Blog Posts by P.J. Partington
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Yesterday I turned 24 at the Bella Centre. While somewhat unconventional as far as birthday celebrations go, I can't think of a more meaningful way to spend the day than fighting for a fair, ambitious and legally binding global climate deal.
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.
A “harmonization of outcomes” far off as U.S. prepares to regulate more sources of climate pollution
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new regulations for industrial greenhouse gas emissions from major new and modified facilities took effect earlier this month — and despite dire warnings from some U.S. industry lobby groups, the sky appears to have remained in place!
Recently, the EPA took a second important step forward, introducing plans to regulate climate change pollution from all new and existing power plants and refineries. The move to establish standards for two separate source categories signals that the EPA is moving forward carefully on GHGs, rather than proposing a broader cap-and-trade system under the Clean Air Act.
It’s not often we see international praise for climate change policy in Canada, but that’s exactly what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did in a recent report, highlighting British Columbia’s carbon tax as a leading example of carbon pricing.
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.
Alberta’s newly appointed climate change minister, Diana McQueen, caused a stir by saying the province fully intended to meet its 2020 climate target. Alberta officials have long acknowledged that things were off course, and efforts to strengthen key policies and right the ship have been delayed repeatedly. It’s worth a deeper look at why the sudden optimism caught people off guard, and what it holds for Alberta’s larger climate challenge.
Earlier this year, we published a backgrounder assessing recent controversies and claims surrounding the integrity of climate science. There have been several new developments since then, so we thought it would be useful to summarize the main ones.
In line with the earlier investigations summarized in our backgrounder, the more recent reviews find that the allegations made about the "climategate" stolen e-mails affair or errors in volume II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) are either baseless or have no bearing on the case for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas pollution.
In working on Pembina's recent Facing the Climate Challenge fact sheet on climate science, I had a chance to wade into the literature on sea level rise (no pun intended). It's a rapidly-evolving area of research as scientists' understanding of how ice sheets melt and move ("ice sheet dynamics") is growing every day.
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.
Every year, industrialized countries publish their national inventories of carbon pollution. Canada’s vast and detailed report, meticulously assembled by Environment Canada, gives us a thorough picture of where our greenhouse gas emissions come from, and how they have changed since 1990. We check in on three key stories in the 2014 inventory report.
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.
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.
There's been a lot of speculation about what this week's election of Republican Scott Brown (Mass.) to the U.S. Senate might mean for congressional action on climate change in 2010. Should we be worried now that the Democrats have lost the 60-seat supermajority required to prevent a planet-scorching filibuster?
I would say no. At least, not more than usual.
The scale of China's climate challenge is massive. But so too is the scale of economic opportunity for China associated with a low-carbon transition. It's increasingly clear that China is taking both quite seriously.
Roughly a year ago, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham made a telling admission:
"Six months ago my biggest worry was that an emissions deal would make American business less competitive compared to China. Now my concern is that every day that we delay trying to find a price for carbon is a day that China uses to dominate the green economy."
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?
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier (Beauce) raised a lot of eyebrows this week by declaring himself a climate change skeptic in a letter to the Montreal newspaper La Presse (the full English version is here). In doing so, he also applauded the government's go-slow approach to reducing emissions.
A sobering new projection of sea-level rise published last week in the prestigious American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reminds us yet again of what world leaders need to accomplish today in Copenhagen, and why.
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.
Oilsands emission performance doesn’t have to stay stuck in neutral. The roadmap to lower emissions intensity in oilsands is becoming apparent. But for that to become a reality, we need a policy framework that makes sure the cleanest technologies are also the smartest investment.
Well folks, the numbers are in and it's a blow out! In 2008, Canada's emissions dropped 2.1 per cent from their all-time high of 750 million tonnes the year before. Fantastic news! And, if you believe last week's press release from Environment Minister Jim Prentice, we have mostly the federal government's clever policies to thank.
The release attributes the decline in emissions to "Canada's efforts to use greater amounts of clean energy power generation, which is part of the Government's efforts to target greenhouse gas production."
Sounds great, but a few key details are missing from that picture.
In Alberta’s current carbon pricing system, called the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), major industrial facilities must reduce their “emissions intensity” (i.e. emissions per unit of production) by up to 12 per cent, relative to their typical performance or “baseline” level. The target phases in over time, reaching the full 12 per cent requirement in a facility’s ninth year of operation, and remains at 12 per cent after that.
