PEC: Local resident encouraging value of trees to County land, environment

Jen Ackerman of Milford is continuing her efforts to have the area’s government representatives be mindful of the actions they take regarding the County’s climate emergency, especially when it comes to the replanting of trees to replace the more than 300 mature arbors that have been removed from local lands in the last four years. INQUINTE.CA FILE PHOTO

A Prince Edward County resident is encouraging County council to be proactive in coming up with solutions to protect the environment – and it starts from the ground up.

Jen Ackerman of Milford is continuing her efforts to have the area’s government representatives be mindful of the actions they take regarding the County’s climate emergency.

She approached council at its Committee of the Whole meeting yesterday, requesting a minimum of $20,000 in funding for the volunteer County Sustainability Group to facilitate tree planting and nature preservation initiatives.

She said the group will use the funds to create and develop a 3,000 bio-diverse tree plantation and forest, form a wiidflower pollinators meadow and a bird habitat for threatened species – all of which would subsequently improve air quality – and set up an education and memorial site for visitors to understand the climate emergency situation and how people can contribute to improving the environment.

Ackerman expressed her frustration at the fact that 358 trees have been removed from the County in the last four years and only 34 were replanted in their place, not counting acres of bushes lost, trees cut down for hydro or downed trees as a result of weather-related conditions.

She warned that not keeping up with the replanting of these mature trees would have a major negative impact on County residents and the land itself.

“Given the toll of fire, flooding and rising insurance rates worldwide, we can no longer ignore what many have been advising would inevitably be arriving at our doorstep,” said Ackerman.

She also mentioned that the County is casting too much of its focus on selling off land for housing developments and private profits, such as a cottage for tourists in Cherry Valley, instead of preserving the land for future use.

“I was informed by County personnel that one reason for the lack of replanting, compared to removal, is because there’s not enough suitable places to plant trees,” Ackerman explained.

“The County is 1,050 square kilometres. Like most people who can do math, I find this response totally ludicrous.”

Ackerman noted other Ontario municipalities are planting thousands of trees, citing Kingston in particular as a leader on this front. She said he city has planted 37,000 trees in the same amount of time as the County’s 358 removed arbors.

She suggested council pass regulations requiring two trees to be planted on every new housing lot approved in the county, “as a welcome gesture” and also recommended using some revenue from building permits and other development fees to fund a tree planting program.

“With proper information, these new homeowners could understand that the trees would improve the dollar value of the new home, create shade on a cleared and now barren housing site, provide habitat and beauty, improve air quality and in a small way, help to re-establish trees in a community of people and nature that’s been stripped of a previously thriving tree canopy.

Council didn’t take any action on Ackerman’s request and told her to direct her ask to the recently formed Environmental Advisory Committee.

It’s time Ontario said no to nuclear

Why do we continue to operate six close-to-50-year-old reactors in an area surrounded by millions of people

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The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is at the end of its useful life, writes Angela Bischoff. – Frank Gunn , The Canadian Press file photo

After a blunt wake-up call about the potential consequences of operating a large nuclear station in the heart of our largest urban area — in the form of an erroneous emergency alert — Ontarians are suddenly thinking about what an accident at one of North America’s largest nuclear plants could mean for them.

As people throughout the region scramble to order potassium iodide anti-radiation pills, this is a prime opportunity to ask why we continue to operate six close-to-50-year-old reactors in an area surrounded by millions of people, and about potential alternatives.

The Pickering Nuclear Station is the third oldest nuclear plant in North America. It is a poor performer, off-line about 30 per cent of the time, and provides power that is no bargain. Meanwhile, its half century of operations have led to the accumulation of 15 million kilograms of radioactive waste — waste for which no long-term storage options exist or will be available any time in the near future. So for now, this waste is kept in commercial storage buildings on the edge of Lake Ontario.

If all of this is adding to your sleeplessness, consider that we have plenty of alternatives to keeping this old and outdated plant online. Quebec Premier François Legault has repeatedly offered to sell Ontario power at half the cost of power from Pickering. Our connections with Quebec are sufficient to bring in all the power we would need to replace the power we use from Pickering and system upgrades planned for near Ottawa will allow us to buy even more power from a province that has the continent’s lowest power prices.

The last time Ontario was open to building wind power — when it asked for competitive bids in 2016 — the average cost was less than for power from Pickering. Wind power costs continue to fall, with Alberta’s costs for wind less than half the cost of power from Pickering. And Quebec’s massive hydro reservoirs are ideally suited to act as a giant battery for wind power in both Ontario and Quebec.

That we have perfectly viable alternatives to continuing to operate the aging Pickering plant — designed and built in the 1960s and ’70s with now decades-old technology — is good to know because despite the happy talk about safe CANDU technology, Pickering actually has a very disturbing safety history.

The plant has had an extensive series of accidents, including Canada’s worst loss of coolant accident in 1994. Four of its eight reactors were shutdown entirely in 1997 after an outside safety review essentially found they were the Ford Pintos of nuclear — unsafe at any speed.

