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Climate change voted Canadian Press’ news story of the year for 2019 – Global News

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In late September, hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets across the country to demand more from their governments on climate change.

It was one of the largest mass protests in Canadian history, adding maple flavours to an international climate strike movement founded around Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

It was also a sign, many in the environment movement believed, of Canada’s climate-change coming of age.

“2019 was like the year of climate awakening for Canada,” says Catherine Abreu, the head of Climate Action Network Canada.

READ MORE: ‘Catastrophic’– Canada set to miss 2030 emissions target by 15%, UN report says

It was a year that saw warnings Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, the imposition of a national price on pollution, a vote in Parliament to declare a climate emergency and a federal election in which climate was one of the few real issues to make its way through the din of nasty politics.

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Climate change was chosen in a survey of reporters and editors across the country as the 2019 Canadian Press News Story of the Year.






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U.N. climate summit grinds to a close after talks go into overtime


U.N. climate summit grinds to a close after talks go into overtime

“I don’t think it can be anything but climate change,” said Toronto Star senior editor Julie Carl. “It is gripping our attention, our reality and our imagination.”

A decade ago, climate change was more academic than reality, but in recent years few Canadians haven’t been touched directly by the kind of weather climate change may be causing: floods, fires, major storms, cold snaps, heat waves, longer winters, shorter growing seasons. In June, when Parliament voted to declare that we are facing a climate crisis, it came as parts of eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick were bailing out from the second once-a-century flood in three years.


READ MORE:
‘Quick wins’ needed to reduce emissions, keep climate goals within reach: UN report

In the survey, climate change had stiff competition, barely beating out the SNC-Lavalin saga, which itself had to fight its way into second ahead of the Toronto Raptors’ NBA title. In western Canada, many votes were cast for the hunt for two men who murdered a couple and another man in British Columbia before fleeing to the muskeg of northern Manitoba, where they would take their own lives.

But for many editors, the decision to rank climate change No. 1 comes both from the impact it had in 2019 and its expected dominance in our lives in the future.

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“There’s no bigger story than the human-made altering of our own planet — even if you don’t believe it,” said Paul Harvey, senior editor at the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun.






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Climate change protesters demonstrate in Amsterdam airport, dragged out by police


Climate change protesters demonstrate in Amsterdam airport, dragged out by police

Canada’s new environment minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, ran for office in large part because he wanted to do something to address climate change, a problem, he said in a recent interview, that “is a defining issue of our time.”

It is also a defining issue for the Liberal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ran on a promise to ramp up Canada’s environment policies in 2015, including setting a path to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and fix Canada’s environmental review process for major projects.


READ MORE:
Canadians want to stop climate change — but half don’t want to pay an extra cent: Ipsos poll

But the government’s decision first to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and then spend $4.5 billion to buy the existing pipeline when political opposition threatened to derail the project, left environment advocates disappointed and room for his political critics to pounce.

“You. Bought. A. Pipeline,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh countered in a news release, when Trudeau unveiled his climate plans during the election campaign and promised to lead the way to a greener country.






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Greta Thunberg denounces world leaders’ ‘creative PR’ in climate flight at UN summit


Greta Thunberg denounces world leaders’ ‘creative PR’ in climate flight at UN summit

Climate change is also at the heart of the anger driving talk of western alienation _ and in the most extreme cases, separation _ as oilpatch workers, and others who depend on the oilpatch for their jobs, fear for their futures.

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It leaves any government in Canada with a true conundrum: how to reduce emissions drastically without tanking an economy where oil, gas, manufacturing, and transportation are key. Unlike some small European nations, Canadians live far apart, in cities built around the automobile, and in places where heating and electricity needs in the winter months are high.


READ MORE:
Is the Liberal climate plan achievable?

The political fight between Ottawa and the provinces over how best to manage climate change is a big part of the story and Canadians seem to want them both to win. Two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties advocating for carbon taxes while an equal number voted for parties that promised to complete the Trans Mountain pipeline.

“The vast majority of Canadians said, ‘We want aggressive action on climate’ but the vast majority of Canadians also are pragmatic in terms of saying, ‘But we want to do this in a frame of doing this in a prosperous economy,’ ” Wilkinson said recently in an interview with The Canadian Press.






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Blindfolded Extinction Rebellion demonstrators protest at UN Climate Conference


Blindfolded Extinction Rebellion demonstrators protest at UN Climate Conference

In 2019, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta took Ottawa to court over the federal carbon tax. The first two already lost in their provincial courts of appeal and are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada. Alberta ‘s case is on this week.

Ottawa’s new environmental-assessment process for major projects makes climate change one of the considerations. It is one of the most hated bills in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where governments believe it will mean no new pipelines ever get built in Canada. For environment leaders, that is not a bad thing. For the energy sector, it’s a death knell.

