A Shell insider is behind LNG Canada’s disputed claim about reducing carbon pollution

Headlines of op-eds and sponsored content taken from Postmedia and the Canadian Energy Centre. Background image is handout photo of LNG Canada. Postmedia, Canadian Energy Centre screenshots, LNG Canada photo

A disputed environmental claim publicized by the fossil fuel firms backing a $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in B.C. can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautioned in interviews that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Rob Seeley has been held up as an independent consultant who has demonstrated the green bona fides of natural gas coming from the proposed B.C. project, LNG Canada. The Coastal GasLink pipeline being built through unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory is meant to transport fracked gas to this terminal, where it would be liquefied, loaded onto ships and exported to Asia.

One particular claim by Seeley has taken on a life of its own. It appeared in a piece of sponsored content, or “advertorial,” that LNG Canada paid to have published in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun in 2018. The claim has been quoted by everyone from federal Conservative finance critic and former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre to pro-oil and gas websites including one run by Alberta’s energy “war room,” officially known as the Canadian Energy Centre.

Seeley’s claim is that if LNG Canada can ship liquefied natural gas from B.C. to China, and the Asian nation uses it to displace its coal-generated electricity, it would reduce carbon pollution by “60 to 90 million tonnes annually” — a stunning figure that is roughly equivalent to all of B.C.’s annual emissions.

This tantalizing piece of information would seem to underpin what both the federal Liberals and Conservatives have said in support of LNG Canada: that on top of the promised jobs and economic benefits, it could also help the environment. The Trudeau government is on board, chipping in $275 million to the project, while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has blasted Coastal GasLink opponents.

But there’s a catch: Seeley’s heavily quoted figure represents a disputed conclusion about the benefits of natural gas, and he says he intentionally left out real-world factors in his calculations.

Other analysts point to the fact that natural gas exploitation releases methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while renewable energy sources are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with coal and gas in China. What’s more, the man behind the famous figure is not just a run-of-the-mill energy consultant. LNG Canada did not return a request for comment.

Rob Seeley appears in an advertisement from Shell Canada about exploiting oil in the oilsands. Wunderman Thompson Toronto screenshot

‘I was hired by LNG Canada’

In a series of interviews with National Observer, Seeley acknowledged that much of his career was spent with Shell Canada, the subsidiary of British-Dutch firm Shell that has the largest slice of the LNG Canada joint venture. Shell owns 40 per cent, Malaysia’s Petronas owns 25 per cent, Japan’s Mitsubishi and PetroChina own 15 per cent each, and the Korea Gas Corporation owns five per cent.

Seeley said he’s a chemical engineer with 40 years of experience in energy projects like gas plants and refinery retrofits, as well as oilsands development, and emissions management. At one point, he was even featured in a TV commercial for Shell. He retired in 2013 and moved into consulting — a year before the companies behind LNG Canada formalized their joint venture.

“I was hired by LNG Canada based on my experience and the leadership roles that I had held in my Shell career, including the role of general manager, sustainable development, for Shell Canada, which included greenhouse-gas management,” Seeley said. “Although I have not been directly involved in the article that you are referring to, (the) Vancouver Sun advertorial by LNG Canada, I have been providing analysis and advice to LNG Canada regarding GHG management.”

A disputed environmental claim that has been championed by pro-fossil fuel voices can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautions that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Carol Clemenhagen@ottawaccarol

“…LNG…could reduce global GHG emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes annually, equivalent to all of B.C.’s GHG emissions in a year…” 20 elected band councils approve. 5 hereditary clan chiefs don’t. http://business.financialpost.com/wcm/c65c5619-c6ed-4593-9f78-7d3e78d7dbff 

Philip Cross and Pierre Poilievre: Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal

If protesters truly cared about the environment, they’d be demonstrating for projects like LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, not against them

business.financialpost.com

Nor are these facts mentioned by Poilievre, who used Seeley or his consulting firm and the “60 to 90” figure in two op-eds promoting the benefits of natural gas: “Taxed green tomatoes” in the Toronto Sun on July 12, 2019 and “Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal” in the Financial Post on Feb. 14, 2020, which he co-authored. Both newspapers are owned by Postmedia.

Nor are they mentioned in the Dec. 5, 2019 article posted on the website of the Alberta “war room,” titled “If you care about climate change, here’s why you should support Canadian natural gas.” Like the Poilievre articles, it just names Seeley and his consulting firm.

Another publication, the energy-industry-linked Canada Action, simply linked to the Vancouver Sun. And an article on the website of the Christian Labour Association of Canada union mentioned the “60 to 90” figure without reference to Seeley or his firm. Finally, the Conservative Party’s 2019 candidate for Ottawa Centre, Carol Clemenhagen, linked to Poilievre’s co-written article in a tweet where she also quoted the “60 to 90” figure.

It is possible Poilievre and the others did not know about Seeley’s background and his recent status with LNG Canada. “Taxed green tomatoes” links to an op-ed that Seeley contributed to the Vancouver Sun in June 2018 — six months before the LNG Canada-sponsored article appeared in the same paper — and that contains a version of the “60 to 90” claim. Like the advertorial, the op-ed does not mention Seeley’s formal associations with Shell or LNG Canada. Poilievre’s office did not return a request for comment.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tours the LNG Canada site in Kitimat, B.C. in January 2020. B.C. Government Photo

‘There’s a lot of sensitivities around it’

Seeley cautions that his “60 to 90” figure is not totally comprehensive. “I would call it a theoretical point or position,” he said.

He explained that he arrived at the figure by examining the hypothetical amount of energy that LNG Canada would produce, and then calculated what would happen if it was all offloaded in Asia and all used for producing electricity, essentially acting as a replacement for coal.

