Blog Posts by Clare Demerse
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Heading into this weekend's high-profile G8 and G20 summits, the main climate story in Canada had been Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to downplay the role of climate change on the leaders' agendas.
But with just a day before the summits get underway, Environment Minister Jim Prentice has added some promising news to Canada's international climate story, thanks to the long-awaited announcement of the government's contribution to "fast start" climate financing.
The UN climate talks that wrapped up over the weekend in Cancun went a long way towards healing the wounds from last year's disappointing Copenhagen negotiations.
In some ways, the Cancun talks became Copenhagen's mirror image, and not just because of the contrast between the sparkling waves and sunshine of Cancun and the wintry Danish capital.
When it comes to climate financing, the Copenhagen deal can't turn into a sprint, where countries pledge some funding now but pull up lame after 2012. Instead, short-term dollars are just the very first steps of a long race.
Nearly half of Canadians surveyed in a new poll by Angus Reid say they are "dissatisfied" with Prime Minister Harper's performance at the Copenhagen climate talks. (A further 25% of respondents chose "not sure," and just 9% pronounced themselves "very satisfied," while 19% are "moderately satisfied".)
Luckily for the Prime Minister, the work towards a strong global climate deal is far from over - Copenhagen was a beginning, not an ending.
Like a lot of climate colleagues from around the world, I'll be packing my flip-flops later this week for the UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico. Although I've never been much of a beach person, I'm hoping that the two-week conference can deliver some of the building blocks we need for a global effort to tackle climate change.
Judging by the turnover rate alone, it's clear that being Stephen Harper's environment minister isn't easy for anyone. But for the newest recruit, Thornhill MP Peter Kent, the assignment might be even tougher than usual. That's because Minister Kent took the job just as new U.S. regulations are shining a spotlight on our government's inaction on climate change.
Canada Blocks Climate Change Progress But Canada's fully capable of reaching an emissions target based on science while adding 1.2 million new jobs by 2020
Canada was once again accused of blocking progress on the crucial question of targets for industrialized countries.
Canada ranks sixth among the G8 countries on its readiness to compete in the low-carbon economy of the future, according to a new report from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE).
The NRTEE, an independent advisory group to the Minister of the Environment, has put together a set of 15 indicators to track countries' ability to make the successful transition to a low-carbon economy. Their rankings cover federal policies, but also include provincial government initiatives, the private sector, and other institutions (for example, the number of MBA programs in sustainability) — so the score is for Canada as a country, rather than simply for our federal government's performance.
Last week saw the federal government finally reveal where Canada's 2010 international climate financing contribution will go. Unfortunately, the news shows that Canada's contribution to helping poor countries tackle climate change is much less than it appeared when first announced.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a weak climate plan into Canada's election and won himself a stronger minority government - but there's reason to doubt that his proposed greenhouse gas regulations will ever see the light of day.
When Canada's federal government published an update to its regulatory approach for heavy industry this month, environmentalists hoped that this much-criticized proposal had been strengthened. Instead, it offered a mixed bag that probably served to weaken an already feeble approach.
Imagine that Canada's Minister of Defence got up one day and announced that all our military decisions will be made jointly with the United States from now on. Canada and the U.S. would use the same tactics and embrace the same goals.
Hard to picture, perhaps. But it's more or less the approach that Environment Minister Jim Prentice laid out in a speech in Toronto last month.
We got sad news last night about Canada's Climate Change Accountability
Act, a private member's bill that could have helped move Canada into a
leadership role in tackling global warming.
Before it even had a chance to be debated, the bill was defeated by Conservative Senators in a surprise vote.
Responding to Jack Layton's surge in the polls, Stephen Harper spent some time on Thursday going after the NDP's cap-and-trade plan, saying that it would add 10 cents a litre to the price Canadians pay at the pumps. Based on the specifics of the NDP proposal, Pembina's analysis suggests a more accurate assessment of the impact on consumers would be a no higher than four cents a litre.
At a news conference earlier this week, federal cabinet minister John Baird called the Liberal Party's cap-and-trade proposal "incredibly divisive" and "un-Canadian."
It's a surprising statement, and not just because Minister Baird's own government said it supported cap-and-trade as recently as 2009. Nearly 80 per cent of Canadians currently live in provinces whose premiers support cap-and-trade: British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec have all expressed interest in joining with U.S. states in the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade system.
Now that all the platforms are in, we thought it would be helpful to provide a summary of where the five major parties stand on the key question of pricing greenhouse gas pollution.
In most of Canada right now, there is no fee of any kind attached to emitting greenhouse gas pollution. But that pollution causes climate change, which is already imposing costs on Canada and the world — and which is projected to cause much more serious harm unless we can significantly reduce our emissions.
From the chaos on Wall Street to the outbreak of listeriosis, Canadians have been hearing a lot about risk lately. It's emerged on the campaign trail as well, where Stephen Harper has called a tax on greenhouse gas pollution an "economic risk" to Canada. We can't assess the risk of acting on climate change without looking at the risk of climate change itself and the benefits of taking action.
It's past 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in Copenhagen, and a summit that was scheduled to end nearly 24 hours ago has just ended. The result is a weak deal that needs fixing up as soon as possible, and a diminished reputation on the world stage for Canada.
The good news is that we can fix the deal, and Canada can get its act together on climate change in 2010.
The very short "Copenhagen Accord" written here last night does not have the support of all countries. Because it falls so far short of what the science requires, a handful of nations refused to agree to its provisions. Many other countries, including the United States, noted that the deal is very far from perfect. (Canada's Prime Minister, on the other hand, called it "a good agreement that achieves Canada's objectives.")
The international climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar are heading into the home stretch, and the stakes are high.