Nuclear plants cannot obtain commercial insurance because the catastrophic risks involved in splitting atoms are simply more than the market will bear. That means it is taxpayers who underwrite these risks through a legislated $1 billion limit on nuclear liability. That $1 billion isn’t going to go far if something serious does go wrong right in the middle of a vast urban area.

You may have noticed that in the recent alert you were urged to simply stay calm and carry on. That’s because Pickering’s emergency plans are based on the very 1950s concept of “duck and cover.” The premise is that people will stay in place and simply ride out whatever happens. The reality is much more likely to be a spontaneous evacuation of tens of thousands of people and mass chaos.

The Pickering reactors reached the end of their design lives — essentially the engineering “best before” date — around 2016. The Wynne government, under pressure from nuclear interests, extended operations to 2024. The Ford government, with its perplexing distaste for safe renewable energy, is now considering pushing the deadline out even further. SOURCE

Reconciliation at the End of a Gun: The Wet’suwet’en and the RCMP

Bruce McIvor, lawyer and historian, is principal of First Peoples Law Corporation.
I spend a lot of time in small towns across Canada. Often, I go for lunch with my First Nation clients. With one of my clients I noticed that we always ate at the same local restaurant over and over again, despite there being what seemed to be several other perfectly good places to eat. When I finally suggested we try one of those restaurants for a change, the response from my clients jarred me out of my comfortable complacency: this is where we feel safe, they said.

The threat and reality of violence is at the core of Indigenous experiences with non-Indigenous Canada.

My clients live with the threat of violence their entire lives. Violence inflicted on them and their loved ones by non-Indigenous people.

From an early age they learn the cruel reality that being a visibly identifiable Indigenous person in Canada means they live with a heightened risk of being insulted, attacked and killed by non-Indigenous people.

From Colten Boushie to Tina Fontaine, to a grandfather and his granddaughter handcuffed outside a bank in downtown Vancouver, violence against Indigenous people is the Canadian reality.

It is a violence that extends beyond the personal. It has been an ever-present tool in the colonization and continuing oppression and displacement of Indigenous people in Canada.

From Indigenous perspectives, Canadian history is a horror show of violence. From Governor Cornwallis’ bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps, to military attacks on the fledgling Métis Nation, to Louis Riel hanged in Regina, to John A. Macdonald’s policy of starvation of the Plains Cree, to Poundmaker’s imprisonment, to the hanging of Tsilhqot’in Chiefs, to residential schools and the 60s scoop, the list goes on and on.

Importantly, Canadian state-sanctioned violence against Indigenous people is not simply a matter of history and easy apologies. It is a modern-day reality. Think back over the last 20 years: Oka, Gustafsen Lake, Ipperwash, Burnt Church, Elsipogtog, Unist’ot’en.

Yesterday my Wet’suwet’en clients in northern British Columbia again faced the reality of what it too often means to be an Indigenous person in Canada. While Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and their supporters seek to defend their land against a multinational pipeline company and a provincial government that appears to believe reconciliation occurs at the end of a gun, the RCMP again amassed an armed force in an attempt to overwhelm and subdue them.

In preparation for a similar military-style raid against my clients last year, the RCMP employed a strategy of ‘lethal overwatch’ and using as much violence as they deemed necessary to ‘sterilize the site’.

This time around the RCMP assured Canadians that the police officers tasked with dismantling Wet’suwet’en camps, handcuffing unarmed land protectors and marching them off to jail had first undergone cultural awareness training.

For many Indigenous people the very language of ‘peace, order and good government’ is infused with and inseparable from real, visceral, frightening experiences of violence.

On a blustery day in northern Ontario, over a hundred miles from the nearest road, I informed Anishinaabe clients that the provincial government was finally willing to sit down and explore avenues for them to exercise their inherent Indigenous ‘jurisdiction.’

The Elders politely smiled, turned away and spoke among themselves in Oji-Cree. After a few minutes, as often happens, I was told a story.

It was a story about being a child and wanting to visit cousins in the neighbouring community down river. Of traveling in an open boat, of rounding a bend in the river and seeing cousins handcuffed to poplar trees.

For my clients the word ‘jurisdiction’ didn’t connote fairness, justice and the rule of law. It conjured visions of the personifications of government and institutional authority, the priest, the RCMP officer, the Indian Agent—the people who handcuffed their cousins to poplar trees.

The threat and reality of violence extends beyond language—it has become part of the built environment that contains and defines our daily experiences.

I grew up in rural Manitoba on the fringes of the Peguis First Nation reserve. My mother held a wide variety of jobs. I thought she could do anything. I still do. One of her jobs was working in the beer parlour in the hotel in a nearby small-town.

Occasionally, after school I’d wait at the hotel until her shift ended. Hoping to get a few dollars to buy a serving of French fries in the adjoining diner, I’d grip the counter at the off-sales window, pull myself up and look into the beer parlour, straining to get my mom’s attention as she served draft beer and punched out change from the coin belt around her waist.

