Flames of blame: how climate change could upset the race to lead the Conservative Party

The knives are out among Australia’s conservatives as years of climate complacency go up in smoke

NSW Rural Fire Service crews fight the Gospers Mountain Fire at Bilpin, Australia, Dec. 21, 2019. The decade that just ended was by far the hottest ever measured on Earth, capped off by the second-warmest year on record, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP Images via Associated Press)

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s tone was measured. But his words were as blistering as an Australian bushfire as he denounced his successor as leader of Australia’s main right-centre political party, confusingly named the Liberals.

He “could not explain” why Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to meet with experts or take the bushfire threat seriously, despite warnings from scientists. “It’s just not consistent with the way in which a prime minister would or should act in a national crisis like this.”

“How many more coral reefs have to be bleached? How many more million hectares of forest have to be burned? How many more lives and homes have to be lost before the climate change deniers acknowledge they are wrong?” asked Turnbull.

Then he twisted the knife in his colleague —who has already been publicly shamed for taking a family vacation as Australia burned.

“Rather than doing what a leader should do,” Turnbull said, Morrison “downplayed it and at times discounted the influence of climate change, which is just nonsense from a scientific point of view. So that’s misleading people.”

House on fire

“When your house is burning around you, that’ll change your point of view in a hurry,” said Marilyn Gladu, the only Canadian Conservative leadership candidate with a background in science (she’s a chemical engineer). “We need to get a sense of urgency without waiting for the house to burn down.”

Gladu said the leadership race should be an opportunity for the party to re-think its approach to the climate file.

“I think it needs to be a topic because it’s clear that the policy that we brought on climate change didn’t resonate with Canadians in the election,” she said. “And so, if we’re going to win the next election, we’ve got to come to Canadians with a credible offering.”

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu arrives for a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. She says the Conservatives’ climate policy “didn’t resonate” with Canadians in the last election. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Gladu said the Conservative Party under Andrew Scheer presented policies that left Canadians wondering “how is that going to reduce the footprint? And how much is it going to reduce it by?

“People want to see a chart that says, ‘Here are the Paris targets, and here are the different contributors that we will eliminate in order to achieve that target.’ That’s really what we need to do in order to have a credible plan.”

Scheer failed to explain during the campaign how a government led by him would meet Canada’s Paris targets — and wasn’t even able to say what Canada’s Paris target is when asked for the number directly at a campaign stop in Quebec that was dedicated to climate policy.

That allowed the Liberals to pose as the champions of climate action, although their own plan also falls short of the Paris target — which itself falls short of what scientists say is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Ready for change?

The Conservatives have seen consensus positions in the party on some issues change rapidly.

When leadership candidate Richard Décarie called homosexuality a “choice” on Wednesday, it quickly became clear that opinion was no longer an accepted part of the CPC consensus.

From a stance opposing gay marriage — a position once shared by all federal parties — they have moved to acceptance. After the election loss, it was that issue that finally led to the undoing of Andrew Scheer as leader after two party stalwarts called him out for his unwillingness to attend Pride parades, in an op-ed article they wrote for the Globe and Mail.

Jamie Ellerton, who’s served the party in various roles including as “wagonmaster” of the 2019 Scheer campaign, was one of the authors of that Globe article. He said that the party might find a change of course on climate more difficult than its shift on LGBTQ rights.

“The party at its core continues to be opposed to any new tax, and I think the carbon tax is going to continue to be very unpopular,” he said. “What you saw in Ontario was that this was an issue that Patrick Brown wanted to run on, and the party quickly one-eightied [turned around] in the leadership race that replaced him.”

Carbon levy ‘dead in the water’

Patrick Brown’s experience backing a revenue-neutral carbon tax was similar to that of federal Conservative MP Michael Chong, who placed fifth in the 2017 leadership race.

Chong described his proposal for a carbon tax, offset by a large cut to income taxes, as a “credible, market-based, conservative solution to reduce emissions.” Some small-c conservative economists agree with him. But to the party’s rank-and-file, any proposal that included the word “tax” likely remains anathema, said Ellerton, who shares that view.

“Carbon taxes themselves are probably dead in the water, but electability is going to be a huge part of the conversation as to who the next party leader will be,” he said. “And it’s clear that Canadians are looking for some kind of action and policy from their government.”

Ellerton said the signs of a changing climate are becoming more visible to people, citing the frequent overspilling of the Don River in his own hometown of Toronto.

“This is an issue that Canadians are increasingly concerned about,” he said. “This is an issue that came up a lot for Conservatives at the door, that didn’t pass muster to earn the confidence and a mandate from Canadians.”

Oilpatch politics

One dilemma the party faces is that the last two elections have seen a marked westernization of its caucus and its base. It now draws a disproportionate number of votes from Alberta and Saskatchewan, a region of the country that is an outlier in terms of attitudes to climate change — and where more livelihoods depend on the oil and gas industry than in other parts of Canada.

During the federal election campaign, some reporters travelling with Andrew Scheer noticed a difference in tone when he spoke about energy and climate in the Prairie provinces, compared to other parts of Canada.

Andrew Scheer rolls out the Conservative environment platform in Chelsea, Que., on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

In his public appearances in Ontario or Quebec he sometimes spoke about climate change as at least a problem to be managed. Over the course of two days visiting Edmonton and Regina, Scheer denounced the carbon tax and environmental activists, while never uttering the words “environment”, “climate” or “emissions” except in response to media questions.

In the 2020 leadership contest, however, so far the party’s main candidates are from Ontario and points East, and the rules are designed to avoid giving weight to the Western vote.

