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Success of Paris agreement depends on action at home

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by the premiers of Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba, at COP21 on November 30, 2015. Photo: Province of B.C.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by the premiers of Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, at COP21 on November 30, 2015. Photo: Province of B.C.

Now that the Paris Agreement is complete and world leaders are back at home, each country has to plan their own domestic policies to achieve the Paris promises.

For Canada, as the Pembina Institute argues, the success of the Paris Agreement will be measured by policy progress at home. It’s not enough for Canada to promise action: we must now undertake large and well-planned policy changes.

The Pembina Institute recommends three main courses of action for the Canadian government:

1. Policy support to green Canada’s electricity grid

2. Financial and policy support for low-carbon businesses

3. A credible climate test for all fossil fuel projects and related infrastructure

Read more from the article here. 

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Agriculture was left out of Paris deal

Source: Think Progress; AP Photo/ Bullit Marquez, File

Source: Think Progress; AP Photo/ Bullit Marquez, File

While agriculture was mentioned during the Paris talks at COP21, the final main text does not include actions on agriculture.

Some countries discussed agriculture in the individual climate pledges they made before the conference, known as INDCs. Food security is also mentioned in the preamble to the final text. However, the absence of having agriculture mentioned in the main text itself is causing concern for some.

From Think Progress: 

Despite claiming nearly half of the world’s land and accounting for one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, food and agriculture had always played a secondary role in international climate negotiations, pushed aside in favor of discussions about energy and transportation.

“”As a farmer, I sense among my colleagues a growing frustration with this whole process,” Theo De Jager, president of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO), said during a panel on agriculture and climate change at the Global Landscapes Forum, a two-day event held in Paris during the climate conference. “If we can make such a difference in emissions, why aren’t we mentioned more specifically? There is no fraternity in the world who is more susceptible to climate change than farmers. There is also no fraternity in the world who can do more to decrease emissions over the shortest space of time, in a cheaper way, than we can.”

“Even if agriculture is not explicitly mentioned in an international agreement on climate change, that doesn’t necessarily forestall farmers, companies, and research groups from taking action to adopt the mitigation and adaptation strategies outlined in countries’ INDCs — but it does raise the question of where money for those strategies will come from.”

Continue reading the article here.

ACT’s work has focused on agriculture by highlighting the links between food production, water governance, energy production, and biodiversity in a changing climate. Our newest work on this topic is our book The Climate Nexus. Click here to also see our background work on crops and food security. Preview

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San Diego: Entirely Renewable Energy in 20 Years

Angie Vorhies charged her electric car in San Diego in 2013. The city has committed to using 100 percent renewable energy, becoming the largest American municipality to do so. Source: The New York Times; Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

Angie Vorhies charged her electric car in San Diego in 2013. The city has committed to using 100 percent renewable energy, becoming the largest American municipality to do so. Source: The New York Times; Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Diego is showing that cities can take bold climate action without waiting for national initiatives.

From The New York Times:

“With a unanimous City Council vote, San Diego, the country’s eighth-largest city, became the largest American municipality to transition to using 100 percent renewable energy, including wind and solar power. In the wake of the Paris accord, environmental groups hailed the move as both substantive and symbolic.

“Other big cities, including New York and San Francisco, have said they intend to use more renewable energy, but San Diego is the first of them to make the pledge legally binding. Under the ordinance, it has committed to completing its transition and cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035.

“The steps to get there may include transferring some control of power management to the city from the local utility. Officials said they would also shift half of the city’s fleet to electric vehicles by 2020 and recycle 98 percent of the methane produced by sewage and water treatment plants.”

San Diego’s plan proves that local governments can still take meaningful action against climate change. Municipal action like this also puts pressure on higher levels of government to take action. Furthermore, the plan is a challenge to other cities- what else can cities do to curb the worst impacts of climate change?

Read more from the article here. 

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Sponge Park: Ecosystem-Based Adaptation

Source: Ángel Franco/The New York Times

Source: Ángel Franco/The New York Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new park in New York City provides a great example of ecosystem-based adaptation as non-structural flood mitigation.

From The New York Times: 

“Aptly called Sponge Park, the 2,100-square-foot plot will, when it opens next spring, intercept thousands of gallons of storm water, along with pollutants like heavy metals and dog waste, before they can enter the canal. The park’s absorbent qualities come from flood-tolerant plantings like asters, Rosa rugosa and sedge grass, as well as a network of sand beds and soils designed to hold water.

