Canadian Environmental Education: Post Secondary Guides, Context, and New Initiatives for Public Outreach

Alternatives Journal in October published a special issue addressing environmental education. The fifteenth annual Environmental Education Guide helps students heading to postsecondary education to identify and compare the 700 interdisciplinary programs available in 120 Canadian universities and community colleges.

Three accompanying articles emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary studies: “Academic Evolution: Innovation knows no Boundaries”, profiles the work of Dr. James Orbinski, who leads research on global health and climate change as the Research Chair in Global Health at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and Tim Kruger, who is the Coordinator of the Geoengineering Program at the Martin Oxford School at University of Oxford, and one of the authors of the Oxford Principles.

A quote from Kruger sums up the point of the article: “Climate change presents systems problems, involving multiple, complex mechanisms…What is left now, are those problems which are not amenable to being solved by a single disciplinary approach.” “The Genius of the Generalist”, describes the educational paths of three graduate students- two of whom have Masters of Environmental Studies degrees from York University in Toronto and “Meet 6 Environmental Grads” profiles careers after graduation from various environmental programmes in Canada, and one in Freiberg, Germany.

For students heading for an MBA, Corporate Knights magazine released its annual guide to Sustainable MBA programs around the world in October. As in past years, York University’s Schulich School of Business ranked first, followed closely by the Sauder School of Business at University of British Columbia.

And two new online initiatives to promote climate change literacy and climate justice emerged from British Columbia in October. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation jointly created free classroom-ready materials designed for students in grades 8 to 12. Eight modules explore climate justice within the context of B.C.’s communities, history, economy and ecology. On October 28th the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the University of Victoria, launched “B.C Climate Impacts & Adaptation”, an  interactive online module free to anyone interested in expanding their climate literacy. At the same time, PICS updated the content of the educational section of their website, which houses other modules and mini-lessons.

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Analysis of the Canada – EU Trade Agreement

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada was announced as a “done deal” in Ottawa on September 26, despite the fact that the text had never been made public till that time.

The agreement abolishes almost all tariffs and reduces many non-tariff barriers, but most controversial is the chapter on investment protection, which includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. The ISDS mechanism gives foreign corporations the ability to sue Canada or a province, if the companies allege that domestic health or environmental policies and regulations interfere with their right to make a profit.

The Council of Canadians has been a vocal opponent of CETA because of these ISDS provisions and released a new book in November. Trading away Democracy (co-published by a number of other organizations, including Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees, European Federation of Public Service Unions, Friends of the Earth Europe).
The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva has published a detailed review which includes a summary of the Environment and Labour chapters of the CETA . The article points out a departure from past trade agreements such as NAFTA: disputes under the Environment or Labour chapters cannot be initiated by civil society, but only by a government- to -government mechanism specifically defined in each chapter. See “Unpacking the EU Canada Free Trade Deal” in Bridges (Nov. 3).

Also see the Government of Canada website relating to CETA, including a link to the text of the agreement (English version / French version).

How Should Canada Prepare for Climate Migrants?

As part of its Climate Justice program, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – B.C. Office released a report in November, asking: “given Canada’s historical and ongoing contribution to global warming, what is our collective obligation to people fleeing regions most affected by climate change, and how prepared are we to meet these obligations?” Researchers found serious gaps in current policies and thinking around climate migration, and recommend legislative reform to create a new immigration class of “climate migrants”, with targets and programs to ensure Canada absorbs its fair share of those migrants. Recognizing that most climate migrants will remain in developing countries, Canada should also increase its support to those countries which will bear the brunt of climate displacement. Read Preparing B.C. for Climate Migration.

 

Climate Compensation: Considering the Liability of Oil and Gas Companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange

CLIMATE COMPENSATION: CONSIDERING THE LIABILITY OF OIL AND GAS COMPANIES ON THE TORONTO STOCK EXCHANGE
A report released on October 9 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and West Coast Environmental Law considers the total potential liability of five oil and gas companies currently trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange-EnCanada, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Talisman, and Husky. Informed by a discussion of the liability claims against the tobacco industry, the authors provide an overview of possible legal approaches to climate compensation, and conclude that those five TSX-listed companies alone could be incurring a global liability as high as $2.4 billion per year for their contribution to climate change.

See Payback Time? What the Internationalization of Climate Litigation Could Mean for Canadian Oil and Gas Companies at the CCPA website at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/payback-time.

A Path to Sustainable De-Growth

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives on June 12 released an extended essay by University of British Columbia Professor Emeritus William Rees, the originator of “ecological footprint analysis”. He states, “Ecological damage and resource scarcity is largely the result of production and consumption to satisfy just the wealthiest 20 per cent of the world’s population.” (p. 2) … “Drawing on various disciplines from cognitive psychology through environmental science, sociology and economic history, I outline some of the broad framing necessary at the global level and specific policies needed at the national and (bio-)regional scales to achieve a planned descent to a sustainable steady state.” (p. 4). Read Avoiding Collapse : An Agenda for Sustainable Degrowth and Relocalizing the Economy at https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/BC%20Office/2014/06/ccpa-bc_AvoidingCollapse_Rees.pdf .

