Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
Before getting started, don’t miss our coming event, The Climate Effect: a part of The Future of Farming Series. The Globe’s Climate, Environment and Resources editor Ryan MacDonald, along with special guests, will outline what climate change means for Canada’s food supply, and explore approaches to more sustainable and secure production.
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- Date: Wednesday, Jan. 27
- Time: 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST
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Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Canada’s third-largest pension plan and one of its most influential institutional investors says it will boost investments in climate-friendly assets. But the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board still has no plan to immediately divest its sizable fossil-fuel holdings as part of a new goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its portfolio by 2050.
- Damage to the environment from climate change, extreme weather and biodiversity loss is the main danger in the coming years, the World Economic Forum says.
- The 68-storey tower at 40 King St. W. now stands apart as Canada’s largest zero carbon certified building.
A deeper dive
America will be a leader in the climate fight – and that changes everything
Climate columnist Adam Radwanski and The Globe’s energy and politics reporters weighed in on what lies ahead
And for the past four years, Donald Trump’s lack of interest made Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the continental leader on climate policy. Now, Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden, both have hefty goals for tackling climate change as well as boosting the economy.
But even after the first day of his presidency, Biden has made the pressure shift, and it will be especially acute in Canada, which tends to judge itself against its behemoth neighbour.
Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline within hours of taking office, ending a controversial project that had been on and off for more than 12 years. However, the biggest surprise was how surprising this was to many Canadians given his long-stated opposition to the project.
If anything, Trudeau should be concerned about the U.S. hurting Canada’s competitive position by moving too quickly. And new rules around reducing emissions could push the federal government here to do likewise if it wants to keep Canadian oil and gas competitive.
But if they start getting on the same page, they could find benefit in agreeing to common standards or targets for the next United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November.
Under Trump, other world leaders who prioritized greenhouse-gas reduction did so in spite of Washington. Now, Trudeau may need to worry about keeping pace, not least to avoid this country’s burgeoning clean-technology sectors from being left behind.
Moving forward, the White House will not only join the effort, but wield its moral authority to expedite change in a way that it hasn’t even under previous Democratic occupants. That changes everything.
- Gary Mason: “Mr. Biden is putting climate change atop his domestic agenda and Keystone does not fit into that.”
- Kelly Cryderman: “Mr. Kenney is calling for Ottawa to launch a trade war but the federal government is signalling it will accept the Biden administration order to focus on areas where the two governments can find alignment.”
What else you missed
- Methane leaking out of the more than four million abandoned oil and gas wells is a far greater contributor to climate change than government estimates suggest, researchers from McGill University said. Canada has underestimated methane emissions by as much as 150 per cent.
- Norway expects to award oil and gas exploration permits in frontier regions of the Arctic in the second quarter. Environmental groups say the country’s hunt for Arctic oil and gas contradicts its international commitments to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.
- Coal mining is already having an impact in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains as debate intensifies over the industry’s presence in one of the province’s most beloved landscapes.
- Even without Keystone XL, the U.S. is still set to pull in record imports of Canadian oil in coming years through other pipelines that are in the midst of expanding.
- Boeing Co. said it will begin delivering commercial airplanes capable of flying on 100-per-cent biofuel by the end of the decade. The plan is also central to a broader industry target of slashing carbon emissions in half by 2050.
- The cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline is a major setback for Canadian Indigenous people, says Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Chiefs. He leads the group that promotes Indigenous participation in oil and gas development as a solution to poverty on reserves.
Opinion and analysis
It’s time to reveal the hidden value of Canada’s natural assets
Bailey Church and Natalia Moudrak: “Our country’s natural assets offer a hidden wealth that should be reflected in government financial statements, especially in the face of rising costs of extreme-weather disasters and rising debt levels caused by the pandemic.”
First Nations and ESG standards
A group of First Nations with resource-development projects on their traditional territories is calling for a new approach to environmental, social and governance standards (ESG), saying existing systems have been developed without Indigenous input. A paper on the topic called Indigenous Sustainable Investment: Discussing Opportunities in ESG was commissioned by the First Nations Major Projects Coalition.
“You have the situation now where Indigenous people are having the sustainability standards to our land, our waters, our social aspects – all decided by somebody else, and it’s just gotten away on everybody,” says Mark Podlasly, director for economic policy and initiatives of the FNMPC and one of the authors of the paper.
Each week, The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week, we’re highlighting the work of Peter McCartney doing climate campaigning.
My name is Peter McCartney, I’m a 29-year old climate campaigner for the Vancouver-based Wilderness Committee. My work involves confronting new fossil-fuel infrastructure like the Trans Mountain pipeline and LNG Canada projects, in order to prevent us locking in dangerous levels of carbon pollution. I’m also a Climate Reality Leader who frequently speaks to youth groups about how to tackle climate change.
I’m often asked what the most important thing people can do to solve this crisis, with the expectation I’ll talk about limiting air travel, going vegetarian or buying an electric car. But my answer is always that this is a collective problem and it cannot be solved with individual actions alone. For me, the best thing someone can do is to figure out what skills they have to offer and how they can use them to build the postcarbon society we need. Whether that means getting involved in politics, creating art that inspires action or engineering solutions to slash emissions, this will be a life-long effort for us all.
Do you know an engaged young person? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? E-mail us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.
Photo of the week
Guides and Explainers
- We’ve rounded up our reporters’ content to help you learn about sustainable ways to live life at home, travel, invest and generally to learn about our species at risk.
- If you like to read, here are books to help the environmentalist in you grow, as well as a downloadable e-book of Micro skills - Little Steps to Big Change.
Catch up on Globe Climate
- Keystone is just the beginning for the Biden team
- Ottawa will still have plenty of gaps to fill in its 2021 climate plan
- A policy primer on Canada’s long-awaited climate plan
- The federal climate plan is belated, bold and brash all at the same time