Canada gets poor marks on latest climate report card


A man walks between flooded houses in Constance Bay northwest of Ottawa on April 26, 2019. Photo by Kamara Morozuk

Countries across the world need to make their 2030 emission targets much more ambitious if the world is to stand a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a major research report says.

And Canada is one of the biggest laggards, far from reaching its own targets which are themselves far from enough to keep warming to that level.

The annual “Brown to Green” report from the Climate Transparency partnership said Canada is far from contributing its fair share toward the 1.5 C goal, with the third most energy-intensive economy in the G20. And that’s despite having one of the cleanest electricity grids.

Canada’s economy expands significantly more energy per dollar of value created than the G20 average. Source: Climate Transparency

“South Korea, Canada and Australia are the G20 countries furthest off track to implement their NDCs,” the report said, referring to the nationally determined contributions countries committed to as part of a global response to the climate crisis.

Those goals are due to be updated in 2020.

The report, which its authors call the most comprehensive review of G20 climate action, was developed by experts from 14 research organizations covering most G20 countries, including Climate AnalyticsNew Climate Institute, and the Energy and Resources Institute.

The climate report card on Canada is pretty grim. Canada’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are much higher than the G20 average, at 18.9 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person. Much of Canada’s failure to limit overall emissions is due to energy-inefficient buildings and rising pollution from two provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Those two oil-rich provinces shut out the Liberals and their carbon price in the federal election in October.

On the campaign trail, Trudeau pledged to exceed Canada’s 2030 targets and achieve net zero emissions by 2050 with legally binding five-year targets, but with few details about how to do that. Now the Liberals are back in power, but with a weakened mandate, and facing big questions about how to implement climate policies with a minority government and a divided country.

Researchers who worked on the Climate Transparency report acknowledged the regional differences that complicate national policy-making.

Canada is one of the biggest laggards in the G20 when it comes to climate action, a new report from @ClimateT_G20 says, with emissions from buildings that are twice the G20 average.

“It is definitely not the same to decarbonize Saudi Arabia, or Alberta in Canada, than it is to become a nice Costa Rica,” said Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis, from Argentina’s Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Environment and Natural Resources Foundation).

Costa Rica is working to be carbon-free by 2050, with a plan for electric passenger and freight trains in service by 2022, nearly a third of its buses to be electric by 2035, and nearly all cars and buses on the roads to be electric by 2050.

“This brings a lot more challenges. You have a big piece of your economy depending on that … you have an entire population, or part of society, that was built on that production and you are actually telling them that actually has to be gone very soon.”

Canada will need to have a plan to help oil and gas workers, the report said, similar to what is being set up for dislocated coal workers as that energy source is targeted for a full phase-out by 2030.

The 2019 federal budget proposed a dedicated $150-million infrastructure fund to support affected coal communities, in addition to funding for coal worker transition centres.

Ipek Gençsü from the U.K.’s Overseas Development Institute said that various levels of government must work together to solve these tough problems.

“Not everyone can be retrained, we know that, so it’s just having to answer these very real questions,” she said. “But definitely not delaying it and not hiding behind sort of unrealistic scenarios of how much the sectors can continue to provide livelihoods for people, because it’s simply not true anymore.”

Canada’s fossil fuel industry accounts for 1 per cent of the national workforce, concentrated in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador provinces.

A chart from the Carbon Transparency report shows Canada’s emission from fuel combustion by sector

Insufficient goals

Yet even Canada’s goal to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 is insufficient, the report said, since hitting it would reduce emissions to a range of 518 to 557 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) and Canada needs to get to 327 MtCO2e.

If all countries merely hit their existing 2030 targets, global mean temperature would increase to around 3 C by 2100, said the report, which looked at emissions relating to the production of electricity, transportation, buildings, industry and agriculture.

Keeping the global temperature increase to 1.5 C cuts down the average drought length by more than two-thirds compared to a 3 C rise, limits the growing season’s shrinkage and the reduction of rainfall, and sharply cuts the risk of heat waves that ravage crops.

“G20 countries will have to ratchet up their 2030 emissions targets in 2020 and significantly bolster mitigation, adaptation and finance measures over the next decade,” the report said.

