Doug Ford’s government has made ‘next to no progress’ on plan to cut carbon emissions: report

Environmental Defence examines Ontario’s promised moves to reduce greenhouse gases


Ontario is ‘not on track’ to achieve its own targets for reducing carbon emissions, according to a new report from Environmental Defence. The report points to decisions by the government of Premier Doug Ford that have slowed the pace of electric vehicle sales and have delayed a push for more renewable content in fuel. (CBC)

Premier Doug Ford’s government has done almost nothing on the bulk of the promises in the greenhouse-gas reduction plan Ontario introduced last November, according to a new report by an environmental watchdog group.

The report published Thursday by Environmental Defence examines the seven key actions Ontario pledged to cut carbon emissions in the province, and finds that little or no progress has been made on all but one.

The actions were laid out in the “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations,” the plan unveiled after the Progressive Conservatives scrapped the Wynne Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program.

“The government has acknowledged that the climate crisis is real, human-caused, and must be addressed,” said Environmental Defence in its report. “Ontario’s failure to act is a broken promise.”

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek was unavailable for an interview Wednesday.


Environment Minister Jeff Yurek’s office has told CBC the province ‘has already made significant progress toward further consultation and implementation’ on 19 commitments in its environmental plan. (CBC)

CBC News requested information about the government’s actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yurek’s press secretary, Andrew Buttigieg, said in a statement the government “has already made significant progress toward further consultation and implementation” on 19 commitments in its environmental plan.

However, few of those commitments have anything to do with reducing emissions. They include “appointed a special adviser for Ontario Parks” and “released a discussion paper on reducing plastic litter and waste.”

The Environmental Defence report says the government is already “not on track” to achieve its own emission reduction targets, in part because of decisions that have slowed the pace of electric vehicle sales and delayed a push for more renewable content in fuel.

“So far, we haven’t seen any meaningful steps to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change in Ontario,” said Sarah Buchanan, clean economy program manager for Environmental Defence.

“We’re quite concerned that Ontario isn’t taking its obligations seriously and is breaking its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without a price on carbon,” Buchanan said in an interview.

The signature piece of the government’s plan — an emission performance standard for large industrial polluters — will actually increase greenhouse gas emissions rather than decrease them, according to the report.

It says the system is too lenient and offers too many exemptions to big polluters, and there’s no evidence to support the government’s forecast that the standard will contribute 15 per cent of the province’s overall target for cutting greenhouse gases.

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Doug Ford’s government broke the law when it scrapped cap-and-trade, court rules

 

 

A data-based dismantling of Jason Kenney’s foreign-funding conspiracy theory

Every core tenet of the Alberta premier’s paranoid policy is flatly and demonstrably false.


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks at the NASCO conference in Columbus, Ohio on Sept. 20, 2019. Twitter photo

As long as the foreign funding conspiracy theory was a lone researcher’s crusade, this thing had a great run.

Underdogs are popular, and suspicion of foreign plotting is a guaranteed box office winner.

Now that it’s official Alberta government policy, however, things are about to get a lot trickier.

The foreign funding conspiracy theory is a house of sand, where every pillar crumbles to the touch.

At its core, this theory, which Jason Kenney has adopted as the Alberta government’s, is that the province has been targeted by a cabal of American foundations led by the Rockefellers in a deliberate campaign of economic sabotage.

By directing money and influence to an anti-pipeline movement called the Tar Sands Campaign, these foundations seek to advance American energy interests by landlocking Canadian oil.

As I wrote earlier in September, the sham outrage over foreign money is just a cynical ruse. Unscrupulous governments are employing it around the world to discredit, silence and intimidate environmental dissent, and ultimately to choke off resources to activist groups.

Nobody cares about foreign money, least of all Jason Kenney.

No sooner did the premier release the terms of his foreign funding inquiry than he set off for New York, cap in hand, to raise more foreign money for the oil industry.

The Canadian oil and gas industry, jauntily waving the maple leaf, is loaded with over a hundred billion dollars in foreign ownership. It sells millions of barrels of oil to foreigners every day, and now wants a pipeline to increase the foreign markets it can sell to.

And all of this is cheered on daily in a foreign-controlled national newspaper chain.

That’s just by way of a little perspective.

The claim of conspiracy is an accusation of fraud

The direct or indirect claim of conspiracy, at its heart, is an accusation of fraud and breach of trust, based entirely on circumstantial evidence. It’s the suggestion that charitable dollars are diverted for a covert purpose and that multiple organizations are colluding in that deception.

A scheme like this would necessarily involve senior foundation leadership acting in concert, and with malice, to subvert the bona fide charitable objectives of their organizations.

That’s a serious claim that has inflamed public opinion, and damaged reputations and community trust within Canada. It should not be made lightly or on thin evidence, and should be treated with special skepticism when advanced by government leaders.

Not least because we’re in a climate emergency and have better things to do than discredit those working hardest to address it.

