Canada falling behind in the Parade to Ratify the Paris Climate Agreement

cop21 logoAfter a special ceremony at the United Nations on September 21, 2016, with 31 nations participating, the U.N. announced  that 60 countries representing 48% of GHG emissions had formally joined the Paris Agreement. Brazil had already ratified on September 13,  and Theresa May, Britains’s new Prime Minister, had also pledged to ratify the agreement before the end of the year. Video messages from nations including Germany, France, the EU, Canada, Australia and South Korea all promised to ratify the Paris accord in the coming months.  Importantly, a Reuters report  on September 25 states that India, representing approximately 4% of global emissions, will ratify the agreement on October 2, the anniversary of Ghandi’s birthday. See also the Times of India report .    Watch the Paris Agreement Tracker  for the status of ratification as the world pushes to reach the trigger point of 55 nations which produce 55 percent of the global carbon dioxide pollution.

Where does Canada, responsible for  approximately 1.9% of emissions, stand? Text of Justin Trudeau’s speech at the United Nations on September 20  focused more on the needs of  Syrian refugees than on our climate commitments.  Official statements have not been forthcoming, but interviews indicate  “Canada to ratify Paris climate deal while still working on national plan” (CBC, Sept. 16). Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is scheduled to meet her provincial and territorial counterparts on October 3 in Montreal to discuss the options put forward by the four working groups formed at the Vancouver meetings last April.   Their recommendations were due by the end of September. On September 18, the Globe and Mail reported  that the federal government may impose a national carbon price plan, and that the emissions reduction target will not exceed that of the previous Conservative government: 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.  See also “Federal government sends mixed messages on how provinces can price carbon” from the National Observer (September 25) for an update.

Parliament has now returned from summer recess, but a meeting between the Prime Minister and the premiers is not expected before the COP22  UN climate conference in Marrakech,  Nov. 7-18.

Not only scientific urgency is pushing the recent global rush to ratify .  On September 20, 2016, 375 members of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S., including 30 Nobel laureates, published an Open Letter  warning that the consequences of opting out of the Paris agreement would be severe and long-lasting for the planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.   “The political system also has tipping points. Thus it is of great concern that the Republican nominee for President has advocated U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord. A “Parexit” would send a clear signal to the rest of the world: “The United States does not care about the global problem of human-caused climate change. You are on your own.” Such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting – for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.”

In Case you missed it: Some policy landmarks over the summer

Ontario, Quebec and Mexico agree to promote carbon markets in North America: On August 31, at the 2016 Climate Summit of the Americas , the three jurisdictions announced   a joint declaration  which states: “The Partners are determined to jointly promote the expansion of carbon market instruments for greenhouse gas emissions reduction in North America.”   See the Globe and Mail summary here .

Alberta appoints an Oil Sands Advisory Group:  On July 14, Alberta appointed a 15-member Oil Sands Advisory Group   to provide expert advice on how to implement its 100 megatonne per year carbon emissions limit for the oil sands industry, and on “a pathway to 2050, including responding to federal and other initiatives that may affect the oil sands after 2030.”  Co-chairs appointed are: Climate and energy advocate Tzeporah Berman,   Melody Lepine of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, and Dave Collyer, former president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

New Brunswick Climate Action Committee: The government’s Select Committee on Climate Change   held public hearings and accepted submissions over the summer.  In July, New Brunswick’s  Conservation Council produced its  “Climate Action Plan for New Brunswick”. It  proposes to reduce GHG  emissions through investments in retrofitting, starting with social and low-income housing; expand renewable energy ; provide incentives for electric and energy efficient vehicles; modernize industry and manufacturing to reduce waste and pollution, and accelerate installation of the Energy Internet (Smart Grid telecommunications) to manage a more distributed electricity load. These investments would help NB Power phase coal out of electricity production over the next 15 years.

U.S. and China formally join the Paris Agreement: On September 3, the eve of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou China, the two countries responsible for almost  40% of the world’s GHG emissions announced that they will formally ratify the Paris Accord.  See coverage in The Guardian ;  “U.S. and China formally join historic Paris climate agreement; Canada not yet ready”  in the Globe and Mail;  “Landmark China-U.S. climate breakthrough elicits tepid response” from Weekly Climate Review.  Check the Climate Analytics website  for their “ratification tracker”, which on September 9 states “ it is estimated that at least 58 countries are likely to have ratified the Paris Agreement by the end of 2016, accounting for 59.88% of global emissions. Under this scenario, the Paris Agreement will entry into force by the end of the year.”  The website has details country-by-country.