Membership of the G20 consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union. Collectively, the G20 economies account for roughly 90 per cent of gross world product, and two-thirds of the world population and the world’s land.

Canada could improve its overall performance by adopting a clean fuel standard and enhancing measures to boost zero-emission vehicles, including light and heavy-duty trucks and undertaking deep energy retrofits of existing buildings, a country profile attached to the main ‘Brown to Green’ report said.

Canada’s emissions from buildings — including heating, cooking and electricity use — make up a fifth of its total CO2 emissions.

On the plus side, Canada has reduced the energy intensity of its buildings by almost 10 per cent between 2013 and 2018, although on a per capita basis they remain more than double the G20 average.

The full report and G20 country profiles can be accessed at the Climate Transparency website. SOURCE

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As We Transition Away From Fossil Fuels, We Must Also Tackle Inequality

A worker looks onward at a chemical processing plant
A just transition to a low-carbon future must offer support not only to displaced fossil fuel workers but also to the surrounding communities that have suffered the negative environmental consequences of fossil fuel use for decades. WITTHAYA PRASONGSIN / GETTY IMAGES

Two truths lie at the heart of efforts to transition away from fossil fuels. The first is that to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, we must rapidly and dramatically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. The second is that the resulting decrease in fossil fuel use and extraction will cause displacement of workers and the loss of tax revenue for many communities, and in some cases, it will eliminate entire tax bases.

The second truth does not change the first, and the costs of inaction will far outweigh the cost of decarbonization. But, for a just, low-carbon future, the solutions to climate change cannot exacerbate existing inequities by leaving workers displaced and communities without economic resources. A “just transition” — an energy transition that addresses and mitigates the challenges fossil fuel workers and communities face in a decarbonized world — will be a complex process. It will often require difficult trade-offs. However, proactive planning and organizing can help equitably transition these workers and communities into a low-carbon future.

The Reliance on Fossil Fuel Extraction

There is an increasing acknowledgement that fossil fuel workers must be provided with support during the carbon transition, as evidenced by policies in the Green New Deal and several Democratic presidential candidate climate plans.

Less discussed is the role that fossil fuel extraction plays in economically supporting local and state economies. In Wyoming, the top coal-producing state, taxes on coal extraction provide a substantial amount of the state’s annual budget. As journalist Andrew Graham detailed in the independent outlet WyoFile, coal companies pay the state through four different streams. These include:

      1. Severance tax: There is a severance tax paid to the state when coal is removed from the ground. Wyoming’s 7 percent tax on surface mined coal is one of the highest in the nation.
      2. Federal mining royalties: Approximately half of mining royalties paid to the federal government for coal mining on federal land are returned to the state.
      3. Sale of coal leases: When coal leases are sold, a lump sum payment is paid to the state.
      4. Ad valorem: A type of property tax, ad valorem taxes are paid at the county level and redistributed throughout the state. These taxes and fees are in addition to employing thousands of miners at high wages.

While steadily declining, in 2017, coal contributed more than $891 million in taxes, royalties and fees to the state’s economy. The estimated revenue in the state for the same year was $2.1 billion. While the state is attempting to diversify its economy through initiatives like ENDOW and Next Generation Sector Partnerships, there are steep challenges to attracting industries that can provide the same tax revenue and wages as the coal industry. In 2016, the average wage of a coal mining worker was more than $85,000, nearly twice that of the average for all industries combined. The role the coal industry plays in providing an economic base for the state cannot be overstated….

Who Gets a Just Transition?

The focus on fossil fuel communities and workers can feel misplaced. Other communities, in particular, those that have experienced environmental racism that left them with the negative environmental consequences of fossil fuel use without its benefits, are justifiably wary of the attention and resources devoted to transitioning extractive communities….

Just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities must be in addition to, and not instead of, transition programs targeted at under-resourced, marginalized communities that are hit first and worst by the impacts of climate change. These overlapping transition challenges can be met through expansive programs that both address the challenges specific to the cessation of fossil fuels and mitigate the historic burden placed on marginalized communities from fossil fuels.

