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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
What does your kettle show you about your WFH carbon footprint? More than you might think.
The International Energy Agency draws this comparison to highlight the relatively small impact online streaming has on the environment – and how Canada’s commitment to 100-per-cent clean energy by 2025 plays an important role for managing future demands of the tech sector.
Learn more about how much emissions you could be creating by reading this on your screen right now.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Trans Mountain Corp. wants the federal energy regulator to let it keep the name of its insurer secret, arguing that public pressure on insurance companies over environmental concerns in the oil sector has already made it harder and more expensive to insure the pipeline expansion.
- Opinion from Adam Radwanski: Engaging with China on climate policy isn’t appealing, but it’s necessary. It stands to be even more difficult for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, given how Canada has been affected by China’s recent conduct.
- The bison are back in town: Before colonization, bison sustained Indigenous people of the Prairies, but then their herds dwindled, disappeared or were hybridized with cattle. Now, Poundmaker Cree Nation and a handful of other bands are helping purebred animals make a comeback.
A deeper dive
Canada’s hydrogen moment is here
Ryan MacDonald is a senior editor at The Globe heading the climate, environment and resources team.
With all the hype surrounding hydrogen as a climate saviour, it’s important to remember that scale counts.
As Adam Radwanski and Emma Graney report, Canada and Germany will sign an energy co-operation agreement with hydrogen at the centre of considerations. The prospect of a country like Germany looking to import Canadian hydrogen is, to say the least, a dream come true for this country’s nascent hydrogen industry.
But there’s a hitch.
The Germans aren’t exactly keen on what Canada is selling. Canada’s “hydrogen strategy” has emphasized “blue” hydrogen. That means producing the element from natural gas or other fossil fuels, while using carbon-capture technology to minimize emissions from the process – and supporting Western Canada’s struggling resource sector in the process.
Germany is mostly interested in importing “green” hydrogen, which is derived from non-fossil fuel sources and thus considered emissions-free. A report on Canada’s hydrogen potential commissioned by the German government is critical of Ottawa’s blue-hydrogen focus. There is some acknowledgement, however, that as green hydrogen gets up to scale, blue hydrogen will be a limited-time transition fuel.
Similarly, The Globe’s European bureau chief, Eric Reguly, believes the rollout of green hydrogen at scale will be a lot slower than advertised. But that hasn’t stopped companies from picking their spots as they try to capitalize on the transition from blue to green.
Plug Power, a fast-growing U.S. maker of hydrogen fuel cells has signed a deal to produce green hydrogen by using hydroelectricity from Brookfield Renewable Partners LP’s Holtwood power plant in Pennsylvania.
For Plug and Brookfield, the agreement at Holtwood signals a leap forward as there are only a handful of green hydrogen projects operating today in North America.
Plug’s chief strategy officer Sanjay Shrestha told the Globe’s Brent Jang he believes the green hydrogen economy will emerge in the not-too-distant future, with renewable power costs dropping around the world.
“It’s real because as we keep on decarbonizing the electric grid and as prices for renewable power keep going down, the cost of green hydrogen would continue to go down.”
What else you missed
- The federal government has pledged to ban several single-use plastics by the end of this year and these Canadian companies have joined the fight to curb plastic consumption.
- Two of southern Alberta’s largest First Nations have asked the federal government to step into an environmental review of a coal mine proposed for the Rocky Mountains.
- The Alberta Energy Regulator says Land Petroleum International Inc. has been ordered to pay an $80,000 fine for failing to allow AER staff access to a natural gas processing plant to inspect it in August, 2018.
- The 30th anniversary of one of the most successful environmental treaties ever reached holds lessons for today’s fight against climate change, says Brian Mulroney, who negotiated the deal.
- Whistler’s hydrogen-bus pilot paved the way for more than 3,000 hydrogen buses on roads worldwide today, even though the zero-emissions fleet was sold and replaced with natural-gas-powered buses.
Opinion and analysis
Alberta wants Ottawa to invest billions in carbon capture. That might not be a bad idea.
Editorial board: “Carbon capture, long seen as an expensive detour, may be on the verge of becoming a viable road to the low-carbon future. If it proves cheaper than other options, it should be used. But if it isn’t? It should be avoided.”
Alberta and Ottawa can bridge gap between economic concerns and climate goals
Kelly Cryderman: “But these days, there are quiet signs the province is looking beyond the high court’s decision – win or lose – to work with Ottawa on a more nuanced take on the climate file, focusing on industrial emissions.”
Annual meeting season is approaching, and executives and directors will face questions and criticism from shareholders on how they are handling environmental, social and governance issues that present tough-to-quantify risks to their bottom lines, and in turn to investor returns.
As highlighted by NEI Investments, one of the main themes of importance to various companies this year is the energy transition, targeting net-zero emission commitments, adherence to global climate reporting and disclosure standards as well as plastics manufacturing, use and recycling.
The role of the banks in the fight against climate change is also looming ever larger as investors and the public demand action. Increasingly, demands are getting results around the world. The latest example? When HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, managed to head off a May showdown with 15 major institutional investors by agreeing to a compromise over demands to strengthen its climate policies.
Each week The Globe will profile someone making a difference in Canada. This week we’re highlighting the work of Ginny Colling doing climate work in her retirement.
What do you do in your retirement? I’ve had no problem answering that question since leaving college teaching and training with Al Gore through his Climate Reality Leadership Corp. Since 2017, I’ve given about 30 climate presentations adapted to various special interests, whether gardening, nature, Indigenous issues, the economy or human rights.
I am a member of the Kawartha Lakes Environmental Advisory Committee. And for the last global Fridays for Future march, I helped a group in Port Perry organize a climate march that led to ongoing marches by a group that formed Scugog Climate Action Now.
Lately, I’ve broadened my focus on other issues around climate disruption. We are losing our insects, birds and mammals at an alarming rate.
Managing our own backyards to enhance nature and biodiversity has become a new interest of mine. Planting native plants and trees and avoiding exotics help. Using low-till, low-impact gardening helps. For other gardening tips, check out the podcast: Down the Garden Path.
Yes, we need to use our voices and our votes to move fast enough on our climate challenges. But we also need to say “yes, in my backyard.”
Do you know an engaged young person? 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
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
- Why the world should see opportunity in carbon capture
- Change makers said something needs to be done. They’re doing it.
- Can Canada electrify everything?
- Books for a better planet