New U.S.  fuel standards for heavy-duty vehicles after model year 2018:  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency   and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jointly finalized standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, to improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution.  Heavy duty vehicles include:combination tractors (semi trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles (including buses and garbage or utility trucks). The new rule and an archive of related documents is available at the EPA website . The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy   applauds the new rules; as does the trucking industry, according to the New York Times coverage .  Canada is expected to follow suit, based on the  the Joint Leaders’ statement from the Three Amigos Summit, June 29,  :  “Canada, the U.S., and Mexico commit to reduce GHG emissions from light- and heavy-duty vehicles by aligning fuel efficiency and/or GHG emission standards by 2025 and 2027, respectively. We also commit to reduce air pollutant emissions by aligning air pollutant emission standards for light- and heavy-duty vehicles and corresponding low-sulphur fuel standards beginning in 2018. In addition, we will encourage greener freight transportation throughout North America by expanding the SmartWay program to Mexico.” Canada last updated its emission standards for heavy-duty trucks in 2013, covering up to model year 2018.

California continues to lead with landmark legislation:  California legislation (SB32) was passed in late August, and signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 8,  requiring the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 .   An economic analysis by consulting firm Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)  was released during the public debate  around SB32, claiming that thousands of jobs had been created in every District of the state by the predecesor Global Warming Solutions Act. See the press release here.  And the 8th annual edition of California’s Green Innovation Index  by Next10 quantifies a booming clean energy economy, with solar generation increased by 1,378 percent in the past 5 years.  “California’s Historic Climate Legislation becomes Law” from Think Progress is typical of the superlatives throughout the news coverage.

As evidence of California’s important leadership role:  on August 1, New York’s Public Service Commission approved the Clean Energy Standard   which mandates that 50 percent of the New York state’s electricity will come from renewable, clean energy sources by 2030 .   California had passed legislation in 2015 to mandate utilities to provide 50 percent of their electricity generation from renewable sources by 2030, and require a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in buildings by 2030.

Minority Report challenges Australia’s Climate Change policies:  Australia’s Cimate Change Authority released a report at the end of August:  Towards a climate policy toolkit: Special Review of Australia’s climate goals and policies  .  Authority experts David Karoly and Clive Hamilton so disagreed with the majority report that they issued their own Minority Report   (see the press release here  ) .  Clive Hamilton stated  “The majority report gives the impression that Australia has plenty of time to implement measures to bring Australia’s emissions sharply down.  This is untrue and dangerous”.

Shift in Climate Change policy in the U.K. government:  The new post-Brexit government of Theresa May has made “ a stupid and deeply worrying” decision according to The Independent ,    by moving the work of the  Department for Environment and Climate Change to a new  “Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.”    Reassurance from the June adoption of  a world-leading GHG emissions reduction target, as reported in The Guardian  here and here , has been challenged. The BBC reported that  “Just days after the United Kingdom committed  to cut greenhouse gas emissions 57% from 1990 levels by 2032, the country’s grid operator reported this morning that the country will miss its existing EU long-term targets for 2020,  unless it adopts more aggressive clean energy policies.”

 

Ceremonial Signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, Earth Day 2016

cop21 logo As widely reported, over 170 national representatives took part in a ceremonial signing of the Paris climate agreement    at the U.N. in New York on April 22, Earth Day.  The Paris Agreement comes into force when countries representing at least 55% of total global greenhouse gasses, and 55% of the population, join the agreement.  See “US and China lead push to bring Paris climate deal into force early”   in The Guardian for details of each country’s proportion of emissions, and national ratification prospects.  “The Key Players in Climate Change” in the  New York Times (April 21)  provides an overview of the major emmiters: U.S., China, EU, Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia.  Although Canada is one of the highest per capita emitters in the world, it represents approximately 1.6% of total global GHG emissions in 2012.