At the start of the 2019 campaign, the Conservatives were still unsure of the threat they faced from Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada. In 2020, that question has been answered, and a new leader who feels less threatened from the right might feel safer moving towards the centre on climate policy.

But such a move might lead to tensions in Alberta, where the provincial government has invested millions in a “war room”-style Canadian Energy Centre — panned as a “Twitter troll farm” by the NDP opposition. (CBC News contacted the CEC for this story but the organization did not choose to comment.)

‘We know permafrost is melting’

“Does the party want to win in 2019?” Michael Chong asked in 2017. “I think it does. If Conservatives don’t have a credible policy on emissions, a credible policy on climate change, we cannot win the 2019 election.”

No current CPC leadership candidate is proposing the party flip on carbon taxes, but like all politicians — like their counterparts in Australia — they remain at the mercy of events. The Conservative Party leadership vote on June 27 comes at the height of wildfire season.

Activists rally for climate action at Sydney Town Hall on January 10, 2020 in response to the ongoing bushfire crisis in Australia. (Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Gladu said it’s getting increasingly difficult to deny the evidence of climate change, although she acknowledges that some in the party might still like to try.

“There are still those who may not appreciate the climate change situation that we have in the world,” she said. “But we should be seeing a change in opinion because we’re seeing an increase of floods, of wildfires, a lot of extreme weather events. We know the permafrost is melting, we know the ocean’s pH is rising.

“Certainly, as we see these undeniable facts come forward, people’s views will evolve.”

Meanwhile, there’s movement at the provincial level — where some Conservatives who had boldly united to fight carbon taxes before the election muted their opposition afterwards.

“People voted for it, so we in New Brunswick have to find a way to make it work,” said Premier Blaine Higgs as he somewhat sheepishly announced his resignation from “The Resistance.”

In Australia, while the federal government resists even setting a target for after 2030, all six states have already committed to net zero emissions by 2050.

Fires and floods have a way of focusing minds —even changing them. In 2018, Malcolm Turnbull announced that his government would not, despite promises, put an emissions target into legislation.

Who would have thought then that, 18 months later, the former PM would be calling for a “Green New Deal”?

“The wicked self-destructive idiocy of climate denialism must stop …. Above all, we have to urgently stop burning coal and other fossil fuels.” SOURCE

Quebecor to electrify 1,100 vehicles, making TVA and Videotron fleets 100 per cent electric

Ambitious plan includes purchase of new electric vehicles and conversion of gasoline-powered light trucks with made-in-Quebec technology

Quebecor to electrify 1,100 vehicles, making TVA and Videotron fleets 100 per cent electric

Quebecor is electrifying its entire vehicle fleet to fight the climate crisis.

On Jan. 15, the Quebec-based media and communications company announced it had set “one of the most ambitious targets of any company in Canada,” with a plan to electrify 1,100 vehicles, 900 of which are used cable provider Videotron. This joins 35 electric cars the company already has in rotation.

Pierre Karl Péladeau, president and chief executive officer of Quebecor said it was “important” for businesses to help deter climate damage.

“This process will guarantee responsible management of Quebecor’s fleets: among other things, it will increase the useful life of our light trucks and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by switching to hydroelectricity, one of Quebec’s greatest collective natural assets,” he said.

New EVs and truck conversions

At Videotron, the company will invest more than $14 million in new electric cars and to convert its gasoline-powered light trucks to electric using technology developed by Ecotuned Automobile. It will also be purchasing electric charging stations and updating existing infrastructure. This phase of the plan has a completion date of 2024.

Pierre Karl Péladeau, President and CEO of Quebecor, France Lauzière, President and CEO of TVA Group, Jean-François Pruneau, President and CEO of Videotron, and Sarah Houde, CEO of Propulsion Québec. (CNW Group/Quebecor)

Quebecor says reaching its goals will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent, equal to one person making 85,000 one-way trips by plane from Montreal to Toronto.

Communications company TVA, another Quebecor subsidiary, is also part of the initiative. It plans to have 60 mass-market vehicles, including those used by TVA Nouvelles, to be electric within five years. It also aims to reduce the amount of vehicles needed by 10 per cent.

“The ambitious target we have set with our electrification plan demonstrates our determination to remain at the cutting edge,” said Péladeau. “The other Quebecor subsidiaries that operate vehicle fleets will also be an integral part of this electrification plan in the subsequent phases.”

In tandem with this announcement, Quebecor also announced it is becoming a member of Propulsion Québec, the province’s smart and electric transportation cluster. SOURCE

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12 Canadian Cleantech Companies Recognized Among World’s Top 100

Image result for clean tech

SAN FRANCISCOJan. 16, 2020 /CNW/ – 12 Canadian companies were named to the 2020 Global Cleantech 100, an annual roster of the world’s top 100 cleantech companies.

Canada has more ventures on this year’s list than any other country after the United States, while eight of the companies are MaRS-supported ventures. All are poised to help mitigate the climate crisis in tangible, meaningful ways, and grow the global economy in the short- and long-term.

The Global Cleantech 100 recognizes the most innovative ventures tackling the planet’s most pressing environmental issues. This year, more than 13,000 companies were considered for the prestigious award.

“The Canadian companies on the 2020 Global Cleantech list are taking big swings at climate change by reducing emissions and reversing the harm we’ve already done,” said Jon Dogterom, senior vice-president of Venture Services at MaRS. “In particular, this year’s honourees include a strong showing of carbon technologies, innovative firms that are not just removing CO2 from our atmosphere, but using it to make something useful in the process.”