Recent research provides a framework of principles that can guide just transition policy development. The principles were developed by analyzing just transition efforts around the world and understanding the short-term (i.e. immediate wage, benefit and revenue replacement) and long-term (i.e. economic diversification and retraining) needs that workers and communities will face. The principles include strong governmental support, dedicated funding streams, strong and diverse coalitions, and economic diversification.   MORE

 

Vast subsidies keeping the fossil fuel industry afloat should be put to better use

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(MENAFN – The Conversation) Capitalism has often been identified as the underlying cause of theclimate crisis . A leading voice on the subject is Naomi Klein, one of the climate movements most influential thinkers, whose seminal book onclimate changewas subtitled Capitalism vs. the Climate. She is one of many voices identifying capitalism as the cause of climate change.

Often central within the capitalism versus the climate framing is the idea that the heart of capitalist ideology – free market fundamentalism – has fuelled the climate crisis. But this line of argument often glosses over the fact that energy markets are not free from government intervention. In fact, the fossil fuel industry is deeply and increasingly reliant on government support to survive.

Ina forthcoming book chapter , I detail case studies from the world’s worst climate polluting countries. I show that the fossil fuel industry depends on an egregious amount of government support, which makes the public foot the bill for a harmful – and increasingly uncompetitive – industry.

Polluters market

In my chapter, I show that governments the world over favour fossil fuel interests throughpublic financing ,financial subsidies , andbailouts . In addition, the fossil fuel industry is helped bycorrupt governance systems . Together this forms what I call a system of fossil fuel welfare and protectionism.

To hide this reality, the fossil fuel industry has invested ina massive public relationsscheme (read: propaganda campaign) to paint itself as the defender of the free market. In the US, the fossil fuel industry has even,quite successfully , duped Evangelicals into associating the fossil fuel industry with free markets, and free markets with God’s will. Thus, attacks on the fossil fuel industry become attacks on God’s will. But if God’s will was really aligned with the free market, then the fossil fuel industry would be doing the devil’s work.

Take South Africa, for example, the biggest carbon polluter on the African continent. It used to be home to the world’sfastest growing renewable energy sector , but government intervention to protect polluting coal interests set back these advances. Under President Cyril Ramaphosa the government is now taking steps to allowsmall amountsof new renewable energy into the market. But government actions continue to slowthe immense potentialSouth Africa has for a low-cost, renewable energy revolution.

Arecent studyreported that South Africa subsidises coal by R56,6 billion per year – propping up a polluting industry with taxpayer money. South Africa continues to subsidise coal despite studies showing that renewable energy was helpingto prevent energy blackouts , wassaving South Africa billions on energyand that a renewable energy future is the country’slowest costenergy pathway.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study showed that the US, the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas emitter, givesten times more to fossil fuel subsidies than it does to education . Without such subsidies half of future oil production in the USwould be unprofitable .

As for coal, even the Wall Street Journal admits that US coalsimply can’t compete on a level playing field , and is losing out despite its major subsidies.Studies revealthat without regulation to shield them from market forces, about half of the coal plants in the US would be going bankrupt.

The fossil fuel industry is increasingly relying on the heavy hand of the government to protect fossil fuels from competition. Subsidies and protective policies shield fossil fuels from the reality that renewable energy has become the cheapest energy sourceworldwide.

MORE

This is HUGE! Europe’s leaders are about to decide whether to END carbon pollution completely

Image result for Climate change: Parliament’s blueprint for long-term CO2 cuts
Decarbonisation is also an opportunity for industry, say MEPs© AP Images/European Union-EP

This is HUGE — Europe’s leaders are about to decide whether to END carbon pollution completely! But dirty energy blockers like Poland are trying to derail the plan. Let’s show governments there’s massive public support for 100% clean energy to tackle the climate crisis — add your name now and share widely!

SIGN THE PETITION

If they do it, it would be a giant leap towards a safe climate for all. But dirty energy blockers, like Poland, are already trying to derail the plan — and it’s up to us to defend it.

We urgently need a massive show of public support from the whole world for the plan — so let’s build one, and we’ll deliver it to all the key governments before EU leaders meet in days. Add your name now to join the call for 100% clean energy to meet the climate emergency!

