Insulting! Ontario Nurses Frustrated By 1 Per Cent Wage Increase During COVID-19 Pandemic

The Ford government had capped compensation for public service workers before the pandemic.

Registered nurse Shekiba Khedri, who works at Birchmount Hospital in Scarborough, Ont. is photographed wearing personal protective equipment on June 8, 2020.  CHRIS YOUNG/CANADIAN PRESS

The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) says a decision to increase their wages by only 1 per cent is “insulting and demeaning” given that nurses have been at the front lines of the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nurses have been in an almost year-long fight with the province for wage increases since Premier Doug Ford introduced Bill 124 in June 2019. The bill established a cap on wage increases for public sector workers in hospitals, schools and children’s aids societies among others.

The bill, which was passed in November 2019, puts this cap into effect for three years and impacts bargaining rights for wages, benefits and other forms of compensation.

On Wednesday, after an arbitration chaired by John Stout, the nurses and other health-care workers were informed they would only be “awarded” the 1 per cent increase.

“I don’t consider this an “award” – it is a legal decision that is binding by all parties,” said Vicki McKenna, ONA president in a statement. “Given that we are dealing with a global pandemic, the decision is all the more frustrating and mind-boggling.”

Ont. Nurses’ Association@ontarionurses

A message from ONA President Vicki McKenna: “On June 8, Arbitrator John Stout released the hospital ‘award’ to ONA and the OHA. Like most of you, I don’t consider this an “award” – it is a legal decision that is binding by all parties. Read: https://bit.ly/3cTQAzn 

View image on Twitter

 The ONA has tried to push back legally against the bill, filing a charter challenge with other public service workers unions. But they haven’t heard back yet, and in the absence of a decision, Stout said he had to abide by the restrictions set out by Bill 124.

‘… this legislation seeks to hold back the wages of female-dominated professions’

Several nurses have taken to social media to express their frustration, especially given that several other public sector jobs have received higher pay hikes after being exempted from the bill. The Ontario Provincial Police settled on a 2.15 per cent increase after their arbitration process, with a promised annual increase of 2 per cent. In Toronto, firefighters settled on 2 per cent with increases at or above 1 per cent over five years.

The ONA has warned that Bill 124 targets female-dominated professions and could worsen pay inequity between men and women. In 2019, 91 per cent of Canadian nurses were women.

“There is no question that this legislation seeks to hold back the wages of female-dominated professions,” McKenna told HuffPost Canada in an email. “No matter how much nurses receive praise and thanks, compensation has not followed for at least a decade.”

NURSE SAM 🇨🇦@lifeofnursesam

So for the past 5 months were deemed “essential.” Called heroes. Fighting for the rest while ppl stay home. We just got a wage increase of… 1%. Our counterparts in police and fire got 2.25% and 2.65%.

Essential but not valued apparently.

“What this government did before the pandemic was cut funding to long-term care homes, to public health and stay silent while hospital-sector RNs were cut,” said McKenna. “ONA and many others spoke up – loudly – about the dangers of these actions.

This pandemic has shown us all just how right we were to be horrified by the cuts to vital services and vital care providers.”

Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said in a statement to HuffPost Canada that the government is “taking decisive action” to recognize frontline workers through pandemic pay (which gives those who qualify an additional $4 per hour)

“At the same time, the government remains committed to protecting public sector jobs and the fiscal health of the province,” said Sebastian Skamski, a spokesperson for the ministry. “Bill 124 is designed to protect public sector jobs and vital frontline services, which are essential in our fight against COVID-19.”

 

While nurses had been dealing with intense workloads and work health and safety issues, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put the situation into overdrive. Ontario nurses warned that the provincial health-care system is overwhelmed and have called for major reforms to the system since the pandemic started.

“We’ve had language in our collective agreement ever since SARS that talks about the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be readily available for the next problem to come up,” said DJ Sanderson, a vice-president at the ONA.

“It wasn’t there when we needed it and this put an unbelievable amount of stress on our frontline.”

The ministry did not address concerns about PPE shortages in Ontario when asked by HuffPost Canada.

Nurses and other front-line workers have been working through the pandemic at the risk of their own health. Many have been forced to live away from their families to prevent the spread of the virus. Some have died. 

“It is difficult enough for nurses to go into work each day, at risk of contracting the coronavirus and bringing it home to their families, but Bill 124 is just rubbing salt in the wound,” said McKenna.

Sanderson said the ONA will continue to pursue their charter challenge against the bill.

“If they’re not willing to work with us, we have no choice but to rely on the courts,” he said. “It’s been really stressful and to see this award come out just shows the value of what he thinks of what he calls ’the backbone of the health care system.’”

SOURCE

Reconciliation on Trial: Wet’suwet’en, Aboriginal Title and the Rule of Law

By Bruce McIvor

Why are so many Canadians surprised when Indigenous people erect blockades to defend their lands and children’s future?

I think it’s because most Canadians prefer the facile narrative of national reconciliation to the uncomfortable reality of betrayal and unfulfilled promises.

Industry and Canadian politicians are adept at peddling the reconciliation narrative. Canadians want to believe it. It fits the image of ‘Canada-the-good’ they were taught in school. It justifies the continuing exploitation of Indigenous lands.