“The Global Cleantech 100 award recognizes successes achieved by our team and partners at making concrete more sustainable,” said Rob Niven, founder and CEO of CarbonCure. “This prestigious recognition will play a critical role in helping us realize our goals of technological advancements and geographic expansion, with the ultimate vision aimed toward reducing up to 500 megatonnes of CO2 annually.”

“We are honoured to be on the Global Cleantech roster of the world’s 100 most promising clean technology firms for the third year in a row,” said Hari Subramaniam, chief strategic growth and policy officer, Opus One Solutions. “At Opus One, we’re building world-class energy solutions to meet the evolving needs and modernization demands of the electricity grid, and the economy around it, to accelerate the energy transition.”

“The transition to clean energy and mobility definitely requires all hands on deck,” said Ajay Kochhar, President and CEO, Li-Cycle. “It is rewarding to see the breadth of Canadian companies, including Li-Cycle, recognized by the Global Cleantech 100 for our part in the worldwide transition away from a carbon-based economy. As rechargeable lithium-ion batteries continue to power the electro-mobility revolution, Li-Cycle is proud to play a key role in this transition by making lithium-ion batteries a truly circular and sustainable product.”

“It feels right that our first list of the future-defining 2020s should see a continued strengthening in the representation of truly impactful and necessary innovations to transform our diets, to enable a more renewable-heavy energy system, and to capture and utilize the vast levels of CO2 we have been freely emitting for decades,” said Richard Youngman, CEO, Cleantech Group. “Also included in our 2020 list are some big and critical shots at solving global problems: from proving out fusion and next-gen batteries to zero carbon aviation.”

Learn more about the MaRS-supported companies named in the 2020 Global Cleantech 100 here.

See the complete list of 2020 Global Cleantech 100 companies.

List of Canadian winners:

  1. Axine Water Technologies*
  2. Carbicrete*
  3. Carbon Engineering
  4. CarbonCure Technologies*
  5. Ecobee*
  6. Enbala Power Networks
  7. GaN Systems*
  8. Inventys (now Svante)
  9. Li-Cycle*
  10. Minesense Technologies*
  11. Opus One Solutions*
  12. Semios

*indicates a MaRS-supported venture

About Cleantech Group
Cleantech® Group provides research, consulting and events to catalyze opportunities for sustainable growth powered by innovation. At every stage from initial strategy to final deals, we bring corporate change makers, investors, governments and stakeholders from across the ecosystem the access and customized support they need to thrive in a more digitized, de-carbonized and resource-efficient future.

Cleantech Group was established in 2002 and is headquartered in San Francisco, with a growing international presence in London. Our parent company, Enovation Partners, is based in Chicago.

About MaRS
MaRS is North America’s largest urban innovation hub. A registered non-profit, MaRS supports high-growth startups and scale-ups tackling key issues in the health, cleantech, fintech and other sectors. In addition, MaRS convenes all members of the tech ecosystem to drive breakthrough discoveries, grow the economy and make an impact by solving real problems for real people — in Canada and around the world.

SOURCE

Why overlooked green energy sector is an economic powerhouse: Don Pittis

As politicians declare themselves open for business, they may have a blind spot

Workers build zero emission school buses at Lion Electric in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec. The sector is fragmented but is growing and creating jobs faster that the rest of the economy. (Lion Electric Co.)

As Alberta’s new government considers how to boost its traditional fossil fuel economy, research released today claims politicians and other Canadians have a blind spot when it comes to the job-creating power of green business.

The report declares that while Canadians obsess about pipelines and shrinking employment in coal, oil and gas, they and their leaders have been ignoring a sector that is outgrowing the rest of the economy, attracting billions of dollars in investment and creating more jobs than either the fossil fuel or mining sectors.

This isn’t the effects of some fancy Green New Deal. Instead, the report, called Missing the Bigger Picture consists of a relatively prosaic tabulation of the growing contribution of clean energy to the existing Canadian economy.

It estimates the clean energy industry accounts for about three per cent of Canada’s GDP, more than agriculture and forestry or the hotel and restaurant industry, and employed 298,000 people in 2017.

“It’s the most comprehensive look at Canada’s clean energy sector that’s been done to date, so it looks at the number of Canadians that are employed in this sector and the economic contribution the sector provides,” said Joanna Kyriazis, with Clean Energy Canada, a non-profit think-tank based at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

What it finds is revealing. As well as being big and growing, attracting more than $35 billion in investment in 2017, the clean energy business sector is invisible to most Canadians and not even classified in most statistics as a sector at all.

Today’s report is compiled from data assembled by Navius Research, a Vancouver-based business that has a reputation for collecting reliable data to guide companies exploring developments in the green sector. In any business, fudged data is a recipe for ruin, and the environmental sector is no exception.

An electric tram arrives in Toronto by rail from Thunder Bay, a component of the job-creating clean energy sector that many might overlook. (Don Pittis/CBC)

Part of what Navius has done is to try to create strict rational criteria for what to include in its assessment of the clean energy economy, exclusively targeting firms where the primary business was clean energy, whether in energy production or in improving energy efficiency.

As the executive director of Clean Energy Canada, Merran Smith says in her introduction to the report, “Put simply, it’s made up of companies and jobs that help to reduce carbon pollution — whether by creating clean energy, helping move it, reducing energy consumption, or making low-carbon technologies.”

Whereas fossil fuel energy data has been accumulated for more than a century, and is clearly identified in government and market statistics, companies contributing to the green energy economy have never been classified as a group. As such, what’s in the category, such as traditional hydroelectric production or power storage or public transit alternatives to cars, or what’s out, may yet be disputed.

