E.T.F. but with fewer stocks. Owning the individual stocks allows investors to benefit from tax losses that can pad their returns by as much as two percentage points.

Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a phone interview from Davos that his firm had created a special sustainable portfolio for people in its private client group. The strategy had $1 billion in 2018 and has grown to $9 billion today, with some clients putting the bulk of their wealth into it.

“We made a distinction between sustainable investment and impact investment,” Mr. Haefele said. “Impact is a more narrow category — you have a demonstrable social good that is reported out to investors. Sustainable is broader and encompasses more strategies.”

Still, within even UBS, the amount committed to this is small: The firm manages about $2.6 trillion.

The Improvers. A perfect world, of course, isn’t easy to achieve. Plenty of companies will never be totally green, but many are moving toward operating in a more sustainable way.

“The key question is, ‘How does this impact my money?’” said Steve Norcini, senior equity portfolio manager Wilmington Trust and the author of a recent paper on sustainable investing. “We view climate change as one of the many risks that need to be evaluated with a company. We look at carbon emissions per dollar of sale, water usage policy, how much energy usage comes from renewables. It’s all trying to get at how sustainable is this business.”

Doing this, though, means some of the investments may not appear to tick a climate-friendly box.

Mr. Norcini pointed to CMS Energy, which has pledged to shut down all of its coal plants and replace them with up to 50 percent renewable energy by 2040. But right now, it still has coal plants. Another is Total S.A., which he considers among the most progressive oil companies, even if it’s still in the business of pulling oil and gas out of the ground.

“We understand the reality of climate change, but you still need to invest in energy stocks, so why don’t you invest in the most forward-looking company?” he said. “We don’t believe it has to be an overnight change. We believe the economic consequences of cutting carbon too quickly will outweigh the short-term benefit to the environment.”

The Suppliers. Not surprisingly, some investors don’t want to get caught in the transition from old methods to new ones.

Chat Reynders, a co-founder and the chief executive of Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management, which manages about $2 billion, falls into this category. He said his firm was focused on the suppliers that are creating the new materials that existing companies will use to be more climate friendly. It’s shying away from the companies themselves.

“Companies using these products are coming off legacy systems, so you’re funding a transition,” Mr. Reynders said. “Sometimes that’s a bumpy process. I want to be looking at the technology that helps these companies do this work effectively.”

One company is DSM, a Dutch scientific conglomerate. Mr. Reynders said the company manufactured materials that were making cars lighter and stronger; it also makes enzymes that help cattle produce less methane, a greenhouse gas, when they digest their food. Another is Danaher, which makes a system the turns wastewater from sinks and tubs — called gray water — into drinkable water.

It’s a longer-term approach but not such a long-term approach that it isn’t creating returns now, Mr. Reynders said.

“Some of it is understanding what a smart investment is versus a short-term investment or a cosmetic investment,” like scrubbers on coal plants when coal is being phased out, he said. “There are multiple, compounding investments that can be made that are sound and meet a fiduciary requirement but don’t require you to jump into a short-term play.”

He puts solar panels in the latter category, since solar production has become cyclical almost like commodities.

Ultimately, as the climate-change paper found, multiple approaches may be the best way to generate the most positive impact on the planet through investments.

“What we’re trying to construct here,” Professor Giglio said, “is a portfolio that we can use to transfer different risks in the economy and also to channel resources through green investments.” SOURCE

 

 

Greta versus the greedy grifters

Why a 17-year-old is a better economist than Steve Mnuchin.

Greta Thunberg listening to President Trump’s address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week.

Credit…Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

I’ve never been a fan of Davos, that annual gathering of the rich and fatuous. One virtue of the pageant of preening and self-importance, however, is that it brings out the worst in some people, leading them to say things that reveal their vileness for all to see.

And so it was for Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary. First, Mnuchin doubled down on his claim that the 2017 tax cut will pay for itself — just days after his own department confirmed that the budget deficit in 2019 was more than $1 trillion, 75 percent higher than it was in 2016.

