In Alberta: A Call for Renewable energy legislation ; Government funds directed to methane emission reduction

On October 24, several renewable energy companies, industry associations and think-tanks released an Open Letter   to the Alberta government, urging it to establish in law  its commitment for renewables to supply at least 30 per cent of the province’s electricity by 2030.  Amongst several arguments in the Letter is one related to job creation:  “the fraction of construction jobs as well as head office jobs based in Alberta would be much higher and more stable under the larger market assured by a legislated target. Without the clarity of a legislated multiyear commitment, there is a risk that companies would keep Alberta operations to a minimum and with many of the jobs created in other jurisdictions.”    The arguments are supported by other documents at Pembina Institute, including Cheaper renewables spur companies to buy clean energy directly from producers .

This may be of interest to the Energy Diversification Committee announced  on October  13  , which is tasked to consult with Albertans and make recommendations in the fall of 2017 on how to increase the value of energy resources, create jobs and attract new investment. The press release gives examples of “value-added ideas” such  as partial upgrading, refining, petrochemicals and chemicals manufacturing.  Nothing about renewables.  The Committee website  names two Co-Chairs:  Gil McGowan, president of the  Alberta Federation of Labour , along with Jeanette Patell, government affairs and policy leader at  GE Canada   . Warren Fraleigh, Executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta is a member, along with business and First Nations representatives.

On October 21, the government of Alberta announced  that it will redirect  $33 million to  support medium- and long-term technologies  that reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas, agriculture and landfill sectors, as well as projects to improve methane detection and quantification. This initiative springs from  the commitment in the Climate Leadership Plan to  reduce methane emissions  by 45 per cent by 2025.  The augmented funding , which will total $40 million, will be administered by Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA),  which is the new name being given to the industry-sponsored Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation  .



Canada promises action to implement the Kigali agreement on HFC’s

The agreement reached  in Kigali, Rwanda  on October 15 2016, to regulate the use of the hydrochlorofluorocarbons ( HFC’s)  in air conditioners and refrigerators,  is expected to lead to the reduction of the equivalent of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and “is the single largest contribution the world has made towards keeping  the global temperature rise ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius”, according to the UNEP Press release about the agreement.   The 197 countries which had previously been party to the Montreal Protocol reached a compromise, under which developed countries will start to phase down HFC’s by 2019.  The deadline for some developing countries to  freeze their HFC’s consumption levels is 2024, and some  of the world’s hottest countries (India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) will have the most lenient deadlines, to freeze HFC use by 2028 and reduce it to about 15 percent of 2025 levels by 2047.  Read the New York Times report here ,  or the National Observer report here  , and for background, an August NYT article, “How bad is your air conditioner for the planet?“.  For a legal perspective, see “Cutting HFC’s under the Montreal Protocol – A few thoughts” from the Legal Planet blog of UCLA Berkeley.

The Kigali agreement is  seen as a powerful positive symbol: “It is a clear statement by all world leaders that the green transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable.”  But though it is seen as a much stronger commitment than the Paris Agreement, it also  requires ratification by two-thirds of the parties to come into force, and may not be “unstoppable”.    According to Climate Central, ” American experts on international environmental law say ratifying the new HFC agreement would almost certainly require a two-thirds vote from the Senate”. In other words, even more is now riding on the U.S. election on November 8.   A Globe and Mail article on October 16  expanded on the brief government press release ,  quoting the Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister, who pledged: “Ottawa will adopt regulations to reduce the use of the chemicals in the coming years. The government will provide rules and incentives for the destruction of existing HFCs.”