He pulled in part from International Energy Agency numbers, as well as a lifecycle analysis that he worked on in 2014-15 for Pace Global Energy Services, a consulting firm owned by Siemens, the manufacturing conglomerate. The report was prepared for the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade association of producers, shippers and others.

Seeley said he stands behind his calculations. “It’s still a pretty good anchor number,” he said. “I think those numbers are still strong, and in fact I think if you took a theoretical position on gas versus coal displacement for power, the numbers are probably even bigger.”

But he acknowledged his figure was “presented in a range to allow for many uncertainties in this type of analysis,” and that “there’s a lot of sensitivities around it.”

Those “sensitivities” are real-world factors, such as the fact that natural gas drilling, processing and transport releases large amounts of methane, which is 86 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 20-year period. A 2019 study in the journal Biogeosciences connected a rise in global methane levels since 2008 with the boom in fracking operations.

Scientists say this steep rise in atmospheric methane is jeopardizing the planet’s efforts to hold the global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels and slow the more extreme effects of climate change.

The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial contributor to methane emissions in Canada. The industry flares or vents methane into the atmosphere, and methane also leaks accidentally from oil and gas equipment. A 2017 peer-reviewed study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that methane leaks from B.C.’s oil and gas industry were at least two and a half times higher than provincial estimates.

Wahiba Yaici, a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada, said that in a straight-up comparison between natural gas and coal, coal is clearly worse. Not only is it more carbon-intensive, it also releases particulate matter when it’s burned, as well as pollutants and heavy metals linked to asthma, cardiovascular problems and premature death.

Given that natural gas processing and transport releases methane, however, these sorts of comparisons are “exactly the challenge,” said Yaici, who studies how to reduce emissions from energy generation. She said converting systems to use hydrogen, which doesn’t emit carbon pollution, could be superior to either coal or natural gas.

Jinsheng Wang, another research scientist at Natural Resources Canada who studies unconventional oil and gas, confirmed that LNG could only result in less carbon pollution than coal if the methane emissions from increased natural gas exploitation were minimized.

Coal-to-gas or coal-to-renewables?

This minimization is exactly what Seeley is counting on. He acknowledged that accounting for methane is an important consideration, and the lifecycle analysis that he worked on does include an extensive description of methane leaks and how they can affect questions about carbon pollution.

But he also pointed to the Trudeau government’s commitment to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Ottawa has negotiated a draft deal with B.C. that would recognize its own methane regulations as contributing to that goal.

Foreign LNG-producing nations, like Nigeria, which signed a deal in December to boost its LNG output by over 30 per cent, won’t have such stringent regulations in place, Seeley warned.

“That’s the point that I’d really like to make. ‘Well, what about methane?’ or ‘what about this?’ or ‘what about that?’ — those questions are correct, they need to be asked. But Canada isn’t accountable for everyone else,” he said. “If we don’t develop our own highly-sustainable LNG, it just means more from Nigeria, Qatar and other places that really don’t have the same regulations. And so then we end up with carbon leakage.”

That’s not necessarily true, argued Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada and University of Toronto part-time instructor who has worked on climate policy for almost 20 years.

Reuters reported last year that renewables are “set to compete on an equal footing with coal- and gas-fired electricity” in China, according to the country’s state planning agency. Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has also said the average levelized cost of electricity for solar and wind is already cheaper than gas in China, and will be competitive with coal by 2026.

“Natural gas is on balance better than coal, but I think that’s no longer the only choice,” said Stewart.

“A lot of these calculations were done when it was assumed that renewables were always going to be more expensive than coal. But now in many places it’s actually cheaper to build and operate wild and solar plants than it is to buy the coal to go into a coal plant.”

The Pembina Institute conducted similar research when it examined the pollution-saving claims of the former Pacific NorthWest LNG project. The think tank concluded that LNG from B.C. “would not only compete with carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal, but also with low- and zero-emitting sources of energy, including nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind.”

The most “likely scenario,” it found, is that B.C. LNG will actually “displace clean and renewable forms of electricity, resulting in a significant increase to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

LNG Canada did not return a request for comment as to why its advertorial does not disclose Seeley’s status, background, or “sensitivities.”

The ‘bridge to nowhere’

It is also not clear what the global gas market will look like down the road. Thanks in part to the fracking boom, the world is currently awash in cheap natural gas — so cheap that, in some places like the Permian basin in Texas, gas prices have fallen to negative numbers, meaning producers are paying others to take it off their hands. They are also flaring, or burning it off, at record levels.

Seeley acknowledged the difficulty of predicting gas demand. “Actual global greenhouse gas reductions from the sale of B.C. LNG to China would depend on the end use of the gas and what it will displace or replace,” he noted.

Over the past two years, he said, China has largely used LNG for industrial heat and for residential areas, as opposed to swapping it in to coal power plants, but this would still deliver 40 per cent lower emissions on a lifecycle basis.

In the end, Stewart argued, the issue boils down to corporations attempting to lock in fossil fuel emissions for decades by building large pieces of energy infrastructure, regardless of how much LNG might actually be in demand.

“Increasingly we’re seeing renewables coming in so cheap that if you’re investing in natural gas, you’re kind of blocking out renewables,” he said. “From Greenpeace’s perspective, we need to get off fossil fuels, and LNG is a bridge to nowhere.” SOURCE

RELATED:

Coastal GasLink broke B.C. pipeline rules more than 50 times

Ottawa’s offer to recognize Wet’suwet’en land rights could be a game-changer for Canada. Here’s how

Chief Madeek (Jeff Brown), front left, hereditary leader of the Gidimt'en clan, and Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Namoks (John Ridsdale), front right, carry a flag while leading a solidarity march after Indigenous nations and supporters gathered for a meeting to show support for the Wet'suwet'en Nation, in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 16, 2019.

