Blog Posts by Clare Demerse
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June 24, 2010 A bit more optimism on the road to Toronto
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.
Dec. 13, 2010 A long way from Copenhagen, but a long way left to go
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.
Dec. 8, 2009 A Marathon — Not a Sprint
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.
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.
Oct. 5, 2010 Canada's "fair share" is not as advertised
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.
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.
April 29, 2011 Cap-and-trade's costs — and benefits
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.
April 8, 2011 Cap-and-trade: Canadian after all?
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.
April 13, 2011 Carbon pricing: comparing federal party platforms
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.
Dec. 19, 2009 Copenhagen Ends, but the Work Must Continue
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.")
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.
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.
Dec. 17, 2009 Down to the Wire in Copenhagen
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.
Nov. 25, 2009 Facing the Climate Challenge
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.
June 26, 2010 G8 comes up short on climate
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.
Sept. 30, 2013 Joint climate action for Keystone fails to persuade
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.
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.
The federal government took a step forward today in curbing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and trucks, announcing regulations aligned with new U.S. federal rules that will cover new cars sold from 2011 to 2016. The U.S. rules that Canada plans to align with have been strengthened by President Obama from a weak starting point proposed by President Bush.
If they go ahead as planned, the regulations will finally move Canada from a voluntary approach to greenhouse gas pollution from passenger vehicles to a mandatory one — an important step that needs to take place across the rest of Canada's economy.
It seems that barely a week goes by without a federal cabinet minister saying we’re “halfway” to meeting our 2020 greenhouse gas target. So here’s the explanation of why the government says we’re halfway, what the line really means, and what Jon Bon Jovi has to do with Canada’s emission projections.
July 5, 2011 Ottawa faces crucial test in the fight against coal
Just over a year ago, the federal government announced a plan to regulate some of the dirtiest sources of energy in Canada — coal power plants. Now, a decision by an Alberta regulator to approve a new coal plant has put the ball squarely in the federal government's court to live up to one part of that 2010 announcement.
Jan. 7, 2014 Ottawa’s oil and gas sitcom
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any slower, Ottawa has yet another rationale for delaying greenhouse gas regulations for oil and gas companies. Worryingly, this one comes straight from the top.
Dec. 4, 2009 Same Number, Different Story
We leave for Copenhagen today. With the meeting so close, we've had lots of calls from journalists who are getting up to speed on the negotiations. One of the questions that keeps coming up is "Does Canada have the same targets as the U.S.?"
Dec. 7, 2010 The time for tough choices in Cancun
The arrival of political ministers at the UN climate talks in Cancun today marks a turning point in the negotiations.
In theory, negotiators use the first week (and weekend) of a conference like this one to clear the "easy" issues out of the way, agreeing on most of the text and identifying the tough choices in areas where countries hold opposing positions. That opens the way for the politicians to take over and make deals.
Sept. 2, 2010 The weather needs watching
The last couple of posts on this blog highlighted science news from around the world. Last week saw some Canadian climate science news too, but unfortunately it wasn't good.
Thanks to a request under Canada's Access to Information legislation, we obtained a copy of a scathing internal government report about Canada's faltering climate and weather monitoring systems.
Using crystal-clear language, the report documents a pattern of underinvestment and cuts that weaken Environment Canada's ability to accurately track the weather. The report says that these problems are accelerating — to the point that Canada's systems likely fall short of international standards.
While Calgary celebrates its resilience at a “Hell or High Water” Stampede, Toronto is drying out after a dramatic storm that saw more rain fall in two hours than the city usually sees in the entire month of July.
Even if you don’t live in Southern Alberta or Mississauga, floods are fodder for dinner table conversations across the country right now. And more and more Canadians are asking whether what we’re seeing is climate change.
Spending all day in Copenhagen's Bella Centre means I feel very far removed from Canadian news these days. So the arrival of a couple of new and interesting climate polls gave us a welcome update on views from home.
April 7, 2011 Who's afraid of carbon pricing?
The Liberal Party's campaign platform, released Sunday, promised a cap-and-trade system that would apply to "all sectors of the economy with no exceptions."
Despite some unanswered questions, a pledge to put a price on Canada's greenhouse gas pollution is always good news in our books. But according to this week's media reports, cap-and-trade is a pretty scary prospect for some commentators.
Aug. 5, 2011 Why the oilsands matter to climate policy in Canada
In late July, Environment Canada published a document called Canada's Emissions Trends, which provides an up-to-date projection of greenhouse gas pollution under a "business as usual" scenario. The picture it paints of where oilsands emissions are heading is — to put it mildly — not pretty.
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