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Archive for 'climate change'

Energy and climate in the Harper decade

The costs of climate change are piling up, and can no longer be ignored. 2015 is poised to be a landmark year, with a new global treaty on climate to be signed in Paris. In contrast, the Harper decade succeeded in stalling any meaningful climate action. The PM’s record is not just of neglect, but […]

Climate Justice and the Good Life, for Everyone

In our Climate Justice Project, our research has stressed structural changes and collective action to lower carbon footprints rather than individual behavioural change. The ability of many actors to respond to incentives like a carbon tax is constrained by their circumstances. Suburban households often have no realistic option but to keep driving. Renters have little agency over […]

BC’s Carbon Emissions on the Rise

It was a good story while it lasted. Over the past few years, the BC government and many in the policy community have spun a tale about the remarkable success of BC’s climate action policies, with a big spotlight on the carbon tax as a driver of lower emissions while BC’s economy outperformed the rest […]

Low-carbon urban infrastructure: a view from Vancouver

I have a new case study (full pdf; summary article from the publishers) out as part of the Economists for Equity and Environment‘s Future Economy Initiative. I look at the City of Vancouver’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU), a low-carbon district energy system that hits a sweet spot of clean energy, local control, and stable prices at competitive rates. […]

Will Nova Scotia Implement a Carbon Tax?

There is some discussion in Nova Scotia about the possibility of the government introducing a carbon tax in the next budget. In this blog post I will introduce the context within which these discussions are taking place, and make reference to other blog posts in this forum that provide insights into how the province might […]

Trudeau, Carbon Pricing, Regional Politics, and Technology Policy

Yesterday, Justin Trudeau appeared to be backing away from a national carbon price. He says some of the provinces have already implemented carbon pricing, so the federal government will be left to “oversee”. What Trudeau is actually saying isn’t quite clear, but it certainly seems like he is giving up on creating a national carbon […]

The CBC – the Corporate Broadcasting Corp.

A new scandal blew up at the CBC this week when the website Canadaland published an exposé charging that Amanda Lang, the broadcaster’s senior business reporter and host of The Exchange, tried to sabotage an investigative story the CBC produced about abuses committed by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) over the temporary foreign worker […]

The case against a revenue-neutral carbon tax

I’m a fan of carbon taxes, but increasingly I see the term “revenue-neutral” attached to it. Where I live, in BC, we have perhaps the most prominent example of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and carbon tax advocates have come to promoting the BC model to other jurisdictions, such as Ontario, who are contemplating their own carbon tax. […]

Low Oil Prices, Good or Bad for Canada?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’re probably well aware that the price of oil has fallen dramatically, to less than $50 / barrel. What this means for Canada’s economic output & labour markets is not yet clear. But Stephen Poloz at the Bank of Canada has said that he expects the effect to […]

IPCC doom, gloom and an LED light at the end of the tunnel

The latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a super-synthesis of the state of agreed knowledge about climate change, adaptation and mitigation. Imagine thousands of research papers summarized in three major volumes (released over the past year), with this new report the grand summary of that. And even that condensed into a 40-page […]

Financial Risk and Alberta’s Tar Sands

When it comes to global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that what matters is the total volume of greenhouse gas emissions going forward. This amounts to about 30 years of emissions at current levels – a global carbon budget that would provide the world a 66% chance of staying below 2°C. There is some debate […]

Will Enbridge’s pipeline ever get built?

You have to wonder why the Harper government bothered with process at all. It’s like there was never any doubt that Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would get approved. But historians may look back on this moment as the beginning of the end of pipeline politics. Opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline is BC’s largest social […]

Fur trade and tar sands

Here is Joseph Boyden talking with the Globe and Mail last fall about his novel Orenda: “You look at this novel and you think immigration, who you allow in and who you don’t. The Hurons allow in the ones who ulimately destroy them, because the Huron aren’t perfect either. They need the trade, and how […]

Staples Redux: Oil and Honey

Oil is a staple. Honey isn’t. That’s the point. The odd coupling comes from Bill McKibben’s most recent book, which is titled “Oil and Honey.” Oil is crude. Honey is sweet. That says it all. The central point that McKibben is making is that oil is global and honey is local, and that the disruptive […]

BC’s Big Favour? LNG Exports and GHG Emissions

The hype on LNG has grown to staggering proportions. I have not had much time to debunk all of the government’s grotesque exaggerations and outright falsehoods. But Christy Clark’s claim that BC is “doing the world a favour” by exporting LNG to Asia made me write this oped, which got picked up in today’s Vancouver Sun: Is […]

Carbon budgets and Canada’s share of global reserves

The idea of a global carbon budget is not new, but has been growing in prominence. Carbon Tracker picked up on it in its seminal Unburnable Carbon report, and Bill McKibben amplified that message in his landmark Rolling Stone article, Global Warming’s Terrifying Math, which launched the fossil fuel divestment movement. Then more recently, the […]