Blinkered view

That will work itself out over time, but the concern of Smith and her group, and the reason for assembling today’s report, is the blinkered view of many Canadians that the energy industry and the economy are somehow in conflict with green principles.

Instead, as long predicted by advocates of the green economy, businesses that may initially have been motivated by regulation have begun to find new market-based incentives as the world seeks low-carbon alternatives.

“Instead of being in the compliance part of a company’s brain, all of a sudden it becomes part of the profit part of a company’s brain,” Stewart Elgie, professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa, told me in a 2015 interview on the future of the business-led green economy.

This has certainly happened as demand in the global green power sector, from components of electric cars to tools and techniques for energy efficiency, reach critical mass.

Economic research has shown that making the world more energy efficient is exactly what successful businesses have done throughout history, because energy is a cost, and cutting costs is what thriving businesses do.

An electric vehicle charging station at the Canadian International Auto Show. As the green energy sector grows it reaches a critical mass of economic activity. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

“The clean energy sector isn’t just about fighting climate change — it’s also about using Canadian innovation to create better and cheaper solutions for everyday life,” said Smith.

If current trends continue, the Navius research says that the effect of the green energy sector will become harder to miss in the economy. Studying the period from 2010 to 2017, not only did the sector outgrow the entire economy by more than one full percentage point, but jobs in that component of the economy increased by 2.2 per cent a year, compared to an annual increase of 1.4 per cent in jobs overall.

Part of the reason why the clean energy sector is not visible is because we think of it under different categories such as public transit or hydroelectric generation. But a second reason is that as a sector, clean energy is fractured into smaller players. It is unlike the fossil fuel industry, which is backed by decades of lobbying success and established connections to political elites.

The clean energy category has no giant business voice or industry group to represent it. Even the firms defined in this report as being clean energy businesses may not see themselves as part of this sector. Perhaps the report will help change that, and will help them get the economic respect they deserve.

Kyriazis says she hopes today’s report will make people more optimistic. Usually when we hear about energy in the media, it is bad news such as a lack of pipelines, falling prices, shrinking jobs or gloom over the effects of climate change, she says.

“The clean energy sector, here, it’s obviously a big success story that is not making the headlines,” she said. SOURCE

Giant Canadian construction project incorporates low carbon heating and cooling: Don Pittis

The Well rising on the old Globe and Mail site digs for more green innovations

Construction workers are dwarfed by the enormous underground reservoir at The Well in downtown Toronto that will be used to heat and cool the entire multi-building complex. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The company that made an international splash by air conditioning downtown Toronto without air conditioners has more energy-saving innovations in the works.

With the help of a gigantic purpose-built thermal reservoir, Enwave Energy will add an entire new neighbourhood to its underground low-carbon heating and cooling network with the project called The Well on the site that used to be headquarters for the Globe and Mail.

Not only will the seven-building retail, residential and office complex in the city’s business centre be added to Enwave’s lake-water cooling system, but the company is in the process of incorporating a series of revolutionary energy and carbon-saving techniques to keep residents and workers at The Well comfortable.

Digging deep

Even for construction-mad Toronto, the site is large, with more than a million square feet of office space, nearly 2,000 residences and more than 400,000 square feet of retail. The project’s backers estimate that it will serve about 11,000 people daily.

A view of the Enwave Well, under construction. (Enwave Energy)

“It’ll be 100 per cent heated and cooled by Enwave,” said Carson Gemmill, the company’s engineering lead for Toronto.

The project’s name has a double meaning, as its northern access is onto Wellington Street. But at the core of the project is the well itself, a multimillion-litre underground hole that extends into the bedrock from below the lowest parking level to a few metres above sea level.

The solution stored in the well — it is not just water — will act as a giant thermal battery, said Gemming, cold in the summer for air conditioning and hot in the winter for heating.

Enwave, which began life as a publicly owned utility used to heat municipal buildings and hospitals in the city using a centralized or “district” network, garnered global media attention more than a decade ago for its innovation in low-energy cooling.

Using the drinking water supply that the city draws from the chilly depths of Lake Ontario, Enwave sucks out some of that coldness from the just-above-zero Celsius lake water, and circulates it in downtown buildings to cool them without the costly electricity usually required for air conditioning.

Power cuts

Although climate change was not at the top of political agendas in those days, Enwave decreased the city’s peak electricity load by cutting the need for power from the coal-generating stations that at that time still supplied much of Ontario’s power.

One efficiency of the well at The Well is also a matter of peak demand.  The tank is filled overnight with colder water when there are low periods of demand for air conditioning. Enwave, now owned by the conglomerate Brookfield, adds to the thermal battery without increasing its cooling or heating capacity.

But a new heating innovation in the works is even more carbon-efficient, explained Gemmill.

While traditional heating for large industrial buildings like hospitals uses steam boiled by natural gas-burning furnaces, the heating loop for The Well will be based on hot water of the type familiar to people who have radiators in their homes.

How the Enwave well heats at different times of the day. (Enwave)

This water to be pumped for heating doesn’t need to be boiled and that opens the door to green heating alternatives, including electric heat pumps, an energy efficient method of concentrating heat from lower heat sources.

“One of the things that’s kind of interesting about our system is, people may not realize, in the winter months, even on days like today, we still actually have a significant cooling load because of the large data centre clients we serve,” said Gemmill.

Large urban centres around the world like Toronto have massive centralized server farms to act as nodes in data shared on the web to make it quicker to draw up frequently needed information. Individual companies such as banks have local data centres, as do cloud computing providers.

All are huge producers of heat that must be drawn away with cooling systems to prevent system breakdown. But whereas elsewhere that heat is vented to outdoor air, Enwave is engineering a system to capture and reuse it.