Occasionally Canadians are jarred out of their complacency. They are genuinely surprised to learn many Indigenous people are not satisfied with hugs and apologies, that instead of reconciliation and partnership, the present-day Indigenous reality is more often characterized by violence and denial.

As long as daily routines are disrupted, Canadians start asking why. Such ‘teaching moments’, while they last, provide an opportunity to raise awareness and engage in a national debate about the country’s past, present and future.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Indigenous issues Canada has a short attention span. Events intervene, governments commit to negotiations, blockades are taken down, commuter trains resume service, interest wanes, people forget.

To combat forgetfulness, we’ve gathered together our essays on the controversy that erupted in the winter of 2020 when members of the Wet’suwet’en sought to reinforce their own laws in the face of Canadian aggression. Whether the memorandum of understanding eventually signed between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the provincial and federal governments results in recognition or disappointment will, in part, depend on the power of memory.

As Indigenous people know, real change doesn’t happen in a flash. Oppression, racism and exploitation do not disappear with the signing of an agreement to negotiate. They persist and thrive on forgetfulness.

The Wet’suwet’en and their supporters across the country and around the world, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, spoke out strong and clear through the winter and spring of 2020. Let their passion, commitment and fearlessness continue to remind and inspire all of us to insist on a better Canada.

Download our e-book for free: Reconciliation on Trial: Wet’suwet’en, Aboriginal Title and the Rule of Law.

First Peoples Law Corporation is legal counsel for Unist’ot’en. The statements here are made on our own behalf and reflect our views on this issue, not those of our client.

Canada undermining its own climate goals by supporting pipeline projects: Report

Clearing the route for the Coastal GasLink pipeline north of Prince George. Coastal GasLink Photo

International Trade Minister Mary Ng says she expects transparency and accountability from a key federal Crown corporation, after a new report concluded Canada is undermining its own climate goals by allowing the agency to support fossil fuel projects such as the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Export Development Canada (EDC) signed an agreement in April to loan potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to help Coastal GasLink, the controversial pipeline from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat B.C. that was the subject of protests and rail blockades earlier this year after RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en Nation territory. EDC has said the loan was reviewed in line with its “environmental and social” directive.

In a report released Tuesday, sustainable development consulting firm Horizon Advisors recommended that the government legally bar EDC from supporting any fossil fuel energy projects, “including new fossil fuel infrastructure” such as pipelines, and that the agency should “stress-test its investment decisions against Canada’s climate targets.”

These and other bold measures are the only realistic way to eliminate the “clear discrepancy” between EDC’s continued approach to investments and Canada’s climate goals of cutting carbon pollution 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and reaching “net-zero” pollution by 2050, say the report’s authors.

“Our analysis found that EDC’s approach to investment is out of sync with Canada’s climate policy,” said Horizon Advisors executive director Amin Asadollahi, a former senior policy advisor at Natural Resources Canada and former co-chair of the Green Budget Coalition.

“Although Canada has committed to decarbonizing its economy over the next 30 years, EDC on the other hand continues to invest in fossil fuel projects. These investments not only undermine Canada’s international climate efforts but also increase EDC’s exposure to carbon risks.”

Horizon Advisors calculated that EDC has provided roughly $45 billion in support for the oil and gas sector since 2016, compared to $7 billion for clean technology.

International Trade Minister Mary Ng speaks at an EDC panel in May 2019. Mary Ng Facebook Photo 

EDC must uphold ‘values that Canadians expect

The Trudeau government should amend the Export Development Act to prohibit EDC from supporting fossil fuel projects, the report recommends.

In March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government did move to amend the Act, but its changes broaden, not restrict, the agency’s mandate. EDC also said it has increased its financial capacity to support oil and gas companies.

Minister @mary_ng says she expects transparency and accountability from @ExportDevCanada after a new report concluded Canada is undermining its own climate goals by allowing the agency to support fossil fuel projects like the Coastal GasLink pipeline

The agency is governed by a board of directors appointed by the government who report to Parliament through Ng. The minister also provides guidance to EDC’s chair about her expectations of what to prioritize.

National Observer asked Ng’s office whether she felt that such an amendment to the Export Development Act barring fossil fuel support was prudent or feasible at this time, and whether she supported EDC’s Coastal GasLink loan.

“We expect EDC to be fully transparent and accountable for their transactions,” said Ng’s press secretary Ryan Nearing in response to questions. He also noted that the agency is “financially self-sustaining” and “operates at arm’s length from the government.”

EDC must “meet the evolving needs of Canada’s exporters” and uphold the “values that Canadians expect,” Nearing added, “which includes corporate social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.”

In responding to this story, EDC said it has a “large and diverse portfolio” including companies in both carbon-intensive and clean technology sectors, and that “businesses throughout the spectrum are important to the Canadian economy.”

It already considers itself the “largest financier” in the clean tech sector, facilitating about $9 billion in Canadian clean tech exports over the last eight years.

“EDC is committed to evolving our portfolio in a responsible and measurable way, and companies across the spectrum will play a role in the transition to a lower carbon and climate-resilient economy,” said senior communications adviser Amy Minsky.

