Posted tagged ‘environment’

COP 21: Setting The Stage for What’s Next

14 December 2015

Impressions from a quick look at COP 21’s Paris Agreement.


Ok. So I’ve begun to dig into this Paris deal finally. Yes, it is historic and to be cheered given the level where it plays. Just as the Alberta Climate Plan was historic and to be applauded, given its context.

It is notable, given concerns around these subjects late in the negotiations, that the text contains;

“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”

Thank you Canada for standing for the right side of that piece.

However, for you and I who live on the ground in the real world and who have infants who look at us with trust; there can be no pause.

– Intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within 2C scenarios, despite all the talk of a 1.5C target, which btw is not a target but a commitment to ‘pursue efforts’. Nearer to actual target is “well below 2C”, which is nice but not quite the same as memes you may have seen singing about a 1.5C commitment.

– Actual national targets are not legally binding so provide all the room necessary for political expediency to take the place of necessary responsible action.

– Carbon neutrality is left to the second half of the century, kicking the can down the road again.

– Longer term goals require carbon extraction from the atmosphere, which means we’re not going to reduce emissions enough, but are going to count on our children to invent something.

– “In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.”

“as soon as possible” Define “possible”. Possible as in ‘nothing else we can do’, or possible as in ‘best that can be done while keeping party donors happy’?

“best available science” in a context of funding and supporting science to come up with solutions as though this were a war-time effort? Or science like under a Harper or US Republican government?

Lots more to read, and lots good in this agreement, but so far imo it looks like aspirational text that can be easily ignored.

Much of the big money is going to go where it thinks it can make more money. It still falls to the grassroots to ensure that the necessary “reputational reasons” are in place for political players (note the deliberate choice not to use the word “leaders”. Those are too rare) and financial bigshots to do what is needed to at least not make a sham of this deal.

In summary, imho, this is huge, historic, stupendous, earthshattering! And on the ground, for you and I, makes not a damn bit of difference. We on the ground still have to stop the pipelines, stop the coal, stop the fracking, stop Site C, stop deforestation, unbridled industrialization, and all the abuses of global capitalism, and as it stands here in Canada do it in a context that still includes C-51.

To borrow a line from the 4th Healing Walk, we still have to Stop the Destruction, Start the Healing.

So, tomorrow is another day, just like the other one.


Some thoughts from others;

The Paris Agreement: Paper Heroes Widen the Climate Justice Gap – John Foran

COP21 Final Blog – Day 13 – Elizabeth May and NZ Green MP Kennedy Graham


Comment – Final Environmental Assessment of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement

11 November 2012

Below is the text of my letter (email) of comment on the Final Environmental Assessment of the Canada-China FIPA.

It is weak. I am scrambling on the last day of comment, from my holiday suite with an intermittent internet connection, to read what I can find on the agreement and it’s implications. This illustrates problems with the environmental assessment of trade agreements in general and the Canada-China FIPA in particular. There is not adequate engagement with the public, if one is to assume that the intent to seek public comment is sincere. Nor is there time for the public to study the issues and respond once engaged.

The initial environmental assessment of this agreement received no public comment. Are we to believe that Canadians looked at it and thought “Meh, looks fine.”? Not one person had any concerns? Not one person had any questions? Not one crack-pot wrote in and said aliens were reading our minds and this trade agreement is the proof!? Canadians were content to let this agreement proceed?

Of course that’s not the case. What happened is that it slipped entirely under the radar of the Canadian public and the government took that as acquiescence.

Then they make the agreement public on 26 September with ratification allowed on 2 November, before the period for public comment on the final environmental assessment is even up. They allow no debate in the House of Commons and entirely inadequate time for parliamentarians (much less average Canadian citizens) to study the issue.

Any elected representative complicit in this sham should feel shame if they have any.

The letter I sent with CC to members of Cabinet, my MP and Elizabeth May follows.


Environmental Assessments of Trade Agreements
Trade Agreements and NAFTA Secretariat
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2
Fax: (613) 992-9392

11 November 2012

To whom it may concern,

The following comments are submitted as part of the Environmental Assessment of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA) signed in Vladivostok, Russia, on September 8th, 2012, and tabled in the House of Commons on September 26th, 2012.

In my opinion the Environmental Assessments of the Canada-China FIPA and the process of environmental review of trade agreements are badly flawed. The fact that no public comments were received on the Initial Environmental Assessment of the Canada-China FIPA is a clear indication that attempts to engage the public are inadequate. Can anyone truly believe that there can exist any issue regarding which no Canadian would have anything to say? That no comment was received does not indicate that there were no concerns. It indicates that Canadian’s were unaware of the process and/or the avenue for making comment on it. If the intent to seek public input were sincere, there would have been undertaking to look at why no comment was received and fix that before proceeding.

