Climate

Here’s How Canada’s Provinces Are Responding To Climate Change

CREDIT: Robert van Waarden/Greenpeace

Leaders from Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories are meeting Tuesday in Quebec City to discuss provincial efforts to combat climate change, a meeting that comes amid multiple provincial and city-level announcements on greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

Canadian premiers meet regularly to discuss a range of issues, but this is the first time that the premiers have planned a meeting specifically to talk about climate change, said Mark Calzavara, regional organizer for Ontario and Quebec at the Council of Canadians. The meeting, he told ThinkProgress, came about because of the “complete failure” of Canada’s federal government to act on climate change.

Calzavara isn’t sure yet what will come out of the meeting, but he said an agreement among provinces and territories to reduce emissions is possible, though it may not end up being a final, binding agreement.

“Everybody’s sort of waiting with bated breath to hear what announcements come out of it,” he said. “It’s really the only hope that the environmental movement has in Canada as far as government action on climate change.”

A few provincial premiers won’t be attending the conference — most notably, Jim Prentice, premier of tar sands-heavy Alberta, will be sending other government officials in his stead. Calzavara said this made sense as Prentice is in the middle of an election, but he said that it would be difficult to come to an agreement with Alberta — Canada’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter — not participating.

Calzavara said a provincial agreement would be significant in Canada, especially since the meeting is coming at a time when many Canadians are calling on the federal government to take strong action against climate change. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who assumed office in 2006, Canada has done little to lower its emissions, and the country isn’t currently expected to meet its 2020 goals on greenhouse gas reductions.

This weekend, Canadians made it clear that they want the premiers — and the federal government — to take climate change seriously: about 25,000 Canadians marched in Quebec on Saturday to draw attention to the need for action on climate change.

Though we don’t know yet how the provincial meeting will turn out, we do know that some Canadian provinces and cities have heeded this call for action over the last few weeks. Here are a few of the latest climate commitments in Canada:

Ontario signed a cap-and-trade policy

On Monday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne signed a cap-and-trade agreement with Quebec, a province which operates its existing cap-and-trade program with California. In a statement, Ontario cited climate change as a major reason for entering the agreement, and Wynne has reiterated that impetus for the initiative.

“Our changing environment has devastated communities, damaged homes, businesses and crops,” she told the CBC. “It endangers our air, it endangers our water and the health of our children and grandchildren.”

Ontario said in a statement that revenue raised from the cap and trade will be reinvested “back into projects that reduce greenhouse gas pollution and help businesses remain competitive.” These projects could include things like initiatives and incentives for energy efficient housing or efforts to increase public transit options in the province.

Ontario’s commitment to the cap-and-trade program will likely be finalized in October, and Wynne has said its too soon yet to say what the price on carbon will be.

Earlier this year, Wynne criticized the Harper government for its failure to act on climate change, saying that his lack of action has forced provinces to pick up the slack on climate commitments.

New Brunswick banned fracking

Last month, lawmakers in New Brunswick voted to place a moratorium on fracking within the province.

The eastern province will conduct a one-year study on the oil and gas extraction process and reconsider the ban in 2016. Before the moratorium is lifted, the province must meet five conditions, including providing “clear and credible information” on the health and environmental impacts of fracking, developing a process for consulting with First Nations, and creating a plan that deals with issues including wastewater disposal.

“It is responsible and prudent to do our due diligence and get more information regarding hydraulic fracturing,” New Brunswick Energy and Mines Minister Donald Arseneault said in a statement.

Fracking presents multiple environmental and emissions concerns, so New Brunswick’s plan to study the practice before pursuing the practice further has been praised by environmentalists. But New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant has made it clear that, even though the ban is in place, his province is still pro-energy production.

“We are very much for natural resource development,” he said. “We’re very much for energy projects here in the province.”

New Brunswick joins the eastern provinces of In Newfoundland and Labrador in instituting a temporary fracking ban. Nova Scotia also announced last year that it would be implementing an indefinite ban on fracking.

Vancouver said it would go 100 percent renewable

Vancouver, British Columbia announced this month that the city was committing to get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 or 2035. Right now, Vancouver gets 32 percent of its energy from renewables, so the commitment represents an ambitious plan to shift the city away from dirtier sources of energy.

“The future of Vancouver’s economy and livability will depend on our ability to confront and adapt to climate change, and moving toward renewable energy is another way that Vancouver is working to become the greenest city in the world,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement.

As a city — not a province — Vancouver’s commitment won’t make as much of a difference in overall emissions reductions as plans and goals from provinces. But British Columbia is already leading Canada in terms of carbon regulation: it’s the only Canadian province with a carbon tax, a policy that’s been hailed as a success environmentally, economically and among residents in the province.

UPDATE

Provincial leaders didn’t come to a binding agreement Tuesday, but they did reach a joint declaration affirming that they would to “adopt” and “promote” ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “make a transition to a lower-carbon economy through appropriate initiatives.”

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