Wet’suwet’en supporters blocking rail tracks in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Feb. 13, 2020. Photo by Jesse Winter

EDC’s Coastal GasLink standards questioned

In a project review summary posted on its website, EDC said it reviewed due diligence reports, project plans and other material about Coastal GasLink and “determined that the project has been designed in compliance with applicable host country environmental and social requirements,” and with the Equator Principles, an industry benchmark.

Horizon Advisors said the Equator Principles framework was “not the most ambitious or comprehensive standards” available to EDC, and instead recommended standards from the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation as being the highest in the field.

That such a project meets EDC’s environmental and social standards “demonstrates just how lax they are,” argued Karen Hamilton, program officer for accountability nonprofit Above Ground, which commissioned the Horizon Advisors report alongside Oil Change International. (Horizon Advisors says its report is its own “independent perspective” based on its analysis, literature review and interviews.)

Hamilton pointed to provincial records showing the company behind the pipeline had violated conditions set by the B.C. government more than 50 times, as well as the opposition posed by some Wet’suwet’en leaders.

“Export Development Canada says it has strong procedures in place to make sure the business it supports is ‘environmentally and socially responsible.’ However, this project was sited on the ancestral territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation without the consent of its hereditary chiefs. Those leaders argue that pipeline construction infringes their constitutionally protected rights,” Hamilton said.

Last month, hereditary chiefs said they would sign an agreement with federal and provincial governments affirming their title and rights. The memo was seen as addressing the nation’s right to its traditional territory that would provide the outline for a later discussion about the pipeline.

SOURCE

Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

How much rainforest is being destroyed?

How much rainforest is being destroyed?

      • In December 2019, Mongabay published a review of decade in tropical forests. The analysis wasn’t fully complete because forest loss data for 2019 hadn’t yet been released.
      • Last week, the University of Maryland (UMD) and World Resources Institute (WRI) published the 2019 data, which showed that 3.75 million hectares of primary forest were cleared during the year.
      • That brings the total tropical primary forest loss since 2002 to 60 million hectares, an area larger than the combined land mass of the states of California and Missouri.
      • However the 2019 numbers may not capture the full extent of loss due to the extent of deforestation that occurred in the Amazon during the later part of the year.

Primary forests in the tropics are declining at an accelerating rate according to analysis of satellite data released last week by the University of Maryland (UMD) and World Resources Institute (WRI). Since 2002, the tropics lost more than 60 million hectares of primary forests, an area larger than the combined land mass of the states of California and Missouri or the island nation of Madagascar.

The new data confirms that primary forest loss in the 2010s was nearly 30 percent higher than the 2000s despite global efforts to curb deforestation by creating mechanisms for producing tropical commodities more sustainably, helping indigenous peoples secure land rights, expanding protected areas, and improving forest monitoring. Average annual primary forest loss in the last five years (4.3 million ha from 2015-2019) of the study period was nearly 50 percent higher than the first five years (2.9 million ha 2002-2006). That rise however may not fully reflect the extent of the damage at the end of the decade: forest loss from fires that burned in the Amazon and Indonesia during the latter part of 2019 may not show up in the data until the following year due to cloud cover.

This post’s primary function is to provide some charts highlighting some of the key primary forest trends in the new data set. For additional context on tropical deforestation, trends in rainforests over the past 20 years, and the new UMD/WRI data presented on Global Forest Watch, please see:

Deforestation in Indonesian Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
Deforestation in Indonesian Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Global tree cover loss

Global tree cover loss, which encompasses primary forest loss as well as clearing of secondary forests and cyclical harvesting of tree plantations, rose: from an average of 17.1 million hectares a year in the 2000s to 23.1 million in the 2010s. This increase reflects both deforestation in natural forests and activity within an expanding area of plantations, the bulk of which are in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Annual tree cover loss between 2001-19. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.
Total tree cover loss between 2001 and 2019. Note: tree cover loss does not represent deforestation since it also includes cyclical harvesting of existing forestry plantations. It also excludes forest cover gain through natural recovery, afforestation, and replanting plantations. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.
Annual tree cover loss between 2001-19. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.

Trends in primary forests at the country level

Primary tropical forests are among the world’s most carbon-dense and wildlife-rich terrestrial ecosystems. Scientists therefore see their destruction as disproportionately damaging in terms of biodiversity loss and carbon emissions. In some years, emissions from destruction and degradation of tropical forests and peatlands may exceed the combined emissions of the entire transportation sector.

Tropical primary forest loss was greatest in the three countries with the largest extent of tropical forests: Brazil (24.5 million hectares), Indonesia (9.5 million ha), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4.8 million hectares). Paraguay and Cambodia lost more than 28% of their primary forests since 2002.

Highest extent of primary forest cover between 2001 and 2019. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.
Highest percentage of primary forest cover loss between 2001 and 2019. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.

Trends in tropical forests at regional levels

Deforestation is trending upward in the world’s two largest rainforests, the Amazon and the Congo. More details on deforestation in specific Amazon countries can be found here.

Annual tree cover loss and primary forest loss in the Amazon rainforest between 2002-19. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.

Tree cover and primary forest cover in the Amazon rainforest by country. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.
The state of tropical forest cover in 2020. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.