Pumped heat

“Really, like 13 C will be the temperature of our chill water coming back, but you run that through a heat pump,” said Gemmill. “So you can produce 60 C on the other side of the heat pump, which is useful for space heating.”

As Gemmill explains, heat pumps are like using a refrigerator in reverse, where heat is drawn out of air or water that may not feel especially warm.

After a recent CBC story on switching to lower carbon power electric heat, a number of readers pointed out that heating with electricity using baseboard resistance heaters can be prohibitively expensive outside Quebec. But as Gemmill explained, using a heat pump cuts that cost dramatically.

“Roughly, for every one unit of electricity you use [with a baseboard heater], you get one unit of useful heat,” said Gemmill. “Heat pumps are three to one. So they are three times more efficient.”

Currently the two giant steam generators Enwave operates to create steam for heat run on natural gas but the switch to hot water allows the new system to use leftover heat from the steam furnace, said Julia St. Michael, Enwave’s director of sustainability engagement.

“That hot water network right now is using waste heat from our facility, but in the future we’ll be able to add lower carbon sources of heat,” said St. Michael. As carbon taxes make gas more expensive, pumping heat from sewer water, industrial sources, as well as server farms, becomes more cost effective.

One of the biggest commercial efficiencies of Enwave’s district heating operation is that it means individual building managers don’t have to have their own air conditioners and heaters or the staff to run them. Centralized warming and cooling also means they have more space to lease out, said St. Michael.

But as Enwave showed with its deep water cooling system, the other advantage is that as new low-carbon technologies come into the mainstream, they can be introduced once at source and instantly apply to every building in the network. SOURCE

Canadian Basic Income Of $22,000 A Year Possible With Tax Hikes: Report

But businesses and higher earners would face a hit to their incomes.

Canadian Basic Income Of $22,000 A Year Possible With Tax Hikes:

CALVIO VIA GETTY IMAGES

MONTREAL ― A basic income of $22,000 a year to all adult Canadians is financially doable, and would nearly eliminate poverty in the country, a new economic analysis argues ― but not without tax hikes for higher earners and a higher corporate tax rate.

The analysis from the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) used a simulation database and model from Statistics Canada to predict how three different basic income programs would work. It picked $22,000 as the level because it’s an approximation of the cut-off point for a number of measures of poverty.

It found all three options would virtually eliminate poverty in Canada, with the share of people living below the low income cut-off dropping by as much as 95 per cent, depending on the program type. Families in the bottom 10 per cent of earners would see their disposable incomes jump by 3.5 to 4.5 times current levels. The country would also see an immediate and significant shrinking of the income gap.

The BICN report was released on Thursday.

Watch: Ontario’s basic income pilot project was “a blessing” to these small business owners.

Part of the point of the analysis was to address concerns ― even within the basic income movement ― that a workable basic income could be designed, said Sheila Regehr, chair of BICN.

The analysis showed that “there are ways of doing this (that) meet our objectives of reducing poverty, inequality and insecurity,” Regehr said in an interview with HuffPost Canada.

The analysis found a large part of the cost can be covered by shuffling around money from existing federal and provincial programs that would be made redundant by a basic income, such as the Working Income Tax Benefit and the GST/HST credit.

But it would still require additional revenue to keep it from driving up deficits.

The proposed basic income programs would raise $17.4 billion in revenue through a variety of policies championed by progressive economists as ways to address rising inequality.

This includes hiking the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent from 10 per cent and the small business tax rate to 13.5 per cent from 10.5 per cent. That would return those tax rates to levels they were at earlier this century, before successive rounds of cuts.

And in a move that would ruffle the feathers of higher earners, capital gains ― increases in the value of investments ― “would be treated the same” as income earned from work under the proposed options. Currently, only half the value of a capital gain is taxed as income. People’s principal residences would continue to be exempt.

It would also mean higher income taxes for some. Those in the top 10 per cent of earners ― with an income above $148,000 ― would see their disposable income cut by between 7.2 and 10.2 per cent, depending on the type of basic income.

No benefits above $60,000

But even some who consider themselves solidly middle earners would see higher taxes, thanks to the elimination of some tax breaks and higher tax brackets. The basic income’s benefit would fade completely at around the $60,000 income mark, and those above it could expect to see some increase in taxes.

Earners in the $60,000 to $80,000 range would see a reduction in disposable income of between 2.9 and 6.9 per cent, depending on the type of program, the analysis found.

It’s to (corporations’) advantage to have a population that’s stable, where people are able to get a good education and to be consumers for the things they are making.Sheila Regehr, chair of BICN

Regehr stresses that these are suggestions based on BICN’s principles, which include creating a more equitable tax system. “We’re not saying these are the only sources of revenue,” she said.

For those businesses and capital owners who stand to take a hit to their pocketbooks, she suggests taking the broader view, making an argument many basic income supporters champion: That lifting people out of poverty will create a stronger consumer class, helping businesses.

“It’s to (corporations’) advantage to have a population that’s stable, where people are able to get a good education and to be consumers for the things they are making. There’s a lot of symbiosis in there,” Regehr said.

The analysis shows “we have the money in this country (but) we’re spending it very ineffectively,” she added.

BICN’s three basic income options

All three of these options would involve the tax changes listed above. The costs would be covered through funding from existing programs that are folded into the basic income, and through the tax hikes BICN envisions.

The first option would see everyone aged 18 to 64 receive a basic income that tops up their income so that no one has less than $22,000 per year. As a person’s income grows, the basic income would be scaled back, with recipients losing 40 cents for every additional dollar earned from work. Seniors would retain Old Age Security (OAS) and the General Income Supplement (GIS) ― which are themselves a form of basic income ― while parents would retain the Canada Child Benefit. Cost: $134.45 billion.

