[quote]Developing a climate plan to meet Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments is a challenging but achievable task for the federal government. Doing so while meeting Alberta’s and BC’s oil and gas production growth aspirations, however, will be virtually impossible.
The oil and gas industry is certainly not going away any time soon, but if Canada is serious about meeting its climate commitments it is time for the prime minister and premiers to do the math and stop telling us we can have it all. – David Hughes, geoscientist, shale gas expert and 32-year retired veteran the Geological Survey of Canada.[/quote]
British Columbians have every reason to be fighting mad at Trudeau’s decision to approve the Pacific Northwest LNG project. Yes, every reason to be fighting mad but absolutely no reason to be surprised.
Philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” and we just had that jammed up…er, shoved in our face.
Well, you will never find a clearer example of the dissembling and hypocrisy of this two-faced Trudeau bunch than in my constituency of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Woodfibre LNG approval was first clue
It’s no exaggeration to say that the only substantive issue in the 2015 election was the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant at Squamish (WLNG). People were enraged at the Harper government and MP John Weston on this issue, wanted to see the end of them, looked for a considerable period as if they would vote Green, panicked at the thought of a split vote and the Tories returned to ruin Howe Sound with WLNG, and so switched to the Liberal candidate – former West Vancouver mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones – who’d pledged she would support the wishes of her constituents.
In an election where the only substantive issue was WLNG, it was not surprising that Goldsmith-Jones won by a landslide. Having been assured that there would be consultation with them, voters felt confident that at worst they would have a fair opportunity to be heard.
Ha! Silly buggers trusted this new, attractive and sweet-talking Prime Minister and had forgotten Santayana entirely. Completely out of the blue, on March 18 last, environment minister Catherine McKenna quietly announced the Trudeau government approval of WLNG.
Environmental assessments still broken
Apart from all else, the so-called environmental assessment process was flawed unto fraudulent, such that Trudeau promises a review and fixes during the election. We’re not talking technicalities here but very substantial concerns about deadly, poisonous discharges – both into the atmosphere and directly into Howe Sound, putting all sea life at serious risk, including recently restored salmon and herring runs. There was no consideration given to the width of Howe Sound, considered grossly unsafe for LNG tanker traffic both by international rules and the industry’s own standards.
Not only were the people of the area not consulted, they were deliberately misled. Sandbagged is the better word. The esteemed, former mayor of West Vancouver, now Trudeau’s MP and parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, was not even advised that this decision was pending, much less given notice that it had been made.
After it was released in such a shocking, high-handed manner, she clearly lacked the guts to speak out and hasn’t done so to this day.
In fact, the deception and hypocrisy didn’t end there by any means. On the orders of her government, Goldsmith-Jones held two sets of public hearings, after the decision, neither of which dealt with the wisdom of the decision. Indeed, the second group was classic Liberal cynicism that should have been as familiar to us as Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
These meetings were held so that the government (the same one that had just approved WLNG) could explain it to the rabble, all aspects of climate change and how we could prevent it. There was just one niggling detail – we weren’t permitted to raise the issue of pollution from LNG, the most significant contributor to climate change! Nothing, of course, to do with the fact that the same Trudeau government had just approved the LNG plant in Squamish which would contribute dramatically to climate change!
Fox put in charge of the hen house
By now you must be begging for mercy, but there’s one more dollop of pure Liberal party policy, so typical that you can evaluate the rest of the process by it.
Now the damage has been done, Trudeau, to the accompanying of sucking from our MP, has set up an environmental review process.
Guess who the chair of this process will be?
Doug Horswill, Founding Chair of Resource Works, an industry advocacy group founded for the sole purpose of doing everything possible to get government approval for Woodfibre LNG!
My comment at the time was that this was the worst example of cynicism since Caligula made his horse a Consul. DeSmog Blog was bang on when they declared “the overarching message of Resource Works is that continued extraction of natural resources is essential to B.C.’s prosperity and anything that stands in the way of extraction — local opposition, regulations, taxes — is a threat to that prosperity. It’s a message they repeat over and over and over.”
What’s good for the Liberal Party
So now we have it. The tinpot dictator with the boyish smile arbitrarily approving a legally-contentious project, not approved by the First Nations involved, clearly a substantial threat to fish, a traditional part of First Nations existence, and without any concern whatever for the environmental and social consequences.
Will we ever learn the one fundamental principle that has always guided the Liberal party? “What’s Good For The Liberal Party Is Good For The Nation.”
I leave you with one question: Aren’t you glad we got rid of that soulless dictator Stephen Harper and his pals, the oil industry, so bent on destroying our natural resources, atmosphere, and principles of fair play?
The environmental news of the year — if not the decade — is the United Nations COP21 Climate Agreement reached in Paris on December 12, 2015. The 195 nations of the world reached an understanding in principle to hold global warming “well below 2°C” and to strive to limit the rise to 1.5°C. Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party and a long-time attendee at such climate talks, called it “a masterful balancing act” between the ideal and practical. It may not be perfect but it’s something that can be accomplished.
Key parts of the agreement include a contribution from developed nations of $100 billion per year, beginning in 2020, to help developing and undeveloped nations adapt to a low-carbon future. These billions will translate into trillions in private investments in clean and renewable energies. Further, all nations are expected to reach peak greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible”, so that by 2050 carbon emissions will not exceed those being captured by “sinks” — essentially creating a carbon neutral planet. And finally, 5-year reviews will examine the progress of all nations toward their committed objectives.
This COP21 agreement couples with a November 2014 unilateral deal between China and the United States to cut their emissions. And adding to the shift in consciousness was a June decision by the G7 nations, the world’s largest economies, to become carbon-free by 2100. Also in June came Laudato Si, the encyclical by Pope Francis which gave profound moral authority to humanity’s obligation to cut carbon emissions.