Then he sneered at Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist, suggesting that she go study economics before calling for an end to investment in fossil fuels.

Well, unearned arrogance is a Trump administration hallmark — witness Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, claiming that a respected national security reporter couldn’t find Ukraine on a map. So it may not surprise you to learn that Mnuchin was talking nonsense and that Thunberg almost certainly has it right.

One can only surmise that Mnuchin slept through his undergraduate economics classes. Otherwise he would know that every, and I mean every, major Econ 101 textbook argues for government regulation or taxation of activities that pollute the environment, because otherwise neither producers nor consumers have an incentive to take the damage inflicted by this pollution into account.
And burning fossil fuels is a huge source of environmental damage, not just from climate change but also from local air pollution, which is a major health hazard we don’t do nearly enough to limit.

The International Monetary Fund makes regular estimates of worldwide subsidies to fossil fuels — subsidies that partly take the form of tax breaks and outright cash grants, but mainly involve not holding the industry accountable for the indirect costs it imposes. In 2017 it put these subsidies at $5.2 trillion; yes, that’s trillion with a “T.” For the U.S., the subsidies amounted to $649 billion, which is about $3 million for every worker employed in the extraction of coal, oil and gas.

Without these subsidies, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would still be investing in fossil fuels.

But maybe Mnuchin thinks that the I.M.F. should also take some courses in economics — along with the thousands of economists, including every living former Federal Reserve chair, dozens of Nobel laureates, and chief economists from both Democratic and Republican administrations, who signed an open letter calling for taxes on emissions of greenhouse gases.

But could the economics consensus be wrong? Yes, but probably because it isn’t hard enough on fossil fuels.

On one side, a number of experts argue that standard models underestimate the risks of climate change, both because they don’t account for its disruptive effects and because they don’t put enough weight on the possibility of total catastrophe.

On the other side, estimates of the cost of reducing emissions tend to understate the role of innovation. Even modest incentives for expanded use of renewable energy led to a spectacular fall in prices over the past decade.

I still often find people — both right-wingers and climate activists — asserting that sharply reducing emissions would require a big decline in G.D.P. Everything we know, however, says that this is wrong, that we can decarbonize while continuing to achieve robust growth.

Given all this, however, why are people like Mnuchin and his boss Trump so adamantly pro-fossil fuel and anti-environmentalist?

Part of the answer, I believe, is that conservatives don’t want to admit that government action is ever justified. Once you concede that the government can do good by protecting the environment, people might start thinking that it can guarantee affordable health care, too.

The bigger issue, however, is sheer greed.

Given the scale of subsidies we give to fossil fuels, the industry as a whole should be regarded as a gigantic grift. It makes money by ripping off everyone else, to some extent through direct taxpayer subsidies, to a greater extent by shunting the true costs of its operations off onto innocent bystanders.

And let’s be clear: Many of those “costs” take the form of sickness and death, because that’s what local air pollution causes. Other costs take the form of “natural” disasters like the burning of Australia, which increasingly bear the signature of climate change.

In a sane world we’d be trying to shut this grift down. But the grifters — which overwhelmingly means corporations and investors, since little of that $3-million-per-worker subsidy trickles down to the workers themselves — have bought themselves a lot of political influence.

And so people like Mnuchin claim not to see anything wrong with industries whose profits depend almost entirely on hurting people. Maybe he should take a course in economics — and another one in ethics. SOURCE

What Was Said at Davos on Climate Change

Global leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland agree that a rapid response is needed to stave off disaster.

Prince Charles and Greta Thunberg both spoke about climate issues last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Credit…World Economic Forum, via Associated Press

As the effects of climate change are increasing around the world, so is talk about solutions — from businesses, governments, nonprofits, individuals (especially young ones), scientists and others. While there are many advocates for change, most experts would say progress needs to be much faster to avert global disaster.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, climate change was at the top of the agenda. Talks took place in open panel discussions, hallways and private meeting rooms. Businesses and global leaders like Jane Goodall and Prince Charles made some commitments. Below are excerpts from panels and speeches, which have been edited and condensed.

