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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
Before we jump into our Canadian news, we have some special content from our Asia correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe who is leaving China.
Over two decades, Beijing rerouted rivers to bring more water to the northern regions where half of Chinese people live. It was a success – and only the beginning of a struggle against other environmental challenges.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- In renewable energy news (and lack of), Adam Radwanski writes about Ontario increasing reliance on natural gas as others move away from fossil fuels. meanwhile, Air Products and Chemicals Inc. is planning to build a $1.3-billion hydrogen plant in Alberta as the oil and gas industry seeks net-zero emissions
- From ROB Magazine’s list of Canada’s top growing companies: How this LED company envisions an even brighter future post pandemic.
- From The Narwhal: The vibrant landscapes of Yukon’s Dawson region are at the heart of Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin culture — but also the territory’s bustling placer mining industry. A much-anticipated draft plan will finally signal what’s in store for the 40,000 square-kilometre, ecologically sensitive landscape
- News: New and expanded thermal-coal mines are highly unlikely to get the green light under a policy change announced by the federal government, throwing into jeopardy Alberta-based Vista coal-mine expansion project’s plan to vastly expand its mine in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
- Long read In Montreal’s urban parks, hunting is largely legal – but locals are pressing to change that. Now, with more locals taking advantage of the outdoors during a long spell of restaurant and business lockdowns, the risk of an accident seems greater than ever.
A deeper dive
Alberta’s energy transition
Ryan MacDonald is a senior editor at The Globe heading the climate, environment and resources team.
The end of the Keystone pipeline marks a turning point for the energy sector in Alberta, even if Premier Jason Kenney won’t admit it.
Last week, TC Energy Corp said it was terminating the Keystone XL pipeline, ending a 13-year regulatory odyssey that saw the proposed pipeline blocked twice by former president Barack Obama and revived by his successor Donald Trump. Joe Biden pulled its permit as one of his first official acts as U.S. President.
The project’s cancellation is a blow to Alberta, whose economy has struggled in the face of constrained pipeline access. The Alberta government bought an ownership stake in the pipeline last year.
And for the journalists who have been following this pipeline saga for years, there is no joy in seeing yet another blow to Alberta’s economy.
The Globe’s Jeffrey Jones told me his very first column for the Globe was about Keystone. That was more than a decade ago. In that time, the market – and the world – has evolved, with the growing realization that a transition from fossil fuels is under way. Jeff now writes about ESG and sustainable finance issues for the Globe.
The day TC Energy pulled the plug was marked by a growing realization that the transition from fossil fuels is under way. Five of Canada’s largest oil sands producers announced plans to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 by sharing technology and employing carbon capture.
As Jeff writes, these companies are not taking their cues from protesters on their doorsteps, but from investors who are worried about the risks presented by the transition to cleaner energy, including write-downs and stranded assets.
In another move on the same day, Air Products and Chemicals Inc. unveiled plans to build a $1.3-billion plant in Edmonton to produce hydrogen derived from natural gas. The company is in talks with the Alberta and federal governments for incentives for the facility, which is being designed to also be carbon-neutral.
Some see this plan to create “blue” hydrogen as just another fossil fuel – and a way for companies to greenwash themselves; others see it as a step in the right direction.
Mr. Kenney, Alberta’s Premier, says hydrogen and carbon capture will be crucial to the province’s economic future. At the same time, Mr. Kenney also says his government is working on a legal strategy to recoup losses from the failed Keystone XL pipeline.
Between those two statements you can see that the energy transition is well under way in Alberta. With a skilled workforce and the need for a range of new technologies, it’s going to be fascinating to watch it unfold.
Also worth reading: Pembina Pipeline joins Indigenous effort to buy Trans Mountain
What else you missed
- As climate change threatens coral reefs around the world, conservation experts in Latin America have enlisted an unlikely ally to try to preserve them: the insurance industry.
- Exxon Mobil Corp has lost two veteran crude oil traders from its U.S. energy trading group and a third is leaving its British unit, according to people familiar with the matter, in a continued exodus of top talent from the oil major.
- A critical Antarctic glacier is looking more vulnerable as satellite images show the ice shelf that blocks it from collapsing into the sea is breaking up much faster than before and spawning huge icebergs, a new study says.
Opinion and analysis
Mark Hume: Fish are caught in the middle of the catch-and-release debate
Suzanne Simard: The destruction of the last old growth forests has to stop. We must protect the mother trees
Thomas Homer-Dixon and Duane Froese: Canada’s thawing permafrost should be raising alarm bells in the battle against climate change
Is Canada ready for more rigid rules on disclosing emissions?
A theme has emerged with two thorny aspects of global finance: As goes tax policy, so goes climate. Climate change is at the top of the G7 agenda, as commitments its members made under the Paris Agreement draw ever closer. And the tax moves look to be a good one.
The G7 agreed on several climate-related proposals, including moving to mandatory disclosures of emissions consistent with the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. A big question is whether Canada, its economy heavily dependent on natural resource extraction and exports, is ready to join in developing much tougher international rules for documenting and slashing emissions. An even bigger one: Is Canada able to live by them?
Also read: CPPIB expands bet on Colorado fracking by joining new venture
Each week The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week we’re highlighting the work of Megan de Graaf doing forest ecology and farming.
Hi, I’m Megan de Graaf, 39, from southern New Brunswick
As a forest ecologist, and as a farm and forest owner in southern New Brunswick, I spend a lot of time thinking about and working with trees. In fact, as the forest program director at Community Forests International, I get to spend every day tackling the hardest and most tangled questions around forests, communities, and climate change.
Knowing just how valuable healthy and diverse forests are as a nature-based climate solution, I create projects that both protect standing forests and support the rural communities that rely on those forests. I also strive to understand the projected effects of climate change on forests and help other forest professionals and landowners do the same; most recently, this work has been focused on translating scientific research into applied science by designing climate-adaptive silviculture tools to give forest professionals and landowners the resources they need to manage their forests for increased climate resilience and carbon storage.
Do you know an engaged individual? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.
Photo of the week
Catch up on Globe Climate
- How can nature repair the planet?
- Oil, political connections, protests and elephants
- Behind the story of thwarted efforts to help steelhead trout
- Don’t underestimate the power of the garden