In Canada, a change in government from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals has literally revolutionized this country’s response to environmental issues generally and to climate change particularly. Instead of being negative and even obstructionist in international COP meetings, Canada has taken a position that is positive and helpful — even being asked to assume a facilitating role in negotiations. Unlike past COP conferences when delegates criticized and ridiculed Canada’s contributions — even suggesting it would be better for everyone if we had not come — we are now being welcomed with smiles and applause.
All these changes will reverberate throughout Canada. The new Liberal government will henceforth include carbon emissions as a considered element in all environmental assessments, including such projects as coal facilities, oil pipelines and LNG plants, thereby reducing the likelihood that such fossil fuel enterprises will proceed. The use and export of these carbon-rich resources will be seriously constrained by ambitious emission targets, periodic monitoring by the United Nations, and international censure for unmet commitments.
The international pressure to reverse global climate change is now immense. This pressure will be passed from the COP21 agreement to individual nations who will, in turn, pass it to their lower echelons of government. In Canada, the initiative taken by provinces, cities and municipalities to reduce emissions will now be met with encouragement instead of indifference. A spirit of co-operation will help Vancouver reach its goal of becoming the world’s greenest city. Alberta’s carbon tax and the cap-and-trade regulations of other provinces will be sanctioned. A moratorium on oil tankers plying BC’s coast and doubts about the province’s LNG projects now fit within a larger and wiser logic.
Despite Canada’s total lack of leadership in the green economy, a number of key global developments are grounds for optimism heading into the Paris UN conference on climate change.
Global emissions plateau in 2014
In a pleasant surprise for the planet at large, according to the International Energy Agency, global emissions reached a plateau in 2014.
Most importantly, this is not a onetime aberration, but rather an indication that the cumulative impacts of the growing numbers of measures to address climate change in China, Europe and the US are collectively bringing about transformative change. Other key nations such as Japan, India and Brazil have also begun a process that will engender a transformative migration to a green economy.
A case in point: in just 2014 China’s new installations of wind and solar capacity amounted to 34 gigawatts (GW – a billion watts) of new electrical generating capacity, bringing the total installed capacity of wind and solar energy in that country to 114.8 GW and 28 GW respectively. In other words, China’s new clean energy installations added in 2014 represent nearly 3 times BC Hydro’s entire installed capacity of 12 GW and more than 70% of the total electricity capacity of Hydro-Quebec, 46.3 GW – but China installed all of this new capacity in one year!
And China promises to do even better in 2015. So optimistic is China on accelerating the pace of new installations of renewables that its National Energy Administration has raised its target for new solar installations in 2015 to 17.8 GW, up from the original target of 15 GW.
Projections for China’s new wind installations in 2015 are such that as much as 20 GW of capacity may be added.
That said, there may be caveat to China’s impressive clean energy projections in that it is not sure if past trends will continue with respect to increases in transmission capacity, lagging behind new wind and solar farm developments.
It is conceivable that India will exceed its targets as clean energy companies have spoken of total commitments of 266 GW of new renewable installations by 2022.
Equally impressive is that the aforementioned goals of India will bring jobs and electricity to regions that either have no electricity or unreliable/unsteady electricity supplies. It is estimated that the solar and wind targets will generate one million and 183,000 jobs respectively, thereby providing boosts to impoverished communities by addressing energy and job deficits concurrently. To-date, approximately 70,000 jobs are attributable to the country’s solar and wind sectors.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s post-Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis, which led to the shutting down of 54 nuclear plants and the scrapping of plans to build 14 new nuclear facilities, initially meant a spike in fossil fuel imports, but this was followed by a boom in the renewables sector – supported by the central government.
US #2 on Green Economy, despite Republicans
As for the US, one may be inclined to conclude that the Republicans have put a damper on the progress of non-hydro renewables – yet 47% of new electrical power capacity added in 2014 came from non-hydro renewables. Republicans haven’t succeeded in stopping the Obama administration from doing what it can within existing constraints.
Firstly, there is the question of what contributed to the US having become the world’s number two investor in the green economy after China. The answer begins with the 2009 to 2011 period, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – when the US government laid the foundations for a green economy with a $70 Billion investment.
By contrast, Canadian green tech innovators and manufacturers face an unfavourably uneven playing field for participation in the high-growth, high-job creation, competitive global green economy – by virtue of the near total absence of Government of Canada support.
Clean Transportation: California and China lead the way
According to a UBS study, by 2020, customer-side renewable energy production (e.g. solar roof panels), energy storage and electric vehicle charging station technologies – combined with an electric vehicle in the driveway – would offer consumers a 7% return every year with a 6 to 8 year capital payback. The payback would be greater in jurisdictions such as California, which now offers incentives for energy consumers to install combinations of these technologies on their respective properties.
For California and China, the future for zero and low emission vehicles has already arrived. Each has a long list of policies, including aggressive eco-vehicle government procurement targets, subsidies for consumers, support for manufacturing/innovation, generous funding for electric vehicle charging stations all across these jurisdictions and requirements for new/recent buildings to be designed to accommodate ev charging stations.
Meanwhile, in 2016, the new US corporate average fuel economy standards will kick in, requiring that each manufacturer present in the US market achieve an average of 6.2L/100km based on cars sold in that year and 8.2L/100km for trucks. These standards, which are identical in Canada, get incrementally more stringent, reaching a mandatory average of 4.3L/100km for cars by 2025.