Curiously, Kenney’s public inquiry terms of reference are far more cautious than his fiery rhetoric. Despite tarring foundations and environmentalists as “anti-Alberta,” they sidestep entirely the issue of motive or intent, which is central to the allegation of conspiracy or bad faith.

The public, having been led to believe that charitable foundations are corruptly working against the public interest, is entitled to a deeper analysis of motive than the inquiry will examine.

That’s what we’ll look at here.

Background review

To assess the conspiracy theory’s veracity, I reviewed data from Candid, America’s most comprehensive foundation and charitable monitoring site.

With a $29-million budget and staff of 140, Candid gathers and maintains detailed data and statistics on hundreds of billions of dollars in grants by 155,000 U.S. and international charitable foundations, non-profits and all U.S. federal agencies. Public tax returns recorded and accessible. Most, but not all, major international funders are included.

The material is cross-referenced, tabulated and readily searchable.

So I searched it.

For the last nine months.

I surveyed tens of thousands of grants totaling well into the billions of dollars, looking for patterns, practices and organizational cultures. I double-checked for errors in coding and data entry (yep, found some). Looking for the network effect, I examined partnership constellations, funding pathways and changes over time.

A lot of superficially significant data often turns out to be just noise. It’s only with exposure to high volumes of data that one begins to discern materiality.

Candid’s data is not a substitute for detailed grant reviews — it’s best employed for detecting large patterns and trends.

My research took me further, to reviewing the backgrounds of directors and key employees of multiple foundations, and examining years of financial statements. I was looking for indicators of weak governance or undue influence within each of the impugned organizations. Family foundations have a tendency toward having family members in lead governance roles, whose priorities and biases can show up in granting patterns.

I checked whether the founder is alive and active in governance and oversight (two major funders are). I reviewed for direct or indirect evidence of impropriety — for instance, claims of misconduct by former employees or independent witnesses. I studied media reports, scholarly and industry research, and spoke to experts in the non-profit world, as well as to parties directly involved or who had personal knowledge of the circumstances.

I then reviewed the oil and gas sector.

What follows below is a distillation of that research.

Overall, there are variances in culture between philanthropic organizations and some steadfast consistencies. Some are very conservative and apolitical, even among the most environmentally committed. Others are more supportive of activism.

In reviewing thousands of grants, these patterns become more evident over time.

The foundations funding the Tar Sands Campaign bore no markers of fraud or unscrupulous conduct within leadership. All of them appeared to be transparent and fully compliant with all legal requirements. There is no direct evidence of misconduct.

But there were surprises. MORE

 

True leaders work for us, not the fossil fuel industry

 

The Kochs, ConocoPhillips, and PetroChina have profited enormously from the tar sands ecocide and the planet has paid an enormous price as carbon emissions threaten our human existence. They were and are actively supported in this environmental rape by successive neoliberal governments. You and future generations will be left with the debt. Unless…

Image: Melbourne Water/Flickr
Image: Melbourne Water/Flickr

Some politicians believe protecting a sunset industry’s interests is more important than looking out for the citizens who elected them. In Australia, the coal industry holds sway over government policy. In Canada, bitumen and fracked gas rule. In the U.S., it’s all of the above. Fortunately, many people, especially youth, are heeding the rational voices of those who acknowledge the tremendous opportunities in cleaner energy and economic diversification.

Politicians often justify their undying support for the fossil fuel industry by claiming they’re looking out for jobs and the economy — but those claims don’t hold up.

Despite assertions of some political representatives in Australia and the U.S., coal doesn’t have a bright future and “clean coal” doesn’t exist. In Canada, pipeline opponents, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups aren’t putting bitumen jobs at risk; automation, market forces, and change in the face of the climate crisis are behind the declines.

Calculations of “energy return on energy invested” — the amount of energy output over the amount required to produce it — shows one reason for bitumen’s lower price compared to conventional oil. The latter historically delivered 30 units or more for each unit invested, although that’s declining as easily accessed sources become depleted. Recent research shows wind energy can also reach this level, while solar is closer to 9:1 or higher. Oilsands bitumen is 5:1 or lower, because large amounts of energy are required to extract, process and refine it, which makes it costly, inefficient and much more emissions-intensive than conventional oil.

But instead of a rational debate about how to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy with minimal disruption to workers and society, media and short-sighted politicians inundate us with logical fallacies and absurd conspiracy theories about who’s funding the people and organizations that want a prosperous future with clean air, water and soil and a stable climate.

True concern for workers means helping them find new ways to employ their skills, including offering retraining and incentives for jobs in the growing clean energy sector — a process Canada’s government recently started with its Just Transition Task Force for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities. All political parties should find ways to reform employment policies to reduce waste, inequity and rampant consumerism, including improved work-life balance with shorter workweeks.

