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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
On the Siksika Nation, near Calgary, many were forced to become farmers in the 1920s by a government bent on assimilation. But today’s generations are guided by cultural traditions in their relationship with the land.
A century ago, Stewart Breaker’s grandparents started farming the land, which is part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Mr. Breaker explained that it is important to keep the farm going to provide employment opportunities for his children as there is high unemployment rates on the nation. But climate change has presented fresh challenges. Take a closer look at his story, and the photo essay by Sarah B Groot.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- Canada is on pace to fall well short of 2030 climate commitment, according to a government-funded report that says current strategies will reduce greenhouse-gas output by only 16 per cent instead of 40 per cent.
- The world’s biggest mining companies, including Canada’s Barrick Gold Corp. and Teck Resources Ltd., are collectively committing to cut their emissions to net zero by 2050
- From The Narwhal: The race is on to find Haida Gwaii’s forest-dwelling hawk, one of the most endangered species on the planet
- In his new novel, Richard Powers turns his pen to the state of our planet with both grief and hope. Bewilderment is both a love story and a warning.
- This fall, fashion label Smythe will be selling a 100-mile blazer. Here is the journey from sheep to shop
A deeper dive
You can’t flick a switch on the energy transition
Sierra Bein is the writer of Globe Climate. For this week’s deeper dive, she ties together The Globe’s energy reports on rising prices, shortages, climate change and what it has to do with a green transition.
Natural-gas markets have been affected globally by the pandemic, and while Canada is largely hit by domestic factors, these worldwide ripples are taking effect here. It’s why we should be expecting an expensive winter, another symptom of the energy crunch that has trickled to us.
It has people wondering, what do situations like this mean for a low-carbon energy transition? Sustainable-investing reporter Jeffrey Jones spoke on a recent episode of The Decibel explaining the energy crunch and it’s relation to climate change.
“I would say the common thread is that the energy transition as we envision it, that is, a slow transition over to renewable sources, is going to be bumpy. It’s going to be messy, there are going to be times where there are going to be disruptions in the energy supply, there are going to be times when prices surge just because there isn’t a reliable wind/solar solution to step in yet,” he said.
The transition isn’t new, it’s been in motion a few years and will (well, should) end some time before 2050. Hydro, wind and solar already comprise about 16 per cent of Canada’s total energy supply, but experts say we’ll need more diversification for the transition to be successful.
This week, a report was published by the Independent Electricity System Operator saying that phasing out Ontario’s natural-gas power plants by the end of this decade would lead to rolling blackouts and soaring electricity bills. Meanwhile, Alberta’s Energy Minister says the spike in oil prices doesn’t mean there will be more spent on cleaning up the tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells.
However, Jones says we should be prepared for challenges, but we shouldn’t let negativity prevail.
“The technology is improving everyday. There’s billions of dollars being put to improving the reliability of renewables. Everything from different types of storage solutions to account for the varying ability of wind blowing, and sun shining as well as batteries, all these things are being developed quite quickly. So I don’t think there’s any reason to be pessimistic about that,” he said.
“But I do think that there had been an expectation that, among some people anyway, you’d just be able to turn a switch on at some point and the world’s energy system would change. Now we’re seeing it’s going to be a much more difficult road to that and it’s going to take a lot longer than some people would like.”
Meanwhile, the EU says it will examine how its power market is run, China has ordered a jump in coal production to fight its power crunch, and Britain is assuring citizens that there is enough gas supply capacity to meet winter demand.
Renewables have been unfairly blamed for energy shortages before, and there’s still a lot to figure out. But with all the short-term troubles, it’s easy to forget the bigger goal: to make these changes and adopt new technology as soon as we can to prevent the worsening effects of climate change.
What else you missed
- Vancouver votes down a proposal to require parking permits for residential parking, what was intended to be a key measure in the city’s climate-emergency action plan
- White House restores environmental reviews for big projects
- Environment lobby calls out Carney’s climate finance credibility
- Google cracks down on ads promoting climate-change denial
- Two hundred leaders sign letter seeking protection for B.C.’s old-growth forests
- Allowing Rocky Mountain coal lease transfers during energy debate sends wrong signal, environmental group says
- UN report warns of global water crisis as floods, hurricanes and droughts worsen
Opinion and analysis
Eric Reguly: There is no quick fix for Europe’s self-manufactured energy crisis
The editorial board: American politics threatens to kill a Canadian pipeline. Again
Canada is playing catch up because of slow implementation of climate finance rules
A report by the Institute for Sustainable Finance at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business says that Canada must speed up efforts to improve disclosure of greenhouse-gas emissions to stay competitive with its European allies. But, so far, the government has held off mandating the use of a globally accepted program for measuring and assessing climate-related risks. Read more here.
Dow touts government incentive programs for planned net-zero ethylene plant in Alberta
The chemical giant wants to build the world’s first net-zero ethylene plant just outside Edmonton, expanding and retrofitting an existing facility with carbon-capture technology so it can triple production. It’s part of a larger move by the Michigan-based company to spend about US$1-billion annually to decarbonize its assets around the world. Read the full story.
- Energy price spike adds market risk as earnings arrive
- If you’re feeling good about your renewable-energy stocks, better look away from the rally in coal
- Shell warns of $400-million hit to third-quarter earnings from Hurricane Ida damage
Each week, The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week, we’re highlighting the work of Melina Laboucan-Massimo building a Just Transition framework.
My name is Melina Laboucan-Massimo. I am from the Cree Nation and was born in my community, Little Buffalo, in the heart of the Alberta tar sands. Before founding Sacred Earth Solar and co-founding Indigenous Climate Action, I advocated on the issues of Indigenous sovereignty, women’s rights, climate literacy and environmental justice for more than 15 years.
My work is currently focused on building a just transition, developing a framework for healing justice, and bringing solar power to Indigenous communities. As a part of my master’s thesis, the first renewable-energy project I implemented was a 20.8kW solar system that powers my community’s health centre.
A Just Transition places Indigenous communities at the forefront of the energy transition to ensure that our future energy system does not reproduce the imbalances and inequities of the current one. Indigenous communities are already leading the way toward this transition with hundreds of renewable energy projects, as highlighted in the TV series I host, Power to the People.
To address the climate crisis, a global paradigm shift back to living within the natural laws of our Earth is essential.
Do you know an engaged individual? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? E-mail us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.
Photo of the week
Catch up on Globe Climate
- Canadian pension funds play big role in green transition
- Will Canada be ready when extreme, deadly heat returns?
- Federal election will set a path toward Canada’s environmental future
- The energy transition is fuelling a revamp in schools