Jeff Bezos to spend $10 billion on climate change research, advocacy

In this image, Bezos sits on stage with his hands in front of his face

Bezos at Amazon Smbhav in New Delhi on Jan. 15. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced the launch of his “Earth Fund” on Monday via Instagram to fund climate change research and awareness.

What he’s saying: Bezos says he’s initially committing $10 billion to fund “scientists, activists, and NGOS” that are working on environmental preservation and protection efforts.

  • “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share,” Bezos’ Instagram post reads.
  • He says he’ll start issuing grants this summer.

Details: That $10 billion comes from Bezos’ personal money and none of the funds will be used in for-profit enterprises, investing in private companies or startups, a person familiar with the fund told Axios.

This big picture, per Axios’ Ben Geman: The new fund is the latest example of tech companies or their billionaire founders devoting more resources to climate change.

  • Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has worked on climate for years through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and via Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund Bezos also invests in that stakes clean energy startups.
  • And last month when Microsoft rolled out its pledge to become “carbon negative” by 2030, it announced a new fund to invest $1 billion over four years to accelerate development and use of carbon reduction and removal technologies.

SOURCE

 

BlackRock climate vow pays off with new ETF’s US$600M debut

A wind turbine operates near emissions rising from the Jaenschwalde lignite fired power plant, operated by Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG (LEAG), in Barenbrueck, Germany, on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. Policies being hammered out in Germany to slash carbon emissions may cost 40 billion euros ($44 billion) over the next four years, underscoring the wide scope of Chancellor Angela Merkels plans to boost climate protection.

A wind turbine operates near emissions rising from the Jaenschwalde lignite fired power plant, operated by Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG (LEAG), in Barenbrueck, Germany, on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. Policies being hammered out in Germany to slash carbon emissions may cost 40 billion euros ($44 billion) over the next four years, underscoring the wide scope of Chancellor Angela Merkels plans to boost climate protection. , Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

BlackRock Inc.’s climate pledge is already paying off.

An exchange-traded fund from the New York-based money manager has attracted more than US$600 million this week, despite only starting trading on Friday, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the best debut for any U.S. ETF this year, and a sign BlackRock isn’t the only one that sees climate change as a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.

Investing in companies that care about environmental, social and governance issues is finally catching on after years of sluggish growth. While only a small drop in the US$4.5 trillion U.S. ETF market, sustainable funds added more than US$8 billion in 2019 and assets recently topped US$20 billion. BlackRock runs multiple funds that stand to benefit from this shift, and has said that it will look to double sustainable ETF offerings to 150.

“This is likely just the beginning of the wave of money going into ESG ETFs,” said Todd Rosenbluth, CFRA Research’s New York-based director of ETF research. “It will become more mainstream, and as these products gain scale, they’ll hit the radar for the wealth-management market.”

While it’s hard to identify which investor was responsible for the inflow into the iShares ESG MSCI EM Leaders ETF, Finnish pension insurer Ilmarinen poured cash into two similar funds shortly after they began trading last year. The Helsinki-based company had more than US$3 billion invested across the iShares ESG MSCI USA Leaders ETF and the Xtrackers MSCI USA ESG Leaders Equity ETF as of Sept. 30, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Representatives from BlackRock couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Anna Hyrske, head of responsible investment at Ilmarinen, declined to say whether the firm was responsible for the flow.

LDEM tracks the MSCI EM Extended ESG Leaders 5 per cent Issuer Capped Index, which contains large and mid-cap emerging-market stocks that meet high ESG credentials.

It’s not the only new ESG fund this year. Last week, Direxion started an ETF that allows investors to bet against companies that score low on certain ESG criteria. The strategy shorts the worst offenders, while upping its exposure to those with the best ratings. SOURCE

MAYOR GARCETTI LAUNCHES L.A.’S ‘DECADE OF ACTION’ TO FIGHT THE CLIMATE CRISIS

Signs Executive Directive to advance L.A.’s Green New Deal, chart a course to a carbon neutral future, and build an economy that works for every community in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti today kicked off a Decade of Action to confront and combat the climate crisis, with the signing of  “L.A.’s Green New Deal: Leading By Example,” his 25th Executive Directive since taking office.