OTTAWA—Who owns the land, really?

That question is at the centre of the dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline: the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say it can’t pass through the nation’s territory without their permission, but Canada’s legal framework does not acknowledge Wet’suwet’en ownership of the territory they claim.

At least not yet.

On Sunday, ministers from the British Columbia and federal governments stood with a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief to hail a “milestone” proposal to recognize the nation’s “title.”

The government has long said an important element of its reconciliation agenda is the recognition of land rights and title for all Indigenous nations that wish to pursue them.

But what does that actually mean for the relationship between First Nations and the Crown? And how might it reshape how decisions are made — on resource development and other issues — across Canada?

What, in other words, are we talking about when we talk about “Aboriginal title?”

So, what does it mean to recognize “Aboriginal title?”

“You’re just returning or recognizing what’s already theirs,” said John Borrows, Canada research chair in Indigenous law at the University of Victoria.

For millennia, Indigenous nations governed, traded, hunted, fought and travelled throughout the territory that is now called Canada. Then European colonizers arrived and declared themselves sovereign. Sometimes there were treaties to formalize this claim — in which Indigenous peoples formally ceded territory — but oftentimes the colonizers simply considered the land open for settlement.

Just because the Crown asserted sovereignty, however, didn’t mean it was necessarily so. According to Borrows, the courts have found that Indigenous land rights “survived the assertion of sovereignty,” and have not been subsequently wiped out by provincial or federal laws.

The Crown’s claim over large tracts of land in places like B.C. has been chipped away by a series of court cases that have gradually ruled Indigenous claims to the same land are not inferior to claims from the settler government, Borrows said.

Those cases includes the landmark Tsilhqot’in decision in 2014, in which the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed a B.C. Indigenous nation’s “Aboriginal title” for the first time. “The idea here is that (title) is a pre-existing right that has not been extinguished,” Borrows said.

Does recognizing “Aboriginal title” make land into private property?

No.

Borrows explained that courts have outlined how Aboriginal title has an “inherent limit.” Because it refers to land that is owned collectively by an Indigenous nation, rather than individually, “you have to preserve that land for future generations,” he said. “You can’t sever the historic relationship with the land.”

Eugene Kung, a staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, added that Aboriginal title land can only be transferred to the government — not to individuals or a corporation.

Otherwise, the concept of Aboriginal title — which is enshrined in Section 35 of the Constitution — is very much like the popular conception of private property, said Robert Janes, principal at JFK Law in Victoria, B.C. SOURCE

Wet’suwet’en chief says he’ll withdraw support for pipeline if his people turn against it

Chief Dan George says he wants all Wet’suwet’en members to vote on the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Protests in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline continue to take place across the country. (Evan Tsuyoshi Mitsui/CBC)

A Wet’suwet’en elected band chief says his continued support for the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline depends on what his people want — and if they turn against the project, he’s willing to pass up its possible economic benefits.

Burns Lake First Nation Chief Dan George was asked what he would do if the Wet’suwet’en remain opposed to a pipeline on their land.

“I’d have to agree with them because that’s the decision that all the members made,” George told CBC News.

George said the question of community support for the pipeline should be part of expected discussions among Wet’suwet’en members on a tentative agreement reached over the weekend between hereditary chiefs, Ottawa and the B.C. government.

That tentative agreement on land and title rights has not been made public; Chief George has yet to see it. The proposal needs to be ratified by the Wet’suwet’en Nation for it to be final.

WATCH | Chief Dan George explains his position:
Wet’suwet’en Burns Lake First Nation Chief Dan George, who is in favour of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, says he is prepared to ask his constituents to vote again on the project. 1:17

“We need to come to a Wet’suwet’en solution together … The whole nation should come together and discuss both the agreement and the pipeline itself,” said George, whose band is one of five Wet’suwet’en First Nations that have signed deals with Coastal GasLink.

“Who’s for and who’s against? Every Wet’suwet’en member should be involved one way or another. It started out from the Wet’suwet’en people and the Wet’suwet’en people need to fix it.”

George said he doesn’t want the fate of the natural gas pipeline to rest solely in the hands of a few hereditary chiefs.

Figuring out how to get all the Wet’suwet’en members together to sort out of the pipeline dispute won’t be easy, George said, adding he still wants everyone to have a say.

“Hopefully, we can come to some sort of mutual decision together,” George said. “How are we going to get everyone involved since half of our people live off of reserve and half of our people live on-reserve?”

None of the hereditary chiefs responded to CBC’s requests for comment by deadline.

But one of them, Chief Woos, has said that the tentative agreement between the chiefs and the federal and provincial governments represents an important milestone in recognizing the rights of the hereditary leaders over their traditional territory.

“This is where it starts,” Woos said. “The duty to consult as well as the rights and title.”

George said he wishes he could have been part of last weekend’s high-level discussions between hereditary chiefs, B.C. Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.

George said there needs to be more work done to strengthen the relationship between elected band and hereditary chiefs.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, also known as Frank Alec, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser address the media in Smithers, B.C. The senior government ministers have been negotiating with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs since Thursday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

 

“Going to the hereditary chiefs and creating that governance system and working together would’ve probably benefited all of us,” George said.

There has been little communication between the hereditary and elected band chiefs, said George, even though the 1997 Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada decision paved the way for the construction of a collaborative governance structure.

Delgamuukw acknowledged the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en peoples’ title over their land, and recognized a hereditary governance structure and the names of hereditary leaders.

“It’s been 25 years since Delgamuukw and they have not asked us to come to the table and create that governance system …” George said. “We are working in silos.”

A lot at stake

George also said he doesn’t believe the hereditary chiefs have any mandate to take a position on the pipeline because the project went to a vote in his community and the majority of members supported it.