The Youth of Norway are suing for their constitutional climate rights

The government of Norway and thirteen oil companies are being sued  by Greenpeace International and a Norwegian youth alliance called Nature and Youth, who are challenging the government’s decision to allow oil exploration in the Barents Sea.  The suit argues that further oil exploration violates  threatens Norway’s commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement and violates the constitutional right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations.  Two  Greenpeace blogs emphasize that this is meant to be an historic case, protecting the final frontier of the Arctic, and also exercising the  people-power of a new generation stepping up to hold governments accountable to their climate promises. Read “This is the People vs. Arctic Oil”  and  “Why we are taking Arctic Oil to Court” , which appeals to the global community for support.  (Note: the Greenpeace Canada also maintains an Arctic campaign  but the website doesn’t reflect the Norwegian case yet).   An article in Common Dreams,    “Norwegian Youth Taking Government to Court Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Arctic Drilling”   explains the case fully and makes the links with the U.S. case brought by James Hansen and  Our Children’s Trust  .  The groundbreaking federal lawsuit by Our Children’s Trust, having been challenged repeatedly by the fossil fuel industry,  is under review by a U.S. District Court Judge, who heard oral arguments on September 13 . A decision is expected by  mid-November, at which time the case will head to trial, or go to appeal.  Our Children’s Trust is the subject of an October article in Fusion: “Generational Injustice:  Inside the Legal Movement  suing for Climate Justice Now”   .

Is the Dakota Access Pipeline the next Keystone Pipeline battle within U.S. Labour?

“Standing Rock Solid with the  Frackers: Are the Trades Putting Labor’s Head in the Gas Oven? is a new article by Sean Sweeney,  examining the divisions in the U.S. labour movement over the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The  article , originally published in New Labor Forum and re-posted and updated on the website of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy on October  14 , describes the pro-pipeline statements of the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) , and, like Jeremy Brecher’s article  on the same issue , Sweeney sees NABTU as the driving force behind the AFL-CIO’s energy positions.  Likening the current dispute to the internal division over the Keystone XL Pipeline, Sweeney states that  “The DAPL fight suggests that the split in labor is deepening.” Sweeney pays particular attention to (and promises a future article about ) the Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA)’s  Clean Power Progress campaign,  launched in June 2016 to support natural gas as a clean, bridging fuel – with the  glaring omission of any mention of  the emissions of fracking.   The article concludes: “For now, having waged a successful putsch, NABTU is the voice of the AFL-CIO regarding a big chunk of labor’s energy policy. The Federation’s reputation is now so low that it seems to be no longer concerned about ‘reputational damage.’ By linking arms with Standing Rock Sioux, progressive labor is keeping alive the best traditions of labor environmentalism pioneered by Tony Mazzocchi and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers in the 1970s.”

Further updates on the DAPL front:  Protests and arrests  continue as recently as October 22.   But in what is seen as a victory victory for freedom of the press,  on October 18  a judge dismissed trespassing and riot charges against reporter Amy Goodman, the  reporter for Democracy Now whose video ignited support for  the Standing Rock  Sioux Nation protest.   Read the transcript of Amy Goodman’s reaction here   , and complete Democracy Now coverage of the DAPL protests here . For a summary of the judge’s decision,  see the New York Times report  .

How can I make a difference?

Some inspirational excerpts from Bill McKibben’s  recent blog, The Question I get asked the Most,  in which he argues that “What can I do to make a difference?” is the wrong question … ” Because if individual action can’t alter the momentum of global warming, movements may still do the trick. Movements are how people organize themselves to gain power—enough power, in this case, to perhaps overcome the financial might of the fossil fuel industry…. So when people ask me what can I do, I know say the same thing every time: The most important thing an individual can do is not be an individual. Join together—that’s why we have movements like or Green for All, like BlackLivesMatter or Occupy. If there’s not a fight where you live, find people to support, from Standing Rock to the Pacific islands. Job one is to organize and jobs two and three.  And if you have some time left over after that, then by all means make sure your lightbulbs are all LEDs and your kale comes from close to home.”

And for  some practical examples:   the Good Anthropocene  website has posted 100 stories about “practical, community-based initiatives that enhance people’s health and well-being, while at the same time protecting their environment and benefiting the climate.”   These existing initiatives that are not widespread or well-known , which the site calls  ‘seeds’,  include:  Social change through “Social Ecology” in Montreal  and Idle no more: Indigenous activists call for peaceful revolution .  Good Anthropecene has been compiled by academics from  Montreal, Stockholm, and Stellenbosch, South Africa .