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READ MORE:
Climate change activists block bridges, cause traffic chaos across Canada

Several watchers also think not having a full climate plan helped sink Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s election efforts.

Valerie Casselton, managing editor at the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province, said it “arguably” cost Scheer the election “in a year when the Liberals faced scandal after scandal but managed to rally by climbing onto their green platform planks.”

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Pope Francis calls for Olympic truce for countries at war, prays for peace

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday voiced his hope that the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games will provide an opportunity for countries at war to respect an ancient Greek tradition and establish a truce for the duration of the Games.

“According to ancient tradition, may the Olympics be an opportunity to establish a truce in wars, demonstrating a sincere will for peace,” Francis said during his Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square.

The Pope stressed that sport also has “a great social power, capable of peacefully uniting people from different cultures.”

The opening ceremony of the 33rd Olympic Games will be held in Paris on July 26 with the participation of 205 delegations of athletes, who will parade on more than 80 boats on the Seine.

“I hope that this event can be a sign of the inclusive world we want to build and that the athletes, with their sporting testimony, may be messengers of peace and valuable models for the young,” Francis added.

The pope, as always, asked the faithful to pray for peace, recalling the ongoing conflicts around the world.

“Let us not forget the martyred Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, Myanmar, and many other countries at war. Let us not forget, war is a defeat,” he concluded.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Canadian basketball star Natalie Achonwa preps for her fourth — and final — Olympics

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VICTORIA – Natalie Achonwa had plans for motherhood.

As a professional basketball player and competitive person, she believed she’d quickly figure out feeding and sleep schedules after her son, Maverick, arrived in April 2023.

Babies, Achonwa learned, have little respect for plans.

Balancing parenting with returning to elite sport has been full of challenges, especially as Achonwa prepares for the Paris Olympics with the Canadian women’s basketball team.

“I wouldn’t trade being Maverick’s mom for the world. But I don’t want to glamorize the life of being a professional athlete and being a mom at the same time,” she said.

“I’m not saying you can’t do it. And I’m not saying women aren’t superheroes. I want to be real in the sense that there are plenty of perks, plenty of fun things that I get to experience with him. But it’s hard as hell.”

Achonwa, a 31-year-old forward from Guelph, Ont., joined Team Canada as a teen.

Her first Olympics were the 2012 London Games and she’ll play the tournament for a fourth — and final — time at the Paris 2024 this month.

Selected ninth overall by Indiana Fever in the 2014 draft, Achonwa spent eight seasons playing in the WNBA for Indiana and the Minnesota Lynx, with overseas stints in Italy, France, South Korea and China.

Being a professional athlete made becoming a mom harder in some senses, she said.

“I was so hyper aware of how I should be feeling mentally and physically that when I was going through some postpartum depression, I could see myself but I couldn’t feel it,” she explained at Team Canada’s training camp in Victoria, B.C., last month.

“I’m like ‘This is wrong, but I don’t know what to do about it.’ And thankfully, I’ve created such an amazing group of family and friends that really pulled me through that.”

Achonwa teared up as she described how refreshing it felt to return to the women’s national team.

“Coming back to this group makes me feel whole,” she said. “Canada Basketball has been a part of who I am since I was 14, 16 years old. And now, adding my son, coming back from maternity leave and being a mother has changed my mindset and pushed me deeper into this Canada Basketball family and life.”

Paris will mark the fourth consecutive time Canada’s women’s national team has made it to the Olympics. Achonwa has been on all four squads. This time around, the Canadians head into the tournament ranked fifth in the world.

The team has a different feel, Achonwa said.

“This group is different because I don’t feel like I’m pushing them to be somewhere. I feel like I’m opening the door for them to be there,” she said.

Canada finished ninth in women’s basketball at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021. Expectations were high for the team heading in, with thoughts they would bring home a medal.

“I think it was almost a hyper-focus of suffocating your dream,” Achonwa said. “And throw in COVID, throw in all the things that kind of derailed our peak, not to make excuses, but it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.”

The result was tough, said forward Kayla Alexander.

“We didn’t get the results we wanted in Tokyo. That was the worst,” she said. “Firstly, we didn’t get the results we wanted and then second, we were stuck there. You couldn’t leave straight away and we had to sit in it. It wasn’t exactly a fun feeling.”

Changes were made. Canada Basketball hired Victor Lapena to coach the team in January 2022. Some players moved on, others moved up from the development program.

Canada finished fourth at the 2022 World Cup, then took bronze at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup in 2023.

In February, though, Canada nearly missed clinching an Olympic berth after going 1-2 in qualifying. The team secured its spot when Spain beat Hungary with a dramatic comeback.