The second option is the same as the first, except that it would include seniors, and the OAS and GIS, along with its funding, would be folded into the basic income. The Canada Child Benefit would remain. Annual cost: $187.49 billion.

The third option, sometimes called a “universal demogrant,” would see the government hand out $22,000 to everyone regardless of income. This makes it far and away the most costly option, but much of the cost would be recouped from higher earners through higher income tax brackets. Cost: $637.86 billion.

SOURCE

Everything you need to know about the UN climate refugee ruling and Canada

The bridge connecting North and South Tarawa, an atoll in the Pacific nation of Kiribati that is facing the threat of rising sea levels from climate change, pictured in 2017. Asian Development Bank photo

A new human-rights ruling says deporting a person to a country where they could be killed or seriously mistreated as a result of the climate crisis would violate an international treaty to which Canada is a party, according to the country’s UN refugee agency.

UNHCR Canada has told National Observer the Trudeau government needs to examine the domestic implications of a recent ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee, that found countries can’t deport people seeking asylum as a result of threats related to the climate emergency.

It’s the first time a UN body has made this type of determination with respect to climate change. But the ruling by the 18-member committee, released Tuesday, is non-binding on Canada, and raises many complex questions as to how it will ultimately factor into Canada’s refugee system.

“In its decision, the UN Human Rights Committee has made clear that returning a person to a country where they face a risk to their life, or a risk of serious mistreatment, as a result of climate change-related environmental degradation would violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Melanie Gallant, head of communications for UNHCR Canada.

“Like all states party to the international covenant, it is incumbent on Canada to consider the committee’s decision and its implications domestically.”

The covenant is one of the main international human-rights treaties to which Canada is a party, along with others on subjects such as torture, genocide and racial discrimination.

Once someone is already in Canada, the country is obligated by those human-rights treaties to protect people who are considered to be refugees under the UN Refugee Convention, or whose removal would subject them to torture or severe mistreatment.

The UN Refugee Convention, however, does not explicitly mention climate change, which could complicate matters for climate refugees in Canada. The convention is concerned instead with well-founded fears of persecution for other reasons: race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group. Resettled refugees, who are referred to Canada by the UNHCR, and other categories such as private sponsorship are also recognized under the convention.

The same sort of grounds of protection apply when asylum seekers are considered for a pre-removal risk assessment. When an individual is subject to a removal order, an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency will tell the person if they can apply for the assessment. Then an official from the immigration department carries out the evaluation, which is supposed to examine whether a person would face persecution, torture, risk to life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the federal department, says it does monitor the implications of climate change on migration. But “we cannot speculate on future policy,” spokeswoman Shannon Ker said.

‘A very important first step in international law’

The definition of a convention refugee is laid out in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. But the interpretation of that definition is an “ongoing process,” says the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), the independent tribunal that decides refugee cases. “Some issues have been settled by the courts, others remain unanswered,” it noted in March 2019.

It is “incumbent on Canada” to consider a recent ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee on climate refugees, says @UNHCRCanada. It is the first time a UN body has made this type of determination.

Jamie Chai Yun Liew, an expert in immigration, refugee and citizenship law and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, said no refugee-receiving country like Canada has within their own laws a recognition that speaks directly to people who are affected by climate-related situations and affords them refugee protection.

But while she said the ruling wouldn’t affect anything immediately in Canada, in the future it could lead to something more substantive. “This is a very important first step in international law, so to speak, for starting to recognize a legal basis for refugee protection for those that are affected by climate-related crises or situations,” Liew said.

For Francisco Rico-Martinez, co-director of the FCJ Refugee Centre, which looks at systemic issues newly-arrived refugee claimants face in Canada, the ruling could be useful when presenting in front of the IRB.

“I will go in that direction myself, to ask, ‘Why don’t we modify our humanitarian and compassionate program?’” Rico-Martinez said. “When a case like this has come to my office, we’ve always used the environmental situation, but we’ve tried to link it to other elements of persecution.”

UN Human Rights

Historic case opens door to asylum claims ➡️ UN finds that countries may not deport individuals who face climate change-induced conditions that violate the right to life.

👉 http://ow.ly/5V4m50y0EFL 

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The Pacific nation in danger of being wiped out

Canadian law indicates persons in need of protection should be subjected personally to risks. In other words, the risk has to be faced by the person in “every part of that country” and can’t also be faced “generally” by others in the country. That, too, could complicate matters for climate refugees in the Great White North.

The UN committee ruling did involve a personal case: that of Ioane Teitota, from Kiribati, a country of islands in the Pacific Ocean being swamped by rising waters. Teitota argued violence and deaths over the remaining land in his country forced him to migrate from the island of Tarawa to New Zealand, which deported him after denying his asylum application.

This all means it is less likely the UN Human Rights Committee would automatically expect Canada to immediately grant refugee status to all climate refugees, and more likely to expect the country to consider the alleged grounds of persecution each applicant faces — ostensibly the process that is already in place.

IRCC “monitors the implications of climate change on migration and displacement patterns and flows,” spokeswoman Béatrice Fénelon confirmed.

“The government of Canada recognizes that climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of our time, with broad implications on health, agriculture, economy, trade, infrastructure, displacement and migration,” she said. “Developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, are the hardest hit by climate change.”

Fénelon also noted Canada can take action on a “case-by-case basis” in the event of a “natural disaster,” such as when it expedited immigration applications from Haitians with family in Canada after the 2010 earthquake.

