At a January 2016 meeting of First Nations representatives, led by women from tar sands-impacted communities , a series of future educational, networking, and planning meetings was proposed, as a way of achieving an Indigenous Climate Change Action Plan . Sure to be on the agenda at the March 2 climate change discussions with the Prime Minister in Vancouver: the Site C hydropower dam on the Peace River, vehemently opposed by First Nations and environmental groups. The February 11,2016 Open Letter to the Prime Minister concludes: “The people of Treaty 8 have said no to Site C. Any government that is truly committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, to respecting human rights, and to promoting truly clean energy must listen.” The B.C. Supreme Court will rule on February 22 on an application by B.C. Hydro for an injunction against protesters at the construction site.
Unions continue to support Indigenous rights. Most recently, as reported at Rabble.ca (Feb. 9), the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) pledged to support the Save the Fraser Declaration, which states that ” we will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.”
On February 12, 2016, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a formal process for sharing energy data and collaborating on climate change, energy, and innovation, including low-carbon grids, renewables and efficiency standards. A blog by Clean Energy Canada dubbed the MOU “Clean-XL” and describes what the trinational cooperation could look like on the ground; CBC described it as the first step to “Green NAFTA” . In February, governors of seventeen states representing 40% of the U.S. population, (including California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) signed the Governors Accord for a New Energy Future, to reduce emissions and expand renewable energy, energy efficiency, and to integrate solar and wind generation into electricity grids.
Powering Climate Prosperity: Canada’s Renewable Electricity Advantage , released by the Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity in February, provides a snapshot of renewable energy in Canada today, and concludes that for Canada to meet its GHG reduction targets, we must reduce energy waste, more than double renewable electricity generation capacity, and make electricity the “clean fuel of choice”. The Council report draws heavily on the analysis and prescriptions of the Canadian report of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project . The DDPP states: “By more than doubling the use of electricity for industrial activity, the carbon intensity of the sector can drop by 85 percent between 2010 and 2050, even as output continues to grow apace.” For a statistical update to the U.S. renewables scene, see the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook 2016 , produced for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy by Bloomberg New Energy Finance .
“Working at Home Not So Good for the Planet”, appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper on February 5, 2016, largely based on a 2014 report from U.K. based Carbon Trust, Homeworking: Helping Businesses Cut Costs and Reduce their Carbon Footprint . That 2014 document highlighted the issue of “rebound effects that result in increased carbon emissions, particularly from increased home energy consumption” – for example, the less-efficient heating of workers’ individual homes rather than common, energy efficient offices. By focusing on the “rebound effects”, the Toronto Star article missed some important points: the 13% increase of U.K. homeworkers between 2007 and 2012, as well as the report’s conclusion that “ if adopted and encouraged by employers across the country, homeworking could result in annual savings of over 3 million tonnes of carbon and cut costs by £3 billion.”
A far more informative, detailed report was released by Carbon Tracker in December 2015, GESI Mobile Carbon Impact: How Mobile Communications Technology is Enabling Carbon Emissions Reduction . The report claims that “ Use of mobile communications technology is currently enabling a total reduction of 180 million tonnes of CO2 a year across the USA and Europe, and is expected to grow at least three times larger in the next 5 years.” 7% of carbon reduction relates to “connected working”, measured through reduced emissions from commuting and by use of audio or video connectivity in place of meetings. Further savings are made through reducing building energy consumption, by rationalising office space or reducing occupancy levels. The report notes that “nervousness” of employers is a barrier to homeworking, but cites studies which found no loss of productivity or quality from homeworking, and suggest that the “nervousness” issue might be resolved by new approaches to supervision or management, such as monitoring practical outcomes rather than supervising process and attendance. A larger part of the report is devoted to the 70% of emissions abatement that is the result of machine-to-machine communications technologies in the buildings,transport and energy sectors, where devices are able to communicate automatically with each other, without human intervention.” (e.g. building management, route planning, smart grids in electricity distribution).
Since 2010, public service organizations in British Columbia (hospitals, schools, universities) have been required to achieve carbon neutral operations, documented each year in annual Carbon Neutral Action Reports , which provide statistics, case studies of initiatives, and details of their purchases of carbon offsets. A new report, Leading by Example: The First Five Years of Carbon Neutral Government in British Columbia cumulates and analyses five years’ experience; one highlight is that 77% of public sector carbon emissions are facility- related, suggesting great potential for reduction through retrofitting and energy technologies. A companion report, The Economic Analysis of British Columbia’s Carbon Offset Projects, analyses the capital and operating expenditures of the 23 emission offset projects purchased by the public sector in 2013 and 2014. It estimates that the $24 million expenditure in offsets contributed $28.9 million to provincial GDP, and created 221 jobs in 2013 and 2014. The report also builds on the findings of a Price Waterhouse Coopers analysis done in 2012, and concludes that carbon offset capital expenditures have resulted in 2,903 jobs, and operating expenditures resulted in an additional 1,535 jobs for the period 2008 to the end of 2014.
