First Nations communities trading dirty diesel for renewable energy

First Nations’ commitment to renewable energy is described in Growing Indigenous Power: A Review of Indigenous Involvement and Resources to further Renewable Energy Development across Canada  released in February 2018 by  TREC Renewable Energy Co-operative. The report highlights examples of renewable energy projects, describes the potential benefits for  communities,  and outlines supportive policies and programs in each province. In the section on workforce issues, the report states:  “Whether a community is partnering with a developer and/or hiring a construction firm for their own project, it is important to insist, in writing, on a certain number of employment positions. After working with a developer on a wind project, Millbrook and Eskasoni First Nations (Nova Scotia) developed a database of skilled community members and had them join the union, to address employment issues.” The report contains a unique bibliography of articles and reports from lesser-known Indigenous and local sources.

The National Observer publishes frequent updates on the issue of First Nations and renewable energy  in British Columbia, which they have compiled into a Special Report titled First Nations Forward. Highlights from the series include “First Nations powering up B.C.” (Dec. 2017), and most recently,  “In brighter news, a clean energy success story:   Skidegate on the way to becoming a “city of the future”   (April 9). Also in British Columbia, the Upper Nicola Band  in the southern Interior will vote in April on a proposal to build a solar farm project  which, if approved, will be 15 times larger than the current largest solar farm in British Columbia ( a converted mine site at Kimberley ) .  CBC profiled the proposed new project in March. DeSmog Canada also profiled the Upper Nicola Project, and in November 2017 published “This B.C. First Nation is harnessing small-scale hydro to get off diesel.”

How green energy is changing one Alberta First Nation”  in the Toronto Star (April 10)  profiles a solar project at Louis Bull First Nation, south of Edmonton. It  was initiated under the  Alberta Indigenous Solar Program , one of several provincial grant programs to encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency amongst First Nations.  On  April 5, Alberta’s Renewable Electricity Program was announced – a  3-phase program which the government claims will attract approximately $10 billion in new private investment.  By 2030, it is also expected to create about 7,000 jobs in a wide range of fields, including construction, electrical and mechanical engineering, project management, as well as jobs for IT specialists, field technicians, electricians and mechanics. Phase 2 will include a competition for renewable energy projects  which are at least 25% owned by First Nations.

On March 22, the Ontario government announced :  “The federal and Ontario governments are partnering with 22 First Nations to provide funding for Wataynikaneyap Power to connect 16 remote First Nations communities in Northern Ontario to the provincial power grid…..When complete in 2023, the Wataynikaneyap Power Grid Connection Project will be the largest Indigenous-led and Indigenous-owned infrastructure project in Ontario history. It will mean thousands of people will no longer have to rely on dirty diesel fuel to meet their energy needs.”  The Wataynikaneyap Power website offers a series of press releases that chronicle the years-long development of this initiative, in partnership with FortisOntario . The most recent press release on March 22 states that the goal is to establish “a viable transmission business to be eventually owned and operated 100% by First Nations. In addition to the significant savings associated with the avoided cost of diesel generation, the Project is estimated to create 769 jobs during construction and nearly $900 million in socio-economic value.  These include lower greenhouse gas emissions (more than 6.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent GHG emissions are estimated to be avoided), as well as improved health of community members, and ongoing benefits from increased economic growth.”  Also of interest, a 2017 press release from FortisOntario : “Over $2 Million Announced For Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project First Nations Training Program .”

 

Proposed Environmental Bill of Rights includes whistleblowing protection for Alberta workers

Capping a series of related reports on the topic , the Alberta Environment Law Centre published  Environmental Rights in Alberta: An annotated Environmental Bill of Rights for Alberta  in March. The report consists  of model provisions for a statute, along with annotations providing background information.  Amongst the proposed provisions  is protection from reprisals for employees (Whistleblower protection) – which would expand protection from reprisals beyond the existing Alberta legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower) Protection Act,  which protects government employees only.

To encourage broad public  participation on environmental issues, the report also addresses the issue of Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP suits) –  “A SLAPP suit is a claim for monetary damages against individuals who have dealt with a government body on an issue of public interest or concern. It is a meritless action filed by a plaintiff whose primary goal is not to win the case but rather to silence or intimidate citizens who have participated in proceedings regarding public policy or public decision making.”

boyd cover the rights of natureFrom the introduction:  “It should be noted at the outset that the Environmental Law Centre drew greatly from David Boyd’s enormous academic contributions in this area. In particular, his article Elements of an Effective Environmental Bill of Rights was an invaluable resource in designing our model EBR” .  Boyd’s most recent book is  The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution that Could Save the World (Toronto: 2017, ECW Press).

