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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
It’s almost that time of year, to start thinking of what’s going in our gardens. Whether you want a guide for growing inside or a coffee-table book of flowers as seen through the lens of fashion, there’s something for everyone. Others on the list include Bunny Mellon, and a look at her transformation of the White House rose garden. Or learn about thoughtful arrangements in Charlotte Moss’ 11th book.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Clean energy: A recent report found that a green transition could displace majority of Canada’s energy workers. Meanwhile, Canada’s hydrogen industry is pushing for natural gas to play a major role in the production of hydrogen as part of climate solution.
- Politics: Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says his pending climate-change plan will go further than the “laundry list” of environmental commitments the party advanced in the last election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called him “disconnected” when it comes to climate. Jagmeet Singh asserted that Liberals talk the talk on climate progress while “their actions go against it.”
- From The Narwhal: Vancouver Island’s Koksilah River watershed and its salmon are in serious decline as it grows increasingly susceptible to the effects of climate change. But it’s not only the fish and land -- the lifestyles and economy of the local Indigenous communities, forestry operations, farmers and homeowners that depend on the waters.
A deeper dive
Not all zeroes are equal
Ryan MacDonald is a senior editor at The Globe heading the climate, environment and resources team
When Jeffrey Jones and I started to discuss the issues around Canadian companies and net zero declarations, the conversation quickly turned to volume.
The number of companies making net zero promises in this country has exploded. Each pledge brings a public-relations push and it has become nearly impossible to assess each one on its merits. For Canadian companies, the very notion of “net zero” is an ambition in need of a definition.
As Jeff’s story reveals, not all zeros are equal. The companies who’ve promised to lighten their carbon footprints have set aspirational targets and deadlines that are all over the map. Are they legitimate attempts to help the planet, or just green signaling?
To help answer the question and get a better sense of where Canadian companies stood in a global context, we turned to our friends at the Institute for Sustainable Finance at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business. The school has undertaken the first comprehensive review of TSX companies’ target and disclosure performance. It’s worth a look.
Jeff’s report and the Queen’s research show there are significant gaps in standards, enforcement and accountability around the notion of net zero. For the club of companies, making these promises, there is more than reputation at risk. There’s also the threat of court action if investors suspect a company didn’t actually believe its net zero target was achievable when it was announced.
Net zero is as much about accountability as it is about emissions. And in that sense, there is another chapter to this story.
One way for companies to meet their obligations is to buy carbon offsets. The federal government has started to roll out its long-promised rules for a domestic carbon offsets market. That means large polluters that exceed the industrial pricing system’s emissions caps will be able to purchase emissions-reductions credits from businesses in other sectors that are investing in new climate-friendly practices. Like net zero claims, many people consider offsets a form of greenwashing.
On a global scale, there will be a similar challenge for governments at the next UN summit on climate (COP26) in Glasgow in November: How to agree on rules that will govern global carbon markets.
For both companies and governments, the world will be watching for who’s following the rules - and who’s not.
What else you missed
- A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019, the same year Ottawa established a national price on carbon.
- A fourth request has been made to the federal government to get involved in the environmental review of a coal mine proposed for Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.
- Two of Canada’s biggest oil producers, said they will set new goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but not pivot away from their core businesses.
- Canada’s largest pipeline companies TC Energy and Enbridge Inc see opportunities in their extensive natural gas businesses as a transition to cleaner energy evolves, their chief executives said on Wednesday.
- Beijing aims to have over 10,000 fuel-cell vehicles on the road and build 74 hydrogen filling stations by 2025.
Opinion and analysis
Konrad Yakabuski: Biden’s electric-vehicle plan is make or break for North American auto industry.
Adam Radwanski: How Ottawa’s program for retrofitting homes showed what’s missing from Canadian climate policy.
Patrick Brethour: Ottawa’s idea of a carbon price plan is straightforward in theory but less so in practice.
Data Dive with Nik Nanos: Will O’Toole be a political Survivor, or will climate-change policy get Tories voted off the island?
Don’t miss out on The Globe’s sustainable finance summit
As countries around the world declare a climate emergency, investors and business leaders are recognizing the challenges and opportunities tied to the global response. At the same time, the global pandemic is raising investor, shareholder and the public’s interest and awareness of social issues and governance.
Join us to learn more about climate risks & opportunities for business leaders and investors
Date: Tuesday April 20, 2021
When: 12:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. ET
presented by HSBC Bank Canada
Each week The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week we’re highlighting the work of Larissa Parker doing environmental law.
Hello! My name is Larissa Parker. I am a 26-year-old law student interested in innovative environmental law and climate litigation, from Toronto. I have been passionate about redressing environmental inequality since I was little. Before law school, I focused my Master’s research on the social and cultural rights impacts of climate change and supporting resilience in Indigenous communities. Over the last three years, I have supported research and advocacy on new frontiers in environmental law. This includes volunteering on youth-led climate litigation cases (e.g. the La Rose case), supporting work on the constitutionality of federal climate policy (in the GGPPA reference), and doing pro bono research for a number of Indigenous communities on the rights of nature to protect natural ecosystems through CPAWS and the Earth Law Centre (e.g. Magpie river).
What I love about these projects is that each one represents a creative attempt to push the envelope on what is possible in a given area of law to better protect the environment. Although the status quo might seemingly limit the type of action one can take, creativity in applying case law and building legal arguments is key to achieving transformative (and inclusive) change.
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
- Standing at the intersection of a global pandemic and environmental racism
- Can you be a capitalist and save the world at the same time?
- Environmental work is for all ages
- Canada hits the ground running in hydrogen race