Joined by a diverse coalition of elected officials, environmental advocates, business leaders, and young climate activists, the Mayor laid out his vision for a carbon neutral Los Angeles and a firm commitment to environmental justice and equity. L.A.’s Green New Deal leads with bold action to zero out Los Angeles’ main sources of harmful emissions: buildings, transportation, electricity, and trash. Adopting this agenda will make the city a global model for how to create a more sustainable planet and an economy that works for everyone.

“The science could not be clearer and the stakes could not be higher. We must act this decade to save the planet and create a more equitable, prosperous, and healthy future for our children and grandchildren,” said Mayor Garcetti. “There is literally no time to waste — because what we do in the next ten years will determine the health of our planet and whether there’s a job, a paycheck, and a place for everyone in our economy.”

There is scientific consensus that we have until 2030 to halve global emissions, slow the rise of temperatures, invest in renewable sources of energy, and tackle climate change before the effects of this crisis become irreversible.

Mayor Garcetti signed the Executive Directive to accelerate the work of the Green New Deal, and adopt new steps and stronger accountability measures to align City department policies and procedures with the City’s climate objectives. The Directive includes measures to:

  • Develop a series of bus and light rail infrastructure improvements — such as bus only lanes, signal priority, and queue jumpers — to improve transit speeds by 30% by 2028.

  • Promote walking, bicycling and micro-mobility with a comprehensive Citywide network of active transportation corridors, including Class IV protected bike lanes, Class I paths along regional waterways, and Class III low-stress neighborhood bike improvements.

  • Encourage city pension boards to explore divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in the green economy.

  • Mandate that all new construction, major upgrades, and retrofits of municipally-owned buildings demonstrate a pathway to carbon neutrality.

  • Accelerate the City’s bus fleet target to be entirely zero emission in time for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

  • Support Metro in the development of a Congestion Pricing pilot program.

  • Expand low-income and multi-family household access to local clean energy.

  • Ensure that City Hall is zero waste by 2025.

  • Amend the City’s Green Building Code to ensure all new roofs and renovations are cool roofs.

The Executive Directive signed today is part of Mayor Garcetti’s 2020 Vision for L.A.’s Future, an agenda for serving, strengthening, and sustaining the aspirations and interests of our next generation. Beyond addressing climate change, the Mayor is focused on building a future for Los Angeles where everyone has the opportunity to earn a decent wage, afford housing that meets the needs of their families, take public transportation, and live in safety and security. 2020 Vision encompasses policies to provide housing and healing to unsheltered Angelenos; lift wages for low-income and middle class workers; prepare L.A.’s workforce for the innovations and economic trends of tomorrow; build out a robust transit network; and confront the affordable housing crisis.

For the full text of Mayor Garcetti’s 25th Executive Directive, please click here. 

SOURCE

Companies are tying their loans to measures of do-goodery

Sustainability-linked loans now account for a quarter of green-debt issuance

Image result for green loans

BBVA was involved in half the bilateral green loans signed last year.

Earlier this month wsp, a mid-size Canadian consultancy, announced that it had amended the terms of a loan of $1.2bn. What made it unusual was that the interest rate hinges on hitting three targets. The company wants to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from its operations, increase revenues from green sources, such as renewable energy, and raise the share of women in management. For every goal that it meets (or misses), its interest payments will fall (or rise) by a set amount.

Such sustainability-linked loans are booming. The first loan was made in 2017; two years later issuance had risen to $122bn, according to Bloombergnef, an energy consultancy. They now make up a quarter of sustainable-debt issuance (which is itself around 1% of global debt issuance). That is less than green bonds, which tie the proceeds of bond issues to investment in environmentally friendly projects. But the newfangled loans are quickly making up ground.

Sustainability-linked loans are not linked to specific projects. Borrowers simply get rewarded (or penalised) based on their performance on some environmental, social and governance (esg) measures. Green metrics, such as carbon emissions, are common.

That flexibility over how the money is spent explains why the loans are so popular. Good public relations is another reason. Many firms in industries blamed for the world’s ills have issued loans. The single biggest issuer last year was Shell, an oil giant, with $10bn linked to reducing its carbon footprint. Other borrowers include fast-food chains and airlines. Interest rates may be nudged down by around 0.05-0.1 percentage points for good behaviour.

As with many forms of sustainable finance, greenwashing is a worry. One potential problem is the data on which the change in borrowing costs depend. Mike Wilkins of s&p Global, a credit-rating agency, says that the use of self-reported figures is a concern. Another option is to rely on esg scores calculated by specialist data firms and some credit-rating companies. Dozens of loans are based on these. But the esg-raters use opaque methods and rarely agree on which companies are sustainable.