EPA roll back of fuel economy standards and what it means for Canada

pick up truckOn April 3, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its decision  in a midterm evaluation of the fuel-economy standards for light vehicles manufactured in 2022-2025.  EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued his  Final Determination , supported by  a 38-page analysis – which overturned the evidence of a 1,200-page draft Technical Assessment Report completed under President Obama in 2016. This opens up the uncertainty of a new rule-making process, with vehement opposition from the State of California, which is entitled to set its own emissions standards, as well as other players in the U.S., including  over 50 mayors and state Attorney Generals from across the U.S., who issued their own  Local Leaders Clean Car Declaration  . The Declaration  states: “ Whatever decisions the Administration may make, we are committed to using our market power and our regulatory authority to ensure that the vehicle fleets deployed in our jurisdictions fully meet or exceed the promises made by the auto industry in 2012.”  Within the auto industry, parts-makers represented by the Automotive Technology Leadership Group (including the  Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association, and the Aluminum Association)  support the existing standards .  The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers  trade group, which represents Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen, have pushed for lower standards since the Trump inauguration.

All of this matters for Canada for at least two reasons:  1).  95% of vehicles manufactured in Canada are exported to the U.S., and thus our fuel emissions regulations have been developed in collaboration with the U.S. EPA – most recently to govern production for  2017 – 2025 models, and 2).  transportation represents the 2nd highest source of emissions in Canada.  The WCR surveyed  Canadian reaction in March 2017, when Donald Trump first authorized the EPA review.  Now, with the decision published, recent reaction appears in  “Canada in tough position if  Trump Administration lessens vehicle standards”  in the Globe and Mail (April 1);  the National ObserverScott Pruitt delivers another Trump-era shock to Canada’s climate change plan” ( April 2) ;  “Trump’s fuel economy rollback leaves Trudeau in a bind: Follow the U.S., or take a stand” (April 3)  in the Toronto Star , which quotes the the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, as saying  that “both Canadian consumers and climate efforts could be harmed if Trudeau decides to maintain a higher standard for Canada than Trump does for the U.S.” .   Unifor, representing most Canadian auto workers, has not issued a reaction yet, although president Jerry Dias was quoted in March 2017 in “ Auto workers union takes aim at Trump’s examination of fuel standards” in the Globe and Mail, stating that he “would fight any attempt to roll back environmentally friendly regulations in the auto industry ”.

For well-informed U.S. reaction, see  “Stronger fuel standards make sense, even when gas prices are low ” in The Conversation; “Why EPA’s Effort to Weaken Fuel Efficiency Standards Could be Trump’s Most Climate-Damaging Move Yet” in Inside Climate News (April 2 ) ;  from the American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy “EPA fails to do Its homework on light-duty standards” ;  and  “Auto Alliance Pushed Climate Denial to Get Trump Admin to Abandon Obama Fuel Efficiency Standards”  in  DeSmog  (April 2).

 

 

 

 

 

Even before the Kinder Morgan fight, Canada is falling short on its climate goals

As we have noted in previous posts in the WCR  , many voices have warned that Canada’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is falling short of its commitments under the Paris Agreement.  Three recent reports provide more evidence.

On March 27,  Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada—A Collaborative Report from Auditors General—March 2018  was released by the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and for the first time ever, compiles the findings of the federal and provincial Auditors –General, with the exception of Quebec, which did not participate.  The results are presented for each province, and summarized as: Seven out of 12 provincial and territorial governments did not have overall targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; governments have different targets from each other, and of those that have targets, only two (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) are on track to meet their targets. Most governments had not fully assessed climate change risks, and their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions consist of high-level goals, with little guidance on how to implement actions.  At the federal level, the report states: “ even though Environment and Climate Change Canada was the federal lead on climate change, the Department did not provide the leadership, guidance, and tools to other departments and agencies to help them assess their risks and adapt to climate change. Moreover, only 5 federal departments and agencies of the 19 examined undertook comprehensive assessments of the climate change risks to their mandates.”  There was limited coordination of climate change action within most governments. Some governments were not reporting on progress in a regular and timely manner.