The room was dingy with a dirty carpet soaked in cheap beer. A low steel fence ran down the middle of the room, dividing it in two. I asked my mom, why is there a fence? Her answer brought many of my childhood experiences into focus: “It’s to separate the Indians from the white guys.” Any Indigenous person daring to sit on the wrong side of that fence risked a severe beating.

When I hear the word reconciliation I think of that fence. I think of how it represents Canada’s long history of segregating Indigenous people and perpetuating violence against them.

Violence towards Indigenous people, personal, institutional and state-sanctioned, is woven into the very fabric of Canadian life, both its history and its present. It is in the words we speak and the buildings and cities we inhabit. Canadian law sanctions it, politicians justify it, industry profits from it, the public turns a blind eye.

With yesterday’s RCMP raid on the Wet’suwet’en, violence has also become the hallmark of reconciliation.

SOURCE

RELATED:

Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Horgan Re: Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs’ Opposition to Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project
Aboriginal Law Report: January 26, 2020

Wet’suwet’en Raids: Canada Chooses Colonialism Again

A future of reconciliation is now squandered along with our billions propping up LNG.

RCMP-Pipeline-Camp.jpg

Protecting extraction, once again: The scene last year as heavily armed RCMP officers shut down Indigenous checkpoints blocking a natural gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en land. Photo by Michael Toledano.

It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.
— Albert Camus

On Thursday, the RCMP and the Canadian state came to a moral crossroads on a snowy country road and looked briefly down a pathway to reconciliation. Then it said, “Fuck It.”

A highly militarized police presence once again used force against Wet’suwet’en protestors blocking the construction of a $6.6-billion methane pipeline needed to feed a grossly uneconomic $40-billion liquefied natural gas project.

In so doing the police made a mockery of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It is not a complicated document. As criminologist Jeff Monaghan notes, the declaration expects “that conflicts like this will not be resolved violently or militarily but with negotiated solutions. The document directs us to do peaceful negotiated solutions that respect everyone’s rights, and equally.”

That didn’t happen.

As reliable agents of the Canadian state and defenders of resource extraction, the RCMP let it be known that the Trudeau government puts highly subsidized methane projects ahead of reconciliation and UN declarations.

Let’s be clear: in Canada, low-priced natural gas matters more than unresolved land claims.

By implication the government also told the nation that it puts uneconomic LNG projects ahead of climate change, given that serious methane leaks from the shale gas industry are now accelerating that chaos.

It, too, advances LNG ahead of the destruction of the arable lands and First Nations treaty rights in Peace River.

In that precious part of B.C., the shale gas industry continues to frack, industrialize and fragment that landscape with impunity, because only rural people live there, after all.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation are not asking for much: they want Indigenous rights and title respected and acknowledged by the B.C. and Canadian governments.

The chiefs tried to negotiate with the B.C. government over the recent enforcement of a court injunction but got nowhere with Premier John Horgan.

The recent negotiations predictably failed for an obvious reason: the B.C. government has become a salesman for LNG at home and abroad.

The shale gas industry has secured better representation in the B.C. government than ordinary citizens who actually pay taxes.

But what about the 20 First Nations that have signed on to the project, you might ask?

Yes, they signed and the negotiations were colonial. It was sign or get nothing. Many nations signed under severe constraints. Nor were they presented with economic alternatives.

As legal scholar and expert in Indigenous rights Dayna Scott has noted, Indigenous leaders are faced with a “false choice. They’re being asked to choose whether or not they want to sign a deal and get some benefits for their people for a pipeline that’s going to go through whether or not they agree to it.”

Now consider the position of Hereditary Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale). He is not willing to settle for mutual benefit agreements or the modern equivalent of beads and trinkets:

“They wanted access to the land, and we said you’re not getting access, you’ll never get approval, not from the hereditary chiefs and not from our people.” A colonial mind, however, can’t fathom such arguments, because it still refuses to come to terms with the nation’s dirty past.

For the most part Canadians remain an arrogant mining people with little regard for the truths of our colonial history. Most still think we have nothing to acknowledge, let alone make amends for.

These deniers or doubters should read the indomitable Bev Sellars, former chief and councillor of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake. Her searing book, Price Paid, presents the issue of reconciliation in a clear and telling metaphor.

Imagine you owned a nice home. Then you graciously shared it with a bunch of white guests from across the seas. Without even saying thanks, these guests took over more and more rooms in the house. Soon they imposed their own laws and even banned the owner’s original customs. Eventually the invaders kicked out the original owners and left them to die.

Until every Canadian can visualize that colonial abuse, until all of us can feel that in our guts, there will be no reconciliation in this country.

Those still unconvinced by Sellars’ metaphor should pick up James Daschuk’s brilliant Clearing the Plains.

We all know that the American government thought they could murder Indians into submission. The Canadian government took a different approach: it pursued a policy of planned relocation, starvation and disease. Indian agents stole funds and raped Indigenous women. Anyone who resisted was hanged. Then came residential schools.