Global carbon budget is a harsh reality check for Canadian investors

The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be a wake-up call for Canada. With a development model based on ever more fossil fuel extraction, Canada’s economy and financial markets are on a collision course with the urgent need for global climate action. The IPCC, for the first time, stated an […]

The Staple Theory @ 50: Marc Lee

As part of our continuing series of commentaries celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mel Watkins’ classic article, “A Staple Theory of Economic Growth,” we present the following commentary by Marc Lee, economist with the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.  Marc considers the implications — both economic and environmental — of the current […]

Why the City of Vancouver should divest from fossil fuels

This is the text of remarks I made today to Vancouver city council on divestment. Earlier this year, Council requested that staff report back on how the city’s financial investments align with the city’s mission and values, and various ethical programs like the city’s purchasing policy and the greenest city initiative. So the meeting was […]

IPCC: Time for a Global Carbon Budget

Political commitments on climate action, to the extent they exist, are usually pitched in terms of targets and timelines. BC, for example, has a legislated target of 33% below 2007 levels by 2020; Canada’s official target is a 17% reduction by 2020 relative to 2005 levels. Neither target will be met under status quo policy, […]

The Staple Theory @ 50: Introduction to a Special Blog Series

In my job as economist for Unifor (and before that the CAW), I have had a long-time interest in more sustainable and sensible policies for managing Canada’s resource wealth. The challenge, given the lucrative but fleeting nature of resource booms, is to leverage Canada’s resource wealth in a manner that stimulates a more diversified, inclusive, […]

Memo to Obama: Canada’s carbon problem IS the tar sands

Canada’s Harper-ment is getting increasingly desperate. The quest to double production out of the Alberta tar sands needs new pipelines (or rail). In recent months, we have seen new proposals for pipelines to the west and to the east, amid further delays of the KeystoneXL pipeline to the south. The success of US activists (environmentalists, […]

The absurdity and injustice of now

I’m back from a short sabbatical, grateful for some time outside of my daily work and home life, feeling all big picture. But as I settle back into work, I feel like I’m seated in a Theatre of the Absurd play. My news feeds are pulling up astonishing things. Exhibit one: the North Pole at the […]

Is new coal export infrastrucutre in the best interest of BC and Canada

Today’s CBC Edition Business Panel focused on the proposal by Fraser Surrey Docks to build a new coal terminal on the Fraser river to export US thermal coal (if you missed it, here’s the recording starting at 1:50). This may seem like a local issue for the West Coast, but the arguments stand for most […]

Are Canadian investors headed for a carbon cliff?

An oped based on my and Brock Ellis’ recent report, Canada’s Carbon Liabilities, was published in iPolitics (alas, behind a pay wall): Canada’s economic development model is on a collision course with the urgent need for global climate action. Worldwide, extreme weather events from drought to floods to powerful storms and record-breaking temperatures are making […]

Climate justice and the political moment in BC

The following is based on a talk at the Bring Your Boomers election forum on April 3 at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver, the fourth in a series of intergenerational dialogues from Gen Why Media, and was co-sponsored by the CCPA, Get Your Vote On, LeadNow and Vancity credit union. I was asked to set the stage for a conversation on climate justice between […]

Absolving our Carbon Sins: the Case of the Pacific Carbon Trust

Last week’s report from BC’s Auditor General dealt a huge blow to the credibility of carbon offsets and claims that BC had achieved a state of “carbon neutral government.” Coverage of the AG’s report was coloured by accusations from the Pacific Carbon Trust, the Crown corporation created to buy and sell BC offsets, and “experts” from the offset […]

Closing the Loop: Zero Waste, GHG Emissions and Green Jobs in BC

Below is the summary for our latest Climate Justice Project report, Closing the Loop: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Creating Green Jobs through Zero Waste in BC (I recommend checking the much prettier full paper, stand-alone summary, and awesome infographic by Sam Bradd on the website). Closing the Loop was a complex and challenging project that made my head spin, […]

Carbon bubbles and fossil fuel divestment

Divestment from fossil fuels is an idea whose time has come. Sparked by Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone article last summer, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”, divestment campaigns are now up and running on over 300 university campuses in the US, with 4 early victories already notched. Students in Canada have declared tomorrow (March 27) Fossil Fools Day, a national day […]

Tales from the Mouth of the Fraser: Climate Change Denial Edition

Some colleagues at the US NGO Global Exchange tipped me off to some sneaky data doctoring done by the Fraser Institute on climate change. The source is Understanding Climate Change: Lesson Plans for the Classroom, a resource for high school teachers. The particular graph is on page 69 (first page if you click on Lesson 5), […]