“Canada’s refugee program is about saving lives and offering protection to the displaced and persecuted. Canada remains steadfast in offering protection to convention refugees,” Fénelon said.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi speaks at the World Economic Forum on Jan. 22, 2020. WEF Photo

Refugees ‘can be part of the solution’

The UN human-rights committee ruling is the latest step in an international discussion sure to accelerate in the coming years, about how to deal with so-called “refugees of the blue planet” whose lives have been uprooted as a result of the degradation of the environment.

Scientists expect climate change to make sweeping changes to broad aspects of the planet that will affect hundreds of millions of people. The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has warned of “climate apartheid” where millions are cut off from food, water or housing.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tried to underline the ruling’s significance at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, telling Reuters “we must be prepared for a large surge of people moving against their will… we’re talking about millions here.”

Those millions would add to the more than 70 million people in 2018 who fled war, persecution and conflict, according to the UNHCR — the highest level of migration it has ever seen over its roughly 70-year existence.

Gallant from the UNHCR Canada office said they themselves were still examining the ruling and its potential implications.

“Climate change is a most pressing issue for us, and is at the heart of our work,” she said.

“Not only because climate change can be a cause of displacement, but also because refugees and the communities that welcome them can be part of the solution.” SOURCE

Manitoba’s tourism plan doesn’t adequately consider risk of climate change: auditor general

Travel Manitoba audit says province doesn’t have systems, practices in place to achieve tourism goals

Manitoba Auditor General Norm Ricard said the province’s tourism strategy identifies climate change as a low risk to tourism in the province, despite the fact that polar bears in Churchill, Man., are ‘a centerpiece’ of its marketing. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

Manitoba has set goals to bring more visitors to the province, but isn’t doing enough to achieve those goals, the province’s auditor general says.

Among a variety of tourism issues highlighted by a new report is the fact Manitoba has not considered the risk climate change could pose to one of the province’s biggest money makers.

In the report released on Thursday, Auditor General Norm Ricard said Travel Manitoba, the government agency that oversees tourism in the province, needs to do a better job of assessing risks to the tourism industry — which is the third-largest revenue generator in Manitoba, after agriculture and mining.

Ricard said none of the Crown agency’s three strategic plans considered the risks climate change could pose to tourism in Churchill, Man., a town about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg that makes up a large part of the province’s tourism strategy, in part because of its polar bears.

“Churchill is one of the main drivers of tourism to Manitoba and a centrepiece of Travel Manitoba’s marketing,” Ricard said.

“The loss of the polar bear’s environment due to climate change would have a significant impact on tourism. Yet, the plan identifies climate change as a low risk to tourism,” he said, in reference to the province’s tourism strategy.

Ricard said other risks to tourism have also gone underappreciated by Travel Manitoba, like a lack of tourist attractions, the need to update existing attractions with modern features to compete with other destinations, and a shortage of people trained in the service industry — which a spokesperson for the auditor general’s office said is a problem particularly in rural and northern Manitoba.

The report covered an audit of Travel Manitoba’s practices between April 1, 2015 and Aug. 31, 2019, and concluded that the province does not have adequate systems and practices in place to achieve the tourism goals and objectives it has established.

4 recommendations

The report also highlighted communication issues, saying the tourism agency should make its reporting and public documentation easy to find without extensive searching.

“[It] is expected that Travel Manitoba do its part in fulfilling the government’s commitment to transparency,” the report read.

The audit also found while Travel Manitoba consulted with the business community for its plans, it did not consult separately with what the report called “key government departments” early on.

“By not having key stakeholders in the provincial government involved earlier in the process, barriers to achievement or other information not previously identified may have been overlooked or omitted,” Ricard said.

The 30-page report sets out four recommendations to bring Travel Manitoba more in line with its goals to promote tourism across Manitoba.

The auditor general recommends Travel Manitoba:

    • Conduct a risk assessment for all tourism strategies, including short-, medium- and long-term risks, and identify measures to mitigate significant risks.
    • Identify existing resources, funding required and funding sources, staff requirements, and which other stakeholders are needed to support the initiatives identified by the province’s tourism strategies.
    • Issue separate progress reports on its strategies, including achievements implementing the initiatives by other parties.
    • Ensure that monitoring and reporting information is easily locatable and publicly accessible.

SOURCE

Carbon emissions: Scale of UK fossil fuel support ‘staggering’

Oil refinery

A small government agency is supporting fossil fuel projects abroad with estimated carbon emissions of a country the size of Portugal, it has emerged. Getty Images

UK Export Finance (UKEF), a government agency in the Department for International Trade, is spending billions of pounds on the projects, Newsnight researchers have found.

This is despite a government commitment to cut down on carbon emissions.

The Conservative Environment Network (CEN) called the figures “staggering”.

The organisation, which describes itself as a forum for conservatives who support conservation and decarbonisation, said funding the projects was “a blemish on the UK government’s record on climate change”.

An investigation by Newsnight, in conjunction with Unearthed – Greenpeace’s investigations unit – found that UKEF has helped to finance oil and gas projects that, when complete, will emit 69 million tonnes of carbon a year, according to government estimates.

That’s nearly a sixth of the total annual carbon emissions of the UK.

The government calculated the UK’s total emissions to be 449 million tonnes of C02e (carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2018.

It said the 69 million tonne estimate was a “worst case” scenario – and the emissions of the projects may be lower when the projects are operational.

The UK is just one of a number of backers for these projects.

UKEF was set up a century ago – and aims to support British businesses abroad.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson announced that the UK would no longer finance coal mining or coal-fired power plants abroad.

