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Canada at COP26: A time for leadership – CBC.ca

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Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled “Our Changing Planet” to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.


This column is an opinion from Thomas Gunton, a professor and founding director of the Resource and Environmental Planning program at Simon Fraser University. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

The upcoming UN climate conference, combined with the recent election results, provide the Canadian government with a renewed mandate to tackle climate change.  

So where is Canada at on climate strategy?

The good news is that all the parties’ election platforms made a strong commitment to addressing climate change and our evaluation shows that Canada has made significant progress in strengthening its climate policies with initiatives, including the new Emissions Accountability Act and higher carbon taxes, and the technologies exist to dramatically cut emissions.

The bad news is that Canada’s record is near the bottom of the pack. Our emissions are the third highest per capita among developed countries and we have the second worst record in reducing emissions among the G7 nations.  

And the most recent UN Emissions Gap report warns that, even if all countries fully implement their proposed GHG reduction policies, the world is on course for a temperature rise of 2.7 C, almost double the Paris goal of 1.5 C.  Clearly, more work needs to be done.

The first component of a renewed effort is to ensure that Canada’s climate targets are consistent with the Paris goals to limit global warming to between 1.5 and 2 C. According to the UN, this requires a reduction in GHG emissions of 45 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050. 

While there is a persuasive case that wealthy countries like Canada that have underachieved on climate reductions should have higher reduction targets, the Liberals’ 2030 target of between 40 to 45 per cent is close to the UN goal.  

But as Canada’s poor record in meeting past targets shows, targets mean nothing if you do not achieve them. Therefore, the next priority is to develop a plan that is independently verified to meet the targets and one of the steps in independent verification is to direct the Canadian Energy Regulator to model a net zero plan for Canada.  

(Pembina Institute)

The government’s  forecasts show that the plan released in December 2020 and updated in the 2021 budget could reduce emissions by between 31 and 36 per cent, which is well short of  the 40-45 per cent target, and there is no plan to achieve the 2050 net zero target. Canada clearly needs to strengthen its plan. 

Although the specifics will vary from country to country, the International Energy Agency (IEA) provides an outline of a plan to achieve net zero that can be a guide for Canada.

The first key component of the IEA plan is to decarbonize the transportation sector by adopting a 60 per cent zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales mandate for new cars by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2035, as well as a 50 per cent ZEV mandate for heavy duty vehicles by 2035. 

Transportation accounts for 26 per cent of Canada’s emissions, so decarbonizing this sector is a priority. The Liberal transportation targets are generally consistent with the IEA proposals. However, there are several serious gaps.  

Binding mandates needed

First, we lack legally binding national ZEV sales mandates to achieve these targets. The federal government announced its intention to do this for car sales, but needs to implement this commitment and extend the legislated mandate to heavy duty vehicle sales as well. 

The second component of the IEA plan is to decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035. Both the Liberals and NDP have committed to this (the NDP by 2030). But our evaluation concluded that decarbonizing electricity is impeded by the replacement of coal with natural gas. The electricity sector can only be decarbonized if coal is replaced by renewables and any natural gas needed for back-up is carbon neutral.

A third component of the IEA plan is for all new buildings to be zero carbon ready by 2030 and 50 per cent of existing buildings be zero carbon by 2040, rising to 85 per cent by 2050. Here again the platforms of the Liberals and NDP are generally consistent with the IEA plan, but the plans for achieving these targets lack necessary details.

The fourth component of the IEA plan is to immediately prohibit development of any new oil and gas fields and coal mines. This is arguably the most challenging area for Canada, given the economic significance and political influence of the fossil fuel sector and the fact that it accounts for just over one-quarter of Canada’s emissions.  

(Pembina Institute)

The Liberal platform promises action, including banning thermal coal exports and new regulations to reduce methane emissions by 75 per cent by 2030. But the overall climate strategy for the oil and gas sector is vague, featuring phrases such as “make sure that the oil and gas sector reduces emissions at a scale and pace to achieve net zero by 2050.” There is no plan to get there and no commitment to follow the IEA strategy to prohibit the expansion of new oil and gas fields.  

More distressing is that the government is moving to expand the oil and gas sector by providing $1.9 billion to subsidize oil and gas and providing $23 billion of financial support for new fossil fuel pipelines such as the Trans Mountain Expansion.  

As this month’s UN Production Gap report warns, these policies to expand the fossil fuel sector are inconsistent with the goal to achieve net zero by 2050 and it is critical “that fossil fuel production start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5 C.”

Therefore, to meet its climate objectives, it is critical that the government set binding targets and eliminate subsidies for the oil and gas sector as well as halt development of major fossil fuel infrastructure projects. 

A just transition

Another essential component of a climate strategy is a just transition that protects the most vulnerable from any adverse impacts of climate change and climate policies and addresses reconciliation with Indigenous communities. 

This requires passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in all Canadian jurisdictions as well as comprehensive transition strategies for workers in sectors such as oil and gas and income support measures for those negatively impacted by policies such as the carbon tax.

The platforms of the Liberals and NDP commit to these strategies and the Canadian government has been returning most of the carbon tax revenue back to Canadians, but more detailed strategies are required to ensure a just transition.  

A final priority is climate adaptation. Even if we are successful in meeting the Paris climate goals, the world will still experience significant climate change consequences. Therefore, Canada needs to prioritize development of comprehensive climate adaptation plans that identify the risks and develop policies to mitigate the consequences. Some work has been done in climate adaptation planning, but as the recent heat dome impacts and associated deaths show, we are ill prepared for the coming changes.