“Those were my marching orders,” George said. “Same with the hereditary chiefs. They have to follow what their clans tell them.”

If the pipeline doesn’t go ahead, George said, his community could lose out on funding that is helping to revitalize Indigenous languages and culture.

Despite police intervention and calls for the blockades to come down, demonstrations in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ cause continue across the country.

“I think it’s hurting our country and it’s hurting all of our First Nations because it’s starting to cause discrimination against us,” George said.

“We’re going back 20 years in time. A lot of our children in school are getting discriminated against and it’s got to stop.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued a statement on Monday calling for continued respectful dialogue.

“The draft agreement between the Wet’suwet’en and federal and provincial ministers is a positive step as it addresses the fundamental issue in this matter — First Nations rights and title over their lands and territories,” Bellegarde wrote.

“This could lead to the long overdue work of breathing life into the historic Delgamuukw decision. Only the Wet’suwet’en can determine if they support this proposed agreement and they must be given the time and the space to do that.” SOURCE

Blockades and the politics of division

Image result for Winniped Free Press: Blockades and the politics of division

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister sent an email this week to Tory supporters entitled: “These illegal blockades.”

By  Niigaan Sinclair

“You’ve probably heard about the highway and rail blockades happening across the country,” Pallister wrote in the Thursday evening message, “including the one right here in Manitoba.”

Echoing actions in Ontario and Quebec, demonstrators had blocked commuter and freight travel west of Winnipeg to protest the RCMP removal of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and activists challenging the construction of a gas pipeline in northern B.C.

Pallister announced Wednesday his government would seek a court injunction to remove the Manitoba protesters from the rail line. By 2 p.m. Thursday, though, CN Railway had received approval of its own injunction and the occupation was ended.

Still, Pallister sent out his email four hours later.

“We respect the rights of protesters,” it proclaims. “But laws need to be applied.”

The message goes on to criticize Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew for supporting “those behind the blockades,” alongside signing the “‘Leap Manifesto,’ a radical document calling for the shutdown of Canada’s entire resource sector!”

Actors, activists, and musicians launch the Leap Manifesto outlining a climate and economic vision for Canada during a press conference in 2015.
 

Actors, activists, and musicians launch the Leap Manifesto outlining a climate and economic vision for Canada during a press conference in 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/DARREN CALABRESE

For the record, the Leap Manifesto is an apolitical document created in 2015 by more than 60 Indigenous, social welfare, food, environmental, labour, and faith-based (mostly Christian) organizations, and committed to by more than 52,000 celebrities, activists, and Canadians.

The document is “a call for a Canada based on caring for the Earth and one another,” and asks signees to commit to honouring treaties, building locally-based energy infrastructure, and supporting immigrants and workers to enter environmentally-friendly sectors. It also calls on governments to fund “caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts, and public-interest media,” a national child-care program, and institute a universal basic income.

In fairness, the manifesto also calls for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, creation of a carbon tax, cuts to military spending, and adopting a national “polluter pays” principle.

‘People are starting to wake up’: Pipeline protesters expect long-term change

A protester who was blocking an entrance to the port is arrested by police officers in Vancouver on Monday. The demonstration was held in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to construction of a natural gas pipeline across their traditional territories.


VANCOUVER — Opponents of a natural gas pipeline in northwestern British Columbia say they believe protests across the country are sparking a growing awareness of Indigenous rights that will lead to long-term change.

Protesters blocked train traffic in east Vancouver on Monday afternoon to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The protest came hours after nearly 60 people were arrested for obstructing busy ports in the city and in nearby Delta.

Demonstrators gathered on the B.C. legislature steps in Victoria, where traffic was also tied up because of blockages on two bridges Monday evening.

Pipeline opponents also gathered at the office of the Crown-Indigenous relations minister in Toronto, the federal justice building in Ottawa, a commuter train line in Montreal and outside an event with the natural resources minister in St. John’s, N.L.

Jen Wickham, a spokeswoman for one of the five clans that make up the Wet’suwet’en Nation, said she believes non-Indigenous Canadians are becoming more aware of First Nations rights.

“I think that people are starting to wake up to the fact that we have the right to our territory,” she said. “They’re upset and they’re taking to the streets. They’re occupying offices, they’re stopping traffic and they’re stopping trains. They’re saying, loud and clear, ‘This is not OK.’ “

The RCMP began enforcing a court injunction last week against people camped near a pipeline work site in Houston. Mounties said 14 people were arrested and expected to appear in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.

Mounties said in a statement late Monday they have concluded major operations to enforce the injunction, following the arrests of seven more people earlier in the day.

Wickham said members are defending their territory from construction of the pipeline, which is part of a $40 billion liquefied natural gas export project.

“We are the rightful title owners of our territory and we will continue to assert our sovereignty,” she said. “It’s not a question of protesting. It’s a question of their homes. They’re defending their homes.”

Protesters began disruptions at ports in Vancouver and nearby Delta on Friday. The ports obtained court injunctions and arrests were made Monday morning, when Delta police said emergency health services were called for one protester out of an abundance of caution.

“Everyone involved was treated respectfully and with dignity,” said Cris Leykauf, a Delta police spokeswoman.

Demonstrators regrouped and impeded a major rail thoroughfare that feeds into the port. Spokeswoman Natalie Knight said about 150 people were there on Monday afternoon.

“We want to send a clear signal in at least two different directions. We want to signal to ourselves that we are strong, that we are not afraid of the colonial legal courts, and that we stand with the Wet’suwet’en,” she said.

Vancouver police said it was monitoring the protest and no arrests had been made.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said it had not heard of any terminal delays due to demonstrations on the rail lines but it continued to monitor the situation.