Even with reliable data, it is unclear how ambitious the targets are. Many issuers do not publicly disclose their exact goals, which are usually thrashed out with the lenders. Some companies have started asking if their pre-existing esg targets qualify them for a cheaper loan, says Dan Shurey, of ing, a bank. Many expect that regulators will eventually set standards.

The idea has spread to the bond market. In September Enel, an Italian energy company, issued the first sustainability-linked bond. If it does not increase the share of renewables in its total generation capacity from 46% today to 55% by 2021, the interest rate will go up from 2.7% to 2.9%.

Investors are keen. Enel’s bond offering was almost three times oversubscribed. A similar bond issue the next month by the company was even more popular. Both big institutional investors and smaller, sustainability-focused ones are getting on board. Linked lending offers them a way to add to their esg portfolio and burnish their green credentials. And if the company fails to hit its target, they make more money into the bargain. SOURCE

 

Ontario’s electric debacle: Liberal leadership candidates on how they’d fix power

Stock photo of windmills via Pexels.com, aerial view of Pickering nuclear plant courtesy of OPG, and stock photo of solar panels via Pexels.com.

When Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals went down to defeat at the hands of Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives, Ontario electricity had a lot to do with it. That was in 2018. Now, two years later, Ford’s government has electricity issues of its own.

Electricity is politically fraught in Ontario. It’s among the most expensive in Canada. And it has been mismanaged at least as far back as nuclear energy cost overruns starting in the 1980s.

From the start Wynne’s government was tainted by the gas plant scandal of her predecessor Dalton McGuinty and then she created her own with the botched roll-out of her green energy plan. And that helped Ford get elected promising to lower electricity prices. But, rates haven’t gone down under Ford while the cost to the government coffers for subsidizing them have soared – now costing $5.6 billion a year.

Meanwhile, Ford’s government has spent at least $230 million to axe renewable-energy projects signed by the former Liberal government, including two wind-farm projects that were already mid-construction.

Lessons learned?

In the final part of a three-part series, the six candidates vying to become the next leader of the Ontario Liberals discuss the province’s electricity system, including the lessons learned from the prior Liberal government’s botched attempts to fix it that led to widespread local opposition to a string of wind projects, and whether they’d agree to import more hydroelectricity from Quebec.

We had the right idea but didn’t stick the landing,” said Steven Del Duca, a member of the former Wynne government who lost his Vaughan-area seat in 2018, referring to its green-energy plan. “We need to make sure that we work more collaboratively with local communities to gain the buy-in needed to be successful in this regard.”

Consultation and listening is key,” agreed Mitzie Hunter, who was education minister under Kathleen Wynne and in 2018 retained her seat in the legislature representing Scarborough-Guildwood. “We must seek input from community members about investments locally,” she said. “Inviting experts in to advise on major policy is also important to make evidence-based decisions.”

Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East and the third leadership candidate who was a member of the former government, called for “a new relationship of respect and collaboration with municipalities.”

He said there is an “important balance to be achieved between pursuing province wide objectives for green-energy initiatives and recognizing and reflecting unique local conditions and circumstances.”

Kate Graham, who has worked in municipal public service and has not held a provincial public office, said that experts and local communities are best placed to shape decisions in the sector.

In the final part of a three-part series, Ontario’s Liberal leadership contenders discuss electricity, lessons learned from the bungled rollout of previous Liberal green policy, and whether to lean more on Quebec’s hydroelectricity.

What’s gotten Ontario in trouble in the past is when Queen’s Park politicians are the ones micromanaging the electricity file,” she said.

Community consultation is vitally important to the long-term success of infrastructure projects,” said Alvin Tedjo, a former policy adviser to Liberal ministers Brad Duguid and Glen Murray.

Community voices must be heard and listened to when large-scale energy programs are going to be implemented,” agreed Brenda Hollingsworth, a personal injury lawyer making her first foray into politics.

Of the six candidates, only Coteau went beyond reflection to suggest a path forward, saying he would review the distribution of responsibilities between the province and municipalities, with the aim of empowering cities and towns.

Beauharnois run-of-river generating station in Montérégie. Photo courtest of Hydro Québec

Turn back to Quebec?

Ford’s government has also turned away from a deal signed in 2016 to import hydroelectricity from Quebec.