Trends in primary forests at sub-national levels

Ten sub-national jurisdictions accounted for nearly half of tropical primary forest loss between 2002 and 2019. The top four slots were states in Brazil: Pará, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, and Amazonas, while provinces in Indonesia occupied four of the other places among the top ten.

On a percentage basis, among states, provinces, and departments with more than 35,000 hectares of tree cover in 2010, no jurisdiction lost more primary forest than Riau, Indonesia where large swathes of rainforest and peat forest have been converted to acacia and oil palm plantations over the past twenty years. Five provinces in Cambodia lost more than 10% of their primary forests.

Largest share of primary forest loss between 2002-19 in provinces and states with more than 5,000 hectares of such loss during the period. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.
Largest extent of primary forest loss between 2002-19 in provinces and states. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.
Share of primary forest loss in the tropics between 2002-19 by subnational jurisdiction. Analysis by Mongabay using Hansen / WRI 2020.

Further context

Mongabay’s decade in review — published in December 2019 — summarizes the 2010s for tropical forests:


The 2010s opened as a moment of optimism for tropical forests. Widely available satellite imagery via platforms like Google Earth brought new levels of accountability which, for the first time, meant the world couldn’t use ignorance as an excuse for not addressing the destruction of tropical forests. Deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest — the Brazilian Amazon — was in the midst of a historic plunge, while governments around the world were pledging billions of dollars in new money toward a mechanism to compensate tropical countries for protecting their forests. Several countries closed out the decade with important new conservation initiatives, while activists, empowered with a new set of tools, pushed the private sector to begin adopting a new type of sustainability commitment: the zero deforestation policy for commodity production and sourcing. Some of the largest consumer-facing companies adopted these forest-friendly policies with near-term implementation targets. The world looked like it was on track to significantly reduce tropical deforestation by 2020.
By the end of the 2019, however, it was clear that progress on protecting tropical forests stalled in the 2010s. On the climate front, a decade of science has mostly confirmed what we already knew 10 years ago: Tropical forests are deeply threatened by the current pace of climate change. Combined with ongoing deforestation, degradation, and fragmentation, the outlook for some of the planet’s largest forests, from the Amazon to Indonesia, is increasingly bleak.The 2010s were also marked by mixed progress for tropical forest conservation. Advances in remote sensing were undercut by backsliding on corporate and government commitments to protect forests. Gains in new protected areas were partially offset by a trend toward protected area downgrading, downsizing and degazettement (PADDD) in countries from Brazil to Indonesia. Efforts to recognize the value of healthy and productive natural forests were confronted with the challenging realities of implementation, public indifference and the punishing economics of rising demand for food, fiber and fuel in the context of unaccounted costs of environmental externalities. Political leaders in several important tropical forest countries turned a blind eye to — or in some cases even actively encouraged — threats against environmental defenders and the free press, contributing to hundreds of murders and assassinations of activists, indigenous leaders and journalists.The 2010s closed with rising deforestation and increased incidence of fire in tropical forests. According to the U.N., in 2015, global forest cover fell below four billion hectares (10 billion acres) for the first time in modern human history.

SOURCE
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Most Clean Energy Tech Is Not on Track to Meet Climate Goals

A new report says that only six of 46 clean energy sectors are making enough progress to limit warming to under 2 degrees Celsius

Credit: Getty Images

Most clean energy technologies and sectors worldwide are not advancing enough to meet the temperature goals set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement, according to a new analysis.

Of 46 clean energy categories that the International Energy Agency sees as crucial for minimizing the impacts of climate change, only six are “on track” to meet the target of preventing global average temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius or more, according to IEA’s “Tracking Clean Energy Progress” report released this week.

The report identified energy sectors and technologies “not on track” to meet IEA’s Paris-aligned sustainable development scenario (SDS) goals and offered suggestions for how sectors could further reduce emissions—or, in the case of renewable energy technologies, expand their impact in cost-effective ways, said Dave Turk, acting deputy executive director at IEA.

“[This report] is really trying to figure out which ones are doing their share to get us to the clean energy future that’s been agreed to in the Paris Agreement,” Turk said.

The 46 categories span power sectors, fuel supplies, industrial technologies, transportation, buildings, and energy integration technologies such as smart grids and direct capture of carbon dioxide. The six technologies considered on track are solar photovoltaics, bioenergy power, electric vehicles, rail, lighting, and data centers and transmission networks. Twenty-four other areas require more efforts to meet target numbers for 2025 and 2030, while the remaining 16 are off track entirely, the report said.

Improvements in renewable energy generation and energy efficiency encompass about 80% of the work needed to reach the SDS goals, Turk said.

“In order to get to a full, more robust, economywide energy transition, you need a variety of technologies and a variety of solutions,” he said.

CONCENTRATING SOLAR AND CCS

One category classified as not meeting SDS goals is concentrating solar power. In 2019, CSP generation worldwide grew by 34%, surpassing IEA’s annual goal of average growth in the sector of nearly 24% through 2030.

But the overall trend from the last decade suggests that IEA’s SDS goals for 2025 and 2030 are still far out of reach, the report said. Between 2019 and 2025, global CSP generation would need to more than triple to meet the technology’s SDS goal, according to the report.

“It’s just not enough to get us where we need to go each year,” Turk said.