The Canadian state’s willingness to ignore reconciliation is even more galling when you consider its colonial defence of the preposterous economics of LNG and fracked gas in northern B.C.

In Canada, LNG development has become an absurd Soviet engine that ignores costs and environmental damages.

But being Canadian, it drapes itself with the plastic word “responsible.”

“Responsible” subsidies for the foreign-funded LNG industry now include low royalties; nearly $1 billion worth of royalty credits; discounted electricity prices; reduced corporate income taxes; free water for fracking; reduced carbon taxes and the deferral of provincial sales taxes during construction. The Canadian government even invested $275 million in LNG Canada!

These subsidies, however, still can’t make LNG economic. In 2018 the Canadian Energy Research Institute examined the economics of LNG.

It concluded that Western Canada LNG would be $1 to $3 more expensive than the current spot price in Japan of $8 per million (BTU) and needed more subsidies and tax credits.

CERI then calculated what the LNG industry would need in terms of future prices to remain economically viable: a market price of $8.99 per million BTU or higher in Asia to break even. Or an oil price of approximately $80 or higher to break even under long-term LNG contracts.

Those conditions don’t exist and show no signs of coming into being.

A global LNG supply glut has collapsed prices in Asia to as low as $5.5 per million BTU in Japan and India. Analysts say the glut could last years.

Meanwhile oil prices, which influence LNG pricing, remain in the doldrums.

Unless the Canadian and B.C. governments are prepared to give away LNG, neither Coastal GasLink nor LNG Canada are economic at this point in time.

These appalling economics explain why Chevron pulled out of the Kitimat LNG project last fall. At the same time, Chevron wrote off $11 billion in underperforming shale gas assets in Appalachia due to low prices and overproduction.

Throughout North America’s oil patch, the shale boom has collapsed as more companies go bankrupt and investors refuse to loan more money to companies whose costs exceed their revenue.

Given the volatility of commodity prices, reconciliation should come first.

And let’s not strut like peacocks and talk about the rule of law as Horgan has done.

In Alberta, oil and gas companies now break the law every day. They owe $172 million in taxes to rural municipalities and millions more to landowners for unpaid surface leases.

Does Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrest the offending white collar criminals and charge them with breaking civil contracts? No. He actively excuses their behaviour.

So there is one rule of law in Canada for insolvent resource extractors, and another law for First Nations, rural municipalities and landowners.

Fortunately, the Wet’suwet’en respect laws that are thousands of years old.

They plan on upholding them.

So should we. SOURCE

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Here is how you can take action in solidarity with land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territories:

Trans Mountain pipeline costs skyrocket

Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta. on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Jason Franson

President and CEO Ian Anderson says the company owned by the federal government has spent $2.5 billion to date, including the impact of delays and additional regulatory processes, leaving an additional $8.4 billion needed to complete the project, plus $1.7 billion of financial carrying costs.

He says the project is now expected to be in service by December 2022.

The estimate of $7.4 billion was made in 2017 by the previous owner, Houston-based Kinder Morgan, Inc., which sold the expansion project and the existing pipeline to the federal government in 2018 for $4.5 billion.

Opponents have attacked the greenhouse gas emission and oil spill risks of the pipeline project but they’ve also charged it will be a money-loser with unproved markets in Asia that will fail financially and leave the public holding the bag.

Anderson says the company is recommending that Ottawa, as owner and lender, set aside a further $600 million reserve for cost impacts beyond the control of Trans Mountain.

Opponents of the pipeline expansion have vowed to do whatever it takes to stop the project despite losing a legal challenge before the Federal Court of Appeal earlier this week.

The four First Nations who lost the court challenge on Tuesday have 60 days to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The expansion project would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline between Edmonton and a shipping terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

SOURCE

Electric trains, EVs and cheaper, maybe even free, transit up ahead for Ontario?

Doug Ford has been fomenting resistance to the “war on the car” ever since the early 2010s, when he was a Toronto city councillor and his late brother Rob was mayor.

Since becoming premier of Ontario in 2018, he has forced gas stations to display stickers opposing the federal carbon tax, which he is fighting all the way to the country’s top court.

His government has cut transit spending plans by 40 per cent over five years. He has pulled provincial funding for Hamilton’s light-rail transit project and nixed a plan for high-speed rail connecting Toronto all the way to Windsor on the U.S. border, while pushing ahead with a widening of Highway 401 between Mississauga and Milton.

Meanwhile, auto plants are cutting shifts and closing lines from Oshawa to Windsor.

In Part 2 of a three-part series, the six candidates vying to become the Liberal Party of Ontario’s next leader tell Canada’s National Observer what they plan to do to improve the province’s transit and transportation sectors. (You can read Part 1, which includes background on each of the six candidates, here.)

Steven Del Duca speaks with a party member in Pickering. Undated photo courtesy of Del Duca’s campaign

Transit and electric vehicles, oh my

With transportation accounting for more than one-third of Ontario’s emissions, the scope for carbon reductions are considerable. This could be achieved by getting more drivers to use public transit instead, sharply increasing the portion of electric vehicles in the mix, or a combination of these and other policies.