The second analysis is from the Pembina Institute, which partnered with the Energy Innovation of San Francisco to develop the Energy Policy Simulator (EPS), an economic modelling tool to evaluate the effectiveness and costs of  energy and climate policies for Canada. Enhancing Canada’s Climate Commitments: Building on the Pan-Canadian Framework applies the Energy Policy Simulator to three different policy scenarios, including the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change   , and concludes “ that even if the PCF is fully implemented, 2030 emissions will exceed Canada’s goal by 161 million metric tons (MMT), a gap 3.7 times larger than the 44 MMT shortfall predicted by Canada’s government. Extending and strengthening PCF policies would allow Canada to come much closer to its target, save money, and save human lives.”  The Energy Policy Simulator is offered here  as a free, open-source app available for other researchers to use.

Finally, the devil is in the details when author Barry Saxifrage of the National Observer took a close look at the federal government’s report to the UNFCC in December 2017, the 7th National Communications report. In “Canada’s climate gap twice as big as claimed – 59 million tonne carbon snafu” (March 27)  , the author contends that “The Trudeau government says its proposed climate policies will get Canada to within 66 million tonnes of our 2030 climate target. That’s already a big gap, but the federal accounting also assumes we can subtract a huge chunk of Canada’s emissions.”  That “huge chunk” refers to a further 59 MtCO2 of carbon emissions which the government omits to tally as part of our Canadian emissions, presuming that offsets will be purchased by Ontario and Quebec through their participation in the cap and trade market of the Western Climate Initiative with California. So far, the U.S. has not agreed to such an arrangement.

On a more optimistic note, a new report states:  “Canada can reach its 2030 target if the federal, provincial and territorial governments implement climate policies in a timely and rigorous way. The Pan-Canadian Framework has the policy tools needed to achieve the target but measures will have to be ratcheted up to fill the 66 million tonne gap.” In  Canada’s Climate Change Commitments: Deep Enough?  ,authors Dave Sawyer and Chris Bataille use economic modelling to show that Canada could honour its Paris GHG reduction commitment (30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030) and still achieve GDP growth of at least 38 per cent. They compare this to a GDP growth of 39% if Canada took no action to reduce greenhouse gases.   The report calls for transformation changes, specifically: Building exclusively net-zero energy homes, i.e. buildings that generate as much energy as they consume. • The electrification of transportation, so that cars, trucks and trains can be powered by renewable energy rather than oil, which contributes to climate change. • Wholesale shifts away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. • Driving down energy needs by making industry, buildings and vehicles more energy efficient. • Embracing the full potential of energy storage to maximize the use of renewable electricity and building infrastructure to trade  that electricity between jurisdictions.

Canada’s Climate Change Commitments: Deep Enough?  was released on April 12 jointly by four environmental advocacy organizations: Environmental Defence, Climate Action Network, The Pembina Institute, and the Conservation Council Of New Brunswick.

 

Unions supporting Pension Plan Divestment with practical guides

In Spring 2018,  the Labor Network for Sustainability and DivestInvest Network  jointly released a new guide: Should your union’s pension fund divest from fossil fuels? A guide for trade unionists  .  The guide begins with an introduction to union pension plans in the U.S., including how they are governed, and the legal and administrative safeguards designed to protect members’ money.  It also recounts the role of union pension fund divestment in the South African struggle against Apartheid, describes the current global campaign for divestment from fossil fuels, and how and why unions are participating in that movement. The final section of the guide provides practical guidelines for union divestment campaigns.

Inspiration and a practical example of such a campaign can be found in the article “How New York City Won Divestment from Fossil Fuels”.  The article, originally posted in Portside, is written by by Nancy Romer, a member of the Environmental Justice Working Group of the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York and an activist in the divestment campaign which led to the January 2018 decision by New York City to divest $5 billion of its pension funds (and to sue ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips).

The Guide and Nancy Romer’s article are available at a new Divest/Invest Hub on the LNS website, with plans for more campaign case studies and sample resolutions to be added.   Guides with similar aims have been  produced in the U.K.:  for public sector unions:  Local Government Pension Funds – Divest From Carbon Campaign: A UNISON Guide  (January 2018) ; in  2017, Friends of the Earth-U.K. published  Briefing: Local government pensions: Fossil fuel divestment  and Friends of the Earth- Scotland published  Divest Reinvest: Scottish Council Pensions for a Future worth living in .  The Public and Commercial Services Union published  Divest to Reinvest in 2016.