However, while these US vehicle standards constitute progress, appearances are somewhat deceiving for two reasons. First, the new standards will allow for the skewing of corporate average fuel economy results by leaving wiggle room in the form of fuel economy by category/size of vehicles sold (based on wheelbase length and track width). Second, the standards include higher consumption allowances for SUVs, considered to be trucks. Together, these factors could translate into higher average consumption/vehicles sold by a given manufacturer than the above-mentioned targets suggest.
The collapse of the Big Oil business model
While the cumulative impacts of the climate action measures are the backdrop for the International Energy Agency numbers on the plateau in GHG emission levels in 2014, another game-changing phenomenon is also occurring: the collapse of the business model of the oil industry.
This model is based on: 1) demand for fossil fuels continuing to climb; 2) oil prices remaining high enough to justify continued investments in expensive-to-extract unconventional sources such as the tar sands, offshore and shale sources; 3) high oil prices justifying the pumping out of greater volumes of conventional oil to further increase profits; and 4) the growing concern about climate change failing to affect the bottom line.
Until recently, this business model worked like a charm, with Exxon earning $32.6B in 2013, more than any company other than Apple. Well as it turns out, all of the above elements of the business model have hit a wall.
Demand not Rising at the Expected Pace
Not only do China, the US, the EU and India have policies which are lessening the current dependence on fossil fuels, but they all also have policies that will increasingly reduce this dependence. As indicated above, even India, once thought to be a major vector for increased demand in fossil fuels, has targets to change the economic/energy/job paradigm in favour of locally-produced renewable energy.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, 2015 global oil demand had originally been projected to be 103.2 million barrels/day, but this number has been adjusted to 93.1 million barrels/day, thereby undermining the viability of unconventional investments. True, economic slowdowns are also affecting demand, but the shift to clean energy and eventually clean transportation can only increase with time.
Evidently, global actions on climate change are starting to have an impact on Big Oil’s bottom line.
Low oil prices lead to stranded assets, dangerous debt
It now appears that the price of oil might not rise for a long time to come. Low prices cannot sustain the development of tar sands, shale and offshore oil.
As for the Big Oil premise that concern about climate change would not translate into social change, it requires an extraordinary amount of denial to ignore the emerging paradigm change entailing: 1) the decline in growth of fossil fuels; and 2) political trends favouring more stringent policies in support of the green economy.
Meanwhile, back home, Trudeau and Harper remain wedded to the resource-based export economy, with trade deals to support this dated economic development paradigm. This while our potential customers for increased resource exports are working hard on reducing their fossil fuel dependencies.
On the provincial front, Ontario and Quebec’s participation in the cap and trade (C&T) Western Climate Initiative (WCI), along with California, is helpful, but is also purposely a smoke screen. This is to say that these standalone measures are equivalent to suggesting that one can end poverty with a single policy item. The same can be said of BC’s carbon tax.
In effect, what both BC and Quebec have in common is that their current governments are committed to a resource economy, and are totally indifferent to and/or ignorant of the green economy model. Yet, on a global scale, the green economy is currently, and will be, offering the best economic development strategies of our time, as measured in both jobs and economic growth.
To this effect, Quebec is cutting all the environmental impact corners and investing large sums of public funds to sort out the potential of – and requirements for – the development and commercialization of shale gas and oil, plus offshore oil. This despite the aforementioned $200 billion in debt of the US shale sector and, more generally, the demise of the Big Oil business model.
Quite the contrast with the third C&T participant, California, with its hefty sets of policy packages to migrate California to a green economy. Even a partial list of the state’s policies on zero-emission vehicles is incredibly long!
The pressure is building to reduce global carbon emissions. At each meeting of the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP), the urgency becomes more palpable.
The Lima meeting of COP 20 in December, 2014, failed to reach the preliminary commitments necessary for the binding international agreements expected at the COP 21 meeting in Paris in December, 2015. France is getting nervous because its reputation will be sullied if the Paris COP is a failure — French President Francois Holland made this very clear to Prime Minister Stephen Harper during an autumn 2014 visit to Ottawa.
With the Kyoto Protocol expired and without a binding replacement agreement from subsequent COP meetings in Cancun, Copenhagen and Durban, the default position has been for individual countries, provinces and communities to do the best they can to reduce emissions. This approach has been helpful but not sufficient. Almost all of Canada’s reduced emissions have come from provincial initiatives, not federal. Most other countries have been unable to meet their voluntary reduction targets.
Economy decoupling from fossil fuels…slowly
Meanwhile, international agencies have been carefully charting carbon emissions for hopeful signs. But these signs are rare. In 2012, for example, the increase in carbon emissions of 1.4% was less than the increase in GDP of 3.4%, indicating that the world economy is beginning to decouple from fossil fuels by becoming more efficient. In 2013, carbon emissions crept up by 2.3% while GDP rose by 3.3%.
In 2014, emissions rose by 2.5% while GDP increased by 3.3%. If climate change is going to be slowed and reversed, however, total global emissions must not just trail GDP but must be reduced by a yearly average of at least 2.5% until all emissions reach zero on or before 2100. Any delays now will mean steeper future reductions.
Efficiency not enough
Two lessons are to be learned from these statistics. First, efficiency alone in a world of expanding GDP is unlikely to bring about sufficient carbon emission reductions. And second, although the accomplishment of efficiency is mostly symbolic, it is nonetheless important. Every factory that uses less energy reduces emissions. The same is true for every new car that burns less fuel, and for every LED bulb that replaces an incandescent one. Statistics confirm that every individual choice, no matter how small, contributes to measurable environmental benefits.