So National Observer asked the Liberal candidates what plans they had to reduce transportation-related carbon emissions in Ontario.

Michael Coteau’s headline-grabbing idea is to make all public transit in the province fare-free within a decade. He doesn’t have hard targets for what this might achieve in terms of fewer cars on the road or fewer emissions. Those details would come later, he says, after he’s secured the support of the party and can undertake the necessary cost/benefit analysis.

In the second of a three-part series, @5thEstate asks the six Ontario Liberal leadership hopefuls what they would do to improve public transit and boost zero emission vehicle production and sales in the province.

Coteau, the sitting MPP for Toronto’s Don Valley East riding, said his plan would initially target young people, seniors and those on low income in order to lower costs for those who need it most first, as well as those who by ditching their cars would have the “most significant impact toward achieving targeted environmental, economic and social objectives.” He said that public transit improvement and expansion would be the “key component of new public infrastructure in Ontario.”

He said he’d develop a strategy to provide electrified, high-speed rail to the province’s southeast and southwest, and look to split freight and commuter rail traffic onto separate lines at bottlenecks around Toronto. He did not say how much his plans might cost — making GO and the Toronto Transit Commission fare-free would cost the province almost $2 billion a year, the Atmospheric Fund estimates — nor where he would find the money to pay for it.

Kate Graham is willing to propose a hike in the amount of provincial tax collected on gasoline in order to triple the amount of money the province contributes to municipal public transit. Graham says the incremental hike from 2 cents to 6 cents a litre would provide $800 million a year, by 2024, to expand and electrify transit.

Graham, a university lecturer and long-time public servant in London, Ont, said she would also introduce a law that would use a cap-and-trade mechanism for auto retailers to ensure zero-emission vehicles make up 10 per cent of personal vehicle sales by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040.

Steven Del Duca says he would attack the problem from three sides: by building more transit, making it more affordable and getting more people into electric vehicles.

Del Duca, a former transportation minister and front runner in the leadership race, said he’d cut transit fares in half for those able to travel outside of rush hour to ease maximum capacity pressure. He said the province needs to keep build transit infrastructure of all types in every region of the province and that he would present a fully costed platform before the election, due in 2022.

Del Duca and Graham both propose to match a $5,000 federal rebate for zero emission vehicles.

Graham also said she would bring back a $1,000 rebate cut by Ford for people who install electric vehicle charging stations in their homes (and reinstate a rule that all new homes be built ready to have them), install 2,000 public charging stations across the province and split costs with municipalities for 2,000 more.

Graham is also hoping to work with municipalities to get their transit systems to carbon neutrality, and expand Metrolinx’s intercity bus service with zero-emission vehicles. She would provide municipalities with $200 million over four years for safe cycling infrastructure, boost rural infrastructure spending by $100 million a year, and give $850 to people who ditch high-polluting vehicles in favour of a new e-bike.

Liberal leadership candidate Kate Graham seen in an undated photograph supplied by her campaign.

Brenda Hollingsworth, a personal injury lawyer in Ottawa making her first foray into politics, said she would reinstate electric vehicle rebates; reinstate and expand the government-backed EV charging station network; reinstate the Hamilton LRT project; and improve transit options between Kingston and Toronto and London and Toronto.

Mitzie Hunter said she was committed to building transit where needed, including by reinstating the Hamilton LRT project. The Scarborough-Guildwood MPP and former education minister said she would create incentives for electric vehicles and look to promote renewable energy for consumers, including in transportation, without providing further details.

Alvin Tedjo said his made-in-Ontario price on carbon would help fund the electrification of the GO regional transit network that serves the greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

The Mississauga-based former policy advisor who ran unsuccessfully in the riding of Oakville North-Burlington in the 2018 election cited studies conducted by Metrolinx, the network’s operator, that show it could be done for less than $5 billion and would remove 94 per cent of GO’s GHG emissions. He argues that the faster this is done, the sooner operational savings can be used to reduce transit fares while expanding transit investment.

Mitzie Hunter. Photo supplied by campaign

Ontario’s auto industry

Ontario’s auto production has fallen 25 per cent over the last two decades, as automakers move more of their work to cheaper locations including southern U.S. states and Mexico. The auto industry contributes some 2.5 percent of the province’s gross domestic product.

National Observer asked the Liberal candidates how they would integrate more electric and zero-emission production capacity into this industry.

Del Duca said “there’s no easy answer” to the question of rebuilding Ontario’s auto sector. “We will need to work with auto parts manufacturers, unions and cities to drive new investment to Ontario for zero emission vehicles,” he said.

Graham said she would cut the corporate tax rate to 2.5 percent for businesses that develop technologies or manufacture products that have zero emissions, and introduce a tax credit to encourage venture capitalists to invest in green startups.