A brief  press release from Canada’s PMO is here.   Prime Minister Trudeau pledged that Canada’s House of Commons would ratify the agreement by the end of 2016 – matching the date pledged by the U.S. and China, in an article in  the Globe and Mail. The Prime Minister spoke against a backdrop of  two recent reports about Canada’s emissions. The  National Inventory of  Report of GHG Emissions 1990 – 2014 , released by  Environment and Climate Change Canada, is an annual compilation of statistics mandated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It shows that total GHG emissions decreased overall between 2005 and 2014, but have increased by 5.2% from 2009 to 2014. Six provinces’ emissions have declined since 2005, but emissions in  Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland  have increased.    81% of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2014 originated in the energy sector (which the IPCC  broadly defines to include the fossil fuel industry, electricity, industrial production, transportation, agriculture and more).  Emission intensity for the entire economy (GHG per GDP) has declined by 32% since 1990, which the report attributes to “fuel switching, increases in efficiency, the modernization of industrial processes, and structural changes in the economy”.   The French version of the National Inventory Report  is here.

The Conference Board gives Canada a “D” grade overall on three dimensions it measured in its April 21 report:  How Canada Performs: Environmental Report Card  : climate change, air pollution, and freshwater management.  Canada ranks 14th among the 16 peer countries, with only the U.S. and Australia worse.

Further Canadian Reactions to Paris COP21

The December Work and Climate Change Report  compiled early responses to the COP 21 Agreement. Other Canadian reaction since then include: Tides Canada, in cooperation with the Toronto Star, with a compilation of articles re COP21 , including “What’s next after the historic Paris climate change agreement?” by Tyler Hamilton  ; The Real test of Paris Climate Agreement will be how Markets and Regulators react (by Marc Lee) ; Success of the Paris Agreement will be measured by Policy progress here at home (Pembina Institute) ; Collaborative approach will be key to realizing Canada’s climate change obligations (Canadian Labour Congress ).  The Executive of the Toronto and District Labour Council published their Response , which announces their intention to publish and promote a “Greenprint for Greater Toronto” as part of Labour’s contribution to the fight against climate change, and also holds up model of the role of Environmental Representatives in unions in the U.K..

For business reaction, read “Canadian business leaders say COP21 agreement a good start, but only that” in the Globe and Mail (Dec. 21), based on the 4th Quarter C-Suite Survey  by consultants KPMG . 56% of executives agreed that   “Canada should be part of any global agreement to reduce greenhouse gases if it includes most of the world’s major economic powers”. When asked, in regard to your own company, “what policies would you most like to see the new Canadian government implement?”, only 8% included “address climate change”. The survey also surveyed attitudes to the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

COP21, Just Transition, and Canadian Reaction

cop21 logoThe UNFCC official website includes the Official Text of the Conference of the Parties. For one of the best summaries, see “Paris Climate Deal: Key Points at a Glance” in The Guardian (Dec. 12).
Although Equiterre acknowledged that Canada had pushed for the inclusion of indigenous rights and just transition, these issues did not appear in Article 2 of the formal articles, but rather in the non-binding Annex, on page 21, amongst a list of considerations:
“….Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities,
Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity…”

Most reaction in Canada and around the world acknowledges the imperfections of the agreement but express the importance and potential of what was achieved.
Some Examples:
“Climate change Met Its Match in the Will of a United World” in the National Observer (Dec. 12), summarizing reaction from National Resources Defence Canada, Clean Energy Canada, and Pembina Institute.
“Global Climate Deal is an Historic Moment” from the Climate Action Network Canada.
“Paris Climate Accord Marks Shift Toward Low-Carbon Economy” in The Globe and Mail (Dec. 12) (which paints a flattering picture of Minister McKenna).
First Thoughts on the Climate Deal by Professor Kathryn Harrison, University of British Columbia, who states, “I see the commitment to revisit targets and progress every 5 years as the heart of the Paris agreement”.
Did Canada Show up at the Paris Climate Talks with its Pants on? (Dec. 11), despite the playful title provides a serious overview of the major issues, including indigenous rights, common but differentiated responsibility, and loss and damage. Author Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law says, “Canada’s position on loss and damage is extremely aggressive and unhelpful”.
The Road to a Paris Climate Deal, a compilation of reporting from the New York Times, includes an Opinion Piece by Bill McKibben, “Falling Short on Climate in Paris” (Dec. 13) which can act as the last word: “That we have any agreement at all, of course, is testament to the mighty movement that activists around the world have built over the last five years. …. But what this means is that we need to build the movement even bigger in the coming years, so that the Paris agreement turns into a floor and not a ceiling for action. We’ll be blocking pipelines, fighting new coal mines, urging divestment from fossil fuels – trying, in short, to keep weakening the mighty industry that still stands in the way of real progress. With every major world leader now on the record saying they at least theoretically support bold action to make the transition to renewable energy, we’ve got a new tool to work with”.