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Canada's climate change efforts going from 'failure to failure,' says commissioner's report –



Despite three decades of effort, Canada’s carbon emissions have risen 20 per cent since 1990, the country remains unprepared for climate disasters and subsidies for the oil and gas sector have not delivered promised emission reductions, say new reports from the federal government’s chief environmental watchdog.

That damning verdict applies not only to past Liberal and Conservative governments but to the current government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Canada was once a leader in the fight against climate change. However, after a series of missed opportunities, it has become the worst performer of all G7 nations since the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted in 2015,” said Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Jerry V. DeMarco in a media statement.

“We can’t continue to go from failure to failure; we need action and results, not just more targets and plans.”

DeMarco’s five reports look at various federal efforts on the environment and conclude that, despite failures in a number of policy areas, Canada still has time to turn its record around.

“With strong, concerted action from parliamentarians and Canadians, Canada can move past its poor track record on climate change and meet its international climate obligations,” one of the reports said.

“Building on momentum around the globe and at home, including recent climate legislation, stronger plans, and increased funding, Canada can achieve a cleaner, net-zero-emission future for generations to come.”

The report looking at Canada’s record on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not an audit, DeMarco’s office said, but rather an examination of progress meant to help governments improve outcomes going forward.

The commissioner identifies eight lessons that could get Canada back on track with its target of cutting emissions 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Key lessons

The first requires improved policy leadership and coordination between federal and provincial governments. 

The commissioner notes that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador produce 97 per cent of Canada’s oil and gas and said that any discussion about cutting emissions has to closely involve energy-producing provinces to reduce national tensions over the issue.

“Canada needs to depolarize the climate change discussion to move the debate from whether the country should significantly reduce its emissions and toward a discussion on how emissions should be reduced,” the commissioner said.

(Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development)

The commissioner’s office said that while Canada’s oil and gas sector is responsible for eight per cent of GDP, it’s also to blame for 25 per cent of emissions.

To turn that around, the commissioner said Canada needs to fund efforts to transition workers away from emissions-intensive industries and increase the country’s reliance on lower-emission energy sources.

Preparing for climate disasters

The commissioner said that dealing with weather-related disasters, such as the catastrophic flooding in B.C.’s interior, costs the country up to six per cent of GDP annually. Better preparation for such events is critical one of the reports said. 

“Compared with the high costs of cleaning up disasters after the fact, investing early in adaptation measures avoids losses and generates significant economic, social and environmental benefits,” the report said.

The report notes that recent polling shows just three quarters of Canadians agreed that global warming is caused by human activity and only 60 per cent of Canadians polled thought the federal government would be failing its citizens if it did not address climate change.

To address this, the commissioner is calling on the federal government to do a better job of countering misinformation on climate change.

The commissioner’s office says that, in the past, Canada’s stated climate targets have not been backed by strategies to follow through.

“While implementation of Canada’s current climate plans may fulfil Canada’s initial 2030 target of a 30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels, Canada now has a new, more ambitious goal of 40 per cent to 45 per cent. Therefore, the government will have to revisit the plans, policies, and actions needed to achieve the new targets,” says one of the reports. 

The commissioner calls on the federal government to broaden its team of partners to battle climate change and to take steps to protect future generations from its impacts. He said Ottawa could accomplish that by working closer with Indigenous communities, the financial sector, academics, non-governmental organizations and businesses.

Oil and gas subsidies

The commissioner said that while recent legislation, such as the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act and the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, represent progress, more must be done.

“Parliament … must intensify efforts in the fight against climate change to make up for decades of missed opportunities and missteps,” the report said.

A helicopter dumps a load of water on the Philpot Road fire outside of Kelowna, B.C., Monday, August 28, 2017. Research suggests that bigger, hotter wildfires are turning Canada’s vast boreal forest into a net source of climate-changing greenhouse gases. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

DeMarco’s fall reports also contained a number of audits. One of the audits looked into the Emissions Reduction Fund, which was launched last year as part of the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

The fund provides $675 million to help land-based oil and gas companies maintain jobs, attract investment, increase competitiveness and speed up deployment of equipment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane.

Poor reporting standards

The audit found that in designing the program, Natural Resources Canada did not ensure that drawing from the fund would actually lead to emissions reductions in the oil and gas sector. The audit also found that emission reduction expectations were “overestimated.”

“It is important that programs aimed at oil and gas companies be efficient and effective at delivering emission reductions,” said DeMarco. “Otherwise, such programs risk undermining Canada’s efforts to fight climate change.” 

During question period in the House of Commons today, Green MP Elizabeth May called on the government to explain how it intends to fix the program.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he welcomes the report and agrees with “a number of the commissioner’s observations.”

“One must remember that this particular program was a particular COVID response measure … but we are now beyond the worst of COVID and … have now commenced a review of the future of this program and the remaining funding,” he said.

A flare stack lights the sky along refinery row in Edmonton Alta, on Friday December 28, 2018. A report by the International Energy Agency says the oil and gas industry need to increase their efforts to address climate change. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

A separate audit in DeMarco’s fall report looked at the work of 12 federal departments responsible for “healthy coasts and oceans, pristine lakes and rivers, and sustainable food.”

The audit found that while these departments “contributed to meeting the goals” laid out in the federal government’s Sustainable Development Strategy, they failed to adequately follow guidelines or properly report how actions they took contributed to meeting the goals laid out by the federal government.

“Gaps in reporting make it difficult for Parliamentarians and Canadians to understand progress being made against Canada’s sustainable development commitments,” said DeMarco.

The fall reports also noted that efforts to reduce excess deposits of nutrients in Lake Erie, Lake Winnipeg and the Wolastoq—Saint John River would be greatly improved if the federal government shared information and resources with other organizations involved in water management.

Excess nutrients, combined with a warming climate, can lead to “runaway growth of algae” that threatens water supplies, the report said.

‘We’re doing better,’ says environment minister

Wilkinson said that projections made before the Liberals came to power said that Canada’s emissions would be 12 per cent above 2005 levels by 2030. He insisted the country will meet its target of a 45 per cent cut in emissions by the end of the decade.

“To implement, you actually have to plan, you have to have detailed, concrete actions and that is exactly what Canada has,” Wilkinson said.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said he welcomed the report and agreed that “we have to do more.”

“We’re doing better,” he added. “We’re doing more things than any other government has ever done in the history of Canada when it comes to fighting climate change.”

Guilbeault acknowledged that Canada has had a poor record when it comes to implementing climate change policies.

“We’ve been very good in Canada in having debates about targets and we’ve not been very good, until recently, about talking and working on implementation and that’s what we’ve been very hard at work [on] since 2015,” he said.

The minister flagged programs such as carbon pricing and investments in public transit as evidence of progress.

“We already have one of the most aggressive carbon pricing systems in the world,” he said.

The Conservatives released a statement saying the commissioner stated something that they’ve pointed out for years — that targets are not being met.

“We urgently need policies that [encourage] the continued development of low carbon energy and carbon reduction,” said the statement.

“Canada’s Conservatives will continue to fight for a plan that prioritizes provinces, communities and workers to ensure that people can live in a country with a secure climate future. We can address both climate change and secure the future for workers.”

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



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



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 –



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'

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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