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.
This week's issue of the highly respected research journal Science features a strong defence of climate science signed by 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The letter, "Climate Change and the Integrity of Science", is well worth reading in full — but here are some highlights.
On certainty and policy:
All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.
"The integrity of climate research has taken a very public battering in recent months. Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight."
So begins a recent editorial in Nature, one of the world's most respected multidisciplinary scientific journals...
Getting into the plenary hall here in Copenhagen a few hours ago involved some tricky navigation through a tense convergence of chanting demonstrators and security guards. Sadly, the president informed us that parties were still far from consensus and that she would bring a proposal forward as soon as possible. Until then, the Conference of the Parties remains suspended. Suspense!
The federal government quietly released a new emissions report over the holidays. It projects a significant and sustained rise in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions unless we dramatically improve our climate policies. This post explores some of the other significant stories found in that report, particularly at the provincial level.
Proponents of oilsands expansion often repeat that missions per barrel have been reduced by 26 per cent between 1990 and 2011. The message implies that things are getting better all the time. Given the scale of oilsands expansion planned for the coming decades, it’s worth venturing past the talking point to better understand these emissions intensity improvements and whether or not they will continue.
Earlier this year, Natural Resources Canada commissioned a study to evaluate aspects of the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive. Canada has been lobbying very aggressively against the FQD, since fuels derived from natural bitumen (oilsands) would be assigned a higher carbon intensity value than those derived from conventional crudes.
The report was released on Wednesday but, despite the government's rhetoric, it offers nothing to discredit the directive. Rather, its findings seem to generally reinforce the defensibility of the Commission’s proposed approach.
As other countries face up to the climate challenge and begin curbing their demand for fossil fuels, will Canada be left waiting on the shore for tankers that will never come?
Each spring, as the tulips are starting to bloom in Ottawa, Environment Canada releases its annual compendium of greenhouse gas emissions data. Here are three stories that emerged from our first look at the report.
It's no secret that Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are much higher today than they were in 1990. By 2008, the latest year with data available, Canada's emissions were 24 per cent higher than in 1990. We're often told the fault lies with our growing economy and growing population. We do, after all, have a strong economy and one of the highest rates of population growth in the G8. Our emissions growth is certainly the highest in the G8.
But it turns out that the real story behind Canada's big jump in pollution is a little more complicated. The national numbers are masking some huge provincial variations.
In a recent post we examined the remarkable growth of renewable energy in China — and the rising importance of climate change, energy security and low-carbon development in government decision-making. Here we will offer a quick look ahead at what lays in store for the next five years.
Think Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions look bad today? Unfortunately, 2030 doesn’t look any rosier. In October, Environment Canada published projections estimating that current policies will see Canada miss the Harper government’s 2020 emissions target by 122 million tonnes. Now a new report offers us a glimpse of where Canada’s emissions are headed after 2020, adding projections for the next decade.
President Obama recently outlined a detailed climate action plan in a speech at Georgetown University. P.J. gives three reasons to be optimistic about the new plan.
Last week, Environment Canada released its annual Emissions Trends report, projecting the path of Canada’s climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions. This blog looks at what the report says and why it matters.
Canada has a credibility problem. As U.S. President Barack Obama implements his new climate plan and considers the proposed Keystone XL pipeline's emissions, Ottawa hopes to convince him that we're suddenly serious about fighting climate change. Our record is plain to see, and so far it plainly shows the opposite.
In less than 20 days' time, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin using the U.S. Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) from some large industrial facilities such as power plants and oil refineries. As we noted in our previous blog post and briefing paper, it's a modest start, but an important step forward nonetheless.
It would be hard to count the number of times our present federal government has insisted that Canada's approach to climate change policy must be "harmonized" or "aligned" with the United States. Yet, despite all the political obstacles to taking serious action to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S., the Obama administration is moving ahead. Canada, meanwhile, appears determined to sit firmly on its hands.
In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) from large industrial facilities such as power plants and oil refineries under the Clean Air Act. It's a modest start, but an important step forward nonetheless.
One short decade ago, the oilsands were scarcely known of outside of Alberta. That seems impossible to imagine today.
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.
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