Europe: End climate pollution!

Can you imagine how big a deal it would be if an entire continent announced a plan to abandon the filthy fossil fuels that are choking our skies with carbon? It could really happen — and soon!

Under the Paris climate deal, countries are required to develop new plans for rapidly reducing carbon emissions. The EU’s will be one of the first plans to be published — and experts say it will set the tone for other plans all over the world.

So let’s throw the whole weight of our magical movement behind this amazing idea. We’ll deliver our voices to all the governments ahead of the talks, and pressure blockers like Poland to back down. Join now, and let’s make this the end for dirty climate pollution!

Europe: End climate pollution!

The fight for our climate is a fight for humanity’s future. And our movement has risen time and time again to fight for the safe, sustainable future that is within our grasp. Now we must do it again — to end the era of fossil fuels for good.

It’s Time to Stop Calling Natural Gas a ‘Bridge Fuel’ to a Safe Climate, Says New Report

Eliminating climate emissions from fracking , the threat of earthquakes, the poisoning of water, the threat to British Columbia ocean species resulting from shipping, all point to banning fracking to help restore the earth.

natural gas flare

Natural gas, marketed for years as a “bridge fuel” to cleaner energy sources, cannot be part of any climate solution, according to a new report from Oil Change International.

While its authors outline a range of arguments, the report, Burning the Gas “Bridge Fuel” Myth: Why Gas is Not Clean, Cheap, or Necessary, highlights this simple reason: There is no room for new fossil fuel development — natural gas included — within the Paris Agreement goals. Therefore, plans to transition to a natural gas-based system are incompatible with international climate goals.

We simply have no more time to debate what’s already been settled. We must move swiftly to a fully renewable energy economy and leave all fossil fuels, including gas, behind,” said Lorne Stockman, report author and Senior Research Analyst for Oil Change International. “Despite desperate attempts by the oil and gas industry to persuade policymakers that their products have a future in a climate-safe world, a rational look at the data clearly shows otherwise.”

While this fact alone should be enough to counter the industry’s attempt to sell natural gas — which is mostly the potent greenhouse gas methane — as a “clean” fuel, there are plenty of other reasons to move on from all fossil fuels, including natural gas.

Renewables Plus Storage Are Already Economical — and Getting Cheaper

In 2013 when natural gas was being touted as a bridge fuel, the oil and gas industry could point to it as a cheaper alternative for producing electricity than coal. At the time, renewable energy sources and battery storage simply weren’t cost-competitive with natural gas or coal.

That was a different time. The low cost of renewable energy has helped end the future of the coal industry and is now poised to do the same to natural gas. The concept of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” was based on the idea that the world needed a reliable and economical energy source to cover the transition until renewables plus storage were a viable alternative.

That time is now. MORE

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Alberta Imposes New Fracking Restrictions Near Dam after Quakes

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Federal carbon tax favours coal-fired plants, could “diminish” renewables investment, new report says

 

Image result for climate clockAs far as a sustainable energy policy goes, the Liberal’s attempt to square the circle  is doomed to failure: allow tar sands to expand and their emissions to rise; give coal production a pass; meanwhile ship the world’s dirtiest oil to foreign markets via the TransMountain pipeline. But in the real world, it just makes no sense. Still Catherine McKenna, with a straight face , zealously attempts to sell this preposterous program. Meanwhile the doomsday clock keeps ticking as we approach global ecocide

A regulatory proposal introduced in December could ‘diminish’ investment in renewable power in Canada, according to the C.D. Howe Institute

A giant drag line works in the Highvale Coal Mine to feed the nearby Sundance Power Plant near Wabamun, Alberta on Friday, Mar. 21, 2014. JOHN LUCAS/EDMONTON JOURNAL

OTTAWA — The federal carbon tax could favour coal-fired power plants over clean sources like wind and solar in its approach to industrial emissions, a new report says, potentially undermining a central aim of the Liberal government’s policy.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna released a regulatory proposal in December 2018 that provided details on the heavy emitters portion of the carbon tax, including how levies would be applied to electricity generators. Independent think-tank The C.D. Howe Institute reviewed the proposal and found it would actually give a leg up to higher-intensity emissions like coal and “diminish” investment in renewables, due to a decision to raise a critical threshold on certain producers.