But time is crucial and the numbers are daunting. Global yearly carbon dioxide emissions are now, as of the beginning of 2015, about 37 gigatonnes. To translate this number into slightly more approachable terms, this is 37,000 million tonnes. The wisps of smoke drifting up from a hunter-gatherer’s cooking fire or from a solitary country cottage makes our planet seem very large. But 37,000,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide is a declaration that our fires have grown sufficiently large to influence the planet we occupy. So we should not be surprised if our emissions are changing climate, acidifying oceans, melting ice caps, raising sea levels, driving species to extinction.
These consequences are being confirmed with sobering statistics:
Six months ago, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measured the world’s average temperature at a new record of 16.2°C, 1.3°C higher than than the 20th century average. The 10 hottest years since 1880 occurred in the 15 years between 1998 and 2013; none occurred before 1880.
The pre-human extinction rate for species was 0.1 per million per annum; the present rate is somewhere between 100 and 1,000, a rate that is 1,000 to 10,000 times normal.
For centuries prior to 1800 sea level rise was essentially zero; from 1900 to 2000 it was 1.7 mm per year; from 1990 to 2013 it increased to 3 mm. The total sea level rise by 2100 is expected to be about 0.5 m. But many variables could increase this number. Earth’s average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are expected to reach 400 ppm sometime in 2015. The last time concentrations were this high, about 3 million years ago, sea levels stabilized at about 10 metres above present levels. This suggests sea level rise will be continuous for centuries, presenting colossal challenges for coastal cities, settlements and agriculture.
The importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions continues to increase exponentially. This means that 2015 will be an even more crucial year for taking corrective action. The longer we procrastinate, the more radical and difficult must be our future reduction measures.
If our inclination to inaction continues, we may reach a time when the problem of climate change is unstoppable and unsolvable. Unfortunately, we don’t know when this time will occur. We may have already reached and passed it. But we can be virtually certain that continued delays will only make the challenges and the consequences increasingly difficult — for our climate, for our oceans, for innumerable species, and for civilization as we know it. Whether 2015 becomes a year for optimism remains uncertain.
The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) has a history of big talk on the environment, but, once in power, failing to deliver. Each climate change action plan has demonstrated this trend, accompanied by boastful press releases on how much money the LPC would be investing in sustainable development. Now, Justin Trudeau is showing every sign of repeating this pattern.
Liberal Party never serious about climate change
Stéphane Dion, as the former minister of the environment, introduced no comprehensive packages of legislation, fiscal measures, programs and policies to make much of a difference in addressing climate change.
As a former Government of Canada employee, I can attest, from a unique insider’s perspective, that various Dion/Liberal climate change action plans were all designed to fail, or lacking in substance to achieve stated GHG targets. Eddie Goldenberg, Chétien’s highest ranked government employee and key adviser, admitted as much in February 2007 when he revealed that the LPC had no idea how it would meet Kyoto objectives when it ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
The result was that carbon emissions spiked as much under Chrétien and Paul Martin’s governments as they have during the Harper regime. Michael Ignatieff got it right when he said to Dion, during one of the Liberal leadership debates, that Dion failed to get the job done.
Justin Trudeau represents a continuation of this LPC legacy, as I will demonstrate. What follows is an insider’s detailed view of LPC failures on climate change – leading up to Trudeau’s positions to-date and the choices Canadians face going into the 2015 election.
Subsidizing fossil fuels and paying the polluter
Prior to the Liberal defeat, Stéphane Dion, as environment minister, introduced yet another climate change action plan, this one with a $1B Climate Fund designed for the government to purchase emission reductions from Canada’s largest emitters, in particular the fossil fuel sectors. In other words, the more one emits, the more government support one could get under the Dion plan, a pay the polluter formula — rather than the polluter pays.
And no rewards were offered for the small and medium size private firms that had already contributed, or would like to contribute, significantly to emission reductions.
Price on carbon, maybe – but it would have to be cheap
Further along the lines of subsidizing the fossil fuel sector, Chrétien made a sweetheart deal with the oil industry to the effect that in the event of a price on carbon, it would be cheap/symbolic. My guess is that Trudeau’s “endorsement” of a price on carbon is the sequel to the Chrétien model.
Ambitious targets, ambitious cheating
In keeping with the LPC greenwash tradition, during the 1999 to 2000 period, a key element of the LPC plan to meet their ambitious GHG objectives was an attempt to get UN/international approval for crediting Canada for its forests – including reforestation efforts – which absorb CO2. The Liberals referred to their forest component of the climate change action plan of the time as “carbon sinks.”
In other words, the LPC wanted to get carbon credits for doing absolutely nothing, by creating a fairly tale to give the impression that they were making progress GHG targets. Fortunately, the UN rejected the carbon sink proposal.
Yet another facet of the LPC subsidizing of the fossil fuel sector was a heavy investment in the carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) experiment in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.
The problem with CCS is that this technology 1) is so prohibitively expensive that no one would adopt CCS in the absence of major government subsidies 2) is very energy intensive consuming up to one third of total energy produced from a given generator facility and 3) offers no assurance that the carbon sequestered in former and empty wells would in fact stay there.
It is worth noting here that, prior to the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) elimination of all sustainable development innovation funds, the CPC continued the LPC tradition with more than one CPC sustainable development fund supporting CCS.
One of the CCS initiatives supported by the Conservatives, is the current Boundary Dam CCS project pertaining to one of the five coal-fired generation stations in Estevan SK, a project which received a $240M CCS subsidy from the Harper administration. For the generating station equipped with the CCS technologies, one third of the 165 MW of energy produced, or 55 MW, is dedicated to powering the CCS system, while only capturing 20% of the generator’s GHGs, falling well short of the objective to capture 90% of GHGs.