“Between (Tokyo) and how our Olympic qualifiers went? That is all the motivation I need,” Alexander said. “That’s what’s been fuelling me to keep going, just having those memories of how it felt and not wanting to repeat that experience again.”

Competition at the Paris Games will be fierce.

Canada opens the tournament on July 29 against host France, who are ranked seventh in the world. Group play will also pit the Canadians against No. 3 Australia and the 12th-ranked Nigerians.

The composition of Canada’s team is unique, Lapena said.

“Thinking about basketball, we have great athletes. We can do pretty dynamic basketball,” the coach said. “And we have different tools in different positions that make this team very, very difficult to defend. Because we are a little bit unpredictable. And I like that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.



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‘Not OK’: Closing only pool in Ontario town points to growing climate challenge

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CLINTON, Ont. _ Randy Marriage was a regular at his hometown’s only pool when he was growing up, cooling off with friends on summer days. His grandchildren won’t have the same chance.

Despite hotter summers and more intense heat waves, partly induced by man-made climate change, local authorities have decided to close the only pool in the small southern Ontario community of Clinton, citing its high refurbishing and maintenance costs.

“It is a terrible decision to close this pool,” said Marriage, 58, a lifelong Clinton resident, standing by a splash pad next to a now waterless pool.

“Our council is trying to tell us, you know, it is OK,” he added. “It is not OK.”

Clinton is facing the same climate challenges as larger communities, but is suffering more because it isn’t “deep-pocketed,” Marriage said.

Experts broadly agree that smaller communities, which often have few options to raise money, will struggle to adapt to a warmer world.

“Certainly it makes sense that smaller and rural communities with fewer resources, fewer sort of services overall will have a tougher time supporting their most vulnerable residents in the event of extreme heat,” said Ryan Ness, director of adaptation at the Canadian Climate Institute.

Property tax is often the only avenue for small communities to raise new funds. Getting money for new projects, like a major pool renovation or building cooling centres, typically requires a grant from the provincial or federal government.

Rural communities often lack the capacity to navigate the bureaucratic hurdles involved with getting grant money, Ness said.

Salomé Sané, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace Canada, said the federal government should create a climate adaptation fund specifically for small communities to help them upgrade buildings to make them cooler, improve transportation and improve access to real-time information about incoming heat waves.

“What we actually need is a strong investment … into preparation and adaptation to extreme heat that is very much tailored to the needs of rural communities,” she said.

Clinton, a community of roughly 3,000 people located about 200 kilometres west of Toronto, is part of the municipality of Central Huron.

Jim Ginn, the mayor of Central Huron, said the community does not have enough resources to meet the coming climate challenge.

So far, the splash pad and the community’s cooling centre have proven enough to cope with bouts of extreme heat, Ginn said, but he conceded the municipality isn’t prepared for a future with hotter, more intense summers.

“Until it becomes a higher priority for the senior levels of government that they fund us more, there is not much more we can do,” he said.

Clinton’s only pool was initially closed in 2020 as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic. It reopened in 2021 but closed again 2022 because it needed repairs. Ginn said the decision to close it permanently was made last month by the local council, which determined it could not afford the more than $5 million needed to renovate and re-open the pool.

The mayor said council asked residents to weigh in before making the decision but didn’t get feedback.

“Everything blew up” after the decision was made, he added.

The council vote is reversible if the community secures funding either through public fundraising or government grants to cover part of the expenses, the mayor said.

Stacey Petteplace, who moved to Clinton nearly a decade ago, said the pool’s permanent closure means residents need to drive to neighbouring towns to swim, which is a problem for those who don’t have a vehicle.

“Our kids needed us to give them this safe place, so they have a place to cool down in the summer,” she said. “We failed to do that.”

Angelee Bird, another Clinton resident, said losing the pool means losing one way community residents might have found some relief during hot summers.

When her apartment building lost power during a heat wave in June, Bird said she was lucky to have family members nearby who she could stay with overnight. Others might not have many options, she said.

“Our entire building was outside, sitting on grass because it was the only way to cool down,” the 28-year-old mother of two said.

In Seaforth, Ont., a little north of Clinton, spirits are higher after the town’s first and only splash pad was opened last month.

Dean Wood, who spearheaded the project, said local businesses and residents raised $330,000 to build it.

Wood said he used to drive his children to splash pads in neighbouring towns when they were growing up, trips his relatives and others in Seaforth now don’t have to make.

“It is a wonderful sight to see because every time you pull into the park on a hot summer day, the splash pad is being used,” he said.

Nicole Ward, who visited the splash pad recently with her child and friends, said Seaforth’s residents feel lucky to have a place where they can stop by to cool off.

“We love it, it is very family oriented,” she said.

“We have a nice big pool, a splash pad and our town is more fortunate than other places that don’t have as much funds coming in for them to build facilities to keep cool.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2024.



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