The panel, a collaboration of The New York Times with support from Wellcome Trust and BCG Digital Ventures, was led by Somini Sengupta, a Times climate reporter, and looked at the climate health nexus through the strategic lens of cities. The panelists were Kate Brandt, the sustainability officer at Google; Christiana Figueres, a diplomat from Costa Rica; and Maria Neira, director of the public health, environment and social determinants of health department of the World Health Organization.

Ms. Sengupta: We, city people, have a disproportionately large carbon footprint, emitting 70 percent, give or take, of emissions. We represent 50 percent of the population and emit 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. So how are cities going to adapt to what is already a hotter planet, and how are cities going to do the heavy lifting of mitigating emissions? That’s what we’re really here to talk about.

Christiana Figueres 
Credit…Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

 

Ms. Figueres: All of our cities, and I know very few that are not, are congested, polluted, completely unhealthy environments. And that is an assault on our human right to health and to breathe clean air, simply put. Now it’s not so easy, obviously, to go from there to a system where all vehicles — and this is the ideal — all vehicles are shared, and hopefully not owned, and clean, and where there is efficient, clean, interconnected public transport. Because you will never get any public transport, whether it be buses, or whatever, that take you from A to B; you will always have to interconnect.

Maria Neira
Credit…Salvatore Di Nolfi/EPA, via Shutterstock

 

Dr. Neira: If you are the mayor of a big city and you want to do something about mobility in the city, it will be very unpopular in certain ways. That’s why you need to convene a kind of working group where you involve citizens, involve mothers who are dealing every day with a child with asthma, involve all of those with health data to try to put maybe in a less painful way the life expectancy that you are losing if you live in, for example, New Delhi.

Credit…Vaughn Ridley/Sportsfile for Web Summit, via Getty Images

Ms. Brandt: And I think that’s interesting, too, about getting street-by-street air quality data. What we’re seeing in cities around the world is it’s often the most urban populations who have the worst air quality. So when you actually have that granularity of data, it becomes very stark and very clear that there are issues, and there are opportunities to address them, and you can really see that disparity actually in the air quality data.

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager and climate activist, made the opening remarks at a Times panel, “Averting a Climate Apocalypse,” moderated by Rebecca Blumenstein, deputy managing editor of The Times, with Jun Ma, the director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs in China; Oliver Bäte, the chief executive of Allianz; Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad; and Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Ms. Blumenstein: Five years after the Paris Accord, governments need to reset their goals and businesses are finally and quickly talking about setting goals. We have top voices from across the world to discuss the urgency of the situation and next steps. But we are going to start with some words from Greta Thunberg, who made headlines around the world last year by saying here at Davos that our house is on fire.

Credit…Alessandro Della Valle/EPA, via Shutterstock

 

Ms. Thunberg: I joined a group of climate activists demanding that you, the world’s most powerful and influential business and political leaders, begin to take the action needed. We demand, at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction; immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies; and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050 or 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.

Credit…Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Mr. Ma: China’s emissions [goals] have not been accomplished. We’re still burning half of the world’s coal. We need to do more. But now, at this moment, we’re facing the economic downturn locally and globally. We’re facing the [trade]war and also the withdrawal by the U.S. government from the Paris agreement. All these are not helpful. So we need to find innovative solutions which tap into the market power, which can balance growth and protection. But all this needs people to join the efforts. So with that, I truly salute the efforts to raise public awareness.

Credit…Hanna Bardo/EPA, via Shutterstock

 

Ms. Ibrahim: This is today. This is our reality. When the forest is barren in Australia, in the Amazon, it’s forest that is disappearing. Back in my region, it’s people that are dying. Dying because of the climate change. Losing their lives. They would not think about the future. When people talk about 2050, for me, I’m like, really? Seriously. By 2050, there’s no solution for this planet. We need it now.