Recently, TransAlta abandoned its CCS project in Pioneer, AB after having received $800M in federal funding.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)
The LPC record on the auto sector also reflects its tradition of putting the emphasis on appearances rather than getting the job done.
On this, there is the matter of the auto sector corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) – a given manufacturer’s CAFE performance for a given year is weighted by the individual sales and fuel consumption of each model, aggregated over the total vehicle sales of the manufacturer in the year in question.
During the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau reign, CAFE was approved but wasn’t presented as a law before Parliament. In its place, the elder Trudeau’s Cabinet adopted a voluntary CAFE without a government verification system in place.
Justin continues Liberal Party’s record
Justin Trudeau has chosen to continue in the LPC tradition of appearing to be committed on action on climate change, with doses of window-dressing, while ceding to powerful interests.
Furthermore, the facts on the ground are affirming that Trudeau’s characterization of Canada as a resource export economy is dated. The fossil fuel party is over. Specifically, it has become evident that non-conventional fossil fuel resources, such as the tar sands, cannot be supported by market prices. Already, Big Oil has pulled out of many non-conventional resource projects around the globe and it is now clear that long-term energy and energy-related investments favour clean energy and clean transportation, and more generally a green economy.
Of particular significance to Canada, the above-mentioned green economy initiatives of China will ultimately lead to greater energy independence, thus once again showing that Trudeau’s FIPA resource export opportunity paradigm is totally out of sync with emerging new realities. Moreover, the gap between Trudeau’s tunnel vision and China’s new paradigm will surely widen as China accelerates its migration to a green economy under their 5 year plan for the 2016-20 period.
Trudeau wrong to pan cap and trade
With respect to Trudeau’s comments against cap and trade, the empirical evidence from the longest standing existing international cap and trade scheme, the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), proves otherwise. That is, the ETS has proven to be critical component of the EU success in meeting Kyoto Protocol objectives. More importantly, the ETS has put nearly all EU nations on track for meeting their respective 2020 targets
Lastly, though indirectly related to the green economy, another important Trudeau policy position that would have an adverse impact on Canada’s ability to go green is maintaining Canada’s corporate tax rate at 15%, the lowest in the G7. While $630B lies dormant in corporate liquidity, the low corporate tax will limit a Trudeau government’s ability to assure adequate investments of financial resources in Canada’s own migration to a green economy.
Suffice it to say that empirical evidence on the Liberals’ past, together with Justin Trudeau’s policy statements to date, clearly reveal that, for the LPC, environmental issues are primarily about political manipulation, rather than facing environmental challenges.
One cannot be serious about the environment and support the LPC.
As for subsidies for fossil fuels, at a cost of $110/tonne, they are one of the most significant barriers to our migration to a green economy. On this matter, the International Monetary Fund has estimated that in 2011 US dollars, Canadian subsidies associated with fossil fuels – including indirect costs pertaining to climate change and health – amount to $26.4B/year.
In contrast to the Trudeau Liberals, the NDP would raise the ridiculously low federal corporate tax rate of 15%.
To conclude, the only barriers stopping Canada from catching up with our competitors in the global migration to a green economy are Harper and Trudeau.
We should all keep that in mind heading into the election of 2015.
WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday rolled out a plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 per cent by 2030, setting the first national limits on the chief gas linked to global warming.
The rule, expected to be final next year, is a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce the pollution linked to global warming, a step that the administration hopes will get other countries to act when negotiations on a new international treaty resume next year.
Despite concluding in 2009 that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, a finding that triggered their regulation under the 1970 Clean Air Act, it has taken years for the administration to take on the nation’s fleet of power plants. In December 2010, the Obama administration announced a “modest pace” for setting greenhouse gas standards for power plants, setting a May 2012 deadline.
Power plants are largest source of greenhouse gases
Obama put them on the fast track last summer when he announced his climate action plan and a renewed commitment to climate change after the issue went dormant during his re-election campaign.
Said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defence Council, which has drafted a plan that informed the EPA proposal:
[quote]The purpose of this rule is to really close the loophole on carbon pollution, reduce emissions as we’ve done with lead, arsenic and mercury and improve the health of the American people and unleash a new economic opportunity.[/quote]
Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., accounting for about a third of the annual emissions that make the U.S. the second largest contributor to global warming on the planet.
New rule tough on coal
Yet the rule carries significant political and legal risks, by further diminishing coal’s role in producing U.S. electricity and offering options for pollution reductions far afield from the power plant, such as increased efficiency. Once the dominant source of energy in the U.S., coal now supplies just under 40 per cent of the nation’s electricity, as it has been replaced by booming supplies of natural gas and renewable sources such as wind and solar.
“Today’s proposal from the EPA could singlehandedly eliminate this competitive advantage by removing reliable and abundant sources of energy from our nation’s energy mix,” Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said in a statement issued Sunday.
Partisan battle ahead
The White House said Obama called a group of Democrats from both the House and Senate on Sunday to thank them for their support in advance of the rule’s official release, which is expected to be rigorously attacked by Republicans and make Democrats up for re-election in energy-producing states nervous.
EPA data shows that the nation’s power plants have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 13 per cent since 2005, or about halfway to the goal the administration will set Monday. The agency is aiming to have about 26 per cent cut by 2020.
But with coal-fired power plants already beleaguered by cheap natural gas prices and other environmental regulations, experts said getting there won’t be easy. The EPA is expected to offer a range of options to states to meet targets that will be based on where they get their electricity and how much carbon dioxide they emit in the process.
Plan contains range of flexible solutions
While some states will be allowed to emit more and others less, overall the reduction will be 30 per cent nationwide.