Graham and Hunter both said they would consider increasing such imports. Hunter noted that the deal, which would displace domestic natural gas production, will lower the cost of electricity paid by Ontario ratepayers by a net total of $38 million from 2017 to 2023, according to the province’s fiscal watchdog.

“I am open to working with our neighbouring province,” Hunter said. “This is especially important as we seek to bring electricity to remote northern, on-reserve Indigenous communities.”

Tedjo said he has no issues with importing clean energy as long as it’s at a fair price.

Hollingsworth and Coteau both said they would withhold judgment until they could see the province’s capacity status in 2022.

In evaluating the case for increasing importation of water power from Quebec, we must realistically assess the limitations of the existing transmission system and the cost and time required to scale up transmission infrastructure, among other factors,” Coteau said.

Del Duca also took a wait-and-see approach. “This will depend on our energy needs and energy mix,” he said. “I want to see our energy needs go down; we need more efficiency and better conservation to make that happen.”

What’s the right energy mix?

Nuclear energy currently accounts for about a third of Ontario’s energy-producing capacity. But it actually supplies about 60 percent of Ontario’s electricity. That is because nuclear reactors are always on, producing so-called baseload power.

Hydroelectricity provides another 25 percent of supply, while oil and natural gas contribute 6 per cent and wind adds 7 percent. Solar and biofuels each account for less than one percent of Ontario’s energy supply. However, a much larger amount of solar is not counted in this tally, as it is used at or near the sites where it is generated, and never enters the transmission system.

Asked for their views on how large a role various sources of power should play in Ontario’s electricity mix in the future, the candidates largely backed the idea of renewable energy, but offered little specifics.

Graham repeated her statement that experts and communities should drive that conversation. Tedjo said all non-polluting technologies should play a role in Ontario’s energy mix. Coteau said we need a mix of renewable-energy sources, without offering specifics.

“We also need to pursue carbon capture and sequestration, working in particular with our farming communities,” he added.

Del Duca said he was proud that the former Liberal government had shut down all coal-fired power plants and said the more renewable energy we can have, the better. “I’ll see what energy mix we inherit and consult appropriately to make sure we strike the right balance,” he said.

Hollingsworth said the Liberals had learned through the last election that Ontarians want to be consulted about large-scale energy projects and that her answers were subject to consultation.

“Wind will play an increased role while our nuclear plants are refurbished toward the end of this decade,” Hollingsworth said. “However, in the long term, nuclear power using smaller modular reactors would be my proposed solution to green electricity.”

Hunter said she would “consult with experts and develop an actual plan for the future of nuclear energy in this province” that considers safety issues and the impact of radioactive waste on the environment.

This was the third and final installment of a series looking at the climate ambitions of the six candidates for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party. Here is part one, on carbon taxes and emission targets, and here is part two, on transit and transportation.

Party members vote this weekend in leadership election meetings across the province that will determine how many delegates each candidate brings to a convention to be held on March 7. SOURCE

How Canada can turn climate change outrage into an e-vehicle opportunity

Global skills shortage around alternative-energy vehicles presents huge potential for domestic economy

Channelling the concern about climate change into ways to learn the new skills and trades associated with building e-vehicles would help tackle the problem and boost Canada’s economy. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Millions of people across the globe, from Sydney to Dhaka to Montreal, marched last fall demanding action on climate change, led by a global youth movement which paralleled the powerful social activism of the ’60s.

Yet when we consider the interest among youth in studying and learning the new skills and trades associated with building e-vehicles to help tackle factors contributing to climate change, the picture is paradoxically different.

There is a skills shortage globally for people such as electric power-train designers, battery cell engineers, and power-electronics trades for smart vehicles.

It’s a problem, but it also represents an opportunity for Canada.

The new transportation lexicon includes the term ACES – autonomous, connected, electric, and shared.

A future based on ACES requires specialized expertise in automotive engineering, battery fabrication, and chemistry for cell production, combined with computer and software design. This was highlighted at the recent World Manufacturing Forum and in its annual report, which focused on skills needed for the future of manufacturing.

Some auto manufacturers are already making huge investments in hybrid and e-vehicle plants. (General Motors)

 

The speed at which technology disrupts companies often catches management, politicians and workers by surprise. While governments haggle over carbon-neutral targets, some automotive manufacturers are already redirecting vast amounts of capital in a race to restructure and convert traditional factories to hybrid and e-vehicle plants.