Knight also said she has seen public opinion shift toward support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

In the years that followed, residential schools were closed and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was launched, Knight said.

“The ripple effects of these kinds of actions for Indigenous sovereignty are much bigger than we can predict or see in this current moment.”

In St. John’s, N.L., dozens of protesters gathered outside Memorial University, where Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan was set to speak.

“Natural resource development in this country, at a time when we’ve committed to net zero, when a majority of Canadians have voted with clear concern about climate change, there are going to be protests and people feel very strongly about it,” O’Regan said.

“I was more than happy to hear their concerns and I’m sure I’ll be hearing a number of others as I go across the country.”

About 30 people waited for six hours in the lobby of the federal justice building in Ottawa until a trio of department officials came down to hear their concerns. The officials said Justice Minister David Lametti was travelling and unavailable, but protesters said they wouldn’t leave until they spoke to someone in a position of authority.

Emma Buchanan, who attended the protest, said the national show of support for the Wet’suwet’en was a sign that people are waking up to the need to support Indigenous people.

“Indigenous issues are Canadian issues and they are for everybody to care about,” she said.

Lametti said in a statement that he had spoken by phone with the protesters and was committed to bringing their demands to his cabinet colleagues.

“Advancing reconciliation is a crucial priority for our government and our country,” he said. “I take this responsibility very seriously.”

On the B.C. legislature steps, protester Kolin Sutherland-Wilson said he feels a responsibility to stand up for Wet’suwet’en members.

“In this day and age, it is immoral, it is unjust and it is inhumane for Canada to continue to criminalize and vilify Indigenous law,” he said.

All 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route, including the Wet’suwet’en council, have signed benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink. However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the council established by the Indian Act only has authority over reserve lands.

The hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area because they have never signed a treaty ceding their traditional territories.

Premier John Horgan has said the pipeline is of vital economic and social importance to northern B.C. He said the courts have decided the pipeline can proceed and the rule of law must prevail.

B.C.’s Indigenous relations minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. SOURCE

 

RCMP arrest 11 more pipeline opponents on third day of Wet’suwet’en raids

An RCMP officer peers through a gate at Unist’ot’en Camp in Wet’suwet’en territory on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo by Michael Toledano

Using an ever-changing set of rules, RCMP in British Columbia arrested 11 opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline Saturday, the third day of raids on Wet’suwet’en Nation territory.

RCMP also continued to obstruct journalists on the remote forest road in northern B.C. where the conflict is playing out, drawing international criticism. A spokesperson for one of the nation’s five clans, Molly Wickham of Gidimt’en, said the police broke a promise not to make more arrests until after a meeting with the nation’s hereditary chiefs.

“The RCMP have come in with their guns,” said Wickham, also known as Sleydo. “They’re doing this all while we are waiting… to talk to the RCMP.”

Police are enforcing a court injunction to force the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters out of the path of the pipeline, which is planned to run through the nation’s unceded territory even though Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs haven’t consented. The tiny community has built four camps along the Morice West Forest Service Road, about 1,200 kilometres from Vancouver, as they reoccupy their unceded territory and oppose Coastal GasLink.

The raids began Thursday. With Saturday’s total included, police have made 21 arrests over three days, also temporarily detaining two journalists on Thursday and one journalist on Friday.

Saturday’s raid happened at the first camp along the road, a gathering place for supporters which is located at the 27-kilometre mark of the snowy road.

Originally, the RCMP said people were welcome to gather there, as it was outside the zone affected by the court injunction. But police extended the restricted area ⁠— known as an exclusion zone ⁠⁠— to include the 27-kilometre camp late Friday. It happened after Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters used their vehicles to block RCMP officers from leaving the area to process four pipeline opponents who were arrested that day.

In a statement, the RCMP said commanders decided to expand the exclusion zone because metal spikes on the road made several police vehicles “inoperative.”

Police were eventually able to clear the vehicles and asked everyone at the 27-kilometre camp to leave. “People can’t leave because police towed their vehicles away,” said a statement from Unist’ot’en Camp, the settlement furthest along the forest road.

Eventually, Sleydo said in a live video posted to Facebook, police agreed to meet with the hereditary chiefs at 10 a.m. and not arrest anyone at the camp until 11 a.m. But the RCMP didn’t show ⁠— instead, she added, officers surrounded the camps and made arrests at about 1:30 p.m. and blocked the chiefs from going past the four-kilometre checkpoint.

RCMP arrested 11 people as the conflict over the Coastal GasLink pipeline stretched into its third day. Meanwhile, the RCMP drew international condemnation for repeatedly violating freedom of the press. #bcpoli

In the live video, two RCMP officers from a specialized liaison team can be seen approaching a vehicle where hereditary chiefs and Wet’suwet’en supporters are assembled.

“We’re supposed to be meeting before anything happens at 27,” Sleydo says to a male officer.

“People there have been asked to leave,” says the officer, adding that he needs to get up to the camp.

“Why?” asks Sleydo. The officer walks away without answering the question, and both liaison officers hop into an RCMP truck and drive away.

Several people were also allowed to leave the camp voluntarily. They declined rides from police, choosing to walk to the four-kilometre checkpoint. Others were arrested after they barricaded themselves inside a cabin.

Earlier in the day, at about 11:20 a.m. Pacific time, officers used helicopters to get over Wet’suwet’en barriers and approach the gates of Unist’ot’en Camp. Unist’ot’en is the largest and oldest camp, home to a $2-million healing centre.

“Unist’ot’en matriarchs and indigenous supporters went into ceremony and refused to speak to police,” read a statement from the camp. As they burned the injunction, a traditional funeral pyre was lit with a homemade flag on top reading, ‘Reconciliation is Dead.’”

The RCMP left the area in their helicopters just after noon, Unist’ot’en reported.