“The park is part of a larger effort in New York City and urban areas across the country to prevent polluted storm water from flowing directly into rivers or overloading sewage treatment plants. With combined storm-sewer systems like New York’s, in which one set of pipes handles both sewage and storm water, even moderate rainfall can overwhelm treatment plants, causing raw sewage to spew into waterways.

“Each year across the city, nearly 30 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted storm water are discharged from hundreds of pipes into local waterways when sewage plants are overwhelmed. Such overflows can occur up to 75 times a year, according to the environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council, and are the most serious challenge to water quality in the New York area, preventing rivers and bays from meeting federal standards for swimming, fishing and wildlife habitats.”

Read more from the article here. 

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ACT ED Profiled in SFU Public Policy Magazine

debACT’s Executive Director Deb Harford was interviewed for the Winter issue of the SFU School of Public Policy Magazine.

Deb discusses how ACT got started and how it has evolved since its inception. One exciting point is that climate change adaptation did not used to be a pressing concern for many in Canada, but with ACT’s help that has changed:

“When ACT was established almost a decade ago, few in Canada were talking openly at a policy level about climate change. Since then this has changed dramatically, with most governments now engaged in risk assessments and development of adaptation policies. I point to BC, Ontario and Quebec as three major provincial players, and there are many more at the municipal level. There is now a much wider general level of awareness and a greater level of expertise at the practitioner level.

“Adaptation to climate change used to be viewed primarily as a planning problem, but now it’s also seen as a policy problem. I’m proud to say that ACT was ahead of the curve on this. From early on, ACT’s role has been showing the signposts – pointing out the directions that policy makers should take in addressing the necessary adaptations to climate change.”

Deb also highlights some of ACT’s current work. The most exciting recent ACT news is the release of our book, The Climate Nexus: Water, Food, Energy and Biodiversity in a Changing World. Click here to learn more about this new book. 

Read the rest of Deb’s interview here. 

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Read Now: Report on Columbia River Treaty Workshop October 7th

columbiareport

On October 7th of this year, ACT in partnership with the Canadian Water Resources Association hosted a one-day workshop on the Columbia River Treaty.

This workshop was titled “Columbia River Treaty: Past, Present and Future” and featured expert presentations and panel discussions on social, political, legal and environmental issues related to the treaty, with a special focus on the Okanagan valley as a sub-basin of the Columbia River.

The Proceedings and Outcomes Report from that workshop is now available for online reading or PDF download. Click here to access this report. 

ACT continues to work on issues related to the Columbia River Treaty. Stay tuned for future updates as this work proceeds.

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After Paris: What’s Next for Canada?

Source: The Globe and Mail

Source: The Globe and Mail

Now that the Paris agreement has been reached, what will Canada do domestically to keep its promises?

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna will now turn to working with the provinces and territories to establish a national plan, as well as meeting with North American partners.

From The Globe and Mail:

“The federal government has given itself a tight deadline of 90 days to thrash out the thorny economic and environmental issues before a first ministers’ meeting that will establish a Canada-wide approach to climate change.

“At the same time, Ottawa says it will be working with the United States and Mexico toward a continental deal. Canadian governments of various political stripes have long sought to have the U.S., in particular, on board for major new environmental rules in order to avoid placing Canadian industry at a disadvantage.”

Continue reading the article here. 

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Bill McKibben: Falling short on climate

Source: The New York Times; Judy Kaufmann

Source: The New York Times; Judy Kaufmann

The big climate news from this past week happened in Paris. Or did it?

Bill McKibben reminds us that, while world leaders gathered in Paris and spent two weeks arguing over the slightest of word choices, climate disasters have continued to affect people around the world. In Chennai, India, hundreds of people died due to massive flooding.

The agreement reached in Paris is a start, but it’s not nearly enough if we want to genuinely protect and preserve humanity and the planet.

From the New York Times:

“So the world emerges, finally, with something like a climate accord, albeit unenforceable. If all parties kept their promises, the planet would warm by an estimated 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.5 degrees Celsius, above preindustrial levels. And that is way, way too much. We are set to pass the 1 degree Celsius mark this year, and that’s already enough to melt ice caps and push the sea level threateningly higher.”

Now, we need to pressure our leaders to not only uphold their Paris promises, but also to take even further action above and beyond these promises.

Read more from the article here.