She would also invest $170 million over three years into an apprenticeship strategy focused on green jobs and revive the former Liberal government’s planned Ontario Training Bank, a $63 million plan to connect employers, job seekers and workers looking to engage in skilled trades needed in the new green economy.

Hollingsworth said under her leadership the province would support zero-emission vehicle manufacturing in Ontario by investing directly in research and development and providing small and medium businesses with access to capital and support to bring their products to market.

She said Ontario-owned startups are developing auto components and software but are often sold to foreign ownership before they get a chance to grow into viable going concerns.

Hunter said she would help Ontario’s auto sector to lead in the manufacturing of the next generation of vehicles, without providing details. She said that her government would hold a global auto summit within one year of forming government.

Coteau said he would look to establish a zero-emissions vehicle rebate and invest in technologies relating to electric and other zero-emissions vehicles, without providing further detail.

Tedjo, who drives a hybrid minivan built in Windsor, said he was committed to working with our auto sector to explore all options including connected and autonomous vehicle technology and electric vehicles. SOURCE

Wood highrises to shoot up thanks to new building codes

George Brown College

Tall towers have defined cities as “jungles” of concrete and glass. But what if we built highrises out of wood instead?

Proponents say that could have two benefits:

    • The wood stores carbon for the lifetime of the building, which (temporarily) prevents it from entering the atmosphere.
    • It would reduce emissions linked to steel and cement production. The latter is the second-largest industrial emitter in the world, after the fossil fuel industry, generating seven per cent of global emissions.

A five-storey residential building built with wood can store up to 180 kilograms of carbon per square metre — three times more than a high-density forest with the same footprint, according to a new study from U.S. and German researchers.

Right now, just 0.5 per cent of new buildings are constructed with timber. But if we pushed that up to 10 per cent, those buildings could store 10 million tonnes of carbon per year. And if 50 per cent of buildings were built with wood, they could store up to 700 million tonnes of carbon a year, the researchers estimate.

Not only that, but building with timber would cut emissions from steel and cement manufacturing by half.

So why haven’t we been doing it?

One problem is that the most common wood product used in modern construction until now — the two-by-four — doesn’t have the strength or versatility needed for constructing tall buildings, said Anne Koven, director of the Mass Timber Institute, which is based at the University of Toronto.

But in the 1990s, researchers in Austria and Germany invented cross-laminated timber (CLT), which uses adhesives to bind smaller pieces of wood into sturdy, fire-resistant panels and beams. “It’s an engineered wood product for building on the scale of cement and steel,” Koven said.

Designers, engineers and architects, including Russell Acton of Acton Ostry Architects in Vancouver, saw that and similar new products as an opportunity. “It was kind of like, now that we have engineered wood and we have an environmental interest, why not explore mass timber to get it back in use?” Acton said.

There was also another barrier: the maximum height for most wood buildings allowed by building codes in Canada was six storeys. Until now.

Acton and his team got a special exemption to build Brock Commons Tallwood House, an 18-storey student residence at the University of British Columbia and the tallest wood building in the world when it opened in 2017.

Since then, some provinces — most recently Alberta — have changed their building codes to allow highrises of up to 12 storeys. When it’s revised later this year, the federal building code will also allow that height.

Across Canada, there are plans to build more wood highrises, from 12-storey condo projects in Victoria and Esquimalt on Vancouver Island to 30-storey wood towers in Toronto proposed by Google as part of its Sidewalk Labs development.

Acton’s firm is working on the Arbour, a 10-storey building slated for George Brown College in downtown Toronto (see photo above).

Despite the budding interest, Acton warns that builders haven’t yet worked out the “most economical” configurations for towers made of wood. For example, Brock Commons in Vancouver cost about seven per cent more than a similar building of steel and concrete.

“Everybody’s doing it for the first time,” Acton said. “It’s in its infancy.” SOURCE

‘RARE, HAPPY NEWS’ FROM CLIMATOLOGISTS: WORST-CASE WARMING NOW ‘INCREASINGLY IMPLAUSIBLE’

Wind turbines

MaxPixel

It doesn’t make the climate crisis any less urgent, but there’s a growing view among scientists that humanity’s decarbonization efforts so far have dodged the worst climate outcomes projected in the last global assessment report in 2014.

From scientists publishing in the journal Nature, to one of the world’s self-described climate “alarmists” writing for New York Magazine, multiple sources are celebrating the strong likelihood that RCP8.5, the extreme scenario from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that projects 5.0°C average global warming by 2100, won’t likely come to pass.

“Happily—and that’s a word we climatologists rarely get to use—the world imagined in RCP8.5 is one that, in our view, becomes increasingly implausible with every passing year,” write Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, and Glen P. Peters, research director at Oslo’s CICERO Center for International Climate Research, for Nature.

“Assessment of current policies suggests that the world is on course for around 3°C of warming above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century—still a catastrophic outcome, but a long way from 5°C,” they add. “We cannot settle for 3°C; nor should we dismiss progress.”