Now we have the trade agreement made public September 26, 2012 and ratification made possible on November 2, 2012 by Order in Council. This does not allow adequate time for the public or their elected representatives to study this agreement.

The Environmental Assessment states “there can be no causal relationship found between the implementation of such a treaty and environmental impacts in Canada. It is for this reason that the claim made in the Initial EA, that no significant environmental impacts are expected based on the introduction of a Canada-China FIPA, is upheld.” This takes a far too narrow view of the issues. If trade under the agreement is found to be environmentally harmful, the foreign company involved may be protected by this agreement from any new laws or regulations that might deal with the harm. It is said that “the Parties retain the ability to regulate in the public interest”, but experience under NAFTA has shown that this is not always the case and if we find that this agreement is not allowing protection of the public interest we can be stuck with that situation for a minimum of 15 years based on the decisions of an arbitral panel that is unaccountable to Canadians.

The Canada-China FIPA may not cause environmental impacts, but it is likely to prevent us from responding to environmental impacts that occur in the course of investment that follows implementation of the agreement, and that is probably worse.

We have seen massive increases in Chinese investment in Canada (over 92% from 2008 to 2011). China wants our oil, our coal, our timber, our natural gas and no doubt our fresh water. It is impossible to extract and transport these resources without environmental impacts. These impacts can be severe, particularly when something goes wrong. Growing knowledge of the impacts of resource extraction and new threats that develop with new technologies will require us to act in the public interest and this trade agreement may tie our hands.

At the very least the agreement must not be ratified until there can be an adequate period of study and debate in the House of Commons followed by a free vote in the House on the issue. We should never enter into an agreement as far reaching as this one without the most thorough attention by all Parliamentarians.

Ian Stephen

Quote of the Day

24 January 2012

A new feature, “Quote of the Day”. May only happen today, but anyway here it is from Andrew Frank, former Senior Communications Manager for ForestEthics.

“When a government calls its own citizens enemies, you’ve lost your moral authority to govern.”

I’d really like to talk more on this. To point out that if Frank’s accusation is true the Harper government is going way beyond rhetoric. To point out parallels to the funding being swept out from under Franke James’ European art tour. To point out the synchronicity of Frank’s and Franke’s names (what is it with Harper and people with “Frank” in their names?) Unfortunately I’ve spent too much time on this today already. ForestEthics had a dial-in press conference this afternoon but I missed it. Am looking forward to hearing what they said.

Here’s some links;

And an update. Here’s what they said and what Ross McMillan, president and CEO of Tides Canada said.

An Open Reply to Joe Oliver

9 January 2012

Mr Oliver, I agree with some of your open letter of 9 January.

Canada should be on the edge of an historic choice. In fact we are twenty years or more behind on it. The choice to look at energy and other challenges of the 21st century and make Canada the go-to country for solutions.

We do need to diversify. It is long past time for Canada to get beyond the hewers of wood view of ourselves. A Canadian high-tech company like Arise Technologies Corp should not have to build it’s manufacturing in Germany. The Canadian government should not subsidize fossil fuel industries $1.38 billion per year while dropping funding for the EcoEnergy Renewable Power Program from the 2011 budget.

Knowing what we know about tobacco smoking, most of us don’t smoke. Knowing what we know about atmospheric carbon, most of us want to change our ways. Unfortunately we have a government that are to CO2 as chain-smokers are to the tobacco industry. A government that encourages mega-projects funded by foreign corporations that undermine Canada’s public interest. A government that shows an utter lack of respect for a regulatory process that is barely under way and a government that lacks a vision for the 21st century.

Mr. Oliver, I am a trades person with a small business, a mortgage and 3 good kids. I don’t feel very radical and if there are any “studied lines” as you mentioned on CBC’s As It Happens, I haven’t seen them. But for me the choice is clear: I can not stand for foreign corporations undermining my children’s future and the future of generations to come. I must oppose projects that demand too great a price while further delaying our advance to better ways of doing things. I must stand before the Northern Gateway review committee and say my piece.

Knowing what we know about the global challenges ahead, I believe Canadians deserve better and can do better. I believe it is the duty of every one of us to work toward that. I hope that after the next election we will have a government that has at least as bold a vision of Canada as I do. The future does not wait.

Update: A reply to Joe Oliver from the always thoughtful and well-spoken Elizabeth May

Stephen Harper – “greenhouse gas fighting F-35!”

24 October 2011

In an incredible about-face, Stephen Harper has committed to making Canada a world leader in the war against climate change! “Just think of me as a greenhouse gas fighting F-35!” said the Prime Minister! “Sorry I didn’t tackle this sooner. It’s just that I’m an economist … it took me a while to realize the environment was not an externality.”