Credit…Mike Cohen for The New York Times 

Mr. Shah: Climate change today bears its brunt mostly on the bottom two billion people on the planet. And so our commitment to Paris, our commitment to be serious and urgent and taking actions to meet those targets, is not just about protecting the future. It is also about protecting today people who rely on climate, environment and those natural resources to survive and to thrive.

Credit…Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Mr. Bäte: In the past it was always governments demanding business to change business models and then we had to adapt. Today, unfortunately, I believe that governments are behind the curve behind us. I can only speak for my home country. We always talk about the plans when we would get out of coal. But we’re discussing dates. We’re not discussing action. And what we are trying to do is put real action behind it.

Jane Goodall, the renowned British anthropologist, gave her support to the World Economic Forum’s initiative One Trillion Trees, which supports the growing, restoring and conserving of a trillion trees worldwide by 2030.

Credit…Alessandro Della Valle/Keystone, via Associated Press 

“The reason I think that the one trillion tree project is so exciting is, people say to me all the time what can I do? What’s one thing I can do? You can plant a tree, and whether you plant the tree in your own backyard or whether you pay to have trees planted in Tanzania, or if it’s urban or rural, you know it’s something you can do.”

Prince Charles came to the World Economic Forum after a nearly three-decade absence, with a 10-point Sustainable Markets plan that would include setting clear plans for governments and businesses to reach net zero in their carbon emissions and rooting out “perverse subsidies” that prevent the global economy from becoming more sustainable.

Prince Charles
Credit…Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Global warming, climate change and the devastating loss of biodiversity are the greatest threats humanity has ever faced and one largely of our own creation. I have dedicated much of my life to the restoration of harmony between humanity, nature and the environment, and to the encouragement of corporate, social and environmental responsibility. But now it is time to take it to the next level. To secure a future and to prosper, we need to evolve our economic model. It is not a lack of capital that is holding us back, but rather the way in which we deploy it.”

SOURCE

 

Mayor Tory: Declare Homelessness An Emergency To Prevent More Deaths And Suffering

This past month there have been eight reported homeless deaths in the City of Toronto.

Shelter and Housing Justice Network started this petition to Mayor John Tory (Mayor, City of Toronto)

The City has failed to shelter the most vulnerable. All seven Respite Centres are full, the two 24-hour women’s drop-ins and the Out of the Cold program are over capacity on many nights. The Assessment and Referral Centre on Peter Street is unable to operate as a referral centre as there are insufficient beds in the system.

Instead, fifty people sleep in chairs there each night. They are the lucky ones. Hundreds upon hundreds of people are forced to sleep outside due to failed shelter and housing policies. They are in grave danger. Their precarious situation has been exacerbated by the onslaught of an early winter leaving them completely exposed and vulnerable.

A walk through the city confirms what front-line workers are telling us: there have never been this many people sleeping in our streets and parks before. The number of beds the City plans to bring on-line will not be sufficient to accommodate those in need. Furthermore, during an Extreme Cold Weather Alert there is only one Warming Centre that sleeps 50 people for the entire City.

In order to prevent more deaths and suffering, we request that you enact the City of Toronto Emergency Plan immediately.  

WHY THE CITY OF TORONTO EMERGENCY PLAN IS THE ONLY RESPONSE

The aim of the City of Toronto Emergency Plan is to provide the framework for extraordinary arrangements and measures that can be taken to protect the health, safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the City of Toronto. It would allow the Mayor to:

