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A recent article in the Vancouver Sun raised questions about the costs and merits of a city-run pilot program to encourage homeowners to invest in energy efficiency, describing the program as having “bombed.” The program did have much lower uptake than expected; however, judging its success on this factor alone misses the bigger picture.
As parting shots go, Scott Vaughan’s was a powerful one.
With the release of his final report as Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development last week, Vaughan made the case that the development of our natural resources is running dangerously ahead of Canada’s laws and policies to protect the environment.
Jan. 17, 2013 Climate concerns are key in Keystone XL pipeline debate
To help inform the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, the Pembina Institute has produced a backgrounder about the climate impacts associated with the proposed pipeline. The backgrounder features new analysis showing that producing enough bitumen to fill the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and inhibit Canada’s ability to meet its climate targets.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Though originally written as a social criticism of the period leading up to the French Revolution, Charles Dickens’ words seem an equally appropriate characterization of the past year for energy and environment issues in Canada.
Dec. 6, 2012 Crunch time at the Doha climate negotiations
The international climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar are heading into the home stretch, and the stakes are high.
’Tis the season for evaluating Canada’s progress on climate change, and now that we’re in the second week of global climate talks in Doha, Qatar, the oilsands are once again drawing fire as Canada’s main climate culprit.
Some may argue this label is unfair, but there’s one big reason that oilsands development deserves to be at the centre of any serious effort to meet Canada’s climate commitments: the projected growth in oilsands emissions over the rest of this decade will basically cancel out the emissions reductions that all other sectors in Canada expect to achieve.
To succeed, carbon pricing needs complementary policies to back it up and address important market barriers. Energy efficiency regulations, especially in buildings and vehicles, are among those essential complementary policies.
If Canadians could have voted in the U.S. presidential election, the majority likely would have re-elected Barack Obama, according to polling from the BBC on global attitudes toward the two candidates. But now that President Obama has returned to the White House, many Canadians are wondering what his second term could mean for Canadian interests, particularly oilsands development.
Oct. 26, 2012 Reflections on my internship at the Pembina Institute
This summer I had the fortune of working as the Climate Action Stories Intern at the Pembina Institute’s Vancouver office. It's never an easy task to summarize a great experience, but it's certainly worth a try.
We know that British Columbia’s electricity is primarily fossil fuel-free and electric vehicles are now available in Canada (with several provinces offering rebates), but if we were in an electric car and had to “fill up the tank” what would we do?
While leadership at all political levels is critical to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, cities and towns are often the places where the rubber hits the road on climate action.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced its finalized regulations to limit climate-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants. As we had anticipated months ago, the final regulations don’t go nearly far enough to help Canada keep its climate change and clean energy commitments or safeguard ourselves, and our children, from coal pollution.
The Better Future Fund is an interesting experiment for the Pembina Institute. By directly link our traditional efforts on policy change with a public mobilization effort, we’re showing government how important action on climate change is, not just to environmental organizations like ours, but for all British Columbians.
The federal government’s just-released 2012 update to Canada’s Emissions Trends is an important report from Environment Canada that explores the trends expected to shape Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions this decade. The release of the first edition last July, along with this week’s updated version, are welcome because emissions projections like these are crucial to assessing the impact of Canada’s policies against the commitments the government has made to Canadians and to the world.
All too often in the world of climate policy we’re confronted by a lack of progress, so it’s encouraging when there is some positive news to report. A trio of reports from B.C. this week all pointed to some initial success emerging from the province’s Climate Action Plan — an initial success that we hope will kick start a "What’s next?" conversation in the province.
June 25, 2012 Being a Smarter Driver pays off – and now I’m hooked
I have become a fuel economy junkie.
I can no longer drive without obsessing over the fuel economy gauge in the centre of the dashboard. The LCD display provides real-time information on the amount of fuel being used to propel the car that I am driving. My spirits rise and fall with its every movement. When the number falls — 4.7, 4.6, right on, 4.2! — I’m on a high! When the number climbs — 6.7, 7.5, no, 9.2! — I’m crestfallen.
Burning coal to make electricity is a dirty habit. We’ve known for years that it’s bad for our health, bad for our kids and bad for the climate. When it comes to air pollution and carbon intensity, coal plants are Canada’s worst electricity source. Yet many parts of the country still rely heavily on coal for electricity.
Those of us who drive cars typically have our favourite road tunes. One of my favourites is Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, off the Physical Graffiti album. Any self-respecting, Zeppelin-loving driver knows a particularly sublime feeling: slowly pushing on that gas pedal to the beat of Jimmy Page’s rising, signature chord progression riff in Kashmir, watching that speedometer creep up to 90 klicks an hour, then 100, 110, 120…. “I am a traveller of both time and space, to be where I have been….”
May 16, 2012 It’s time to speak out for nature and democracy
Grassroots campaigning is not something that comes naturally to us here at the Pembina Institute. But the level of public discourse over energy issues and environmental protection in this country has sunk so low over the past few months that even Canadians who are well informed have just cause to wonder who to believe.
Over the months ahead, expect to hear frequent references to a new report released Wednesday comparing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with oilsands production to emissions from other sources of crude oil used in Europe. We took a close read of the report, prepared for the Government of Alberta by Jacobs Consultancy, and there seems to be a problem: the report’s findings about how oilsands compare to conventional oil do not tell the full story, and government documents appear to misinterpret the implications of those findings.
