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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
This week is the Ontario election. Globe climate change policy columnist Adam Radwanski has written about climate policy in Ontario, checking out the biggest environmental issues facing the province and how the parties have proposed handling them. He breaks it down for us in the Vote of Confidence newsletter, read it here before election day on June 2.
We also take a deeper look at how the construction of Highway 413 would negatively affect the environment, not help it.
Also: Search by party with The Narwhal to compare the different approaches of their election platforms.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Food: Fake meat was touted as the ‘future of food’ and seemed an ideal solution to much of the world’s food sustainability problems, Why did it fail to deliver?
- Forestry: Once sidelined from forestry in their traditional territory, Huu-ay-aht First Nations are now a significant player with plans to expand
- Space: Canadian firm that tracks methane leaks from orbit launches three more satellites
- Analysis: Ottawa has one last chance to get its most belaboured climate policy right
- Oil and Gas: Ottawa open to East Coast LNG plans, subject to meeting climate goals
A deeper dive
Life in the floodplains
Matthew McClean is an investigative reporter and data journalist for The Globe. For this week’s deeper dive, he talks about new data on Canadian cities at risk in floodplains.
After virtually every major flood, curmudgeons disparage bewildered victims whose damaged homes were located in known river floodplains: “What outcome were you expecting?” they’ll ask.
In fact, building within floodplains has been common not only across Canada, but pretty much everywhere on Earth and throughout human history. Ignorance has often been a contributing factor. But a lack of consistent, national floodplain mapping has meant that it has been nearly impossible to identify which Canadian cities have exposed themselves most to this risk.
A new analysis by The Globe identifies Canadian cities that have largest proportions of their buildings within floodplains. This was made possible by national floodplain maps published recently by the University of Western Ontario. Hotspots are found right across the country: Chilliwack, B.C., High River, Alta., Chatham-Kent, Ont., Sorel-Tracy, Que., and Miramichi, N.B. In the seven most exposed cities, at least one of every five buildings lies within the 100-year floodplains.
Western’s data isn’t perfect: it’s of coarse resolution, for starters, and doesn’t always agree with official maps produced by provinces or municipalities. But it provides a foundation for discussing an uncomfortable truth: Many Canadian cities are condemned to damaging floods even based on historical climate patterns, simply through their own land use planning decisions. Climate change is expected to cause floodplains to expand in many watersheds, and could also produce more frequent floods, so those decisions promise to become even more expensive in the decades ahead.
Addressing floodplain development after the fact is certainly possible. Cities of greater political and economic importance often defend themselves with dikes and other physical defences. Less popular are relocation programs, but they’re gaining traction in some places. The cheapest option – avoiding floodplain construction altogether — typically starts only after major catastrophes, and doesn’t always endure.
Also read: Sea level rise is coming for cities. But who can afford to ‘float’ their way out?
What else you missed
- New SkyTrain, electric buses part of B.C.’s $2.4-billion for transit in Metro Vancouver
- Death toll rises to 10 after destructive storm sweeps Ontario. Thousands of people were still without power in Ontario, Quebec this weekend.
- Maple syrup producers see climate change as a threat to industry’s future
- G7 ministers may pledge to phase out coal, decarbonise power. It is also a struggle to keep climate agenda on track as Ukraine war roils energy supplies
- Davos ends with Germany pushing global work on climate, war
Opinion and analysis
Matthew McClearn: Ontario is struggling to keep up with electricity demand in the Windsor area. How will the province handle electrification and net zero?
Jackie Forrest: Blackouts could drive a return to home solar
Bruce Lourie and Bentley Allan: Canada needs a more strategic approach to build out the net-zero economy
Bjorn Lomborg: The painful food truths exposed by Russia’s war in Ukraine
Grant Bishop: Alberta Court of Appeal ruling is preview of future constitutional challenges for Ottawa’s climate policy
OSFI to order banks to give details on climate risks
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions released new draft rules it said will force banks and the other institutions to assess and deal with potential weak spots from physical climate risks and those stemming from economic and policy changes. In addition, OSFI will require all institutions under its purview to adopt the reporting framework of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, or TCFD, which has become a global standard.
But, as Jeff Jones writes, progress among the largest Canadian companies on delivering that climate-related risks data appears to be stalling. Today’s laggards will be forced to get up to speed awfully quickly once new rules are put into force that will make it mandatory to report greenhouse emissions. If the Canadian companies meet their 2030 goals, and represent a 30-per-cent cut in greenhouse gases for the entire TSX index, according to the Institute for Sustainable Finance.
- U.S. proposes new rules to prevent misleading ESG funds
- Exxon must face Massachusetts climate change lawsuit, shareholders vote against faster carbon emission cuts
Each week The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week we’re highlighting the work of Valérie Laliberté helping create at-home natural fertilizer.
I always wanted to create a product that put environmental and societal impact at the heart of development. At Tero, I was able to combine ease of use, performance and aesthetics. I also believe that creative thinking and innovation are essential to have a positive impact on our societies and environment.
We will make a difference by developing solutions that are adapted to our time, that are in line with tomorrow’s necessities and that are inspired by the real needs of people. It is through the creation of a small appliance that offers people the opportunity to improve their waste management that I understood the impact we can have as a society; every little gesture counts.
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
Guides and Explainers
- Want to learn to invest sustainably? We have a class for that: Green Investing 101 newsletter course for the climate-conscious investor. Not sure you need help? Take our quiz to challenge your knowledge.
- We've rounded up our reporters' content to help you learn about what a carbon tax is, what happened at COP 26, and just generally how Canada will change because of climate change.
- We have ways to make your travelling more sustainable and 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
- How to grow a climate change-fighting garden
- How two chefs are rethinking the local seafood supply chain in Ontario
- Scientists embark on their annual trek to measure glacier loss
- Inuit knowledge and science skills fight climate change in the Far North