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says world leaders must avoid adopting a “patchwork solution” to the environmental crisis now sweeping the globe, or a much larger catastrophe might unfold — with reverberations felt right here, in Canada.

Harper made the comment in a candid interview with me Monday in his Parliament Hill office as world leaders are poised to gather Wednesday for a critical meeting to settle environmental uncertainty after decades of failed attempts.

“The tar sands may not be the only storm cloud on the horizon, but it is clearly the one that is most pressing and the most threatening,” said Harper.

“And I think we have been clear to say that the issue really has to be dealt with. I know that’s easy to say, and I know that our European friends have taken great efforts over the past two or three years to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But I think we’re at the stage where simply patchwork solutions are not going to keep us avoiding a CO2 tipping point event.”

Harper said the environmental crisis that has now gripped the world is a “serious threat” to life. World leaders are grappling with a mix of possible options to stem the global meltdown, including: establishing a massive green investment fund of perhaps US$1-trillion to help countries switch from fossil fuels; requiring energy companies to quickly pump more capital into their green technologies; and persuading banks that hold government bonds to support investment in green technology.

A global deal is considered critical for the world to proceed with its environmental plans, as leaders of the powerful G20 organization prepare for a Nov. 2011 summit in Durban, South Africa.

In the interview Monday, Harper stressed that he remains “relatively optimistic” about the future — saying he expects a global environment that continues to warm slowly, and with Canada’s mitigation outperforming that of many other major advanced developed countries.

“Let me be very clear that I don’t think we’re going to have a second chance to stop global climate change. I think that’s important to say.”

Nonetheless, he did note that Canada’s environmental problems aren’t confined to the continent, and that they pose an “immediate” threat to global environmental recovery.
Moreover, he spoke bluntly about how Canada will have to make the tough decisions itself, before natural forces impose their own more draconian solution.

“You have already seen over the past few weeks, there is significant lack of confidence in global environment — not just warming, but fish stocks, biodiversity. And we are seeking a solution. And as I have said before, I anticipate a solution will involve some pain to some actors but I think, at the moment, the nations are looking for not a pain-free solution. They’re looking for a solution that provides some certainty and some clarity as to what that pain will be.”

Harper said he understands that the environmental challenges faced by the world in its crisis are complex and that there are many causes to be resolved.

Still, he insisted politicians will be doing the better thing for their countries if they take decisive action now.

“These are not easy times for leaders,” he said.

“Many leaders are taking very difficult decisions. We’ve had to take a couple here. But look, what I always say is individual difficult decisions are less painful than global armageddon. And so, let’s take what is clearly the better solution. And that is to have something that at least moves us forward. In the end, I think electorates judge you on overall performance, as opposed to individual decisions.”

“So if the decisions are right, even if they are painful, I think they will pay dividends down the road. But if you don’t take decisions and you end up with a bad result, voters will never forgive you for that.”

Harper castigated the opposition parties in Ottawa for fossil fuel job-creation demands that he said would put the federal government into even deeper gas emissions and abandon targets for a sustainable future.

In fact, he said his government’s policies — targeted spending and a plan to eliminate the tar sands in three years — are appropriate for the current climate.

Still, he reiterated that if Canada experiences “markedly different” environmental circumstances, his government would make “appropriate”changes to its policies.

“As I have said repeatedly to Canadians, if things change considerably, we’ll adapt. We’ll have the appropriate policies. We’re not going to be rigid. We’ll make sure the policy matches the circumstances we find ourselves in.”

As Harper prepares for the climate conference in Durban, he is hoping for progress in five areas:

• Clear and concrete greenhouse gas reduction plans, as leaders promised with Kyoto.

“Countries, all countries, including our friends south of the border, should be putting in place plans to have medium term GHG reduction and CO2 stabilization,” stressed Harper.

• Meaningful action from some large GHG surplus countries — such as China — to adopt more flexible carbon exchange rates. Harper said fixed carbon exchange rates create situations where some countries have a permanent trade surplus, while others always have a trade deficit.

“This is just an unhealthy situation,” he said.

“Our view is very clear that an economy as large as China, and other large economies, can’t practise policies that are not systematically sound. The policy has to be sound in terms of the global environment as a whole, not just in terms of one country’s interests.”

• Structural reforms to boost environmental sustainability.

• Implementation of energy-sector reform agreed to in previous summits.

“The energy sector can’t just write its own rules. The BP oil spill made very clear that there must be credible regulatory systems on the energy sector or it can lead us in a position where we don’t want to be.”

• A commitment to resist trade protectionist measures.

“These are all things that are essential to avoiding global catastrophe,” said Harper.

“Some are of immediate import, but all of these things, if not handled properly, could lead us to global catastrophe.”