In 2019, Israel, China and South Korea contributed the most to CSP’s growth, while China, Morocco and South Africa are expected to expand their capacity significantly this decade, the report said. In the United States, however, CSP is one of many clean energy technologies whose potential has not been fully harnessed, said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy.

Only two large-scale CCUS power projects are currently operational—the Petra Nova project in Texas and the Boundary Dam project in Canada—with a combined capture capacity of 2.4 million tons of CO2 annually. That’s behind the 310 million tons per year outlined under the group’s SDS by 2030, IEA said.

Fourteen CCUS power generation projects are in development worldwide. Combined with Petra Nova and Boundary Dam, there is a potential capture capacity of more than 36 million tons per year, IEA said.

To reach 310 million tons each year by 2030, CO2 capture rates and final investment decisions would have to increase substantially, however, the Paris-based agency said.

Despite some CCUS progress, the technology isn’t scaling up as quickly as it needs to to reach SDS decarbonization levels, Turk said. If emissions reductions don’t come from carbon capture, he said, then they’ll need to come from an additional technology or source.

“That’s why we stress, because the goals are so ambitious to reach, you need to have a variety of technology tools,” Turk said.

‘CERTAINLY DOABLE’

Guloren Turan, general manager of advocacy and communications at the Global CCS Institute, said that when it comes to the power industry, 310 million tons would require 200 to 250 power plants outfitted with carbon capture and storage to reach IEA’s goal. That number of plants is “certainly doable,” Turan said, but requires “significant supportive policies” to happen, including putting a price on carbon and frameworks to reduce the risk of projects.

However, Mahmoud Abouelnaga, a solutions fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said he did not think it’s still feasible to capture 310 million tons annually by 2030 from power generation. Assuming that all 14 CCUS power generation projects become active, that would only amount to 36 million tons per year, Abouelnaga said.

“Also, a realistic consideration of the lengthy process for CCUS project development would make it very hard to reach the 310 MtCO2 capture target by 2030,” Abouelnaga said in an email.

Factors like a lack of support policies, such as uncertainties around federal tax credits and monitoring geologic storage, have all contributed to a delayed “uptake” of CCUS projects, Abouelnaga said.

To meet SDS targets, approximately 2,000 CCS facilities will be needed by 2050, Turan said. With 59 facilities in various stages of development—21 of which are operational—a “scaling up of 100x is needed,” she said in an email.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, CCUS was gaining “new momentum,” IEA said, with five new CCUS-equipped power plants announced last year.

“Many planned projects will face increased uncertainty and near-term investment challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis,” the report said, even considering the 45Q tax credit meant to spur CCUS projects. “Almost half of the CCUS-equipped power projects in development plan to sell the captured CO2 for EOR [enhanced oil recovery], but the CO2 price is typically indexed to the oil price, which collapsed in 2020.”

SOURCE

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.

Renewable Roundup: Green finance

A Green New Deal architect explains how the protests and climate crisis are connected

ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE

Demands for climate action have faded into the background as the covid-19 pandemic, the economic meltdown, and widespread protests over police brutality have seized the world’s attention.

But for Rhiana Gunn-Wright, the director of climate policy at the Roosevelt Institute and one of the architects of the Green New Deal, the issues are inextricably intertwined. You can’t appreciate the real toll of the fossil-fuel sector if you’re not looking at it through the lenses of racial justice, economic inequality, and public health, she says in an interview with MIT Technology Review.

People of color are more likely to live near power plants and other polluting factories, and they suffer higher levels of asthma and greater risks of early death from air pollution. The coronavirus death rate among black Americans is more than twice that of whites. And global warming and factory farming practices will release more deadly pathogens and reshape the range of infectious diseases.

One critique of the Green New Deal was that it took on too much, multiplying the difficulty of making progress on any one of the deeply polarized issues it addressed. But Gunn-Wright argues that this was its strength: tying together these seemingly distinct causes into a sweeping policy package underscored the connections between them and helped build a broader coalition of supporters behind them.

Read the full interview.

What defunding the police could look like in Canada’s largest city

TORONTO — As anti-Black racism protests continue across the world, the push to defund the police is gaining momentum in some parts of Canada.

In Toronto, where almost a quarter of residents’ property taxes go just to funding the police, two city councillors on Monday put forward a motion to cut the city’s police budget by 10 per cent and shift it to “much-needed community supports.”

Thousands have signed petitions in other parts of the country, including Vancouver, Regina and Montreal, for similar reallocations of police funds.

However, the concept of defunding the police doesn’t necessarily mean abolishing police forces. As University of Toronto Mississauga sociology professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah explains, defunding the police would mean redistributing some of their funding elsewhere.

“[It’s] a reallocation or a reassignment of certain tasks and functions that we recognize that the police aren’t performing very well, that there are negative outcomes to their involvement in those activities such as increased risk for the use of violence and potential for criminalization,” Owusu-Bempah told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.

So what would defunding the police actually look like in Canada’s largest city?

NEW SERVICE FOR MENTAL HEALTH CRISES

Mental health is an essential piece of the call for defunding since many police-involved deaths in Canada have involved mental health and substance abuse issues.