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COP21: Negotiations to extend past official deadline

People demonstrate in front of a replica Eiffel Tower at COP21 as world leaders negotiate overnight. Source: ABC; Photo: Reuters, Stephane Mahe

People demonstrate in front of a replica Eiffel Tower at COP21 as world leaders negotiate overnight. Source: ABC; Photo: Reuters, Stephane Mahe

As the official climate talks in COP21 come to a close, negotiators expect to continue working on a global deal.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, host of the conference, said that he expects to have a text by Saturday December 12th at 7:00 pm, Paris time.

From ABC:

“Mr Fabius said the talks had been extended into another weekend as it was taking longer than expected to overcome disputes.

He insisted the atmosphere was positive and significant progress had been made on Friday on some key issues.”

Read more here. 

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Oil sands worker urges transition to clean energy

Suncor oil sands mechanic Ken Smith speaks to "One Million Climate Jobs" event at COP21 summit in Paris on Thursday. Source: the National Observer; photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

Suncor oil sands mechanic Ken Smith speaks to “One Million Climate Jobs” event at COP21 summit in Paris on Thursday. Source: the National Observer; photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

At COP21 in Paris, an oil sands worker from Alberta is urging a transition off of fossil fuels.

Ken Smith, a 55-year-old Suncor heavy equipment mechanic and head of Unifor Local 707A, spoke about the need to protect the environment while also ensuring oil sands workers still have jobs and can provide for their daily needs.

From the National Observer:

“We’re going to need some kind of transition. We’ve moved out there, we’ve invested in that industry —and when it ends, we’re going to be left holding the bag,” said Smith, who had relocated his family to Alberta from Bathurst, New Brunswick in 2013. Smith’s message comes amid news reports that suicide rates in Alberta had jumped 30 per cent in the wake of mounting job losses.

“Our employers will move on to the next shiny thing they see and make another billion dollars —but where are our workers going to go?”

Smith raised eyebrows in the room when he said he’s the union president for 3,500 oil workers in the heart of Alberta’s Big Oil country. Many workers’ attitudes have shifted, he said, and know climate change is real and dangerous.

“Ten years ago, there was nothing but resistance from our workers. ‘This can go on forever, and it’s not so bad.’ But the science doesn’t lie, and we keep watching television. Last summer, northern Alberta and northern Saskatchewan were on fire. We’re seeing stranger and stranger weather.”

Smith’s voice brings an important perspective to the conversation. Some people assume oil and gas workers don’t care about the environment; others think that transitioning off of fossil fuels will inherently bring massive job losses. Smith’s argument proves that both of these positions are wrong, as we can transition in a just way.

Read more from the article here. 

For more on the transition to a low-carbon economy here in BC, check out ACT’s work on the topic here.

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Global warming emissions may be in decline

emissions

Source: VICE News; Photo by Frank Robichon/EPA

According to a new article posted in Nature Climate Change, global carbon dioxide emissions may be in decline for the first time in 15 years.

From VICE News: 

“The study, which was the tenth of its kind published by this team of researchers, showed that CO2 emissions from the consumption of fossil fuel and cement production grew by a mere 0.6 percent in 2014, compared with 2.4 percent annual growth for the decade before.

“Our results are a welcome change from the trajectory of the last 15 years or so,” said Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford and lead author on the study. “This is the first time we’ve seen a likely decline in the presence of strong global economic growth.”

Read more from the article here. 

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Gates, Branson, Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Ma Launch Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Image Credit: Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Image Credit: Breakthrough Energy Coalition

“We need innovation that gives us energy that’s cheaper than today’s hydrocarbon energy, that has zero CO2 emissions, and that’s as reliable as today’s overall energy system. And when you put all those requirements together, we need an energy miracle,”Bill Gates recently told The Atlantic.

Luckily, what The Atlantic article called Gates’ “solo global lobbying campaign,” is starting to snowball. The political outcomes of the United Nations climate conference, COP21, may still be unknown, but at least we can expect substantial investment in clean energy following major announcements from earlier this week.

Some of the world’s richest and most influential people committed to support the commercialization of clean energy ideas as part of the newly formed Breakthrough Energy Coalition. Meanwhile, over 20 countries will participate in Mission Innovation, a commitment to double their governmental and/or state-directed clean energy research and development investment over five years.