Obama has already tackled the emissions from the nation’s cars and trucks, announcing rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by doubling fuel economy. That standard will reduce carbon dioxide by more than 2 billion tons over the life of vehicles made in model years 2012-25. The power plant proposal will prevent about 430 million tons of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere, based on the 30 per cent figure and what power plants have already reduced since 2005.
The EPA refused to confirm the details of the proposal Sunday. People familiar with the proposal shared the details on condition of anonymity, since they have not been officially released.
Beinecke spoke Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” before details of the proposal became public.
The proposal was first reported Sunday by The Wall Street Journal.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
The actuarial sciences of the insurance industry have identified an implacable reality and placed a tax on carbon emissions. For anyone who wants insurance, payment is unavoidable. Protesting or complaining won’t change an insurance industry that functions with the cold logic of calculated risk — if risk increases, premiums increase. And this explains their carbon tax. The industry doesn’t need measured rises in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide or higher global average temperatures to understand what is happening to weather. All it needs is the cost of claims.
In the relative microcosm of Vancouver Island, for example, claims related to fire and lightning caused by weather jumped from levels of about $1.2 million per year in 2010 and 2011 to $6.5 million in 2012. Corresponding claims for wind damage rose from about $250,000 per year to $2.9 million. Total claims for 2012 were $15 million, equal to the sum of the previous two years — with almost all the increases related to weather. Consequently, the annual premiums for the usual package of house insurance commonly rose by a hundred dollars or more.
Across Canada, the situation is similar. “There are more and more storms happening,” said Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, “and we’re seeing extreme weather events that happened once every 40 years… that can now be expected to happen once every six years”. Consequently, “the amount of claims that have been presented has been averaging about a billion dollars [more] a year over the last three years or so”.
Extreme weather costs grow six-fold in six years
Extreme weather events that cost Canada less than $200 million in 2006, reached $1.2 billion in 2012. Domestic fires, which were once the principal cause of insurance payouts, have been replaced by flooding, the result of engineered drainage systems being overcome by torrential rainfall. Wind damage from powerful storms has move up to the second highest cause of claims.
“It’s just been five horrendous years in a row,” confessed Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. Just two events in the last year — June’s flooding in Alberta and July’s torrential rainfall in Toronto — brought the insured property damage to $3 billion. The costs to insurance companies of the devastating ice storm that hit Toronto and parts of Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces during the last days of 2013, have yet to be calculated — the uninsured costs may never be known. One of the largest insurers of property in Canada, Intact Financial Corporation, raised premiums by 15 to 20 percent as a result of heavy losses from climate-related claims. Some home owners are simply denied coverage if they live in areas newly identified as prone to flooding.
Hurricane Sandy a wake-up call
In the United States in 2012, the arrival of Hurricane Sandy caused $65 billion in destruction to the US Atlantic coast — happily for the insurance companies, less than half was insured. The storm, however, has forced some property owners in New York and New Jersey to confront the options of moving away from shorelines, elevating their homes, or paying flood insurance premiums of as much as $31,000 a year (Associated Press, January 29/13). The same year’s drought in the US Midwest did $20 billion in crop damage, of which $17 billion was insured.
Outside Canada and the United States, the indications of extreme weather are repeated — except the numbers are correspondingly larger. Munich Re, one of the world’s largest re-insurance companies, has been using the best meteorologists, hydrologists, geologists and geophysicists available to understand and predict the increasing number of extreme weather events it has been noting since the 1970s, well before climate change became a term of common usage. Their insurance rates are rising as their actuarial studies reveal a clear indication of increasing risk from extreme weather.
Extreme heat making waves too
Material damage, however, is just the surface of the problem for the insurance industry. Because it will insure everything from homes and crops to product delivery and sporting events, anything that creates uncertainty adds to risk and affects insurance rates. So heat waves that are now predicted to occur every two or three years in the US Midwest and central Europe, according to Munich Re’s research, mean that premiums for insuring anything remotely related — from soybean crops to shipping schedules — will have to rise accordingly. Because Southeast Asia is expected to experience the same heat events, except every one or two years, the complicating effects must be anticipated as more expensive insurance.
Droughts are particularly insidious — such as the 2011 one in Somalia — because they are usually persistent, with consequences that can be both devastating and widespread. As Josette Sheeran of the World Food Program noted, victims have three options: they can riot, migrate, or die. Regardless, they throw social, political and economic stability of local, adjoining and distant countries into turmoil — climate refugees, for example, send waves of disturbances around the world. The successive droughts in Russia in 2010 and 2011 caused a global grain shortage that threw international food prices into pandemonium, and have been connected to the Arab uprisings that are still echoing throughout the Middle East. These unanticipated conditions are precisely the unknowns that insurers can only address by increasing the price of premiums.
As weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable, the whole system of payment for risk becomes more expensive. Every claim that is paid by the insurance industry is recorded somewhere in a Great Actuarial Ledger to become additional costs forwarded to future policy holders — most of whom do not realize that these increased premiums are actually carbon taxes.
The European Union has fast become the global leader on migrating to a green economy, with its Emissions Trading System (cap and trade scheme) in place since 2005. Canada has much to learn from the current and future EU debates on establishing new targets for 2030 – particularly how to fast-forward its badly lagging green economy following the next federal election in 2015.
The EU: a green economy success story
The foundations for the discussions on 2030 targets are the binding EU 2020 targets. These targets entail:
a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels;
raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewables to 20%
a 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency.
Under this system, each country has its own binding national targets based on its relative capacities to contribute to EU-wide goals.
In the case of Germany, for example, it had already reduced its emissions by 25% in 2012, thereby exceeding its Kyoto 2012 target of 21% – all while being one of the world’s strongest economies. These facts are contrary to what Stephen Harper would have us believe to the effect that economic development and sustainable development are opposing forces for which there can be no reconciliation.