“This is indisputably a carve-out for coal that departs from the principle of an economy-wide carbon price,” said Grant Bishop, who wrote a report on the institute’s findings published Tuesday.

The report could add weight to claims that the federal carbon tax introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does little to target high-intensity industrial emissions. It could also have an impact on coal-related emissions in Alberta, which still depends heavily on the fuel source to generate power.

In December, McKenna released a regulatory proposal for the [output-based pricing system]  OBPS that would force coal-fired facilities to pay levies based on a threshold of 800 tonnes per gigawatt hour (GWh), compared with a threshold of 370 tonnes per GWh for natural gas. That higher target effectively provides more space for coal providers to sidestep levies, giving them a comparative advantage over natural gas or even emissions-free energy sources like hydro, wind and solar. MORE

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Kenney defiantly challenges Trudeau on climate

Renewables ‘have won the race’ against coal and are starting to beat natural gas

Meanwhile, the president remains clueless about the clean energy revolution.


GIANT WIND TURBINES ARE POWERED BY STRONG WINDS IN FRONT OF SOLAR PANELS ON MARCH 27, 2013 IN PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA. CREDIT: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/GETTY IMAGES.

New Wind and Solar Power Is Cheaper Than Existing Coal in Much of the U.S., Analysis Finds

Coal-fired power plants in the Southeast and Ohio Valley stand out. In all, 74% of coal plants cost more to run than building new wind or solar, analysts found.

Maintenance workers on a solar farm. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Nearly three-fourths of the country’s coal-fired power plants already cost more to operate than if wind and solar capacity were built in the same areas to replace them, a new analysis says. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Not a single coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River will be able to compete on price with new wind and solar power by 2025, according to a new report by energy analysts.

The same is true for every coal plant in a swath of the South that includes the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. They’re part of the 86 percent of coal plants nationwide that are projected to be on the losing end of this cost comparison, the analysis found.

The findings are part of a report issued Monday by Energy Innovation and Vibrant Clean Energy that shows where the shifting economics of electricity generation may force utilities and regulators to ask difficult questions about what to do with assets that are losing their value.

The report takes a point that has been well-established by other studies—that coal power, in addition to contributing to air pollution and climate change, is often a money-loser—and shows how it applies at the state level and plant level when compared with local wind and solar power capacity. MORE

Glencore, the world’s biggest thermal coal exporter, is capping its output over climate concerns

Image result for Glencore, the world's biggest thermal coal exporter, is capping its output over climate concerns

Glencore is the world’s top coal exporter

Glencore says it will not grow its capacity to produce coal beyond current levels around 150 million tons per yer.

The company will instead focus on increasing production of commodities used in electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies.

Analysts say the move will tighten supplies and boost prices, allowing Glencore to keep money flowing from its coal segment even as it caps output. MORE

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Trading and mining group has faced investor pressure over polluting fossil fuel

Fossil fuels are bad for your health and harmful in many ways besides climate change

Fossil fuels are bad for your health and harmful in many ways besides climate change

Pumpjacks dot the Kern River oil field outside Bakersfield, Calif. Credit: James William Smith/Shutterstock.com

Many Democratic lawmakers aim to pass a Green New Deal, a package of policies that would mobilize vast amounts of money to create new jobs and address inequality while fighting climate change.

Led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they are calling for massive investments in  and other measures over a decade that would greatly reduce or even end the nation’s overwhelming reliance on fossil fuels.

As experts in environmental geographysociology, and sustainability science and policy, we wholeheartedly support this effort. And, as we explained in a recently published study,  is not the only reason to ditch fossil fuels.

While conducting our research, we constantly encounter new evidence that depending on fossil fuels for energy harms people and communities at every point along fossil fuel supply chains, especially where coal, oil and natural gas are extracted.

The , oil and  industries are also major contributors to human rights violationspublic health disasters and environmental devastation. MORE