Unist’ot’en Camp@UnistotenCamp

Feb 8, 2020, RCMP officers landed at @UnistotenCamp by helicopter. Chiefs, house members called on ancestors & held cremation ceremony for Canadian/Indigenous . Copy of CGL injunction burned. After 30 mins, RCMP left.

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RCMP under fire for blocking freedom of the press

RCMP temporarily blocked reporters from getting through the four-kilometre mark, despite a statement to the contrary on Friday night. After waiting for an hour and a half, CBC reporter Chantelle Bellrichard said on Twitter that she had been allowed in, only to have RCMP hold her back and block her view of arrests at 27-kilometre.

“Increasingly frustrating to do our job on the ground and have never had to argue for press freedoms so strenuously,” Bellrichard tweeted.

RCMP have repeatedly impeded reporters on the road. In a statement Saturday, the online media outlet Ricochet said its journalist on the ground, Jerome Turner, was “continuously” detained during an RCMP raid on the Gidimt’en Checkpoint Friday, at the 44-kilometre mark of the road.

Police detained Turner in a ditch 60 feet from where officers were arresting people, Ricochet said.

“This ditch was in a location where Turner could not connect to the internet, and he was not allowed to get to a location where he could get a signal and send updates to his editors,” the statement said.

“As a result, he was out of contact for eight hours yesterday, with his editors unsure of his status or safety.”

Later, Turner agreed to leave. But RCMP detained him again and prevented him from going to the blockade at the 27-kilometre camp, only releasing him after the vehicles in the road had been towed.

Earlier, on Thursday, journalists were told they’d be arrested if they recorded tactical officers holding guns or officers smashing a truck window to make an arrest, tweeted Jesse Winter, a reporter on assignment for Vice.

The continuous infringements on press freedom have been condemned by the international Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the Canadian Association of Journalists, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and Amnesty International.

The RCMP have declined to provide a map showing what’s inside the exclusion zone. Though the RCMP previously said any journalists in the area would be arrested, the force walked that statement back Friday following condemnation from the Canadian Association of Journalists and others.


Matriarchs and supporters at Unist’ot’en Camp burned a copy of a court injunction meant to clear them out of their traditional territory on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo by Michael Toledano

Coastal GasLink, explained

The controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline is owned by TC Energy, a Calgary-based energy company formerly known as TransCanada Corp. If built, the 670-kilometre pipeline would cut through Wet’suwet’en territory to bring natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the proposed LNG Canada facility in Kitimat, B.C., for processing and export.

Under Wet’suwet’en law, hereditary chiefs from five clans have authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory. The hereditary chiefs have repeatedly opposed Coastal GasLink.

But TC Energy touts agreements it’s made with elected Wet’suwet’en band councils, which were created under Canada’s colonial Indian Act. The elected councils have jurisdiction over reserve lands but not the area adjacent to the pipeline.

The hereditary chiefs’ land claim is backed by a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision. But a second trial ordered by the court hasn’t yet happened and many aspects of the dispute are still unresolved.

Last year, RCMP enforcing an earlier court injunction violently arrested 14 people at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint. Documents later revealed by the Guardian showed that officers had been prepared to use lethal force.

In the aftermath of that raid, the hereditary chiefs said they were concerned about safety and agreed to allow GasLInk in for pre-construction work on the pipeline. But the hereditary chiefs evicted the company shortly after a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted Coastal GasLink the second injunction on Dec. 31.

The RCMP began steadily increasing police presence on Wet’suwet’en territory on Jan. 13, putting up a blockade at the 27-kilometre mark of the road. Officers poured into the surrounding towns as they prepared to enforce the second injunction.

Though the hereditary chiefs and the province agreed last week to seven days of talks to de-escalate the situation, the discussions broke down Tuesday night. The next day, the RCMP warned they would begin enforcing the injunction imminently.

The first round of raids began hours before dawn Thursday. Officers with the court injunction in hand stormed a media camp and supply post at the 39-kilometre mark of the road, arresting four.

Officers arrested six more during Friday’s raid on the Gidimt’en Checkpoint, the result of a seven-hour standoff that left the camp still standing.

Police had also tried to get people barricaded inside a trapping cabin off the road near Gidimt’en Checkpoint to leave Friday. “Heavily armed” officers tried again Saturday, but Unist’ot’en said the people inside that cabin remained inside.

The six people arrested Thursday were released without charges, while the four arrested Friday will have their first court appearance Monday in the nearby town of Smithers, B.C., Unist’ot’en Camp said.

The situation has been condemned by the B.C. Human Rights Commission, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Meanwhile, solidarity demonstrations have played out across the country since Thursday, with Wet’suwet’en supporters blocking highways and major rail lines ⁠— including the VIA Rail route between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. SOURCE

Day 4: RCMP continue enforcement against Wet’suwet’en over pipeline injunction

More than 20 people have been arrested since enforcement actions began

RCMP are seen pulling an arrestee out of the warming centre area on Saturday, Feb. 8. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

t is day four of the RCMP’s enforcement of an injunction order in northern B.C. to ensure that Coastal Gaslink and its contractors can resume work in a disputed area of the pipeline route in the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation.

Since Thursday the RCMP have been moving in, kilometre-by-kilometre, camp-by-camp, down the Morice West Forest Service Road, to enforce the injunction against named Wet’suwet’en defendants and supporters.

The forest service road begins at a turn off from Highway 16 in Houston, B.C. It twists and curves, forking off in different directions and is a roadway Coastal Gaslink is depending on for construction work on a $6-billion, 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline that has received approval from the province.

Twenty First Nations band councils have signed agreements in support of the project, including five of the six band councils in the Wet’suwet’en nation.