Indeed, measured in terms of economic impacts, the EU’s progress to-date is staggering, especially with respect to job creation. There are presently 3.5M people employed in the EU green sector, with annual job growth for the sector at 180,000 new jobs/year from 1999 to 2008. Even during the worst of the EU’s economic crisis, most of these jobs were retained and many more were created.
Renewable energy-related jobs in the EU were up to 1.2M in 2012 and the projection for 2020 is 2.7M. With the right policies, this could reach 4M jobs by 2030.
The European Commission’s White Paper
Against this backdrop, to initiate EU discussions on 2030 targets and build on the momentum of the 2020 goals, the highly conservative and corporate-friendly European Commission took up the task of producing a White Paper for release on January 22, 2014.
In the months preceding the publication of the White Paper, a major debate arose among EU member nations as to whether: 1) there should be 2030 binding triple targets – EU-wide and nation-specific, and in keeping with the precedent set with the 2020 triple goals; or 2) simply have a stand-alone binding GHG reduction target to be accompanied eventually by state-specific GHG targets. In its White Paper of January 22nd, the European Commission came down in favour of the second option.
The White Paper called for a 40% GHG reduction target with binding requirements for EU member states and an “at least” 27% renewables goal that would be binding on the EU, but not binding on the member states individually.
Under the European Commission’s formula, not only would an EU-wide binding renewable energy target be difficult to enforce in the absence of a binding renewables target for each nation, but also the 27% renewables target would reduce by one third the momentum set by the 2020 goals. That is, modeling of the 40% GHG reduction target suggests that the 27% renewables portion of the EU-wide energy supply would be achieved anyway, without the Commission’s renewables target.
UK, Poland resist binding clean energy goals; 8 countries in favour
The aforementioned Commission’s position went against the recommendations submitted in a January, 2014 letter from the energy ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal – written to commissioners Connie Hedegaard, the commissioner for climate action, and Gunther Oettinger, the commissioner for energy. The letter urged binding clean energy goals for every EU nation.
It also stated that such an approach is essential to providing the renewable sector with the certainty it needs for long-term, cost-effective investments. Sigmar Gabriel, the German Minister of Economics and Energy, indicated that the extraordinary progress achieved to date would not have been possible without the combination of nation-specific binding GHG and renewable energy targets.
Particularly on the minds of those supporting binding targets for renewables is the fact that the EU is the part of a world which is most dependent on imported fossil fuels. In 2012, EU spent $740B on importing these fuels. Accordingly, the International Energy Agency has described the path to reducing this dependency as being that of greater reliance on domestically-produced, clean energy and greater energy efficiency.
Fracking among UK motives for non-binding targets
In this confrontation of positions, it is the UK, in particular, that has been very vocal in opposing a renwables target because it wants to have the flexibility to include nuclear, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and fracking technologies in its energy strategy. Consequently, the UK has been advocating a 50% GHG target without renewables targets.
Fittingly, Oliver Krischer, German MP from the opposition Green Party, said proposals to scrap binding renewable energy and energy efficiency targets for 2030 are intended to initiate a renaissance of nuclear power and push through fracking and CCS activities through the back door.
Another big obstacle to a renewables binding target at national levels is Poland, for which coal represents 90% of its electrical power generation.
The European Parliament passes triple and binding 2030 targets
Consistent with the aforementioned debates within the EU, on February 4, 2014, Members of the European Parliament, in a plenary non-binding vote, voted 347 to 308 in favour three binding targets on national levels, a 40% reduction in GHGs; a 30% target pertaining for energy from renewables; and a 40% improvement in energy efficiency. This February 2014 MEP vote is consistent with the recommendations of the European Parliament’s Environment and Industry Committees on a three-target, binding approach.
According to the European Wind Energy Association, the 30% binding renewables targets for EU member states could provide 570,000 new jobs and save $818B in imports of fossil fuels, all while lowering costs for energy-intensive industries.
The MEP vote notwithstanding, it is just one step in a lengthy process leading up to final legislation in 2017. Moreover, the vote in the European Parliament does not require member states to approve national binding targets.
On February 19, 2014, there will be a Franco-German summit on energy cooperation. Then, on March 4, 2014, the EU energy ministers will meet. This will be followed by a European Council meeting of heads of state on March 8-9, 2014.
Further down the road, European Commission commissioners will be replaced in 2014 and firm legislative proposals are not expected before 2015, after the European parliamentary elections. Subsequently, it may take about two years before the final policies become EU law.
Adding to the cocktail of views that will contribute to these debates are the positions of clean tech sector stakeholders, adamantly in favour of national, binding renewables targets.
Taken together, the EU discussions on the pros and cons of different 2030 options could prove to be enlightening for Canadians reviewing options to catch up to the Europeans, who are already way ahead of Canada on the migration to a green economy. Moreover, their successes and failures to date in advancing their respective countries offer models for consideration for Canada. Accordingly, as a contributor to The Common Sense Canadian, I will continue to provide articles on new EU green economy developments.
Lastly, it is worth noting that the February meeting of the European Parliament included a vote in favour of extending the EU Fuel Quality Directive beyond 2020, thus banning tar sands imports to the EU indefinitely – likely to the great displeasure of Stephen Harper.
OTTAWA – Never mind those international targets, the federal government appears to be having trouble meeting even its own internal operational goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
An internal PowerPoint presentation prepared by Public Works and Government Services Canada asks each federal department to ante up its emissions reductions number for the coming 2014-15 fiscal year.
And it prods departments to “please consider increasing your commitment to help bridge the current five per cent gap.”