“Over the last few weeks a new narrative about the climate future has emerged, on balance encouraging, at least to an alarmist like me,” added columnist and literary editor David Wallace-Wells in mid-December. “As best as we can understand and project the medium- and long-term trajectories of energy use and emissions, the window of possible climate futures is probably narrowing, with both the most optimistic scenarios and the most pessimistic ones seeming, now, less likely.”

Hausfather and Peters trace the shift in perspective to a choice that climate scientists and energy modellers made nearly a decade ago, in the lead-up to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in 2014, producing consequences that are now “hotly debated” as the IPCC’s next big report moves into its final stages this year.

In the lead-up to AR5, “researchers developed four scenarios for what might happen to greenhouse gas emissions and climate warming by 2100,” the two authors explain. “They gave these scenarios a catchy title: Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). One describes a world in which global warming is kept well below 2°C relative to pre-industrial temperatures (as nations later pledged to do under the Paris climate agreement in 2015); it is called RCP2.6. Another paints a dystopian future that is fossil fuel-intensive and excludes any climate mitigation policies, leading to nearly 5°C of warming by the end of the century. That one is named RCP8.5.”

That scenario was only ever intended to explore “an unlikely high-risk future,” they add. “But it has been widely used by some experts, policy-makers, and the media as something else entirely: as a likely ‘business as usual’ outcome. A sizeable portion of the literature on climate impacts refers to RCP8.5 as business as usual, implying that it is probable in the absence of stringent climate mitigation. The media then often amplifies this message, sometimes without communicating the nuances. This results in further confusion regarding probable emissions outcomes, because many climate researchers are not familiar with the details of these scenarios in the energy modelling literature.”

Particularly when coverage and scientific reporting are built around RCP8.5 and RCP2.6, the “focus becomes the extremes,” they add, “rather than the multitude of more likely pathways in between.”

Contrary to that communications cascade, Hausfather and Peters look at today’s emissions trends, and they like some of what they see. “Emission pathways to get to RCP8.5 generally require an unprecedented, five-fold increase in coal use by the end of the century, an amount larger than some estimates of recoverable coal reserves,” they write. “It is thought that global coal use peaked in 2013, and although increases are still possible, many energy forecasts expect it to flatline over the next few decades.” And meanwhile, “the falling cost of clean energy sources is a trend that is unlikely to reverse, even in the absence of new climate policies.”

Hausfather’s and Peters’ conclusions aren’t unanimous within the climate science community: they note that some scientists see “feedback” effects, like greenhouse gases released from thawing permafrost, that are understated in the most recent generation of IPCC climate models and could pull the Earth back to an RCP8.5 pathway.

But “in our view, reports of emissions over the past decade suggest that they are actually closer to those in the median scenarios,” they write. “We contend that these critics are looking at the extremes and assuming that all the dice are loaded with the worst outcomes.”

“Asking ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ is a helpful exercise. It flags potential risks that emerge only at the extremes,” they add. But “we must all—from physical scientists and climate impact modellers to communicators and policy-makers—stop presenting the worst-case scenario as the most likely one.” That’s because “overstating the likelihood of extreme climate impacts can make mitigation seem harder than it actually is,” and “this could lead to defeatism, because the problem is perceived as being out of control and unsolvable. Pressingly, it might result in poor planning, whereas a more realistic range of baseline scenarios will strengthen the assessment of climate risk.”

With the latest generation of climate models just recently published, the two authors suggest three steps the climate community can take in the next year before the IPCC publishes its Sixth Assessment Report, AR6:

• Explore the “space between the high-end and low-end scenarios” more deeply, and communicate the range of likely climate impacts more clearly;

• Recognize that different users need different modelling tools, and use the final AR6 synthesis to integrate those various perspectives on climate risk;

• Use “more plausible outcomes” in the multitude of climate impact studies that will flow from AR6. “When RCP8.5 or its successor SSP5-8.5 are deployed,” Hausfather and Peters write, “they should be clearly labelled as unlikely worst cases rather than as business as usual.” SOURCE

The Liberal Government Says It is Looking to Privatize Municipal Water Systems Across Canada

Canada’s biggest public sector union calls the public-private scheme risky and expensive

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The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) is looking to pressure cash-strapped municipalities into using Public-Private Partnerships to refurbish or replace water and sewage facilities, says a new report by CUPE.

The CIB recently pledged a $20 million investment as seed money to “attract private capital expertise” to the restoration of water and waste water service in Mapleton.

The Liberal government’s press release claims the partnership “demonstrates how the CIB can enable the public and private sectors to improve infrastructure delivery in Canada and help the Township of Mapleton continue to provide households and businesses access to clean drinking water using modern infrastructure.”

François-Philippe Champagne, federal minister for Infrastructure and Communities, is quoted calling the public-private plan a “new model” for cash-strapped cities.

But in a critical report, Canada’s biggest public sector union warns deals like the one in Mapleton actually “lock municipalities into inflexible and expensive contracts.”