Climate change is without question an existential crisis that requires urgent action. The election of a minority government with a strong commitment to addressing climate change and the upcoming UN conference provide a unique opportunity for Canada to become a world leader in climate policy. Let’s hope the opportunity is not lost.


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First cases of COVID-19 discovered in Canadian wildlife – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The first cases of COVID-19 in Canadian wildlife have been discovered in three white-tailed deer, a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada reports.

The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the detections on Nov. 29 but the deer were sampled between Nov. 6 to 8 in the Estrie region of Quebec. The deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease and were “all apparently healthy.”

“As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited,” the press release states.

“The finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health was notified about the discovery on Dec. 1.

The department is urging added precaution – like wearing a well-fitted mask – when exposed to “respiratory tissues and fluids from deer.”

The virus has been found in multiple animal species globally including farmed mink, cats, dogs, ferrets, and zoo animals such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters and others.

“Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time,” the release reads.

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U.N. seeks record $41 billion for aid to hotspots led by Afghanistan, Ethiopia

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The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.

Famine remains a “terrifying prospect” for 45 million people living in 43 countries, as extreme weather caused by climate change shrinks food supplies, the U.N. said in the annual appeal, which reflected a 17% rise in annual funding needs.

“The drivers of needs are ones which are familiar to all of us. Tragically, it includes protracted conflicts, political instability, failing economies … the climate crisis, not a new crisis, but one which urges more attention and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.

In a report to donors, the world body said: “Without sustained and immediate action, 2022 could be catastrophic.”

Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five major crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5 billion sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, it said.

In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, repeated economic shocks, and severe food insecurity caused by the worst drought in 27 years.

“We are in the business in the U.N. of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the U.N. system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy,” Griffiths said.

“The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services,” he said. “I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month.”

In Ethiopia, where a year-old conflict between government and Tigrayan forces has spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, thousands have been displaced, while fighting, drought and locusts push more to the brink, the U.N. said.

Nearly 26 million Ethiopians require aid, including more than 9 million who depend on food rations, including 5 million in Tigray, amid rising malnutrition rates, it said.

“Ethiopia is the most alarming probably almost certainly in terms of immediate emergency need,” Griffiths said, adding that 400,000 people had been deemed at risk of famine already in May.

Noting that heavy fighting continued, with government forces battling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front forces who have moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa, he added: “But capacity to respond to an imploded Ethiopia is almost impossible to imagine.”

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Doug Ford applauds new COVID-19 travel restrictions, says more discussions with feds to be held – Globalnews.ca

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked the federal government for implementing new travel restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and said more discussions will be held about possibly expanding new testing rules to travellers from the United States.

Ford made the remarks at an unrelated press conference in Mississauga Wednesday morning.

Several Omicron variant cases have already been confirmed in Ontario, and Ford said while it is a “cause for concern” it is “not cause for panic.”

“Every day we hold off more cases entering our country, the more time we have to learn and prepare,” Ford said.

Read more:

Canada expands travel ban, seeks booster guidance

“So the best thing we can do right now is fortify our borders. Our best defence is keeping the variant out of our country. We welcome the actions from the federal government and I want to thank the feds for taking action to date.

“We implored them last week to act quickly and be decisive on the borders and they did.”

In a statement last Friday, Ford called on the federal government to enact travel bans on “countries of concern” and the feds followed through just hours later.

On Tuesday, they expanded that ban to three additional countries.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries over the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. This added to the seven other African countries barred by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.


Click to play video: 'Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions'



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Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions


Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions

Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries over the past two weeks, will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport, and await their test results before exiting quarantine, Duclos said.

It was also announced that all air travellers entering Canada — excluding those coming from the United States — would have to get tested when they arrive and isolate until they receive a negative result. That measure applies to all travellers, regardless of vaccination status.

Duclos said Wednesday that it will take time to implement the new measure.

In his statement last week, Ford also called for point-of-arrival testing to be put in place.

He also said he advised the province’s chief medical officer and Public Health Ontario to “immediately implement expanded surveillance” and update planning to “ensure we are ready for any outcome.”

The Omicron variant has now been detected in many countries around the world, including, as of Wednesday, the United States.

Ford was asked if he would support expanding the new testing rules to those arriving from the States.

“I would always support anything that can be cautious to prevent this variant coming into our country. So, again we’ll have a discussion with the federal government. That’s their jurisdiction, it’s not ours,” Ford said.

“They work collaboratively with all the provinces and territories and I’m always for going the cautious route as I think people have seen over the last 20 months.”

The premier added that “it doesn’t take much to get a test at the airport.”

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday that it’s too early to say whether Canada’s latest requirement to test arriving air travellers will be extended to include those coming from the United States.

“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travellers from the U.S. We haven’t made that decision yet,” he said.

Read more:

Feds, provinces considering expanding COVID-19 tests for U.S. travellers amid Omicron

When asked what provincial measures are being considered in response to the Omicron variant, Ford said they will make sure there is expanded testing capacity and contact tracing.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there is still much that isn’t known about the variant, including how effective vaccines are against it.

She said the province is “continuing with all of our precautions” and said it’s important to keep border restrictions in place until more is known about the variant.

Elliott also said more information will be released in the coming days “with respect to age categories” on booster shots.

— With files from Saba Aziz and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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