COP23 - what it means to us

Good Sunday Morning,

Fijisong.jpgFriday night I was deeply moved, listening to the delegation from Fiji sing a bittersweet song at the close of COP23. It was early Saturday morning in Bonn and the conference had just pulled an all-nighter. Elizabeth tweeted throughout the night's proceedings as I, halfway around the world, was developing a record of the events of the week.  You can hear the song that touched me by going to the 3:52:00 mark of the closing plenary. "[These young people] reminded us of the human cost of climate change and our ultimate responsibility; the interests and welfare of our children. Every culture and faith has this as their first principle and it must be ours as well."

By watching Elizabeth's video blogs and following her on Twitter during the COP23 proceedings, I was inspired once again that making progress on the bumpy road to beat climate change is affected by events close to home. I retweeted this quote to Prime Minister Trudeau: ".@UN Secretary-General @antonioguterres calls on the world to adopt a simple #ClimateAction rule: if major #infrastructure projects aren’t green, they shouldn’t be given the green light. #COP23"

Good advice as Justin's strategy to apply one set of values to Energy East and another to Kinder Morgan, is backfiring. Just as news of the leaky keystone pipeline hit the airwaves, it was reported that Canadian Oil and Gas Companies Own a Combined 46 Entities in Tax Haven Countries. Seems their commitment to Canada isn't as pure as their "for the good of the country" spin likes to suggest. While Minister Carr stands behind the decision to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline, Justin Trudeau is being accused of wavering. Meanwhile Catherine McKenna is sharing the stage in Bonn with Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington State, who firmly opposes Kinder Morgan.

As Pope Francis denounced climate deniers, Jay Inslee joined Governor Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg, and other US leaders in a rouge delegation to COP23. They made it clear to the world that the people of the US have no intention of leaving the Paris accord. "We are still in," is the resolute rebuttal to Donald Trump's retrograde rhetoric. Michael Bloomberg spent a million dollars to facilitate this US pavilion and Jay Inslee was their spokesperson.

driverless_tram_01.jpg"We also have a lot of concern in general about building fossil fuel infrastructure of this capacity, given the need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels," Inslee said about the Kinder Morgan pipeline. "We’re increasing our sales of EVs by about 20 to 25 per cent a year on the Pacific coast. So I think there should be a serious question about whether you want to do infrastructure of that [Trans Mountain] capacity." The article reminds us again how Canadian taxpayers get to spend another $1.5 billion to subsidize the oil industry through a "world class" spill response system that won't work anyway. Wonder how much it would cost to prepare for a wind or solar spill?

It's a question more and more people are rightfully asking and companies like "Easy Mile" are building their business around the answer. They offer driver-less shuttles that are changing how we think about transportation. But of course they are not alone. A Chinese company is launching a new driver-less Electric Tram that does not require rails.
The design was unveiled in June this year. Less than five months later, on 30 October 2017, CRRC began tests of the rail bus. The system works by scanning the painted road markings, using sensors on the underside of the vehicle. This could dramatically reduce the costs of mass transit systems.

cop23-03.jpgOf course there are those who still suggest, with complex analysis that can confound many of us, that it all depends how we generate our electricity. They argue that electric cars are fine if we don't burn coal. This is an argument that made a lot of sense to me until I remembered that cars produce a lot of heat. Turns out they use 80% of the gas in their tanks to produce waste heat.

A relatively simple calculation can make the point that this is the primary downfall of internal combustion engines. Coal generates 1,000 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatt hour of electricity produced. Electric cars use about 10KWh per 100km of travel. That translates to about 22lbs of CO2 per 100km assuming that the electricity used is 100% generated by coal. In comparison a car that burns 5 liters per 100km produces just under 26 pounds of CO2 per 100km. Amazingly that's more than an electric car powered by coal fired power plants. And President Trump not withstanding, the world is moving away from coal. 