A press release on February 3 reported on the growth of the green building industry in Canada: a total of 527 LEED projects were certified in 2015, bringing the total of certified projects in Canada to 2,576. On February 10, the Canada Green Building Council released Green Building in Canada: Assessing the Market Impacts & Opportunities (Executive summary only available) , which states that it has generated $23.45 billion in GDP and supported 297,890 full-time jobs in 2014, exceeding the 270,450 jobs found in Canada’s oil and gas extraction, mining and forestry industries combined. Ontario (at 2.1% of total labour force) and British Columbia (at 1.6%) led green building employment, “due in part to greater market leadership, progressive building code requirements and green building policies”. The report suggests four pathways to accelerate industry growth and maximize economic opportunities, including “Supporting Industry Training and Continuing Education”. “What is currently lacking is a multi-pronged approach to training that supports all of the different programs to help the construction industry understand, design, and build greener buildings. More investment in this space is required to support structured and modernized internship, mentorship, or apprenticeship programs, as well as recognized credentials for professions such as building operators.” In January 2016, CAGBC also released National Energy Benchmarking Framework: Report on Preliminary Working Group Findings, with proposals for a Benchmarking Framework, to encourage consistency across the country and streamline the application process for building owners and managers. Stakeholders consulted in the working group included federal, provincial and municipal government departments, as well as the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, and industry associations such as the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). No unions were represented.
Engineers Canada, the national professional association, has led the Engineering and the Environment Committee of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations since 2007, ending in December 2015 . Under its strong leadership, WFEO , which represents 20 million engineers in 90 countries, adopted a Model Code of Practice: Principles of Climate Change Adaptation for Engineers , modelled on Canada’s national Code, adopted in 2014. Leadership of the Committee now passes to the Institution of Civil Engineers, of the U.K., but the momentum seems to be established, according to the November 2015 Committee Newsletter, which offers an impressive overview of the actions and aspirations of the engineering profession. Stated goals include “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all…Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all;… Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation;… Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts .” And in its Summit Statement from Paris in December, “COP-21 Engineers Climate Change Summit: Turning Words Into Action – A Sectoral Approach”, the organization focused on the sectors of Agriculture and Food Security, Infrastructure and Urbanization, and Energy and Transport, and pledged, amongst other actions, to undertake climate risk assessments as part of normal practice, and include social, economic and environmental impacts in their considerations.
In an OpEd in The Hill Times , (February 1) Carla Lipsig Mumme argues that “Trudeau Needs Unions to Achieve his Ambitious Climate Agenda” – pointing out that unions can identify opportunities for GhG reductions in work processes , bargain collectively for change, and educate members in climate literacy. Canada’s Climate Action Network , which includes the Canadian Labour Congress, as well as CUPE, NUPGE, and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, called on all governments to make job creation the priority for Canada’s climate action plan and released a backgrounder: One Million Climate Jobs: A Challenge for Canada . With a similar message, BlueGreen Canada published “Just Transition Needed for Canada’s Climate Change Plans” . Formal discussions by Federal and Provincial-Territorial Environment ministers on January 29 launched the post COP21 process to achieve Canada’s new national framework to fight climate change. On March 2, Prime Minister Trudeau will discuss climate change with First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, followed by another meeting with the Premiers on March 3; both meetings will be in Vancouver. An overview of provincial positions, especially on carbon pricing, appeared in The Globe and Mail (Feb. 17) “Ottawa seeks to set National Minimum on Carbon Pricing” .
In one of the first concrete actions of the Trudeau government, interim changes to the environmental assessment process were announced on January 27, 2016 . Interim Measures for Pipeline Reviews applies specifically to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain and Energy East Pipeline projects, extending the deadlines for the National Energy Board reviews to allow for greater consultation with First Nations and the public, and to “Assess the upstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with this project and make this information public”. Some reaction was favourable, for example, Environmental Defence . Ecojustice states “Liberals’ Interim Pipeline Measures fall Short” ; the Pembina Institute is supportive but asks “4 Key Questions for the Canadian Government’s New Climate Test ” , as it might apply to Petronas’s Pacific NorthWest LNG project in British Columbia. And David Suzuki asks, “Paris changed everything, so why are we still talking pipelines?” .
Speaking at a meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) on February 10, 2016, Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna announced $31.5 million in funding for capital and planning expenses for green projects. The FCM Budget Submission makes specific proposals regarding housing, transit, infrastructure and public safety; it calls for an expansion in the $550 million federally-funded Green Municipal Fund, and a new Green Infrastructure Fund, with dedicated, predictable funding for projects designed to mitigate and adapt to climate change and make other green improvements related to drinking water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.
A new Royalty Review Framework was announced on January 29, 2016 along with the Final Report of the Advisory Panel . The Panel recommended that existing royalty structures be maintained for 10 years on wells drilled before 2017, and that the current oil sands regime remain unchanged. Although the government states that it will create a “simpler, more transparent and efficient system that encourages job creation and investment”, Andrew Nikoforuk calls the result a “disaster” in a detailed review published in The Tyee (Feb. 2) . The Alberta Federation of Labour participated in the Royalty Review meetings and roundtables; its submission, Royalty Policy is the Biggest Decision any Alberta Government has to Make advocated Lougheed-era royalty rates equivalent to 30 per cent of market value, promotion of in-province upgrading and refining, and creation of an Alberta crown energy corporation for direct investment and equity participation in the industry. AFL President Gil McGowan reflects on his disappointment with the process in an article in The Tyee , (Feb. 10) .