Canada’s Oil Economy Through the “Staples” Lens

In 1963, economist Mel Watkins achieved international recognition with the publication of “A Staple Theory of Economic Growth” in the Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science. To mark the 50th anniversary, the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis published a collection of essays written by members of Canada’s Progressive Economics Forum, placing Watkins’ ideas in historical and global context. The section “Staple Theory and the Bitumen Boom” is essential reading, as authors Thomas Gunton, Gordon Laxer, Daniel Drache and Jim Stanford use staples theory to discuss the fossil fuel addiction of our economy, its dangerous impact on the broader economy, on cultures, especially Aboriginal culture, and on the environment.

Part 4: “Modern Applications”, includes “The Staple Theory and the Carbon Trap”, by Brendan Haley; “LNG: BC’s Quest for a New Staple Industry” by Marc Lee, and “Staples Theory: Its Gendered Nature” by Marjorie Griffin Cohen, among others. In the final essay in the collection, Mel Watkins writes: “My 1963 article has perhaps encouraged some readers to think too much about linkages and how to enhance them, to focus on incremental change when it is transformative change that is necessary…Fifty years on I have grandchildren, and know that the world must move ASAP from dependence on fossil fuels to reliance on green technologies. This will involve a wrenching change for Canada because bitumen is now the superstaple driving our economy and our polity…These may not be the best of times, and they may well get worse, but there is room for hope if we will but face up to our situation. In Canada, that means escaping both the staple trap and the carbon trap by weaning our­selves from the export of bitumen”.

LINK

The Staple Theory @ 50: Reflections on the Lasting Significance of Mel Watkins’ “A Staple Theory of Economic Growth” is available at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2014/03/Staple_Theory_at_50.pdf

B.C. Provincial Election May 14

Environmental issues will be a high priority for B.C. voters in the election, called for May 14. Follow the issues at The Tyee at: http://thetyee.ca/; BetterFutures B.C. at: http://betterfuturebc.ca/nextstep; the Pembina Institute at: http://www.pembina.org/media-releases; Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C. Office at: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/offices/bc/news-updates.   

Canada Caught in a “Staples Trap” and a “Carbon Trap” by Current Pace of Oil Development

The authors of a new report released jointly by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Polaris Institute reject the polarizing framework of “economic interests vs. environmental interests”, or “East vs. West”, and call for a public debate of the social, economic and environmental complexities of Canada’s current “bitumen path”. They argue that Canada’s current “gold rush” approach is creating a double threat to the country: a “staples trap,” which is making our economy less diversified, productive and resilient, and a “carbon trap,” which will make the inevitable day of reckoning for climate adaptation much more expensive and difficult. The report discusses employment impacts, income distribution, international trade, currency effects, and “Dutch Disease” and the Canadian manufacturing sector. An alternate policy approach is recommended, which uses tighter regulation to slow the pace of bitumen extraction and to boost Canadian content in the upstream and downstream supply chains. At the same time, Canada’s economy needs to encourage more balanced, innovative and low-carbon industries.

 

LINK

The Bitumen Cliff: Lessons and Challenges of Bitumen Mega-Developments for Canada’s Economy in an Age of Climate Change by Tony Clarke, Jim Stanford, Diana Gibson, and Brendan Haleyis available at: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2013/02/Bitumen%20Cliff.pdf

 

CCPA Alternative Budget Proposes Environmental and Energy Policies

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provides alternative budget proposals for 2013 which, they estimate, will create 200,000 to 300,000 full time jobs in any given year. Among a full-range of budget items, there are many environment- and energy-related proposals, including targeting research and development for “fostering innovation in energy stor­age, investment in Sustainable Development Technology Canada, supporting “Green Energy Bonds”, a National Green Homes Strategy for energy efficiency, and securing Arctic and remote communities’ local energy supplies.”

The Alternative Budget calls for a collaborative National Energy Plan which would “slow the pace of bitumen development and use it for domestic needs first; upgrade the resource in this country before it is exported, and develop linkages to upstream and down­stream energy related activities.” In the category of Sectoral Development, the report proposes to enhance value-added production and investment in key sectors, including manufacturing, automobiles, aerospace and forestry, with funding to come from cancelling biofuel crop subsidies and the Green Car Levy.

See the Alternative Budget in Brief (34 pages) at: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2013/03/AFB2013_BudgetInBrief.pdf and the full document (172 pages) at: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2013/03/AFB2013_MainDocument.pdf. For French language versions, go to: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/abgf2013.