The Chinese representative at COP23 made it clear that his country is committed to action on climate change. No surprise as Chinese President Xi Jinping has used China’s 19th National Congress to firmly enshrine environmental protection in the country’s development path. The
Central Committee report, specifically seeks to “promote green development, solve prominent environmental problems” and “work to develop a new model of modernization with humans developing in harmony with nature.” It was further reported in The Diplomat that since 2014, the country has slashed its coal usage and dramatically reduced its carbon footprint. China’s CO2 emissions for 2017 will mark the fourth consecutive year of declining emissions. But China’s new role is also represented by the fact that Xi is not afraid to spend serious money on making “Green China” a long-term reality. China’s National Energy Agency (NEA) pledged a 2.5 trillion-yuan ($361 billion) investment into clean energy generation.

permanent_drop.jpgCoal's days are numbered but newsflash Jim Carr, so are oil's.
Norway's US$1 trillion wealth fund wants out of oil and gas stocks. These are folks who are highly embedded in the oil sector but can see the writing on the wall. Meanwhile back in Canada "We're locked in a dinosaur's squabble over dinosaur’s remains." A friend on Facebook just offered this analysis: (note, Alberta has a slightly smaller population but produces slightly more oil than Norway)
1. Canada. Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund. Started: 1976. Years in existence: 41. Today's value: $17.2 billion.
3. Alaska. Alaska Permanent Fund. Started: 1976. Years in existence: 41. Today's value: $55 Billion. Dividends paid out: Yes, to Alaskan residents; yearly.
2. Norway. Govt Pension Fund of Norway. Started: 1990. Years in existence: 27. Today's value: 1 Trillion. (**What is a trillion: 1,000 billions = 1 trillion.**)

cop23-05.jpgDuring climate talks in Bonn, Catherine McKenna co-chaired the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s 9th High Level Assembly. Ministers and high level delegates resolved to develop policies and measures in the sectors (of agriculture and waste) to reduce methane and black carbon. Both short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are powerful greenhouse gasses. Canada and the UK, along with the Marshall Islands, have also shown leadership by launching the “Powering Past Coal” alliance inviting governmental entities from around the world to phase out dirty coal power plants. Climate action UN reports that as of the 16the of November, 27 countries and states have joined the “Powering Past Coal” alliance, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland.

Somehow it still seems that we are nibbling around the edges though, tepid in our commitment to effective climate action. Canada has proven repeatedly that we can lead on the international stage. But we seem to be mired in political gamesmanship at home. Instead of clearly embracing the principle of planetary stewardship and responsibility, that is fast becoming the foundation of the new economy, we are engaging in doublespeak, defending and routinely subsidizing the past. While our government refuses to even acknowledge them, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is focused on eliminating subsidies on fossil fuels. "There are very few policies where governments can save money and reduce carbon emissions. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies is one of them."

Once again it seems clear. Politicians don't lead. People do. It's up to us to tell Jim Carr that he's out of touch. Or on second thought, maybe we should tell Justin Trudeau that Jim Carr is out of touch. We all heard about Tesla's new transport truck that was officially unveiled this week but did you know that J.B Hunt, Loblaws and Walmart have pre-ordered these vehicles for their fleet? Tech Crunch reports that Loblaws has a target of running a fully electric [350] vehicle fleet to support its stores, as part of its goal of reducing the company's emissions impact by 2030.

Canada can lead by example and capture the opportunity of this new reality, this new economy. But we are not doing so well. In her blog on Wednesday Elizabeth wrote: "Canada’s target (unhelpfully shifted to a different base year in a contamination of climate measurements initially pioneered by Stephen Harper) is 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.  Converted to 1990 levels, that would leave us ten years later than Germany and slightly above 1990 levels.  Repeating, Germany has a gap, but is largely on track to have reduced GHG by 40% below 1990 levels, ten years ahead of Canada’s pathetic reductions to 4% above our 1990 emissions.  But based on our current plan, it is estimated we will miss our target and be 12% above 1990 levels by 2030."

That's clearly unacceptable. As Elizabeth wrote in her last blog of the week: "In words that apply to Canada as well, James Shaw said in the High Level speeches, 'Being small does not absolve us of responsibility.'  Canada may be a small part of global carbon pollution, but we could be a large part of the solution." That opportunity, and the economic benefits at accompany it, won't wait much longer.

Have a grand weekend,


"It is our job to work tirelessly for justice, for peace, and for a planet that can survive with a human civilization that thrives. This is the challenge that we take on as Greens." Elizabeth May, October 19th, 2015

This weekly missive is authored by Thomas Teuwen, our SGI EDA coordinator. Opinions expressed are his own. We welcome your comments and feedback. If you were sent here by a friend and would like to subscribe to our weekly email simply click here. You can also go to the archives section of our SGI website to read back issues.

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