Meanwhile on the economic front …

Q&A: ‘Europe may not be the only storm cloud on the horizon’: Harper

(The above is of course satire. Stephen Harper would never take climate change seriously. “US$1-trillion” to save the global climate, ha ha! A bank bailout maybe. Or a war, but the environment! Ha ha! I laugh till I pee!)

Occupy Vancouver – My One Demand

23 October 2011

Occupy Vancouver has completed it’s first week and seems to be growing. There are many more tents on the Vancouver Art Gallery grounds. Local politicians have shown up to talk, as have celebrities Tom Morello and David Suzuki. VPD continue to do an admirable job of walking the fine, grey line between the rights of the city and the rights of the protesters.

I have been able to attend on the two Saturdays, primarily taking part in a very small way by being one more body on the site and leaving a sign encouraging people to vote in 2013. I have also spent some time in the meditation circle because to me “peaceful” is critical to “peaceful protest”. On it’s second Saturday the site was less family friendly with no place to escape the pot and tobacco smoke.

It is a good sized crowd so far. Some march. Some make speeches. Some meditate. Some make signs. Some make music. Some hand out cakes. The crowd is diverse as are their ways of taking part and their reasons for being there.

Occupy Vancouver - Let Them Eat Cake

For me, here in Canada and in British Columbia the Occupy movement is about the failure of government in it’s responsibility to represent the people. Our government has come to represent industry and too many of our MLAs and MPs represent the government to us rather than us to the government.

For one example, look at the upcoming copyright laws that give consumers rights with one hand and take them away with the other. Or look at the on-line spying provisions that will bring warrant-less surveillance to our on-line communications in ways we would never stand for with our off-line communications.

Look at Fort Chipewyan where for many years, perhaps decades, the people have been dying, their fish, game and water not fit to consume. The government, finally faced with undeniable independent scientific proof of the connection to the tar sands, responded recently by improving monitoring. They call that action!

Here in BC we’re losing our wild salmon. The European Infectious Salmon Anaemia virus has been confirmed in wild pacific sockeye by the ISA reference laboratory at the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I. And the government works to protect the source of the virus, the open net fish farms, rather than to protect the wild salmon that are vital to the coastal ecosystem.

We’re losing farm land all over the province. In the Peace region natural gas fracking is contaminating water, increasing carbon emissions and making local people ill. The BC government is getting set to spend 8 or 10 billion tax dollars to build the dam Site C. A dam that will flood 100 km along the Peace River, inundating some of the best farm land North of Quesnel to provide power for more fracking. This at a time when the Macdonald-Laurier Institute has published “More food will be eaten over the next half century than has been eaten by human beings since the dawn of history” This due to world population which is expected to hit 7 billion this month. That’s more than doubled just in my lifetime.

Both the BC Liberals and NDP want more extraction industry, more pipelines and more tankers. The terrible thing is we don’t NEED any of it! We CAN save our farm land and have jobs and economic growth. Instead of Site C which will take 10 years to build, we could start building a distributed grid of renewable, solar, wind and geothermal energy today! Create jobs today and be using new, clean energy all over the province a few days later using technology that is only going to get less expensive and more efficient as we go forward.

We could be creating the BC of the 21st century, but we don’t because something is rotten at the core. Instead of democracy, money and corruption and the entrenched interests of the carbon economy run this province and this country.

If I had to narrow Occupy Vancouver down to one demand, my one demand, it would be to stop mortgaging future generations to feed greed today.

The way we should be able to bring about change is through our votes. But that hasn’t been working. Federally about 24.2% of eligible votes (39.9% of the 61.1% who voted) is called a majority. Here in BC we do the Liberal/NDP flip-flop and nothing really changes. People see that and drop out of that game. Voter turn out is dismal because people don’t see their vote as powerful, and that plays right into the hands of the status quo.

We can’t keep playing that game! What we need to do is knock the pieces right off the table, turn the board over and begin an entirely new game! The pieces that will make up that new game are the people of the Green Party. The core principles of the Green Party include grass roots democracy, sustainability, non-violence, community based economy, decentralization. Principles shared by the Occupy movement and by free thinking people everywhere.

Take a look at the YouTube clips of Elizabeth May, the first Green MP in Canada, standing up alone in parliament to speak truth to power.

Go to the Green Party of BC website and read their core principles and the “Green Book 2011”

We need to take the momentum of this movement into the provincial election in 2013 and vote for a party that is not part of the status quo. As I see it, the Green Party is the path to real change in this province and this country. I ask you to have a look and see if you think so too and if you do, get involved, spread the word and make your vote count for change in 2013!

Save Our Salmon

23 June 2011

See Alexandra Morton’s blog.
Do what you can do.