However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say those band councils are only responsible for the territory within their individual reserves because their authority comes only from the Indian Act. The hereditary chiefs — who are the leaders of the nation’s governance system in place before the imposition of the Indian Act — assert authority over 22,000 square kilometres of the nation’s traditional territory, an area recognized as unceded by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1997 decision.

First Nations and other organizers have been rallying in support of the hereditary chiefs across Canada — holding solidarity protests, putting up roadblocks and blocking railways across the country while others grow increasingly frustrated with the people defying the injunction order and want to see the pipeline go ahead.
Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en in Ontario are blocking a rail line in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs. Dozens of Via Rail are cancelled between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. 3:42

More than 20 people arrested since Thursday

By Saturday night, police had arrested a total of 21 people. Eleven of those people were arrested on Saturday at a site referred to as the warming centre, after police announced it had become part of an expanded exclusion zone.

Police told the people at that warming centre on Friday night they have to leave the site by Saturday morning or face arrest for breaching the injunction. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs objected to people being removed from the area and the relationship between chiefs and the police was visibly strained on Saturday.

“We’ve been fed a bunch of lies ever since we met you guys,” hereditary chief Madeek told RCMP Chief Superintendent Dave Attfield in a heated phone conversation on Saturday when the chiefs were being kept out of their territory at a checkpoint marking a expanded exclusion zone.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Madeek speaking to RCMP Chief Superintendent Dave Attfield on the phone while being prevented from crossing a police checkpoint into his territory. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC News)

RCMP say the exclusion zone was expanded on Saturday based on the actions of people at the warming centre in recent days “that could possibly endanger those who travel the road, and a blockade of parked vehicles.”

CBC has asked the RCMP for clarification about what precisely an “exclusion zone” is and has yet to receive a response.

Unist’ot’en next reoccupation site facing enforcement 

Much of Saturday’s police activity involved police removing people from the warming centre area.

As the injunction enforcement continues for the fourth day, there remains one main site where police have yet to take action — the Uniost’ot’en healing village.
It’s not clear how many people are staying there or what kind of obstacles stand in the way of Coastal Gaslink and its contractors.

Police said in a news release that members of the Indigenous Police Division and Division Liaison team approached Unist’ot’en “to facilitate conversation” on Saturday but said “the occupants of the Healing Centre declined to engage.

Social media posts and news reports from journalists embedded at the centre reported the police arrived by helicopter and that people at Unist’ot’en did not engage in conversation with the police because they were holding a ceremony.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with numerous Indigenous communities. But the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation opposes the pipeline project through its traditional territories. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Police said in their release that they travelled to the site “by alternative means of travel” because they couldn’t travel over a bridge leading to the site.

The bridge over the Lamprey Creek, about 20 kilometres away from Unist’ot’en, is impassable, said police. They’ve said a criminal investigation into the situation is going to be undertaken, saying officers noticed on Friday that support beams on the bridge appear to have been cut.

CBC is unaware of what kind of enforcement actions might take place at Unist’ot’en, and when, but will be watching for developments throughout the day. SOURCE

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip & Peter McCartney: Canada must stop violating Indigenous human rights for megaprojects

The RCMP are obliged to enforce a civil injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink pipeline against Freda Huson (right) and other Wet'suwet'en members.

The RCMP are obliged to enforce a civil injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink pipeline against Freda Huson (right) and other Wet’suwet’en members.

By Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Peter McCartney

There’s no way around it—Indigenous peoples are the proper title and rights holders over their territories, and their human rights cannot be trampled just because a megaproject floats the dream of big money to investors.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently called on Canada to immediately stop construction on three major industrial projects until affected Indigenous Nations have given their consent. The Coastal GasLink pipeline, Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and the Site C dam have all been met with consistent opposition from many of the nations whose territories they would cross and infringe upon. Community members have been violently removed from their lands for asserting their title and rights and exercising their inherent right to control and develop their lands, territories and resources.

As we write this, the RCMP is preparing to descend upon Wet’suwet’en territory to clear the path of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, as the company recently won a court injunction that the RCMP is obliged to enforce. Meanwhile, land defenders who oppose the federally owned Trans Mountain pipeline have faced harassment, surveillance, intimidation, and violent arrest.

These events highlight the concerns of the UN for the rights and safety of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Police violence and human rights violations are only likely to escalate unless political leaders step in. Their courage or cowardice will define whether reconciliation becomes yet another hollow promise to Indigenous Peoples or a chance to build this country upon principles of equality and respect—the way it should have been from the beginning.

We’ve visited the Tiny House Warriors, the Rocky Mountain Fort, and the Unist’ot’en healing lodge in the path of these megaprojects. Friends have told us how they’ve been turned away from local businesses, constantly harassed and surveilled by police, and even injured in violent arrests. It does not and should not have to be like this.

We can have an economy that reflects our values. There’s a right way to provide jobs and prosperity, but it requires patience, humility and prioritizing the relationships that we are trying to build. Indigenous Peoples have laws and governments that have been in place on these territories long before Canada’s. Respecting their right to make decisions about those lands means accepting our shared future in this place is more important than any one resource project.

For generations, Canada has proudly supported human rights on the international stage at the United Nations forums while consistently failing to apply the same moral compass here at home. If we are going to live up to our ideals rather than repeat the mistakes of the past, and if British Columbia is to advance its commitment to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, we must heed the call and stop Trans Mountain, Coastal GasLink and Site C. Only once we stop straining the fragile bonds between us can we move forward in partnership. SOURCE

Hundreds take to the streets for pipeline protest

The project has received opposition from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs (File photo)

ANCOUVER — Hundreds of people marched from BC Supreme Court to Victory Square Saturday to voice their support for opponents of a natural gas pipeline project.