Owusu-Bempah said redirected police funding could go to boosting supports for mental health and creating a new type of emergency service used in times of mental health crises.

“A large part of the problem is for individuals who are suffering mental health crises, and for those around them, the police are often the quickest point of contact or seemingly the most sensible resource to call,” Owusu-Bempah said.

He said there should be another number to call, rather than 911, so mental health care workers can intervene in cases involving people in crisis.

“When you talk to police officers and even police leaders, they will agree that they’re not well equipped to perform that function and they would like to see some of these roles and responsibilities given to other organizations and agencies.”

Toronto Police Service responds to approximately 30,000 mental health calls every year, according to TPS spokeswoman Meaghan Gray.

“The reason that we see such a high number of calls to the police [is] because we don’t have another readily available service, whether that’d be another number to call with another service attached for individuals and those around them in those situations,” Owusu-Bempah said.

It’s a position echoed by Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Sandy Hudson, who told CTV’s Power Play on Sunday that the current response to a mental health crisis is harmful.

“People would have the option to call experts who are trained to deal with the health needs and social needs of people who are experiencing a mental health crisis,” Hudson said. “That way, those people maybe don’t show up with lethal force, and that way we can ensure that people get the support that they need from people who are trained to deal with that very particular complex situation.”

However, this would not entirely eliminate a police presence. Owusu-Bempah suggested that the new emergency service could run along side police forces.

“It’s not to say that the police wouldn’t have to be present for some of those calls. There may be instances where an individual is posing a serious risk to themselves [or], to others, where we would want the police to be there,” he said.

ALLOCATING FUNDS ELSEWHERE

While Toronto Police Service Constable Dale Swift agrees that some police funding should be reallocated to mental health services, he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that communities should be consulted on where they think the funding would be best used.

“It’s really [about] establishing really good relationships with our communities and even more so, recognizing what each community needs… By implementing officers in those communities to work with individuals in those communities, figure out what their needs are and really try to address that — not with the police service but having those talks on other resources to better help those communities,” Swift said.

Swift, who previously worked in mental health, said services to help the city’s youth, specifically those who have been incarcerated, should also be considered for reallocated police funding.

“Not only with mental health, but I talk and deal with a lot of individuals, a lot of youth that come out of incarceration, and we tell them ‘go make something better for yourself,’ but they don’t have any resources,” Swift said. “If we actually want to see youth who have made mistakes, who have been incarcerated get back into the public, we have to set them up for success.”

Without such resources, Swift said incarcerated youth typically reoffend.

More than $15 billion was spent in Canada on policing in 2017-18, according to Statistics Canada, an increase to the year prior. In Toronto, the police service allocation of more than $1 billion is the single-biggest line item in the city’s operating budget.

Owusu-Bempah said reallocating the police budget could see the return of funding for organizations in the city that were previously defunded.

“The very organizations, agencies and institutions that we’ve been defunding over the past 20 years should be seeing those funds so we would be talking social welfare services, child welfare services, education, and then it could trickle down as well to community programming,” Owusu-Bempah said.

Swift also said some funds could be reallocated within the police force to obtain body cameras. Swift said implementing body cameras is a “good idea” because it will hold police officers more accountable.

“[In] a situation where things go down and there’s speculation it will help us do our job better. It will help the community, put them at ease a bit more in regards to our investigations, and probably feel a bit more comfortable as well,” Swift said.

“If you’re a good cop doing good things, you legitimately have nothing to worry about,” he added.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki agreed Monday to outfit some Mounties with body cameras following a conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, some advocates pushing against systemic anti-Black racism in policing say the measure doesn’t go far enough.

“There needs to be broad consultation and review on what needs to be done. Political rhetoric and gizmos like cameras are not the answer,” Kelly Sundberg, a criminologist with Mount Royal University, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

Sundberg admitted that body cameras have been successful in some cities, but said they are only “one small step, and very limited step, in addressing police oversight.”

When asked recently if he would consider defunding the RCMP, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t reject the notion.

“I think there are many different paths toward making a better country. We need to explore the range of them,” Trudeau said.

WHERE TO START

Owusu-Bempah said defunding the police should start with an audit of everything police forces are doing and the costs associated with those tasks. He acknowledged that this would look different in various jurisdictions.

“Many police budgets, at least the public ones, aren’t very detailed, but we want to get an understanding of what the police are doing and identifying those roles, functions, tasks that would be better served by other organizations and agencies,” Owusu-Bempah said.

One example Owusu-Bempah highlighted is the use of police officers in schools. While Toronto no longer has officers stationed in schools, he said getting rid of them in other jurisdictions would free up funding for other resources.

As a Black officer who grew up in Toronto Community Housing, Swift said “it’s two worlds that usually don’t get along historically.” He suggests that defunding the police should start with education within the force on how to be an ally to those communities.

“Coming from Toronto Housing, having negative interactions with police, having positive interactions with the police — once you get out of there and you put this [uniform] on, it’s almost like you have to regain credibility with those communities again because they see you as an Uncle Tom or a traitor,” Swift said. “You have to reassure them that you are there for them and the only way you do that is through consistency.”

Swift said he had “multiple feelings” when he first saw the video of George Floyd being arrested in Minneapolis. He initially didn’t believe the video was real.

Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died after a white police officer’s knee was held on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

“I was in this place where I was both individuals at the same time — a police officer and George Floyd,” Swift said. “It was just a very disturbing image to watch because I knew that wasn’t policing, but I knew that if I’m not in uniform that could be me.”

While the arrest of Floyd has given Black people more power to speak up about the injustices they face, Swift said racism is a “human problem” and is the responsibility of everyone to address.

However, Swift said keeping that in mind as a Black officer isn’t always easy.

“All eyes are always on you and how are you are, especially when you’re dealing with your with ‘your own.’ So I really made sure I take a lot of pride, not only just with individuals but especially when I’m dealing with other Black individuals from situations that I’m very familiar with. I make sure that they know that I hear them,” Swift said.

“Being truthful, being honest, having those talks, transparency it goes a long way,” he added.

MORE CONVERSATIONS NEEDED

While some activists continue to call for defunding the police, some of Ontario’s leaders are hesitant and say more conversations are needed.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford dismissed the defunding movement on Tuesday, saying he believes in a “strong police” system based on better community involvement.

“I just don’t believe in cutting police budgets,” Ford said. “Never believed in that.”

Earlier this month, Ford said Ontario does not have the same systemic racism experienced in the U.S. He later backtracked on the statement.

“I do not have those lived experiences and I can empathize with them. But again Mr. Speaker, a lot of us have never lived that, we’ve never walked a mile in someone’s shoes that has faced racism. Not only just in the black community, a lot of minority communities, throughout the history of Ontario and Canada have faced racism,” Ford said during a sitting at Queen’s Park last week.

Jamil Jivani is hoping he can help address the problem.

As Ontario’s first Advocate for Community Opportunities, Jivani advises on what the government could do to help disadvantaged communities. Amid the anti-Black racism protests, Jivani is now leading Ontario’s new Black-focused council on opportunities for young people.

Jivani told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that anti-Black racism protests have highlighted that systemic racism does exist in Canada, but agreed with Ford in that the country’s racial inequality is different from other places.

“I think the confusion is really about when we compare ourselves to the United States because we are different, and I mean that’s just a reality. Every country is different from one another,” Jivani said in an interview on Wednesday.

“But we still have a problem, and there’s still a difference between where we are now and where I think we want to be as a country, and being focused on that, instead of comparing ourselves to the U.S., is what I’ve encouraged people to do.”

However, Jivani said defunding the police isn’t a solution to the problem.

“Every city should have a debate about how to best use their resources… What I don’t support though, is the idea that somehow taking resources away from cops is always a good thing, because there are times where we need more police, we need good police and that’s a really important part of community safety,” Jivani said.

Instead, he suggests that the Ontario government focus on creating opportunities for young people “who are being left out of our economy,” including the opportunity to own a home and start a family.

“Our goal is really to bring a diverse group of leaders together who can help the government understand what is the role of government in knocking down barriers that prevent young people from achieving their potential,” Jivani said.

“We’re seeing a young generation that the cost of living, the burdens of trying to make a way in the world are becoming overwhelming and I think that’s part of the frustration you see right now around racial inequality, around the protests that are happening all over the world.”

SOURCE

Protest misinformation is riding on the success of pandemic hoaxes

Parallel stories: After months spent battling covid-19, the US is now gripped by a different fever: some of the biggest protests in decades over racial injustice. Meanwhile, on the digital streets, a battle is playing out in separate worlds, where truth and disinformation run parallel. In one version, anti-fascist protesters are traveling by bus and plane to remote cities and towns to wreak havoc. This false notion is inspiring roving gangs of mostly white vigilantes to take up arms.

Looks familiar: Those who accept protest misinformation also rose up to challenge stay-at-home orders through “reopen” rallies. It’s no coincidence: these audiences have been primed by years of political misinformation and then driven to a frenzy by months of pandemic conspiracy theories.

What next? As researchers of disinformation, we have seen this type of attack play out before. It’s called “source hacking”: a set of tactics where media manipulators mimic the patterns of their opponents, try to obfuscate the sources of their information, and then slowly become more and more dangerous in their rhetoric. If people want to build a long-term movement, they must learn to counter misinformation on the issues they care about.

Read the full story.

Global new clean energy investment totaled $282 billion last year: research

LONDON (Reuters) – Global investment in new clean energy capacity rose 1% last year to $282.2 billion, research by UNEP, Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre showed on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: The sun rises behind an electric power windmill in Halle, Belgium September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The United States invested $55.5 billion in 2019, up 28% from the year before as onshore wind developers rushed to take advantage of tax credits before their expected expiry, the report said.

Europe financed $54.6 billion, down 7% from 2018.

China’s investment fell to its lowest level since 2013 at $83.4 billion due to continued government cutbacks on support for solar power.

More investment went into renewables last year than fossil fuel and nuclear technologies, the report said.

Globally, new coal-fired generation is estimated to have had $37 billion of investment last year; new gas-fired generation had $47 billion and $15 billion was invested in new nuclear generation.

In terms of capacity, 184 gigawatts (GW) of new clean energy was added last year, up 12% from 2018.

“The all-in cost of electricity continues to fall for wind and solar, thanks to technology improvements, economies of scale and fierce competition in auctions,” the report said.