“We’re very concerned this could be the start of a bigger push to privatize Canadian water and wastewater services,” CUPE president Mark Hancock told PressProgress.

“The risks include poor performance, which we’ve seen internationally and right here at home,” Hancock said, adding “cash-strapped local governments might feel like they have no other option.”

Hancock noted the City of Hamilton, Ontario took back control over its water and wastewater system in 2004 after private providers oversaw drastic job cuts and massive raw sewage leaks for more than a decade.

In one case, in January 1996, a record 182 million liters of untreated human waste, heavy metals and various chemicals poured into Hamilton Harbour and then into Lake Ontario. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists notes the city put the blame on negligent private operators. McMaster University professors Frank Ohemeng and John K. Grant called it an example of the market’s “failure” to deliver essential services.

CUPE further noted, while P3s may ensure investors’ returns, that money doesn’t fall from the sky. “The local government has to pay those profits, which can get passed on to residents through higher taxes or user fees,” Hancock explained.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau previously refused to rule out using such fees to pay back investors.

Although the Federal Infrastructure Minister claims P3s transfers risk from the public, Hancock says that’s not true: “If a private operator fails, or backs out of a project, the municipality must pick up the pieces and keep delivering the service.”

Toby Sanger, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, says private interests have tended to put only 15% equity at risk, with the rest being bonds that remain with the project. SOURCE

 

Sweden’s Green Tunnel Vision

Sweden’s cities are already threatened by power shortages due to inadequate energy infrastructure

(This article originally appeared on Lone Conservative)

Sweden is aggressively going green, but progressive crusaders are facing an inconvenient truth of their own. Even before shutting down the rest of their nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources, Sweden’s cities are already threatened by power shortages due to inadequate energy infrastructure.

According to Bloomberg, Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, was on the brink of blackouts during the past winter. During an especially cold week, power costs spiked from an average 0.28 kroner per kilowatt hour in 2017 to 0.63 kronor.

Sweden is still growing. Energy demands in major cities are surging as their populations increase. Power shortages are limiting the ability of Swedes to build housing, subways, and businesses needed to keep their lives in motion. In Stockholm, new daycare centers have had to wait months for power, and a bread factory in Malmö was denied a license to expand because it would consume too much power. And it’s not just small businesses that suffer. Sectors from high tech to mining require huge amounts of affordable energy to remain feasible.

How did this happen?

A dry summer had depleted the country’s hydro power supply to its lowest levels since 2016. Calm conditions rendered wind farms useless, coal production was sharply reduced due to new regulations, and two nuclear power reactors were shut down due to a 1980 bill to phase out nuclear energy.

It was a perfect storm of sub-optimal weather conditions that highlighted the greatest weakness of renewable energy sources. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, they simply don’t work.

Even with optimal conditions, the usefulness of Sweden’s wind farms is limited because they’re clustered in northern Sweden, far from the largest population centers. Infrastructure to transport energy from these productive regions is inadequate, and adequate supplies of foreign energy can’t be imported for the same reason.

Some Swedes have described the current energy policy as “madness” because of the destabilizing impact on the country’s power supply. Power shortages would unquestionably undermine the country’s economy, which has benefited from cheap power, largely because of its abundance of hydro and nuclear power. Sweden’s generous welfare system cannot function without a strong economy and very high levels of wealth.

Bureaucratic and technical barriers to improve wind and solar energy infrastructure will take at least a decade to navigate, but the current Swedish government is firmly against reversing course on nuclear shutdown. A coalition of opposing political parties will force them to reconsider, though. Energy supply has become the center of public discourse in recent months.

And things could still get a lot worse. Sweden’s grid operator warned in 2017 that the country will need to add 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of power generation by 2040–enough to power 1.1 million households. (Sweden had 4.7 million households in 2018). And that estimate didn’t even factor in the impending loss of the country’s five remaining nuclear reactors, which will be phased out by 2040, a loss of another 5.5 gigawatts.

Henrik Bergstrom, head of affairs for the Swedish power company Ellevio, has stated that Sweden has “reached a point where we no longer can connect all the changes the society is facing.” Upcoming waves of new technology like 5G and will require massive amounts of data processing, which will require massive amounts of energy. Sweden has continually been on the cutting edge of technology, but inadequate power will undermine its competitiveness.

Even the green movement itself is threatened by power shortages: a federally subsidized surge in electric car sales led to a spike in demand for electricity, exacerbating supply problems.

Ultimately, the limits of Sweden’s current power infrastructure will force authorities to pick and choose who can access their artificially limited power grid.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Nuclear energy is not without its own environmental hazards, but it’s still an extremely efficient energy source with very low carbon emissions. And while solar and wind make sense in many contexts, especially in very sunny or windy areas, they simply can’t compete with fossil fuels for reliability and efficiency.

Policy makers with “green tunnel vision” fail their constituents by refusing to recognize the shortcomings of their good intentions. The passion of environmental alarmists needs to be tempered by a humble and realistic exploration of the limitations of green technology. SOURCE