Volkswagen AG, for example, has pledged $34 billion US for an all-electric car line up. Ford will significantly increase investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022, with plans to have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup.

These companies see huge potential in the electric vehicle market. The cost of producing an e-vehicle is expected to fall below that of traditional gasoline-powered models by 2022.

From a buyer’s perspective, using electricity instead of gasoline also promises a savings of thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle. And they will be cheaper to operate as there are fewer parts needing maintenance and repair, making them a compelling consumer choice even without subsidies.

But the shortage of new and innovative skills associated with the manufacturing opportunities of e-vehicles needs to be addressed in order to make this change happen.

And while consumer vehicles have received the majority of the attention, there is also a second opportunity for Canada. It focuses on making the public- and fleet-transportation systems cleaner and more efficient.

That’s also going to require innovative business models, and a new generation of workers and leaders who are trained in the production of such vehicles.

There’s growing demand to make public- and fleet-transportation systems cleaner and more efficient, through vehicles such as electric buses. (City of Ottawa)

 

The business of e-transportation beyond consumer vehicles is ripe for reinvention, and making the transition to a new transportation and logistics system is a key enabler for Canada’s export-oriented economy.

Let’s imagine, for example, a day when intelligent autonomous e-trucks have a priority lane on the new Gordie Howe bridge between Windsor and Detroit to make the just-in-time logistics between Canada and the U.S. more efficient and timely. Automotive parts, which sometimes cross this international border four times, will be tracked in real time and their transport will become emissions-free.

Given the benefits, it likely won’t take long for delivery companies like Canada Post or Purolator to undertake a similar electric-transportation strategy. Amazon has already taken a step towards this reality by placing an order for 100,000 delivery e-vehicles with a nascent e-truck manufacturing company called Rivian.

The question is, will Canadian companies be ready to capitalize on growing demand and meet e-vehicle supply challenges?

Worldwide, from India to Germany, manufacturing companies are already queuing up to attract new electric vehicle engineers and tradespeople.

Tata, the leading transportation company in India, is developing its own extensive internal training programs for this purpose.

Germany and RWTH Aachen University have pioneered a concept known as an “e-vehicle ramp-up factory.” Emerging electric vehicle companies developing new concepts work together with engineering students in a shared factory to produce electric vehicle prototypes.

This approach led to Deutche Post and DHL in Germany rolling out a new fleet of e-vehicles known as StreetScooters that were originally conceived at the ramp-up factory in Aachen.

A worker looks at the small electric motor that powers a Deutsche Post StreetScooter Work XL electric delivery van at the Ford car plant in Cologne, Germany. (Martin Meissner/Associated Press)

 

Clemson University in South Carolina has established a similar large prototyping facility.

These projects share the capital investment to create clean transportation solutions, and ultimately support the growth of new companies.

Initiatives like an e-vehicle ramp-up factory in Canada to help kick-start this new economic reality could provide training in new skills and help to capture the imagination of youth, enticing them to pursue jobs in e-vehicle manufacturing, production and maintenance. It would also help to get prototype production and small vehicle volumes off the ground in Canada instead of having them outsourced to China or elsewhere.

Creative training programs like this are an opportunity to build on Canada’s automotive heritage and channel the aspirational values demonstrated in the recent climate protests towards new clean and efficient transportation solutions, while building new jobs for the future. SOURCE

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The time for funding electric buses is now

Trudeau to address House of Commons as anti-pipeline blockades continue

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Sim calls on protesters to end rail blockades

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with media as he leaves his office following a meeting of the Incident Response Group in Ottawa on Monday morning. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will address the House of Commons this morning on the anti-pipeline blockades that have paralyzed rail lines across the country.

Large swaths of the country’s freight and passenger traffic have been disrupted by protests by people showing solidarity with the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs opposing the planned construction of a $6.6-billion natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia called Coastal GasLink.

“The work continues. I will be addressing the House at 11 [ET] this morning ” said Trudeau before heading into a meeting with his cabinet Tuesday morning.

The prime minister held a closed-door meeting on Monday and cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home amid mounting pressure on his government to end the blockades.

The issue is set to dominate debate in the House this week, with the NDP asking for an emergency debate on blockades.

During a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday morning,  AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde says all the players — federal, provincial, hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs and the elected band officials — need to come to the table.