Newsnight’s investigation found all of UKEF’s current fossil fuel financing was for oil and gas projects, and not coal.

Newsnight research also found that – since 2010 – UKEF has financed £6bn of fossil fuel projects. Financing has been provided to some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world.

The projects that UKEF helps to fund abroad include oil refineries, power plants and liquefied gas extraction.

Last year, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) published a report criticising UKEF as an “elephant in the room undermining the UK’s international climate and development targets”.

Kerry McCarthy MP, a Labour member of the EAC said: “It’s ludicrous that we would be funding something overseas, that we are purporting to be moving away from in our own country.

“There’s just a complete disconnect, there’s complete hypocrisy, that we boast of cleaning up our own act, but actually we are enabling other countries to carry on polluting.”

UKEF told Newsnight: “We are committed to working with countries across the world to unlock their renewable energy potential and support their transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives.”

As well as investments in fossil fuels UKEF has also financed some renewable projects.

The CEN’s Sam Hall said the government needed to solve the issue of what UKEF funds before COP26 – an international climate change conference due to be held in Glasgow in November this year. SOURCE

‘We’re Fighting for Our Rights’: The EPA’s First Bill of Rights Decries Trump’s Deregulatory Tactics

Illustration: Chelsea Beck (G/O Media)

For employees who’ve spent decades working for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Trump administration is like nothing they’ve ever seen before. That’s exactly why—for the first time ever—the agency’s union employees have authored a Bill of Rights to set the agency back on track to meet its mission.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) began organizing EPA staff in the 1970s. Since then, the roughly 8,000 employees protected under the union have never felt the need to issue a Bill of Rights. After all, the EPA’s mission is simple: protect human health and the environment. It shouldn’t need reminding of that, right?

Well, these days it does. Many employees don’t agree with the direction the agency has taken under Trump as leadership pivots the EPA to rolling back regulations that will make pollution worse. They also don’t support the tactics the administration is using to prevent employees from doing the work they’ve been doing for years.

Since 2018, the administration has issued executive orders and directives that undermine workers’ rights by limiting the amount of time they can spend on union responsibilities and making it easier to fire them despite their union protections. A judge deemed these orders illegal in 2018, yet EPA leadership again tried to alter the workplace culture through directives last year. As EPA workers entered renewed union contract negotiations with management in December, they came ready.

EPA employees launched a campaign called Protect EPA in tandem with their Bill of Rights push. In many ways, it highlights how connected the Trump administration’s attacks on public health and the environment and civil servants are.

The bill lists 10 rights union members are demanding, starting with the right to scientific integrity, which has been a serious concern for both people within and outside the agency. The administration has stocked once-impartial outside advisory boards with industry shills and outright dissolved others. Scientific journal editors have spoken out about the Trump administration’s attempts to limit science as have experts with the New York University Brennan Center for Justice.
Workers also want the right to enforce environmental laws without political interference and the right to discuss solutions to climate change. For an agency tasked with protecting public health, these rights seem like a no-brainer.
Then, there are the obvious rights union members (and all workers really!) should be entitled to, such as the right to work-life balance. And they want to enshrine their right to a fair contract that is collectively bargained as opposed to unilateral directives without any input from union members.

These types of protections could help gird the agency’s civil servants from the frequent political attacks. Trump ran his campaign on promises to “get rid of it in almost every form.” Since then, he’s done his best to follow through.

The EPA has been ground zero for many of the environmental rollbacks. Trump most recently proposed dismantling the National Environmental Policy Act. He has also killed coal ash regulations and the EPA’s only plan to reduce emissions from coal. And just this week, the agency wiped out protections for wetlands that favor polluters. During the Trump years, EPA enforcement has fallen all while the administration has tried to slash the agency’s funding and force workers out. And it’s also been ground zero for the administration’s assault on the federal workforce.

For example, the agency has historically allowed its employees to work from home and has been pretty flexible about work schedules, Danita Yocom, the vice president of AFGE Local 1236 in San Francisco and an attorney at the EPA, told Earther. In addition to giving workers flexibility, it also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commuting. Now, the agency allows only one teleworking day a week.

You can imagine how this would impact working parents, in particular, who may work from home to ensure they pick up their kids from daycare or school on time. Or now if someone needs to take only the afternoon off to run an errand or take their kid to the doctor, that employee is forced to take the entire day off because of these new rules. These are the types of scenarios Yocom now faces.

“That’s time I could’ve been getting work done the entire morning, and I’m not able to do that now,” Yocom said. “It’s not really working well for families, and it doesn’t really work well for getting the work done, either.”

Morale is the largest issue with Trump’s changes, Yocom said. The changes the administration is implementing make it “more difficult, if not impossible,” she said, for these workers to do their jobs, whether that’s protecting bodies of water or reducing air pollution. That’s why they’re putting pressure on the EPA to let them do their jobs. The well-being of a nation is on the line.

“We really do want to see the agency focus on climate. We really want to see the agency make its decisions based on science,” Yocom said. “We really want the agency to continue environmental enforcement. This is really the first time we’ve come to this point where we feel we need to speak out in this way.”

Some of the impacts go beyond work-life balance and the science, as the Bill of Rights makes clear. Point nine demands the right to a hate-free and safe workplace. The agency has dealt with at least a handful of racist incidents since Trump entered office. At the Washington headquarters, offensive messages using the n-word were left on a whiteboard in November 2018, and the EPA didn’t take sufficient action to investigate the incident, Gary Morton, president of AFGE Council 238 and recent EPA retiree, told Earther. 

“That’s why we want a hate-free and safe workplace,” he said. “We’re fighting for our rights.” MORE

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