Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, the environment and resources in Canada.
The demands of daily life can really add up when it comes to our eco footprint. While in pandemic lockdown, maybe you’ve had a chance to take a closer look at your day-to-day habits and what you might change to help reduce your impact on the planet. It’s possible to make Earth-friendly adjustments at home without taking away from the things you enjoy – you just need to know where to start.
This week, we’ve gathered tips, ideas and resources to help you become more sustainable at home, whether it’s in the clothes you buy, the food you eat or the type of garden you plant. Read the full guide here.
Now, let’s catch you up on the news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- New oil sands projects in Alberta will no longer require government approval under a sweeping set of changes tabled in the province’s legislature. Instead, the final decision on approvals would be made by the Alberta Energy Regulator, reversing decades of government policy in the province. Bill 22 would also scrap the agency responsible for energy efficiency programs.
- Canada is starting to come under some serious peer pressure to use recovery spending to accelerate the shift away from cars and trucks powered by fossil fuels. Among the countries prioritizing a transition to a lower-emissions economy, especially in Europe, electric vehicles are emerging as an early target of stimulus funds aimed at rebuilding economies shut down by COVID-19. But for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, the calculus on electric-vehicle supports is more uncertain than it is for other governments.
- Trans Mountain says oil is flowing again through its pipeline after as much as 190,000 litres of light crude spilled from a pumping facility in Abbotsford, B.C. While an investigation is ongoing, the Crown-owned company said in a statement that the cause of the spill appears to be related to a fitting on a 2.5-centimetre piece of pipe. Meanwhile, Russia has charged the head of the remote Arctic city of Norilsk with criminal negligence over what investigators say was his bungled response to a huge fuel spill.
A deeper dive
Federal government, province of Alberta develop new hydrogen strategies
Emma Graney is an energy reporter in The Globe’s Calgary bureau, and Kelly Cryderman is a reporter and columnist also based in Calgary. For this week’s deeper dive, they take a look at hydrogen as governments try to pivot their energy systems.
Hydrogen has been hailed as a saviour fuel before, but the gas is getting a new boost thanks to a global shift toward net-zero emissions goals.
Energy-dense and versatile, hydrogen is also the lightest chemical element, making it tricky – and costly – to transport and handle.
But rapid improvements in production technology have governments around the world giving the fuel a second look as they figure out how to pivot their energy systems to meet emissions targets. That includes Canada, where the federal government is following in the footsteps of other nations with plans to release a hydrogen strategy by the end of the summer. Alberta is developing a strategy of its own, as is British Columbia.
It’s hard to say at this point what those roadmaps will look like, but it’s clear hydrogen is increasingly being eyed as a crucial part of the energy mix as we move toward cleaner technologies.
As the International Energy Agency points out, if hydrogen is going to play a role in the world’s energy transition, it will have to be adopted in sectors where it’s currently almost completely absent – think transport, buildings and power generation.
Our big takeaway? Anyone with an eye on energy might have to pay closer attention to hydrogen, something that hasn’t been the case in 20 years.
–Emma and Kelly
Bill targets environmental racism in Canada
Environmental racism is the disproportionate placement of polluting industries near minority – most often Indigenous and Black – communities, which can lead to serious health issues and other social detriments.
Now, the issue is making its way through the House of Commons.
Bill C-230, also known as the National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act, was introduced as a private member’s bill by Nova Scotia MP Lenore Zann. Should the bill pass, Canada would create a national strategy to promote efforts across the country to redress the harm caused by environmental racism.
Once Parliament resumes, it could be a matter of weeks before Bill C-230 is brought to second reading. Even though private member’s bills don’t usually become law, Ms. Zann is optimistic. And even if it doesn’t pass, she hopes it will at least force politicians to talk about it.
What else you need to know
- Bangladesh leads climate-threatened nations in push for climate action: As Dhaka takes the helm of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 48 countries vulnerable to rising seas and extreme weather, it also wants to help address the issue of people displaced by climate change.