Decision-makers who care about the people they represent and understand science, social trends and technological potential know that a low-carbon future offers better health, livability and economic resilience. The fossil fuel industry is still the most profitable (and among the most destructive) in human history, but those days are coming to an end. True leaders understand this. SOURCE

HOW THE MEDIA LAUNDERS FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY PROPAGANDA THROUGH BRANDED CONTENT

A jogger runs past the Scattergood power plant Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. Los Angeles will abandon a plan to spend billions of dollars rebuilding three natural gas power plants as the city moves toward renewable energy, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)A jogger runs past the Scattergood natural gas power plant on Feb. 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

THERE IT WAS in black and white ­— or black, white, and a palette of gentle greens and blues. With a headline predicting that natural gas “will thrive in the age of renewables,” the article made the case that there are limitations on solar and wind power and that — as a subhead spelled out in aquamarine type — natural gas “is part of the solution.” Why was the Washington Postweighing in on the need for continued production of this fossil fuel in the face of climate change?

Or was it? On closer inspection, the report wasn’t coming from the D.C. paper’s newsroom. Though the link takes you to a page published by WashingtonPost.com, the story is actually a publication of WP BrandStudio, the paper’s branded content platform. In other words, the article is really an advertisement, and the copy was paid for by the American Petroleum Institute. The tagline — “Content from American Petroleum Institute” — is plain to see if you’re looking for it, though easy to miss if you’re not.

It’s not surprising that the trade group representing the oil and gas industry would want to leap to the defense of natural gas now. The notion that the energy source is a “bridge fuel” that will somehow safely deliver us to wind and solar — and past the threat of climate change — has been vaporized by recent science. MORE

Opinion: Fact-checking Alberta’s pipeline ads


Alberta Premier Rachel Notley unveils an ad they will be running in B.C. about the pipeline expansion in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday, May 10, 2018. JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS

As an Alberta-born-and-raised earth scientist who has made a career studying fossil fuels and energy issues, I am dismayed at the bombardment of ads from the Alberta government on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

One ad tells us:

“Canada’s economy loses out on an estimated $80 million dollars in economic benefits every day that the expansion is delayed. Trans Mountain changes that, providing an $80 million-a-day economic boost to our country, supporting thousands of jobs from coast to coast to coast.”

Every day? In fact, the earliest Trans Mountain could be completed is 2022. Two other pipelines under development, Enbridge’s Line 3 (due in late 2019) and Keystone XL (due in 2021) will provide twice the export capacity of Trans Mountain to higher-priced U.S. markets. Trans Mountain is intended to unlock new Asian markets.

The Trans Mountain delay is costing Canada nothing given that pipeline bottlenecks will be eliminated without it. Yet, a counter on the Alberta government’s Keep Canada Working website shows that (as of Feb. 15) the court-ordered shutdown has cost Canada $13.5 billion.

The differential between Alberta heavy oil (Western Canada Select/WCS) and the North American price (West Texas Intermediate/WTI) is normally about $15 per barrel. This is because WCS is priced at Hardisty and incurs a transportation cost of $7 via pipeline to Cushing, Okla., where WTI is priced. And because WCS is lower grade oil than WTI, it incurs a further quality discount of about $8 per barrel as it is costlier to refine. MORE

 

‘Making this up’: Study says oilsands assessments marred by weak science

Image result for 'Making this up': Study says oilsands assessments marred by weak science

EDMONTON — Dozens of oilsands environmental impact studies are marred by inconsistent science that’s rarely subjected to independent checks, says a university study.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” says University of British Columbia biology professor Adam Ford, who published his findings in the journal Environmental Reviews.

“You would have to go out of your way to make it this bad”

“You would have to go out of your way to make it this bad. It’s just a symptom of the state of the industry and it’s definitely a signal that we can do better.”

In 30 different assessments filed between 2004 and 2017, Ford found each study considered different factors in different ways. Few independently checked their conclusions. And those who did were notably less confident about the industry’s ability to restore what it had disturbed.

Time to stop blaming “foreign funded” environmentalists for the oil industry’s woes


Big Oil’s problem isn’t international philanthropy – it’s a changing market in the face of climate change

Fear mongering about cross-border funding for environmental groups has ramped up in recent weeks and months, increasingly making its way into news stories, social media feeds and political rhetoric. Led by proponents of the oil and gas industry, these divisive statements and exaggerated claims are nothing but an attempt to distract Canadians from the real issues – such as the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to shift our economy away from fossil fuels.

Critics point to the success of Canadian environmental organizations at garnering support from international donors as evidence that outsiders are having an undue influence on Canadian policies concerning energy and the environment. Some go so far as to suggest that “foreign-funded” environmental campaigns are part of a conspiracy that unfairly targets Canadian oil companies, to the benefit of oil producers south of the border.

This type of misinformation and the unwarranted attacks on environmental groups are undermining democracy, and Canadians deserve better.

For the sake of setting the record straight, let’s address a few of the most glaring holes in the arguments against environmental groups and international funding. MORE