“Costs for electricity from new solar photovoltaic plants in the second half of 2019 were 83% lower than a decade earlier,” it added.

Governments and companies around the world have committed to adding some 826 GW of new non-hydro renewable power capacity to 2030 at a likely cost of around $1 trillion, the report said.

However, this falls short of what is needed to help limit world temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

The Covid-19 crisis has slowed down deal-making in renewables in recent months and this will affect investment levels in 2020. Governments will need to tailor their economic recovery programs to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels and deploy renewables, the report added.

SOURCE

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Susan Fenton

The Bicycle as a Vehicle of Protest

Bicycles take over Flatbush Ave. during a protest.

Bicycles are powerful things—inexpensive, versatile tools that can be used by dissenters to sneak up and speed off, to organize and mobilize and elude.Photograph by Stephanie Keith / Getty

A week ago, on Wednesday night, the third night of a citywide curfew in New York, police officers were seen confiscating bicycles. Posts on social media described N.Y.P.D. officers violently seizing bikes from peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators, who were continuing to march in defiance of the 8 p.m.. lockdown. In one widely shared video clip, a jittery camera captured a cop wheeling an apparently commandeered bike; a woman can be heard screaming at police, asking why bikes are being taken, and how protesters are supposed to travel home. Another piece of viral footage, retweeted by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others, shows three policemen clubbing a cyclist with batons on a Manhattan street. It’s unclear whether the man was arrested, or what became of his bicycle.

In the days that followed, the N.Y.P.D’s anti-bicycle actions continued. On Thursday, Catherina Gioino, a reporter for the Daily Newstweeted that police had been ordered to “focus on the bicyclists.” Newsday’s Matthew Chayes said in a tweet that police had proclaimed that bicycles were “not allowed” and that bike-riding after the curfew would result in an “automatic collar.” Other online posts documented arrests and violent attacks on cyclists, including journalists with press credentials. The city’s first curfew since the Second World War had been imposed, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order, to curb “assault, vandalism, property damage, and/or looting.” New Yorkers were left to wonder how scenes of cops beating protesters and snatching their bikes—or, in some cases, leaving the bikes littered on the street—squared with the stated objectives.

These incidents were troubling but not exactly surprising. The N.Y.P.D. has a long history of hostility to cyclists, especially cyclists who are also left-leaning activists. For years, police have used questionable, sometimes violent tactics to sweep up participants in Critical Mass, the guerilla group rides that aim to promote cyclists’ rights. In 2010, a former N.Y.P.D. officer received a felony conviction for body-slamming a Critical Mass rider and filing a false criminal complaint in an attempt to frame the cyclist. That same year, the city agreed to pay a settlement of nearly a million dollars to eighty-three Critical Mass riders who had been wrongly detained or arrested between 2004 and 2006.

In the de Blasio era, the N.Y.P.D. has engaged in sporadic crackdowns against bicyclists, issuing tickets and confiscating bikes. (Journalists and cycling advocates have charged that these “ticket-blitzes,” which often follow incidents in which cyclists are maimed or killed by automobiles, are a form of institutionalized victim-blaming.) Many recent police actions have been directed at cyclists of color. De Blasio and the N.Y.P.D. have waged a years-long “war on e-bikes,” seizing hundreds of the throttle-control bicycles, issuing summonses, and levying fines, a campaign that almost exclusively hits a workforce of immigrant food-delivery people, who are among the most vulnerable of the city’s working poor. The N.Y.P.D. have also targeted “ride-outs,” group rides that are popular with young black and Latino cyclists. Cops have reportedly broken up the events by ramming mopeds into bicycles, and have trumpeted the confiscation of teen-agers’ flashy BMX bikes on the social-media feeds of police precincts.

The conflict between law enforcement and cyclists is hardly restricted to New York. Bicycles have played a starring role in the nationwide uprising that has followed George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers two weeks ago. In Los AngelesSan FranciscoPortlandChicagoAtlantaMiami, and dozens of other cities, protesters have pedalled and marched with their bicycles, facing off with police who, in many cases, are also mounted on bikes. The omnipresence of bicycles may be due, in part, to where the demonstrations are taking place, and who is doing the demonstrating. The bicycle is, supremely, a city vehicle; teens and young adults, who make up a sizable percentage of the protesters, are among the most enthusiastic urban cyclists.

But the visibility of bikes in the protests also reflects a larger trend. In 2020, we are experiencing what is likely the greatest bicycle boom in at least a half century. Several factors have contributed to the bicycling revival, but the spectre of climate change and other crises gripping the globe are certainly part of the equation. In an ecologically imperiled, rapidly urbanizing, traffic-shackled twenty-first century, the zero-emissions two-wheeler has reëmerged as a darling of urbanists, policymakers, and commuters. The boom has transformed American cities with new bicycle infrastructure, bike-share programs, and other pro-cycling initiatives. A further surge of bicycle commuting has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic: bike riding is an excellent way to maintain social distance, to swiftly navigate the city while avoiding buses and subways. The National Association of City Transport Officials has reported an “explosion in cycling” since the outbreak of the virus; huge increases in sales have left bike shops with a shortage of stock.

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