1. Make a formal statement declaring that homelessness and the social housing situation are an emergency necessitating immediate action.
2. Request help from the Federal and Provincial governments for funding and resources necessary to deal with this deadly crisis.
3. Establish an Emergency Task Force from relevant departments at the City, including Public Health; Shelter, Support and Housing Administration; Emergency Management; Real Estate; Parks, Forestry and Recreation; for the purpose of resolving issues related to the crisis.
4. Create a Building Team from all three levels of government that would identify vacant buildings owned by the City, Federal and Provincial governments that can be used to immediately shelter the hundreds who are homeless.
5. Redeploy staff from various City departments to implement the decisions of the
Emergency Task Force and to provide support at respite sites, warming centres, and overnight drop-ins.
6. Invite the Red Cross to assist with emergency respite and warming centre operations, as they did in the winter of 2017-2018.
7. Move the only Warming Centre that currently operates in a hallway at Metro Hall, to a more accessible and spacious site.
8. Create four to six additional Warming Centres throughout Toronto that would allow people to easily access them.
9. Improve the safety and health outcomes in all Respite Centres that have 100 or more people staying in them by reducing capacity by one third.
10. Fast track a 4th Sprung Structure.
11. Implement the recommendations of the Faulkner Inquest, including the distribution of survival equipment and supplies (sleeping bags, fire retardant blankets, safe heat sources) to people who are living outside. Tents must be added to this list. Fund additional outreach teams to distribute these items.
12. Impose a moratorium on evictions of people living in all public spaces, including parks, ravines, and encampments.
13. Impose a moratorium on the removal of all encampments.
14. Create an emergency rent supplement program to prioritize the housing of vulnerable people including seniors and those with disabilities.
15. Allow the Building Team to devise and implement a strategy for the creation of 2,000 permanent shelter beds.
16. Allow the Building Team to devise and implement a five-year strategy for the building of transitional, supportive and rent-geared-to-income (RGI) social housing.
17. Expropriate buildings, left unused and vacant by owners, for immediate conversion to RGI social housing such as single room dwellings or transitional housing.
18. Extend the timeframe of all emergency shelters and Respite Centres so they operate year-round.
19. Create one hundred beds to replace those lost when the Out of the Cold program shuts down in April.

We believe that homelessness needs to be declared as a state of emergency in the City of Toronto. We have witnessed homelessness increase in recent years and the municipal response has proved to be totally inadequate. Lives are at stake.

THE SHELTER AND HOUSING JUSTICE NETWORK

The Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN) is an experienced group of frontline workers, health providers, faith groups, advocates, community leaders and organizations.

SHJN can be reached at: SHJToronto@gmail.com

 

The federal government should prioritize funding for e-buses in the next budget

E-bus use is expanding across North America. Image: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Flickr

Image: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Flickr

If we’re going to tackle the climate crisis, we have to reduce transportation emissions. Good public transit — fast, reliable, affordable — can help by weaning us off of gasoline-burning automobiles.

Especially important to address the climate crisis is transit that runs on electricity, which could be subways, light rail or trolley and battery-powered buses.

Subways are only practical in population-dense cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Light rail is great in many settings. Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo have light rail, and Toronto is building a crosstown system that will massively benefit the city, especially in neighbourhoods not currently well-served by rapid transit. But one vehicle is often overlooked: the all-electric bus.

E-buses have many virtues. They can be built quickly — no small thing during the escalating climate emergency.

Bus electrification is part of an overall move towards electrifying most of our economy. David Suzuki Foundation policy analyst Tom Green’s 2019 report, “Zeroing in on Emissions,” says we need to “electrify just about everything.” He writes: “Multiple research projects have concluded that electrifying as much as possible will be a pillar of Canada’s decarbonization effort.”

Transportation is the second-largest source of Canadian greenhouse gases, eclipsed only by the oil and gas sector. In 2017 (the year with the most recent data), transportation in Canada accounted for a staggering 174 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent; oil and gas development contributed 195 million tonnes.

The emissions-reduction benefits of e-buses are considerable. Even in provinces like Alberta, where power is generated mostly by burning fossil fuels, electric buses stack up well against diesel. Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University, says: “When plugged into Edmonton’s grid, a battery-electric bus is expected to emit 38 per cent to 44 per cent less CO2 than a diesel equivalent — and as the electricity gets cleaner, so will the buses.” A 2019 David Suzuki Foundation report, “Shifting Gears,” states, “Electrification of buses would further reduce the GHG impacts of transit use.”