On February 1, 2016 Alberta announced a new “Petrochemicals Diversification Program”, providing up to $500 million in incentives through royalty credits to encourage investment in energy processing facilities. The Government projects a job creation benefit of up to 3,000 new jobs during construction, and more than 1,000 jobs operational jobs. On February 5, 2016 the Alberta government announced $5 million for the Alberta Municipal Solar Program, to provide rebates up to a maximum of $300,000 per project, to encourage solar installations on municipal buildings. A similar program, the On-Farm Solar Management program, will provide $500,000 in provincial and federal funding to encourage farmers to install solar energy systems . A Greenpeace blog on Febraury 9 reacts to these programs and argues for the benefits of distributed, small-scale renewable energy.
The government published a new Consultation Guide to launch its second public consultation period on climate change issues, running from January 26 to March 25, 2016. The Pembina Institute has announced its own public input mechanisms to expand participation. The Pembina also calls for, at a minimum, implementation of all the Climate Leadership Team recommendations , released in November 2015 .
A Pembina Institute OpEd, Budget 2016 missed opportunity to prepare BC for low-carbon world and Clean Energy Canada both reacted with disappointment to the 2016 Budget priorities announced on February 16.
A series of press releases from the Ontario government signal the determination of the province to move towards a low-carbon economy. On February 2, 2016 Ontario announced its second green bond issue, raising $750 million to finance low-carbon infrastructure projects. On February 10,2016 new incentives for green vehicles were announced . The February 12 announcement of $92 million for social housing retrofits received favourable reaction from Blue Green Canada, and the Heat and Frost Insulators Local 95 said “ Smart initiatives like the one announced today are proof that improving the environment and creating skilled jobs go hand in hand.” Finally, on February 17, Ontario announced a $74 million cleantech innovation initiative, to encourage large industrial plants to adopt leading-edge technologies, and $25 million in a Green Smart energy efficiency program for small and medium-sized businesses. Details of the new cap and trade program are promised within weeks.
With a large deficit projected, the government of Nova Scotia has been holding budget consultations , which run until February 26, 2016. In December, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives contributed Stronger Together: the Nova Scotia Alternative Provincial Budget 2016 . It calls for a carbon tax, with half the revenue directed to income support programs, and the other half used to set up a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to enable low-carbon investment, green job growth, and poverty reduction. A February 3 Editorial in the Halifax Chronical-Herald endorsed the idea of a carbon tax. In February 2015, Brendan Haley wrote Will Nova Scotia Implement a Carbon Tax? which explained the context of the on-going debate.
First Nations, environmental groups, the forest industry, and the government of British Columbia announced on February 1, 2016 that, after years of negotiations, they had reached agreement to establish “ecosystem-based management in the Great Bear Rainforest.” Under the new agreement, a greater proportion of old growth forest within the 6.4 million hectares will be protected; 85% of the total forest will be protected and 15% will be available for logging. Forest Ethics hailed the announcement calling it “a ground-breaking model for other forest regions of the world”. David Miller of WWF calls the forest agreement “momentous”, but writes in Policy Options “Job Only half Done to protect Great Bear Region” . The WWF have been part of efforts to protect the adjacent Great Bear Sea from the threats of oil and gas pipelines. For detail, see the earlier Policy Options article, “MaPP: A Big Plan for the Great Bear Sea” .
On February 8, 2016 members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) voted to recommend the first ever standards to impose binding energy efficiency and CO2 reduction targets for the aviation sector, requiring an average 4% reduction in fuel consumption for new commercial and business aircraft delivered after January 2028. Reductions for larger commercial plans will range up to 11%. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) provides details ; an article in The Guardian describes the political battles by the U.S. and EU behind the negotiated standards. In a New York Times article, (Feb. 8) , a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity calls the standards “deplorable” and compares them to the more stringent restrictions on the auto industry.
By a 5-4 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on February 9, 2016 that implementation of the Clean Power Plan rules must be delayed until all litigation against them has been decided. With a 29 states and industry groups all lining up to challenge the Plan, the delay will extend beyond the end of President Obama’s term of office, threatening his climate change legacy. The New York Times calls the decision “stunning” and “unprecedented”; Inside Climate News says it is a, “surprising decision of staggering proportions, with repercussions that go far beyond the U.S. electrical grid, threatening the credibility of the Paris Agreement on climate change reached by the world’s nations in December.” The Guardian reflects the more optimistic tone from the White House, that this is just “a bump in the road”. The Washington Post (Feb. 10) argues that the economic forces behind clean energy cannot be stopped in “Move to Cleaner Power is Proceeding Regardless of Supreme Court’s Ruling” . For commentary on the impact of the death of Justice Scalia, see “ The Supreme Courts Action threaten Vital Climate Policies” from Yale Environment 360, and “What does Justice Scalia’s Death mean for the Clean Power Plan?” from Legal Planet (UCLA).