Gates spearheaded the Coalition, and is joined by 26 other investors from 10 countries. Among them: Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin GroupMark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, CEO of The Primary School;Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of AmazonJack Ma, Founder and CEO of Alibaba GroupMarc Benioff, Founder and CEO of SalesforceReid Hoffman, Founder ofLinkedIn and Partner at GreylockMukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Indian megacorp Reliance Industries LimitedMeg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard; and Saudia Arabian HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

“The world needs to be carbon neutral by 2050. This CAN and HAS to be achieved by governments, business and others coming together to create an energy revolution. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will help make this a reality,” Branson is quoted on the Coalition’s website. “The next decade presents a great opportunity to invest in businesses and technology aimed at tackling climate change. We must produce an abundance of clean, renewable energy and drive further innovation to make the next generation of energy more efficient. It will benefit the environment, our society and the economy.”

Continue reading here.

 

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Exciting news from Paris: Canada in favour of 1.5C warming limit

minister_catherine_mckenna_paris_-_mychaylo_prystupa_mg_596_w3000

Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna in Paris last week. Source: The National Observer; photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

In a surprising turn of events, last night in Paris Canada endorsed a commitment to 1.5 degrees Celcius as the limit for planetary warming. Previously, 2 degrees was the target being discussed.

From the National Observer:

“Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna told a stunned crowd that she wants the Paris agreement to restrict planetary warming to just 1.5 Celsius warming —not two degrees. It was the first time she has made such a statement.

Minister McKenna’s spokesperson confirmed Monday that she supports “including reference in the Paris Agreement to the recognition of the ?need to striving to limit global warming to 1.5, as other parties have said.”

“Canada wants an agreement that is ambitious and that is signed by the greatest number of countries possible.”

Read more from the article here.

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Vulnerable countries demand 1.5C warming limit at COP21

Victims of climate change and rising sea levels demand justice for climate refugees, in Kutubdia island, Bangladesh. Source: The Guardian, Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Barcro

Victims of climate change and rising sea levels demand justice for climate refugees, in Kutubdia island, Bangladesh. Source: The Guardian, Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Barcro

Countries most at risk of climate change impacts, including Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sudan, and Vietnam, are pressuring other world leaders to cap climate warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

From The Guardian:

As more than 140 world leaders made short opening statements on Sunday, 44 countries that are members of the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), along with other vulnerable countries, declared that the 2C goal being backed by all major blocs would seal the fate of hundreds of millions of people in countries like Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sudan and Vietnam.

“Our members are particularly vulnerable to climate extremes and climate change impacts and we are acutely aware of the vanishingly little time remaining to adopt a legally binding climate treaty,” said Thoriq Ibrahim, environment and energy minister of the Maldives and chairman of Aosis.

“We are the countries who will suffer the most from climate change and against whom all the big [negotiating] groups like the US, EU and G77 are aligned. We are the majority: 106 of the 195 countries of the world want this 1.5C target. But there is no democracy here. It’s a power game and the powerful are not on our side,” said the CVF’s spokesman, Saleemul Huq. “We accept it is not realistic, but it is the right thing to do.”

Continue reading the article here. 

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Justin Trudeau at COP21: Canada to focus on science, Indigenous perspectives

Source: DeSmog Canada

Source: DeSmog Canada

At the start of the COP21 meetings in Paris, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a strong statement about Canada’s role in taking climate action.

Trudeau focused on five principles that will guide Canada’s climate policies: strong science, transitioning to a low-carbon economy (including carbon pricing), working with local governments including Indigenous leaders, helping the developing world tackle climate change, and viewing climate change as an opportunity for new ideas.

Watch his speech and read more about it here. 

Throughout the next few weeks, many eyes will be on Trudeau to see how he brings these principles into practice on the world stage.

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Market gardens won’t solve BC’s food challenges

conference

Feast and Famine Workshop. Source: Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

From the Vancouver Sun:

Ted van der Gulik, a former senior engineer in the Ministry of Agriculture who now is president of Partnership for Water Sustainability in B.C., said that protection of farmland — including from port-related development in South Delta — is far more important [than market gardens], along with finding ways to better use water and to bring more irrigation to lands not suitable for growing food.

“I support market gardens, they’re good,” he said. “It’s great to grow food in parking lots, having people grow their own food. Just don’t call them food security. You’re going against food security when you are putting in (to production) two one-acre parking lots and removing 150 hectares of land at the port … getting rid of the last large parcels of agricultural land that we have. The messaging is wrong.”

Continue reading the article here. 

ACT Senior Water Adviser Bob Sandford was the keynote speaker at this event. Bob is also co-author of ACT’s new book, “The Climate Nexus: Water, Food, Energy, and Biodiversity in a Changing World.” Join us to launch our new book tonight: Thursday December 3rd at 6:00 pm, Teck Gallery at SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W Hastings St. 

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