The UN climate talks in Doha wrapped up over the weekend with a deal that delayed many of the tough issues to future negotiations. While countries did the minimum they needed to do to keep the process moving, they failed to push much beyond those bare-bones expectations. And unfortunately, Canada was once again part of the problem.
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.
If you think 567 pages of emissions data would make a boring read, this week's news just proved you wrong. Canada's most recent report to the UN's climate change convention has proven surprisingly controversial, not so much for what's in it as for what was left out.
I'm writing this at 6:30pm Copenhagen time on Thursday, December 17. If the talks end on schedule — not a very likely prospect — then we will know the outcome by this time tomorrow.
It's been a tense, and intense, last few days. The negotiations have been happening around the clock, and over 100 world leaders are now converging on Copenhagen for the finale of this summit.
I've been to G8 meetings before, and sometimes it looks like leaders arrive there with a deal all-but-finished before the official talks even start. Copenhagen is exactly the opposite. None of the presidents and prime ministers can show up here merely for a photo op, because as of right now, there is no deal to sign. These are very volatile talks, and I truly believe that any outcome — from a deal that lays the foundation for success to a total collapse — is still possible.
The proposed takeover of Nexen by China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd. has Canada’s pollsters, politicians and pundits busily talking up the pros and cons of Chinese investment in Canada’s resources — and last week’s announcement of an extension of Industry Canada’s review means that conversation is far from over.
Welcome to our new blog! Starting now, the Pembina Institute's climate change blog will be the place to go for updates on climate news from around the world and close to home; our perspective on climate issues as they develop; and the inside scoop on Pembina's work.
With consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal heading into the home stretch, a parade of Canadian politicians have been making the trek to the U.S. to try to convince the Obama Administration of the pipeline’s merits.
The good news is that the recent visitors — from Premiers Redford and Wall to federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver — now acknowledge that Canada’s environmental record is crucial to the upcoming U.S. decision.
The bad news is that there are some gaping holes in that record.
Clare Demerse explains how the G8 and G20 summits could contribute to progress on climate change.
We're now halfway through Canada's weekend of summits, with the G8 over and the G20 just getting started. For those of us looking for progress on climate change, the meetings are off to a rocky start.
This year's G8 declaration contains just four paragraphs on climate change, out of a total of 43. Unfortunately, they contain virtually nothing beyond what's already in the 2009 G8 declaration from Italy and the December 2009 Copenhagen Accord.
The best that can be said about the Muskoka declaration is that it didn't move backward from last year - but it didn't move forward either. With Canada in charge, the G8 missed an important opportunity to make progress on addressing climate change.
Saskatchewan can cut its greenhouse gas pollution while creating nearly 50,000 net new jobs in the next decade, says a recent Pembina Institute/David Suzuki Foundation report. The provincial economy would grow by two per cent annually while meeting the federal government's current emissions target, producing a GDP 22 per cent higher in 2020 than in 2010. As well, Saskatchewan would gain more jobs while meeting that target than it would under business-as-usual.
Clare Demerse wonders how Canada will become a climate champion with a poor track record and no training program.
Ever since Barack Obama's election, Stephen Harper has set a single goal for Canada's climate policy: "harmonizing" our efforts to cut greenhouse gas pollution with the United States' plans. Like marriage, harmonizing sounds good in theory -- but it doesn't work unless you find the right partner.
By Clare Demerse and Matthew Bramley
With the U.S. election looming, Washington seems ready to wake up from its long slumber on global warming. That gives Canada an important choice: do we want to lead the parade or fall meekly into line behind our neighbours to the south?
Clare Demerse, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute, explains why Canada's reluctance to take leadership on climate policy makes Keystone XL a tough sell.
It’s been a few weeks since news broke that Stephen Harper had written to Barack Obama about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, offering “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” in exchange for his approval of the project.
So far there is little evidence that the Obama Administration is interested in accepting Harper’s offer. If Harper did fail to catch Obama’s interest with his letter, it’s worth asking why.
The release of a controversial U.S. State Department environmental impact assessment late last week signalled a new phase in the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. The already-tense process looks set to get even more fraught as the technical phase starts to wrap up and the decision shifts squarely into the political arena.
Despite the Harper government's decision to downplay climate and energy issues at the G20 summit, there was no way to avoid a discussion of phasing out fossil fuel subsides. That's because leaders at the previous G20 summit, held in Pittsburgh in September 2009, decided to phase out these subsidies "over the medium term" — and specifically asked ministers to prepare implementation plans and timetables for discussion in Toronto.
Today's newspapers carry reports of a fascinating government briefing note that advised Canada's Minister of Finance to cut back on federal tax breaks to fossil fuel producers. The question now is whether ministers are listening.
If you spend time listening to politicians talk about their priorities, you'll very quickly end up hearing about jobs. Job creation matters across the country, and its importance has only grown in response to the economic downturn. We all know that decision-makers are eager to take steps that create jobs, and they think very carefully before putting a policy in place if it could lead to job losses.
For our climate team, this added up to a powerful case to study green employment.
I watched one of Peter Kent's very first interviews as Environment Minister — on CBC's Power and Politics back in early January — with a few of my colleagues.
Comparing notes afterwards, we were all puzzled by a comment he made about Canada's national greenhouse gas emission target, which is to cut emissions to 17 per cent below the 2005 level in 2020. Based on his initial briefings from Environment Canada, Minister Kent said, he had some good news: "we've already achieved almost a quarter of that 17 per cent reduction."
To us, it sounded like he was saying that Canada's emissions have gone down significantly since 2005. We'd love to see that, but we knew that isn't what the data shows.
Here at the Pembina Institute we look to the publication of the federal government's Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act plan as a sign that summer is almost here. Unfortunately, as Clare Demerse explains, this year it makes for some demoralizing reading.
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