“It’s on everybody. It’s not on any one individual,” he said. “I’m just calling on all the parties to come together, get this dialogue started in a constructive way.

Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Sim called on protesters to end the rail blockades as a “show of good faith.”

“Because there’s a different picture at play here. The [United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] might be postponed or may very well be scuttled, and we could be taken 10 years back in our relations,” he said.

“I’m simply pleading with the protesters, that have you made your point yet? Has the government and industry understood? I think they did.”

Protestors with or supporting the Mohawks of Tyendinaga have been set up beside tracks near Belleville, Ont., since Feb. 6 to protest the RCMP’s raids in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Via Rail says partial service is set to resume between Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa beginning Thursday.

Almost all other Via Rail services remain cancelled with the exception of Sudbury-White River and Churchill-The Pas, until further notice.

Via says the partial resumption of service between Ottawa and Quebec City follows a notification received from Canadian National Railway. SOURCE

 

Canada will try harder to protect endangered right whales

 

A North Atlantic right whale feeds on the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., on March 28, 2018. File photo by The Associated Press/Michael Dwyer

Further measures are coming to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale in Canadian waters, federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan told a meeting on fishing gear innovation Tuesday.

Jordan wouldn’t provide details during a short speech in Halifax, but she said the new steps would be unveiled in the coming weeks.

“One of the biggest challenges we face today is figuring out how to continue to have a lucrative fishing industry while also protecting our ocean and the life it sustains,” she told a gathering of more than 250 harvesters and fishing gear manufacturers from Canada, the United States, Iceland and Norway.

“As you know the North Atlantic right whale is endangered, and it’s our shared responsibility to keep them safe.”

Canada has already taken such steps as lowering vessel speeds and altering fishing seasons in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Jordan said fishing gear marked to identify such things as the country, region and fishery in which it is used will be introduced this year.

“If the whales happen to get entangled during the northern migration, Canada and the U.S. can clearly tell where the entanglement occurred,” she said. “Those changes will be put into action this season.”

Jordan stressed that Canada’s trade relationships depend on “us doing our part to protect the ocean.”

The North Atlantic right whale population currently stands at about 400 animals, with fewer than 100 breeding females. Jordan told the meeting that nine new calves were born this winter, two more than last year and the highest birth rate since 2016.

Since 2017, at least 29 North Atlantic right whales have died in U.S. and Canadian waters, most of them killed by entanglements with fishing gear and collisions with ships.

Rob Martin, a commercial fisherman with 40 years of experience in the lobster and scallop fishery off Massachusetts, told the summit that he’s been testing breakaway rope as part of research with the New England Aquarium in Boston.

Martin said plastic sleeves inserted over cuts made at various intervals along ropes are designed to break at just over 771 kilograms of force — the amount generally required for large entangled whales to free themselves from gear.

He said the biggest concern was how much load the altered rope could haul in lifting traps in different sea conditions, but the tests showed the rope has potential. “Nothing is 100 per cent, but I think it’s a good start if it saves one whale,” Martin said.

Amy Knowlton, a leading right whale research scientist with the New England Aquarium, said the ropes with plastic sleeves were tested against control ropes of 1,800-kilogram strength.

“What we found was there was actually very little difference in the breakage between control ropes and sleeved ropes,” she said, adding that when the ropes broke it was not during the hauling of gear.

Philippe Cormier, president of New Brunswick-based Corbo Engineering, is working on 15 initiatives in the Atlantic fishery, including tracking and monitoring right whales and testing breakaway gear.

“There’s an urgent need for short-term solutions before we can implement a 100 per cent ropeless fishery,” Cormier said.

He said testing of the so-called “weak rope” with a breaking strength of 771 kilograms was carried out last year in the snow crab fishery, which typically uses rope with a breaking strength of between 4,500 and 6,300 kilograms.

Cormier said it generally took longer to haul traps with the 12.7-millimetre diameter rope and its hydraulic gear, but it was possible using lower tensions in both normal and rough weather.

He said it remains to be seen whether fishermen will be allowed to harvest crab using weaker ropes in areas where whales are present and whether the fishermen will be willing to use the ropes. SOURCE

Letter to the Queen from the Sha’tekarihwate family of the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan

Karenniyo reading the letter out loud to Minister Marc Miller during the meeting on the CN rail tracks in Tyendinaga on February 15th, 2020. The letter went unanswered.

To view the letter, click HERE