Economists agree it can be done, but differ on how much it will cost.
Canada could become 100 per cent reliant on low-carbon electricity in just 20 years and reduce its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, a new study shows.
The report calls for bold policies to be adopted immediately in order for Canada to transition to a sustainable society.
“Twenty years ago Canada was a leader on the climate change file. But today our reputation on this issue is in tatters,” James Meadowcroft, political science professor at Carleton University and one of the report’s authors told DeSmog Canada. “It is time for us to get serious and take vigorous action to move towards a low carbon emission economy.”
The report is a collaboration between 60 Canadian scholars and outlines a 10-point policy framework to achieve dramatic emission reductions. At the top of the list is the need to put a price on carbon which was unanimously recommended by the report’s authors.
Imagine, for a moment, that you happen to be in charge of a jurisdiction that claims to have world-class environmental standards and regulations. As part of that rhetoric and reputation, imagine that six years ago you put in place a set of regulations that you claimed set strict and enforceable guidelines and rules for dealing with, and eventually eliminating, oilsands tailings. Now, imagine that not one single oilsands operation was able to meet the requirements and expectations of that policy. In fact, instead of shrinking, tailings lakes became even more of a problem. What would you do?
Would you make a strong statement about how environmental policies are only as good as the enforcement mechanisms behind them, and then proceed to fine and punish the industry to the extent of the law?
Would you state unequivocally that the government is very concerned about the growth and expansion of toxic tailings lakes, and that if companies cannot develop and deploy technology for safely dealing with those tailings, they will simply be forbidden from producing more?
If you were Alberta, you would simply state that the goals contained in the old legislation were clearly too ambitious, refuse to fine or penalize anyone, and ultimately scrap the legislation. You would then set about writing new regulations that made things much easier for the oilsands industry, wouldn’t really require them to do anything about tailings in the near future and contained no meaningful enforcement provisions.
That is exactly what the government of Alberta did last week with the introduction of its new Tailings Management Framework. After having suspended Directive 74, the 2009 regulation that set hard targets for dealing with tailings in Alberta with clearly articulated penalties for non-compliance, the government needed to come up with something to replace it.
What they have done, however, is essentially acceded to everything the industry wanted to see in tailings regulation. Under the new framework, companies are given a discretionary three to 10-year period at the beginning of their life during which they can accumulate tailings without limit. At that point, the total volume of tailings they are allowed is capped. In other words, the mines are allowed to keep their tailings volume constant after their initial accumulation. Then the mines have until 10 years after they close to fully reclaim all of their tailings. In other words, under the new framework, we will not see any significant reclamation for decades to come.
The framework also gives the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) some flexibility in dealing with mines that surpass their allowed tailings volume, suggesting that the AER will be allowed to permit a certain percentage deviation in volume, while not actually detailing what that percentage will be.
Perhaps most concerning, however, is the lack of specificity in the Framework around enforcement. What will happen to mines that surpass the allowed volume of tailings? The regulation speaks of a compliance levy, but it does not say how that levy will be calculated and provides no guarantee that it will be enough to serve as a deterrent. There needs to be some guarantee that the cost of the levy will be higher than the cost of investing in cleaning up tailings, or industry will simply choose to pay the levy and tailiings will continue to grow.
Connected to that is the concern that mines do not have to completely reclaim their tailings until 10 years after they close. Mines can have a life span of 50 years—that’s a long time to wait for meaningful reclamation.
Or, What I’ve Learned in 12 Years Writing about Energy
(7000 words, about 25 minutes reading time)
Folks who pay attention to energy and climate issues are regularly treated to two competing depictions of society’s energy options.* On one hand, the fossil fuel industry claims that its products deliver unique economic benefits, and that giving up coal, oil, and natural gas in favor of renewable energy sources like solar and wind will entail sacrifice and suffering (this gives a flavor of their argument). Saving the climate may not be worth the trouble, they say, unless we can find affordable ways to capture and sequester carbon as we continue burning fossil fuels.
On the other hand, at least some renewable energy proponents tell us there is plenty of wind and sun, the fuel is free, and the only thing standing between us and a climate-protected world of plentiful, sustainable, “green” energy, jobs, and economic growth is the political clout of the coal, oil, and gas industries (here is a taste of that line of thought).
The world’s fossil fuels will “obviously” have to stay in the ground in order to solve global warming, Barack Obama’s climate change envoy said on Monday.In the clearest sign to date the administration sees no long-range future for fossil fuel, the state department climate change envoy, Todd Stern, said the world would have no choice but to forgo developing reserves of oil, coal and gas.The assertion, a week ahead of United Nations climate negotiations in Lima, will be seen as a further indication of Obama’s commitment to climate action, following an historic US-Chinese deal to curb emissions earlier this month.A global deal to fight climate change would necessarily require countries to abandon known reserves of oil, coal and gas, Stern told a forum at the Center for American Progress in Washington.“It is going to have to be a solution that leaves a lot of fossil fuel assets in the ground,” he said. “We are not going to get rid of fossil fuel overnight but we are not going to solve climate change on the basis of all the fossil fuels that are in the ground are going to have to come out. That’s pretty obvious.”
The South Australian Liberal Party risks damaging investor and public confidence in the natural gas industry by moving to establish a Parliamentary inquiry into hydraulic fracturing – an industry practice that has been used safely in the State for many decades.APPEA’s Chief Operating Officer Western Region, Stedman Ellis, said the inquiry proposed by the Member for Mt Gambier had little basis in science.Mr Ellis said the South Australian Parliament needed to be wary that it did not provide a megaphone for people who want to undermine the industry and the investment and jobs it provided.“South Australia has consistently been ranked in international surveys as the most attractive Australian state for oil and gas investment,” Mr Ellis said.“But this hard-earned reputation will be at risk if groups ideologically opposed to the industry are given a platform to spread fear and misinformation.
RALEIGH, N.C. AP — Officials from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia met privately Thursday with federal regulators and groups funded by oil and gas companies to discuss plans for drilling off the Atlantic coast.A coalition of environmental groups sought to be allowed inside the Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Five-Year Program meeting, which was held at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.Reporters were allowed to attend the end of the session only to hear closing remarks by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, but only after a police officer posted at the door checked their credentials. By then, many of the 60 people on the list of invited attendees had left, leaving behind empty chairs.McCrory, a Republican, has been outspoken in his support for launching oil and gas exploration off of the East Coast as soon as possible. On Thursday, he said the drilling would create jobs and bring needed revenue to the state.
The fossil-fuel divestment movement has been on a roll lately to the tune of $50 billion, but one of its biggest successes happened last month: The world’s most profitable oil company squirmed. ExxonMobil’s vice president of public and government affairs published a critique of divestment that concluded by saying that destroying our planet’s climate by recklessly extracting and burning fossil fuel reserves is necessary to relieve global poverty.
“When you read the document closely it shows an intimate surveillance,” said Monaghan. “The documents show the breadth of and the normalization of the regular systematic surveillance of protest groups, of people who criticize government policy and critics of energy policy. You have national security bureaucracies, agencies, focused on domestic protest groups and it has nothing to do with terror, but with the energy economy.”