- Wayward humpback whale in Montreal found dead in St. Lawrence: Preliminary results from the medical examination of the young whale, found dead Tuesday after making a rare visit to the Montreal area, suggest the animal was struck by a boat.
- Brazil deforested 10,000 square km of Amazon rainforest in 2019: Protection of the Amazon is vital to curbing climate change, scientists say, because of the vast amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs.
- Ottawa and grain farmers remain far apart over the impact of carbon tax: Grain farmers are adamant the government was wrong when it concluded this week that grain farmers were, at most, paying $819 a year in carbon tax to dry their corn, wheat, barley and other grains. One farmer from St. Isidore, Ont., said his tab was $8,500 last fall – and he’s not alone.
- Alberta First Nations asking to appeal suspension of monitoring in oil patch: Alberta’s Opposition leader called on Monday for the head of the province’s energy regulator to resign over the environmental monitoring suspensions.
Opinion and analysis
Fixing the coronavirus crisis doesn’t mean sacrificing climate goals
Eric Reguly: “In time, the COVID-19 pandemic will go away, as all pandemics do. When it does, we will still have a warming planet. Why make the climate problem worse by not using the virus crisis to reduce our collective carbon footprint?”
Without the clarity they need, Alberta’s oil sands producers are being set up to fail
Grant Bishop: “Canada’s beleaguered oil patch does have cause for anger. But petroleum producers know that no problem was ever solved by yelling into the wind – and so it will need to lean on its long record of innovation around the problems being laid at their feet.”
The ocean is on the brink of collapse. Trump pushed it even closer to the edge
Here’s what readers had to say
In last week’s newsletter, we published a story titled Ontario draft plans hint at cutbacks in blue-box service once private sector takes over. Readers had a lot to say, and we’re sharing some of their comments below.
- Commentary: They need to start at the front end of the process not just the back end - reduced and more environmentally appropriate packaging. Industry needs to be forced to align. It is ridiculous how much packaging is surrounding products we buy. We are now entering a world of e-commerce and deliveries with Covid, so the province better figure it out and not pass the burden on to the taxpayer to pay directly.
- Billy112: Makes sense. Asia doesn’t want our plastic ‘recyclables’ anymore. It will likely end up in the trash anyway, but at higher expense than the regular garbage stream of curbside pick-up.
- Vandebop1: Because privatization has worked so well in other areas! Not. It might be better to put the onus on the businesses to provide less packaging. Has Covid-19 taught us nothing about how private businesses care only for profit?
- Kbaumgart: I guess you don’t mind paying higher prices at grocery stores. All that does is increase the cost of running grocery stores. Now they would have to deal with the returns, storage & transportation of empty water bottles.That means more labor costs, more storage costs & more shipping costs. I’m sure grocery stores will do all that for free right! Because the deposit goes back to the individual upon return. If it doesn’t the consumer won’t be returning the empties, they will go into the garbage instead.
Each week, The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week, we’re highlighting the work of climate activist Sophia Mathur.
I began environmental lobbying to politicians at the age of 7, and I’ve have gone all the way to the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament with the organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby. I truly embraced Greta Thunberg’s call for youth climate action and was the first youth in the Americas to do Fridays for Future strikes starting in November 2018. I was proud to win the 2019 Canadian National Museum of Nature Youth Inspiration Award. I am one of seven young people taking Doug Ford’s government to court for weakening Ontario’s 2030 climate target, with Ecojustice. I was one of four youth featured in the documentary CitizenKid: Earth Comes First, to be aired nationally in Canada on YTV on World Environment Day – June 5, 2020. Most recently, the UN Environmental Program hosted an online broadcast event in Stockholm and invited my Sudbury Fridays for Future group to close out the meeting with a Zoom call involving local MPs, MPPs, the mayor and a Senator to demonstrate how to be an activist during a pandemic.
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
- We’ve rounded up our reporters’ content to help you learn about sustainable ways to 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.