E-bus production can also strengthen Canada’s clean-tech sector and create jobs. Our country has a number of companies that produce vehicles for domestic and international markets. New federal funding could give these businesses — including Quebec-based Nova Bus and Winnipeg’s New Flyer Industries — an additional boost.

There could even be benefits for national unity. The buses could support manufacturers and transit riders throughout the country, demonstrate Ottawa’s commitment to ensuring all regions reach their potential and advertise the message, “This clean-air transit service supported by the Government of Canada.”

It’s something the federal government should consider seriously as it prepares this year’s federal budget.

During the election, the Liberals — who formed a minority government — pledged to make transit funding permanent (as opposed to occasional) and said this money would increase by $3 billion annually. They also said that, starting in a few years, transit investments would be for buses and rail that don’t emit carbon.

The prime minister’s mandate letter to Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna tasked her with fulfilling these promises: “Make the federal commitment to fund public transit permanent and rise with the cost of construction over time. Ensure that new federal investments in public transit are used to support zero-emission buses and rail systems starting in 2023.”

These are good policies, and we need to ensure they’re implemented — even enhanced — quickly. Scientists tell us we must reduce emissions dramatically within the decade.

To capture these opportunities and prevent electric bus manufacturing from going to the U.S., the government needs to act fast. Clean Energy Canada argues, “Canada is home to multiple North-America-leading e-bus manufacturers that, as the world moves to electrify transit, are well-positioned to capitalize — provided transit authorities and policy makers seize the opportunity.”

Some cities have already purchased e-buses, but the numbers are relatively small. Toronto just bought 60 (out of a total fleet of some 2,000 buses) and Edmonton recently ordered 25 (out of about 1,000). These are good steps, but new federal money could turbocharge them.

Ottawa plans to fund zero-emission vehicles beginning in 2023. This means the feds could pay for diesel-burning buses for another three years. In a climate crisis, that doesn’t make sense.

Canadian technology can produce high-quality electric buses (and good jobs) now. In the upcoming federal budget, let’s make cleaner, healthier public transportation a priority. SOURCE

How Much of Harvard’s $40 Billion Endowment Is Invested in Fossil Fuels?

Canadians should ask, “How much of your CPP is invested in fossil fuels?”  The Canadian Pension Plan and the CPP  Investment Board control $377 Billion in investments. Canadian banks and pensions promise climate action in wake of BlackRock divestment. The CPP has increased its renewable-energy investments a hundredfold since 2016. But how much has it divested?

It’s not all that important. Any amount is too much.

 

Credit…Nicholas Konrad

In my senior year at Harvard, I was invited to a dinner in honor of the writer Margaret Atwood, the recipient of the 2014 Harvard Arts Medal. On my way out the door I lingered, shrugged on my coat, took a deep breath and walked up to the university’s president at the time, Drew Gilpin Faust. We had met twice: once during her office hours and at an ice cream social.

“Please divest from fossil fuels,” I said, hoping to catch her off guard.

The president, at first seemingly happy to see me, rearranged her face. Her shoulders crept up toward her ears.

“You students don’t understand investments,” she said. Then she walked out of the room.

I have benefited immeasurably from Harvard’s investments in me. But recognizing where some of Harvard’s $40 billion endowment is invested was a cause of growing unease for me and some of my classmates. Students at other campuses were similarly concerned about the endowments of their schools.

Figuring out exactly how much of Harvard’s endowment is invested in oil, gas and coal companies is a near-impossible task. Harvard is required to disclose only direct investments in which the university owns shares of a specific company.

Harvard says its direct investments amounted to $394 million as of May 2019, or roughly 1 percent of the endowment total. Divest Harvard, a student group, determined that of that approximate amount, $5.6 million was invested in companies that produce or own reserves of oil, natural gas and coal, and large electric utilities powered by natural gas and coal.