“It’s our territory. It’s not Canadian land. It’s not the Queen’s. It’s not the RCMP’s. It’s Wet’suwet’en land. It’s our land,” said Jerome Pete, who grew up on the traditional territory where Coastal GasLink plans to build its pipeline.

The company posted an injunction order Tuesday, giving people at a protest camp near Houston 72 hours to make way for construction workers.

“I’m here as an indigenous youth standing with Wet’suwet’en Nation in their resistance to Coastal Gaslink pipeline and colonial forces that seek to remove indigenous people from our lands and our futures,” said Ta’Kaiya Blaney as she addressed the crowd at Victory Square.

Vancouver pipeline protest

Hundreds of people marched from BC Supreme Court to Victory Square Saturday to voice their support for opponents of a natural gas pipeline project. (CTV)

Coastal GasLink has agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre route, but not the support of hereditary chiefs.

“It’s really quite simple. Elected band councils have jurisdiction and authority to the reserve land system. Period,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs. “The hereditary chiefs have authority over the territory – the broad territory.”

This week, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged a halt to the project, saying it does not respect the rights of indigenous people. That prompted a response from B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner.

“We have obligations to ensure free, prior, and informed consent exists for all impacted Indigenous groups before projects impact lands,” said Commissioner Kasari Govender in a statement in support of the pipeline’s opponents.

Environmentalist David Suzuki made some remarks at the Saturday rally, but it was young indigenous voices that spoke the loudest.

“Standing with Wet’suwet’en land defenders and supporters means that I am standing with my future,” said Blaney.

With Coastal GasLink’s 72-hour injunction notice now expired, people at Saturday’s march and rally feared the RCMP would move in to arrest protesters at the camp. SOURCE

RELATED:

BC human rights commissioner asks Canadian government to halt Coastal GasLink

Judy Wilson to Sonya Savage: Get educated on land rights

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, pictured in 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

A prominent First Nations leader says Alberta’s energy minister “needs to be more educated” on Indigenous land rights, after an urgent warning by a United Nations committee provoked the province’s anger.

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, told National Observer that she felt Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage was misguided when she slammed a UN directive calling on Canada to halt construction on energy projects.

“I think that she doesn’t understand what the proper title-holders are,” Wilson said. “I think she needs to be more educated on that.”

Alberta NDP energy critic Irfan Sabir also told National Observer that Savage’s remarks show the UCP government in Alberta refuses to respect Indigenous rights.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage on May 2, 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade 

The UN directive calls on Canada to stop construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, the Site C dam and the Coastal GasLink pipeline until the government can properly carry out its constitutional duty to consult and obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous people.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was concerned large projects in Canada could cause “irreparable harm to Indigenous peoples rights, culture, lands, territories and way of life.” It also said it was disturbed by law enforcement’s “harassment and intimidation” and alarmed by the “escalating threat of violence.”

After news broke Tuesday of the December directive from the UN, Savage issued a statement criticizing the international body as “unaccountable” and “unelected” and suggesting it was “beyond rich” that its work would “single out Canada.”

“We wish that the UN would pay as much attention to the majority of First Nation groups that support important projects such as Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink,” Savage wrote.

“First Nations leaders increasingly recognize that responsible natural resource development can serve as a path from poverty to prosperity for their people. Yet this UN body seemingly ignores these voices.”

Sonya Savage@sonyasavage

With all the atrocities in the world, many committed in other oil producing countries, UN efforts would be better directed there than at Canada…

My full statement on the UN Racism Commitee calling for the halt of major resource projects:

View image on Twitter

In the case of Coastal GasLink, the proper title-holders are hereditary, Wilson said. While the company has indicated it has signed agreements with all elected First Nations councils, five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are demanding the province suspend permits for the pipeline.

The hereditary chiefs have cited Wet’suwet’en trespass laws when they sent an eviction notice recently to the company. Hereditary chief Na’moks even cited the UN directive in comments: “The world is watching; the United Nations is watching. This is not just the Wet’suwet’en,” said Na’moks, according to CBC News.

Alberta NDP energy critic Irfan Sabir said in a statement that “we believe the economy, environment, and Indigenous rights can, and must, go hand-in-hand.” The former Alberta NDP government led an anti-racism initiative and formed the Indigenous Climate Leadership Initiative, he noted.

“As a result, we were able to move much needed resource development forward in a responsible manner,” said Sabir. “The current UCP government’s dismissive attitude towards the environment, refusal to respect Indigenous rights, and lack of vision will only lead to further delays and more projects being questioned.”

The UN directive is not the first time that the organization has cast a critical eye on Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people and its pursuit of fossil fuel and energy projects, in the context of discrimination.

Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, speaks to media in Ottawa on June 6, 2019. Photo by Carl Meyer 

In June 2019, Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, concluded that Indigenous communities in Canada are “disproportionately impacted” by toxic industrial byproducts to the point that it raised questions of discrimination.

In addition to its warning about resource projects, the new UN directive recommends Canada “establish, in consultation with Indigenous peoples, a legal and institutional framework to ensure adequate consultation” and to incorporate free, prior and informed consent into domestic legislation.

In British Columbia, the province passed legislation in November to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It has not yet been passed federally.

The UN body also urged Canada to “prohibit the use of lethal weapons, notably by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, against Indigenous peoples.” RCMP were “prepared to shoot” land defenders blockading Coastal GasLink construction, the Guardian reported in December, citing internal police documents.

“Canada needs to heed these international bodies, international law, and they keep talking about upholding the rule of law, but Canada isn’t doing that as a country,” Wilson said.

“The rule of law is very clear with regards to discrimination, we should be moving as a country past that. We should be working on a better direction, instead of reinforcing the old fossil fuel and oil industry. We’re wasting a lot of time because of climate change.” SOURCE