Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
Let’s start with a piece of news to spark your curiosity: about how Canada’s national science museum has acquired its oldest artifact. About a billion years old, to be precise.
A sample of ancient H20 (yes, water) was drawn from the earth’s crust, deep in the Kidd Creek mine near Timmins, Ont., by University of Toronto geologist Barbara Sherwood Lollar.
The little “message in a bottle” could tell stories about climate change and humankind’s impact on the environment. Though, if the bottle were opened, the water would smell like rotten eggs.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Canada’s clean power puzzle: Provinces sell to the U.S., but not each other
- For the Fraser River delta, a crucial choice looms for species and a way of life
- Opponents say Mi’kmaq fisheries will ‘destroy’ Atlantic lobster. But stocks are booming and no one’s sure why
- Canada’s fossil fuel consumption may have peaked, with renewables growth ahead, regulator says
A deeper dive
Climate change merits a fiscal response, too
Ryan MacDonald is senior editor with the Globe’s climate and environment team.
Today, Ottawa begins dealing with its fiscal reckoning by providing its first economic update since the beginning of the pandemic.
And while the focus is expected to be on short-term issues related to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are relevant questions about the longer term – all this as the Liberal government downplays expectations of its Throne speech commitment to seize a “window of opportunity” to build a greener and more just Canada.
Other countries have delivered budgets and other countries have committed huge stimulus packages to climate goals, recognizing that the pandemic represents a once-in-generation opportunity to embrace the challenges and the opportunities around climate change.
As yet, this government has not put its money where its mouth is on climate policy and its commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The Canada of today is not representative of the economic and environmental reality of the future. To get there, government needs to prioritize its vision and make it so with investments that look to the future, not the past.
Take hydrogen, a relatively clean source of fuel, and the opportunity it represents to power Canada’s future.
Provinces like Alberta, Quebec, British Columbia and now Ontario are pushing ahead with strategies on hydrogen, a fuel that could help immensely with both economic and climate goals – jobs and the environment as the government line goes.
Yet, Ottawa’s promised federal strategy on hydrogen – and the promise of any federal funding – remains stuck at the draft stage.
Governments should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Certainly, near-term spending needs to focus on the pandemic, but Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has an opportunity today to begin to show Canadians how the green, inclusive, equitable recovery will unfold.
Worth reading: The Globe’s Adam Radwanski on why government isn’t talking about its Clean Fuel Standard, one of the single biggest pieces of the government’s plan to exceed Canada’s Paris Agreement target.
Worth watching: The Globe is media sponsor for Corporate Knights’ Fireside Stories for Climate event Dec. 9, featuring Margaret Atwood, David Suzuki, Sheila Watt-Cloutier and Michael Sabia. Radwanski will lead a discussion of how we go from knowledge to action. Register here. corporateknights.com/paristoglasgow
Also read on clean energy
- Tesla’s upstart electric-car business is now worth more than Warren Buffett’s entire empire
- Ontario Power Generation plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040
- Boralex expands green energy reach with wind, solar deals in Quebec, U.S.
What else you missed
Study aims to quantify climate change risks for Canada’s banks, insurers: Canada’s central bank and financial regulator are teaming up with a group of banks and insurance companies to gauge how risks related to climate change and a transition toward a low carbon economy could have an effect on the financial system.
Federal task force to consider a national flood insurance program: The Trudeau government says the flood-related effects of climate change are undeniable, causing property destruction and taking an emotional toll on families.
Youths behind climate lawsuit file appeal after Federal Court rejects case: They had argued the federal government’s inadequate action on climate change is violating their Charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person.
Fisheries ordered to temporarily close as endangered right whales detected off Nova Scotia coast: Fred Whoriskey, executive director at the Ocean Tracking Network, said recent measures to protect the right whales are working.
New Zealand Prime Minister set to declare climate emergency: New Zealand government will put forward a motion to declare the emergency Wednesday — a symbolic step to increase pressure for action to combat global warming.
Opinion and analysis
The Trans Mountain pipeline could soon be Canada’s white elephant
Gary Mason: “The energy market is, at this very moment, undergoing a profound transition. What is difficult to predict is the speed at which it will continue to occur.”
The Wild West era of ESG reporting in Canada needs to come to an end
Jeffrey Jones: “Yes, leadership is needed, and it should also be coming from government or regulators that can decide on a standard the financial and corporate worlds can agree on - and see that companies meet it.”
Norway’s electric car subsidies: A lot of money for not a lot of gain
Eric Reguly: “No country, no city, needs more cars. What they need is fewer cars and credible reductions in carbon emissions. The Norway plan, so far, has done neither – at great expense.”
Here’s what readers had to say
IsabellavalancyC: “Thank heavens Calgary has a lot of green space. I could not imagine being in the core of Toronto during the pandemic.”
Jack Canuck: “Canadian cities need to foster a sense of community, based on liveability and sustainability not simply to be hotel rooms for millions, and should not be controlled by developers and their municipal council friends....”
Res ipsa loquitor: “The Portlands could be this generation’s High Park or Toronto Islands Park. Our current civic and community leaders lack vision unlike the ones that brought us these two great parks.”
Each week The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week we’re highlighting the work of students who entered the UBC climate contest.
At the University of British Columbia, students concerned about climate change have looked into the future of sustainability at the Vancouver campus, hoping to provide inspiration.
The UBC Sustainability Initiative received more than 40 entries in a contest for students to submit ideas to help fight climate change and address other environmental issues. Five winning entries have been selected in envisaging what UBC might look like in 2030.
“One reason for continued hope is the ideas and energy of students at UBC,” said the initiative, which manages UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability. “Ideas focused on campus, but they also expanded into life beyond UBC.”
UBC received a wide range of entries for the #UBC2030 competition. Judges said they had a hard time choosing only five prize recipients.
- Brent Jang
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
- Ottawa creates legally binding climate targets. Sort of.
- The future of our cities also needs to be green
- Joe Biden will change the calculus of Canadian climate policy
- How the U.S. election will shape Canadian climate policy