Harvard doesn’t comment on its individual investments. But in 2015, the South Pole Group, a carbon finance consultant in Zurich, analyzed $989 million of Harvard’s then $36.4 billion endowment at the request of Divest Harvard and 350.org. Based on those investments, the group estimated that the overall endowment was responsible for annual emissions of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide, roughly equivalent to the annual emissions from Delaware.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the numbers, but the exact amount of Harvard’s fossil fuel investments or the emissions it is responsible for isn’t all that important. As the world faces a climate crisis, any amount of investment in companies that extract or burn fossil fuels is too much, especially by one of the world’s leading universities.

Lawrence Bacow, the university’s current president, explained in the Harvard Gazette last fall that rather than divest, the university believes that “engaging with industry to confront the challenge of climate change is ultimately a sounder and more effective approach for our university.”

But many students have not been content with that approach.

As part of a divestment campaign, in May 2014 an undergraduate, Brett Roche, was arrested by Harvard University police for blocking an entrance to Massachusetts Hall, where President Faust and members of the administration had their offices. In April 2015, during Harvard Heat Week, students, faculty, alumni and community members blockaded President Faust’s office once more. Last November, at the Harvard-Yale football game, climate change protesters stormed the field at half time, delaying the game for roughly an hour. To date, 532 faculty members have signed a petition in favor of divestment from fossil fuels.Everything You Think You Know About Housing Is Probably Wrong

The result? Nothing has happened.
Other campuses have had more luck. After pressure from student groups, Stanford announced in 2014 that it would not make direct investments in publicly traded companies whose principal business is coal mining. The University of Maine followed suit in 2015, divesting all direct holdings from coal companies. In 2017, Columbia University announced divestment from producers of coal burned to generate electricity.

 

Other schools have taken additional steps, divesting not only from coal producers, but also from oil and gas companies. These include Sterling College in 2013; the University of HawaiiUniversity of DaytonSyracuse University and the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015; and the University of Oregon in 2016. The University of California system announced last September that it would divest $13 billion of its $83 billion endowment and $70 billion of pensions from fossil fuel producers.

Recognizing that student activism hasn’t worked on its own, two Harvard College alumni from the class of 2018, Danielle Strasburger and Nathán Goldberg started thinking about the Harvard Board of Overseers election. Last year, they founded Harvard Forward, an alumni-run organization that aims to elect five recently graduated candidates to the board. The Board of Overseers mostly advises the university on strategic decisions, though it does have the power to consent to the election of members to the Harvard Corporation.

The average age of the five candidates is 28 — the same number of years that, on average, have passed since the current overseers were Harvard students. Their platform includes: “Complete and swift divestment of all university assets from fossil fuels.”

The board is composed of 30 Harvard alumni who sit for six-year terms. Each year in April, five new members are voted in by alumni. A nomination committee of the Harvard Alumni Association generally chooses eight candidates who will be added to the slate.

There’s another way in, though — though a petition process. To qualify, each candidate needs 2,936 signed nomination forms, equivalent to 1 percent of eligible voters (living Harvard alumni, with the exception of current professors, administrators and staff).

The first test will come on Feb. 1, the deadline to qualify for the ballot. When we spoke last week, Ms. Strasburger estimated that between 2,300 and 2,400 nomination forms had already been signed in favor of each candidate. They are nearly there.

This is not just about Harvard. And it’s also not just about whether you think divestment is a strategy that is worth pursuing, or whether it has an impact.

Rather, Harvard Forward is a model for building power by young people — of breaking the logjam within large institutions and making change happen.

This approach is not new. From 1985 to 1991, Harvard and Radcliffe Alumni/ae Against Apartheid campaigned for Harvard to divest its stock in companies operating in South Africa. The organization used the same nominate-by-petition system to elect four members to the board, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who stated that he would return his honorary degree unless Harvard divested entirely from South Africa. By the 1980s, Harvard did.

Younger alumni realized then that they needed a seat at the decision making table to create change. That is exactly what Harvard Forward is seeking.

On Jan. 15, Harvard Global Networking Night, over 100 volunteers for Harvard Forward — many of them alumni from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s — attended 50 alumni events in 20 states and 20 countries with petitions in hand. That night alone, they gathered over 1,000 signatures.