“They’re clearly going to miss their targets,” said John McKay, the Liberal environment critic.
[quote]I can’t say I’m overly surprised by that given that they’re not serious about national targets, so why would they be serious about government targets.[/quote]
As part of a “greening government operations” exercise, the Conservatives have committed to reducing GHG emissions from federal buildings and transportation fleets by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.
That’s the same target the Harper government agreed to for Canada as a whole as part of the Copenhagen accord in 2009.
Canadian climate targets slipping further away
A fall report from Environment Canada shows the country is slipping further away from meeting its Copenhagen emissions goal, although the government likes to claim Canada is halfway to the target.
Similarly, when Public Works says there’s a five per cent gap in operational emissions cuts, it doesn’t mean the government’s work is 95 per cent complete.
A 2012 report by Environment Canada on the federal sustainable development strategy makes clear “the government is on track to achieve a 12 per cent decrease in emission levels relative to the base year by fiscal year 2020-2021. A projected gap of about five per cent highlights the need for additional efforts in order to achieve the 17 per cent federal target.”
In other words, the government is currently on pace to miss its self-imposed internal 17-per-cent target by five percentage points — or almost 30 per cent. And it would seem no headway has been made on that front since 2012.
Public Works says the current reductions are “more significant … than what was anticipated for the second year of implementation of the federal sustainable development strategy.”
Spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold said in an email that the current reductions are “subject to change over time as departments analyze their data, adjust their plans and adopt new plans in order to reach the targets by 2020.”
It’s not the only troubling progress report that’s come to light on Canada’s efforts to reduce emissions.
Canada’s carbon footprint to climb sharply after 2020
The government quietly submitted two reports last month to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that show Canada’s emissions will spike sharply upward after 2020, driven largely by expansion of the oil sands.
Emissions between 2020 and 2030 are predicted to climb by 81 million tonnes, taking Canada 11 per cent above 2005 levels — notwithstanding hopes that a new round of international climate negotiations in 2016 are supposed to find further global reductions from the 2005 base year.
“Under all scenarios over the forecast period, emissions are expected to grow the fastest in oil sands extraction and upgrading,” says the Canadian report to the U.N.
McKay, the Liberal critic, says if the government can’t get its own emissions under control, it can’t push other sectors of the economy, noting the federal government accounts for almost 15 per cent of Canada’s GDP. Said the Liberal MP:
[quote]If you don’t get leadership out of the federal government in getting their own house in order, how can you actually reasonably expect the rest of the citizens of Canada to be serious about greenhouse gases?[/quote]
McKay acknowledged not nearly enough was done under the previous Liberal governments to reduce Canadian emissions as per the 1997 Kyoto protocol.
“But after a while the blame exercise gets a little tired, especially since you’ve had six or seven years to get your main emitter under control, which is the oil and gas industry.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a year-end interview that long-delayed regulations on the oil and gas sector will be announced “over the next couple of years.”
WARSAW, Poland – Japan’s decision to drastically scale back its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions could hurt efforts to craft a global deal to fight climate change, delegates at U.N. talks said Friday.
The new target approved by the Japanese Cabinet calls for reducing emissions by 3.8 per cent from their 2005 level by 2020.
The revision was necessary because the earlier goal of a 25 per cent reduction from the 1990 level was unrealistic, the chief government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters in Tokyo.
The new target represents a 3 per cent increase over 1990 emissions.
Given Japan’s status as the world’s third largest economy and fifth largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the decision to back away from the more ambitious target could be a significant setback for efforts to reach a new global climate agreement in 2015.
The European Union’s delegates at the climate talks in Warsaw “expressed disappointment,” while U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres summed up the mood by saying there’s “regret” over Japan’s decision.
However, she praised Japan’s advances in increasing energy efficiency and in solar energy investments, and predicted that the Japanese “will soon see that the current target is actually conservative.”
“I don’t have any words to describe my dismay,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency cited Su Wei, deputy chief of the Chinese delegation to the climate talks, as telling reporters in Warsaw.
Japanese delegate Hiroshi Minami acknowledged that “most of the developing countries are very disappointed” with the move.
Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Japan pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6 per cent to 1.186 billion tons a year on average over the five years to March 2013.
The resulting shift back toward reliance on coal, oil and gas for power, and use of diesel generators, has hindered further progress.
Emissions in the fiscal year that ended in March were up 2.8 per cent from the year before, and at 1.207 billion tons, the second highest after a record 1.218 billion tons in fiscal 2007.
Climate activists following the talks in Warsaw named Japan “fossil of the day,” a dubious honour meant to tag a country blocking progress on combating climate change. Dressed up in dark suits to look like Cabinet ministers, the activists ate sushi over colleagues pretending to be victims of the typhoon that has killed thousands of people in the Philippines.
Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network, called Japan’s move “outrageous,” saying in Warsaw that it will have a “serious and negative impact on the negotiations.”
Oxfam spokeswoman Kelly Dent said Japan’s “dramatic U-turn” is a “slap in the face for poor countries” struggling with climate change.
The new goal announced Friday doesn’t take into account possible emissions reductions if Japan restarts some of its nuclear plants, as the government is hoping to do. So it will be revised before the next climate pact is due to be set two years from now, said Masami Tamura, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Climate Change Division.
Tokyo also is planning to provide $16 billion in aid for emissions reductions in developing countries and to commit $110 billion to research on energy and the environment.
Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s carbon emissions were on a par with European industrial nations such as France, Germany and Britain.
They will hit 1.227 billion tons this year, the government-affiliated Institute of Energy Economics Japan estimates, up nearly 16 per cent from 1990.
AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo and AP writer Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.