Rolled into the federal government’s budget implementation bill are a curt few lines repealing the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. In the space of two haikus, they have junked Canada’s best weapon for transparency and accountability on climate policy.
Last week, the provincial government announced changes to public sector carbon neutrality in response to some concerns. Overall, each of the changes should improve the policy. Unfortunately, some important concerns have yet to be addressed.
Yesterday, the government announced a change to the carbon tax in what amounts to temporarily eliminating $7.6 million in carbon taxes from greenhouses in B.C. and, in the process, placing its review on the edge of a slippery slope.
This morning I appeared before members of the U.S. Congress to speak about the role of technology and government oversight in Canada's oilsands. As policy director at the Pembina Institute, I was invited along with several others to testify at the "American Energy Initiative" hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, part of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee.
These are just a few of the headlines from recent media coverage of the analysis published in Nature Climate Change, “The Alberta oil sands and climate.” Judging by the reaction captured in the news coverage, you’d think the oilsands were suddenly less polluting than they were last month, and that all the serious concerns associated with ramping up oilsands expansion were groundless.
British Columbia’s new liquefied natural gas (LNG) strategy is peppered with claims that it goes hand in hand with leadership on climate change. While demonstrating climate leadership by increasing fossil fuel extraction may seem like an oxymoron, there are scenarios in which the government could actually do both. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case this time.
Recently, Calgary City Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting its first citywide greenhouse gas plan. The plan aims to reduce the city’s emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050, below 2005 levels and I’m thrilled to say that the Pembina Institute’s community services consulting group helped to write it.
The premiers of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have pledged to meet with the federal government to discuss a national energy strategy and the related issue of regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Before that meeting happens, let’s examine their efforts to price carbon, a critical component of any cost-effective approach to dealing with climate change.
The Obama administration’s surprise decision to deny the proposed Keystone XL pipeline created quite the media storm yesterday, and for good reason.
In defending the decision, the president highlighted the risks the project could pose to “the health and safety of the American people and [to] the environment,” and the need to adequately review those concerns. And while a wide range of responses surfaced from the Republicans, Democrats, public opinion leaders and local interest groups, one story in particular caught our eye.
Jan. 16, 2012 The truth about our funding
An open letter from the Pembina Institute to Canadians
As you may have noticed, the Harper government and the “Ethical Oil Inc” front group have been working to discredit groups like the Pembina Institute and our work on energy issues by claiming that we are a “foreign-funded,” “radical” organization advocating against the best interests of Canadians.
Allow us to set the record straight.
The federal government has repeatedly touted its forthcoming regulations for coal-fired electricity as proof that it’s serious about climate change. It was therefore concerning to see reports from the Globe and Mail last week that suggest the government might “backtrack” on their coal regulations even before the final version has seen the light of day.
Dec. 13, 2011 Canada’s Kyoto math doesn’t add up
Yesterday afternoon, my colleagues and I were trying to make sense of the outcomes from the Durban, South Africa, climate change conference. Was it an exercise in deceit or did it offer some glimmer of hope? Before we could fully answer those questions, news broke that Canada was formally withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol. Just hours off the plane from Durban, Environment Minister Kent made the announcement that Canada would no longer be a party to the world’s only climate change treaty.
Yesterday the reputation of the Pembina Institute and that of the British government was attacked in a column by Kathryn Marshall, a professional oilsands booster. Her commentary repeats many misleading or downright false statements about the Pembina Institute and the nature of our work.
Dec. 6, 2011 Canada’s performance and positions in Durban
The second and final week of the UN climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa is now underway. In our view, a wealthy country such as Canada that is serious about reaching an agreement, would be doing three things. Let's take a look at where Canada stands on these points.
Nov. 23, 2011 Climate confusion sequel heads straight to video
Yesterday, news broke that a batch of hacked e-mails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia had been posted online. Sound familiar?
Working on climate change issues can be challenging, especially when you compare what climate scientists say needs to be done with what politicians are (or are not) doing. Tuesday was a particularly challenging day. That's when the British Columbia Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services released 75 recommendations for the 2012 B.C. budget, five of which discuss B.C.'s carbon tax and cap-and-trade rules and convey little interest in building on the positive steps already taken to address climate change in the province.
While Canada and Alberta are lobbying against the recent EU Commission decision to assign a specific value for bitumen, sending federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to Paris and London last week to persuade the EU to rethink the directive, we believe that Europe should stand firm, for the following reasons.
One year, and several Ministers, after Jim Prentice's announcement that Canada would regulate emissions from coal-fired electricity generation, the draft rules have finally been published. We've looked through them in detail only to find that none of the major concerns we've raised in the past have been addressed. If the federal government is actually "serious about climate change" it needs to step up and significantly strengthen the proposed regulations for coal-fired power.
Oct. 3, 2011 Fact: Green energy is good for Ontario
Ontarians head to the polls on Thursday to elect the next provincial government, at the close of an election campaign where green energy has emerged as a hot-button issue. As the rhetoric has escalated on all sides of the debate, Ontario voters have also had to wade through a great deal of misinformation about their energy options.
Sept. 26, 2011 Oilsands protests driven by lack of progress
Today’s protest in Ottawa and the sit-in at the White House this past month send a strong signal to Canadian and U.S. decision makers that the environmental risks and impacts from expanding oilsands development and associated pipelines are not being adequately addressed.
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