A weekly recap of noteworthy headlines in provincial, national and global environment news.
This week in environment news: Ontario’s new carbon plan and investment in poultry, Canada’s zero-waste approach, Patagonia’s generous donation from tax cuts, and Quebec youth’s lawsuit against the Canadian gov’t
Nov. 26 – Dec. 2
Minister of Environment Rod Phillips announces Ontario’s new carbon plan
With the recent scrapping of Ontario’s cap-and-trade system (Bill 4, Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018), and strong national pressures to deliver a new climate plan, Canadians have been anxiously awaiting Ontario’s proposal on climate action. On Thursday, Ontario’s Environment Minister Rod Phillips announced the provincial ‘Made-in-Ontario’ environment plan – Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations.
The plan outlines the province’s proposed action in several key environmental areas, including: water and air quality, climate change, waste and conservation. Perhaps what stands out the most is the government’s plan to create an Ontario Carbon Trust – a $400 million tax-payer funded sum that over the next 4 years, will pay polluting industries to invest in clean tech and green infrastructure to reduce emissions. Instead of holding polluters accountable, the government will issue funds in a reverse auction scheme to industries to come up with the most cost-effective reduction plans.
The government will also allow certain industries (specifically the auto industry) to be exempt from strict reduction regulations.
The consensus (with which I agree) is that the plan is a mixed bag. From an economic viewpoint, it is a solid attempt to balance the PCs’ ‘Open for Business’ mantra while proposing measures to protect the environment. Anybody who understands environmental politics though, can vouch for how difficult it is to find the sweet spot between economic growth and environmental protection. Most of the time, the latter suffers at the expense of the former. That being said, Ontario’s environment plan – which is still subject to a 60 day consultation period – identifies solutions that will benefit the economy, not so much the environment. Fortunately for the PC government and unfortunately for climate activists, the ambitious and exceeding targets set by the previous Liberal government provide leeway for the current administration to cut back on emissions reductions while still being able to meet Canada’s Paris targets – sans un carbon tax.
The implications of climate change are inevitable and fast-approaching. Irrespective of one’s political views, socioeconomic status or personal opinion on the topic, the effects of climate change will in one way or another affect every one of us – from food security issues, exacerbated natural occurrences to the increase in price for the necessities of our day-to-day life.
For environmentalists, economists, academics and climate scientists the solution is obvious: governments must embrace carbon pricing combined with smart regulation. For politicians looking to get re-elected, this is certainly the road less taken. This type of policy deadlock occurs when science based findings endanger or don’t align with the current political agenda. That is not to say that political direction isn’t necessary in navigating through the implications of climate change, but quite frankly if we want to continue to reap benefits from natural resources, we don’t have much of a right to turn our backs when it comes to paying the cost.
Putting a price on something we want less of is effective and necessary.
Carbon pricing will without a doubt be the most contentious issue of next year’s federal elections, but I’m hopeful that the newly appointed or re-appointed administration will work hard to get all provinces on board an effective climate action plan.
Canada to implement nation-wide zero-waste strategy
On Nov. 23, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna was joined by her provincial and territorial counterparts – members of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) – to discuss strategies to address plastic pollution that’s been flooding our ecosystems. Federal, provincial, and territorial ministers agreed to push forward a nation-wide zero-waste strategy that will reflect a circular-economy approach primarily focusing on:
- Cutting Canada’s waste by 30% by 2030, 50% by 2040 and ultimately achieving zero waste
- Extending the life cycle and utilization of plastic products and packaging
- Ensuring plastic products are reused and recycled appropriately
- Significantly increasing the responsible use and recycling of single-use plastics (SUPs)
- Improving the understanding of the issue and solutions through research and innovation
Ministers agreed to continue to work over the coming year with all levels of government and interest groups to draft the specifics of the strategy and implement it accordingly.
Environmental organizations such as Environmental Defence and Greenpeace have expressed concerns over the vagueness and lack of urgency of this initiative, though it is important to note that despite its gaps, it is a great first leap in the right direction nonetheless.
Patagonia donates $10 million received from Trump’s corporate tax cuts to environmental organizations
Trump’s recent tax reform which slashed corporate taxes from 35% to 21% gave big corporations huge tax lifts. Patagonia, the infamous company specializing in sustainable outerwear and environmental awareness, saved $10 million in corporate tax cuts last year – an amount which the company decided to donate to environmental groups dedicated to the protection and conservation of the environment and public lands.
In an open letter published to LinkedIn, Patagonia’s CEO Rose Marcario stated, “Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet. Our home planet needs it more than we do.” A truly iconic move.
Quebecois youth to sue federal government for lack of climate action
Environnement Jeunesse, a network of young people in Quebec, have applied to sue the Government of Canada on behalf of all Quebecers aged 35 and under. They demand tough action on carbon pollution, stating Canada is infringing on the fundamental rights of youth under both Canadian and Quebec charters of human rights and freedoms.
A Quebec Superior Court judge will now have to decide whether to authorize class action before the group can move forward with a trial – a process expected to take about a year.
Similar legal action is occurring in many parts of Europe including Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. In fact, last month The Hague Court in the Netherlands upheld a campaign launched by the Urgenda Foundation urging the Dutch government to accelerate its emissions cuts. This marks a true victory for climate action and Ontario could definitely learn a thing or two from its Francophone neighbours and friends overseas.
Ontario invests $34.5 million in new $660 million Maple Leaf Foods poultry plant in London, ON
Veg heads took a sore hit as Ford’s government announced on Tuesday, its plans to invest $34.5 million into what they deem a “state-of-the-art” poultry facility in London, Ontario, expected to cost $660 million. The government states that Maple Leaf Foods’ new plant “will focus on the highest standards of sustainability, food safety and animal welfare, and will raise productivity and help increase demand for more chickens from Ontario’s farmers” – one of the more eye-rolling statements you’ll read this week.