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globe climate newsletter

Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

We’ll be talking to Canada’s favourite astronaut, Chris Hadfield this week, and you’re invited to join the conversation. Globe climate newsletter writer, Sierra Bein (that’s me) will be asking him about the environment and how to make life better on Earth.

Did you have questions you want to ask? You can let us know here. But make sure you tune in to see the answers!

Now, let’s catch you up on other news.

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Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield speaks onstage at Meridian Hall during the Elevate Tech Festival in Toronto September 24, 2019.Elevate Tech Festival/Handout

Noteworthy reporting this week:

  1. Vancouver councillors have voted to move forward on a new climate-emergency plan, which includes requiring parking permits for any resident car on the street, mandatory upgrades to homes and offices to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and improved electric vehicle infrastructure.
  2. Indigenous-owned Natural Law Energy Inc. has signed a deal allowing it to make an equity investment of up to $1-billion in the Keystone XL pipeline, in a move it also hopes can help persuade opponents to support the project.
  3. In continuation of last week’s Future of Cities project, Eric Reguly writes about how the electric vehicle shouldn’t fit into reshaping our urban future, but it does anyway. Also, Oliver Moore writes about how Canadian cities are creating new park space.

A deeper dive

Ottawa creates legally binding climate targets. Sort of.

A culmination of the stories written this week about Ottawa’s new net-zero emissions plan: the news and the critiques.

Ottawa tabled legislation that would set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets with the overall goal of reaching net zero by 2050, The Globe’s Emma Graney and Marieke Walsh reported.

The bill is aimed at ensuring Canada meets its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act would require the federal government to set targets for 2030 onward.

But without penalties in place if governments miss the net-zero target, the only accountability would come from voters.

Kelly Cryderman, a Globe columnist based in Alberta wrote that the the legislation doesn’t address elephant in the room: Without input from the oil and gas industry, net-zero will mean nothing.

“Look more closely, and in many of those regards it falls short of the established ways for this kind of legislation to reshape the climate-policy discourse,” writes our climate change columnist Adam Radwanski. “It also fails to adapt what other countries have done to the Canadian context, by not tackling the need to bring provinces along.”

Our editorial board, weighed in too, with a piece about how Trudeau is really making a plan for the next government, since the Liberals can’t be held accountable.

Which gives way to an opinion from Rick Smith, executive director of the Broadbent Institute, who writes that it may seem counterintuitive, but of all the parties in Parliament, the introduction of this historic climate-change legislation presents the greatest political opportunity for Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves with Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson, second from right, Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, left and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna following a press conference at the Ornamental Gardens in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

What else you missed

B.C. researchers use artificial intelligence to identify and track bears: Melanie Clapham, a conservation biologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Victoria, dreamed of technology that could help her individually identify these furry mammals.

BC Hydro’s Site C dam project on shaky ground: John Horgan’s second term as Premier begins as his first did, once again weighing the future of Site C. The difference is that this time it is his project.

Drownings increase as climate change makes ice on lakes, rivers riskier: An analysis of thousands of winter drownings from around the world shows that risks increase dramatically as air temperatures near zero – exactly what has been happening as the greenhouse effect takes hold, said lead author Sapna Sharma of York University in Toronto.

Britain to ban new petrol cars by 2030 on road to net-zero emissions: Britain last year became the first Group of Seven country to set in law a net zero emission target by 2050, which will require wholesale changes in the way Britons travel, use energy and eat.

UN climate chief says pledges by big polluters boost Paris hopes: Deadlines set by some of the world’s top polluters to end greenhouse gas emissions, along with president-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to take the United States back into the Paris accord, have boosted hopes of meeting the pact’s ambitious goals.

Opinion and analysis

From Quebec, a climate plan serves as a wake-up call to other provinces

Adam Radwanski: “What sets Quebec’s plans apart even from B.C.’s is that they were delivered by a premier who is in most other regards a conservative populist. That suggests Quebec has achieved cross-partisan consensus on the importance of climate policy that is increasingly common overseas (evidenced for instance by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson setting the same 2035 target date for stopping gas-powered car sales), but has eluded North America.”

The hidebound stories Albertans tell themselves aren’t working any more. Here’s what a new narrative could look like

Stephen Legault: “Here’s what it could sound like: Alberta, having pivoted from the trajectory of its past, is a place that invests in its people and its priorities of creating clean energy that the world needs, and will need so much more of tomorrow.”

Here’s what readers had to say

Readers also reacted to the news of Ottawa setting climate targets. Here’s what some had to say

Sageantoine: “Very disappointing. We are so far past the point of aspirational targets, and decades-long horizons.”

Ken in Kingston: “2050? Whoa! Slow down. Not so fast, Justin.”

HeavyJetCaptain: “Common sense would suggest that any government legislation that sets “legally binding climate targets” but doesn’t include any legal consequences if the government of the day misses those targets, is effectively more useless government posturing. Put in simpler terms, it is nothing but another grandiose policy announcement with absolutely no substance.”

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A person crosses Elgin Street as snow falls in Ottawa, on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning, with amounts of 15 to 20 cm expected by Monday morning.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Making waves

Each week The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week we’re highlighting the work of 350 Youth Activists ‘United in Frustration’ with UN Climate Change Conference Postponed a Year.

The world’s youth speak out in frustration over climate inaction. Here what they have to say.

With the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) postponed because of COVID-19, youth from around the world have taken it upon themselves to hold an inclusive online conference in its place, Mock COP26. The conference will take place Nov. 19 - Dec. 1, showcasing youth speakers and panelists, a policy panel and the presentation and creation of individual country statements.

With activists participating from as many as 140 countries, the conference is set to end with a powerful global statement to world leaders, raising ambition for COP26 now being held in 2021.

You can watch Mock COP26′s speakers, panels, ceremonies and presentations here. The full program for the event can be found here.

Do you know an engaged young person? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at to tell us about them.

Photo of the week

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This handout image taken on July 17, 2020, and released by The European Space Agency (ESA) on November 19, 2020, shows the Sentinel-6 satellite, dedicated to measuring sea levels as part of the European Unions Copernicus Earth Observation. - The Sentinel-6 satellite, which will measure sea levels, is scheduled for launch on November 21, 2020, will continue with unparalleled precision an almost thirty-year mission, whose data are crucial for observing climate change at work on the seas the globe and predict its consequences for human activity.-/AFP/Getty Images

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