Alumni can submit petitions to nominate the younger slate of candidates until the deadline on Saturday at 5 p.m. Harvard Forward has volunteers in 35 cities to collect forms at signature parties this week.

“A lot of people want to know how they can make an impact when it comes to climate,” Ms. Strasburger told me. “If you have a chance to influence a $40 billion endowment, that’s a pretty big deal.”

Every day matters: Guardian Stops Accepting Fossil Fuel Ads

It said the decision was based on the efforts by the industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments.

The British newspaper had said in October that it would stop referring to “climate change” and use terms like “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” instead.

Credit…Shutterstock

LONDON — The Guardian newspaper said it would stop accepting advertisements from oil and gas companies, making it the latest institution to limit financial ties to fossil fuel businesses.

The announcement highlights how the risk of climate change is increasingly recognized and discussed in the business world, just days after climate change took center stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world,” said Anna Bateson, the acting chief executive, and Hamish Nicklin, the chief revenue officer, in a statement on Wednesday.

The British newspaper said in October that it would stop referring to “climate change” and use terms like “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” instead. “We need to tackle it now, and every day matters,” said Katharine Viner, the editor in chief, at the time.

The Guardian is owned by a charity, the Scott Trust, which has already shifted its investments away from fossil fuel investments. Fossil fuel-related investments now represent less than 1 percent of its fund, the newspaper said. The Guardian Media Group has also committed to getting its emissions down to net zero by 2030.

The Guardian and its Sunday paper, The Observer, rely on advertising for about 40 percent of their revenue, but the statement did not say how much came from fossil fuel extractors.

The executives conceded that the company could have taken bigger steps to put pressure on the companies that advertise with them.

“Of course we know some readers would like us to go further, banning ads for any product with a significant carbon footprint, such as cars or holidays,” wrote Ms. Bateson and Mr. Nicklin in their blog explaining the reasons behind the decision. “Stopping those ads would be a severe financial blow, and might force us to make significant cuts to Guardian and Observer journalism around the world.”

Greenpeace, which had petitioned for an end to oil companies advertising in the media, said that other media, arts and sports organizations should follow suit.

“For too long fossil fuel giants like BP and Shell, who are causing our climate emergency, have been able to get away with green wash advertising while investing 97 percent of their business in oil and gas,” said Mel Evans, a senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, in a statement. “Oil and gas firms now find themselves alongside tobacco companies as businesses that threaten the health and well-being of everyone on this planet.”

Advocacy group 350.org, which works to raise awareness about the danger of climate change, urged other media companies to follow The Guardian’s lead.

350.org Europe@350Europe

Speaking of which…

Join us and over 90,000 others in calling for a : https://act.350.org/sign/fossilfreefacebook/ 

We want a Fossil Free Facebook

We want fossil free newsfeeds.

act.350.org

350.org Europe@350Europe

And we think @Reuters should go next. They’ve already signed on to the @CoveringClimate Now initiative and this should be their next step.https://act.350.org/sign/reuters/ 

Reuters, ban fossil ads!

Following the Guardian’s historic move, we call on Reuters to stop advertising coal, oil and gas. Sign now >>

act.350.org

The chief executives of major European oil companies have reacted to the criticism by saying they are working to reshape their companies into producers of energy that generates lower amounts of greenhouse gases, but that this shift will require decades, the cooperation of governments and a range of industries, and acceptance by consumers.

“We cannot go faster than society, we cannot sell what customers don’t want,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

Mr. van Beurden characterized the move to lower-carbon energy as “a system challenge of unimaginable proportions that can only be done if we have collaboration at levels not yet displayed.”

Mr. van Beurden said that Shell was slowly building a portfolio of lower-carbon energy sources like natural gas and electric power generation, but he conceded that the industry had work to do to make clear to the public that it was working seriously on solutions for climate change.

“The sector needs to do more to explain how it is serving society,” he said.