At the UN, on Sept. 23, 2019 (more than a year ago), the world received a timely and inspirational wake-up call about the undeniable dangers of climate change from someone wise beyond her years — someone who has grasped the urgency of the global climate crisis much better than many of our (so-called) world leaders and corporation heads.
Instead of the younger generation pleading with us to secure our common future, we should be the ones ensuring that the next two generations (including our children and grandchildren) inherit a world that will be livable.
I am, of course, referring to Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who understands better than most members of the generation that currently wields power, that we cannot go on destroying our planet as we have been since the start of the Industrial Revolution — especially during the last 50 years.
In 1987, Gro Harlem Brundtland (the former prime minister of Norway) delivered what became commonly known as the Brundtland Report — Our Common Future, for the World Commission on Environment and Development — as requested by the United Nations General Assembly.
The team, of which she was the chair, included members from at least 22 countries. It is interesting to note that these two Scandinavian countries have produced two such forward-thinking people — albeit two generations apart.
In the early 1960s, one brilliant mind stated: “A rising tide lifts all boats” (erroneously attributed to JFK). By the same token, rising greenhouse gas (GHG) levels harm all people, animals and plants in the world. What can we, as individuals and a nation, do to mitigate this global climate crisis?
Following, in very broad strokes, is a plan of how Canada can graduate from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable and sustainable one.
Some people (especially those in the fossil fuel industry) would say that — because of the COVID-19 crisis — now is not the time to be introducing such new measures into our economy. On the contrary, because of the slowdown in the Canadian and world economies and the reduced demand for fossil fuel products, now is the perfect time to change our basic energy generation model.
We all know that the fossil fuel industry is highly subsidized by us — the taxpayers — through our federal and provincial governments. But nobody seems to know the magnitude of these subsidies (or at least, they won’t tell us). They appear to amount to billions of dollars! What would happen if these subsidies were redirected into “green” and renewable energy projects? The ultimate outcome would probably be the creation of many more highly skilled jobs than would be lost by the redirection of funds away from the fossil fuel sector. It would also result in a much cleaner biosphere.
As I see it, there are three (or four) major obstacles to converting our economy from the FF to the renewable sector:
1. As the fossil fuel sector has been subsidized for many years, it has momentum driving it forward at a great rate;
2. No government (so far) has had the political will to start the conversation — let alone the conversion — from fossil fuel jobs to the new, green economy. This is true mainly because this initiative would not bear fruit until long after its initiators have left politics;
3. The fossil fuel industry has so much economic and political power that it will take a huge grassroots effort to deflect its path onto a new course;
4.The worldwide COVID crisis. There is obviously going to be major pushback from the fossil fuel industry and those governments and individuals who espouse this fossil fuel-driven industrial philosophy. However, once started, we must stick to our guns and see it through to its final conclusion.
Granted, if Canada were the only country to go this route, we would not be competitive in the short term, but I feel that as soon as one country shows leadership in this field, others will inevitably follow. Admittedly, this isn’t the only GHG reduction initiative we should undertake, but it is one that can start this paradigm shift relatively quickly.
The generally agreed-upon critical date for stabilizing (and reducing) the generation of GHGs is 2030 — less than 10 years from now. There are probably many ways of carrying out this conversion. But, so we don’t destabilize our economy any more than COVID-19 has, I’d advocate the following strategy:
Reduce the fossil fuel industry subsidies by 20 per cent per year for five years. Direct 100 per cent of these funds to sustainable energy projects immediately. An additional advantage of this strategy is that each time funds are directed to innovative, sustainable technologies, it will attract other funds (both nationally and internationally), thereby doubling or tripling the funds available.
To negate the necessity of creating a new bureaucracy to administer this plan, convert existing staff from the fossil fuel and energy sectors to its implementation and administration.
The fact that many government staff have already switched to work on administering the COVID-19 program proves that we can redirect government staff to other projects.
Admittedly, this conversion will be a thankless task — in the short term, any government that implements this plan will become the “most reviled” government to the Fossil Fools, provinces, and parties who deny climate change. But in 20 or 30 years, it will be described as the “most revered” and enlightened government ever — by your children and grandchildren.
How will we persuade the Canadian federal and provincial governments to legislate this redirection of subsidies from fossil fuel industry to renewable projects? It will take an all-party agreement to implement this plan; everyone must be on board.
We must take a “Manhattan Project” approach, as employed during the Second World War. We could call it the Canada Climate Battle Plan (or CCBP). Whereas the Manhattan Project (to build the atomic bomb) was the most secret project in the world during the Second World War (of necessity), the CCBP must be the most open and transparent enterprise in Canadian history — as everyone in Canada will have a stake in its outcome.
We need a plan that will put us on the road to converting our economy away from fossil fuel consumption, and towards a sustainable, green economy. We will have to set milestone targets and report on our progress towards them at least twice a year.
Now obviously, this cannot happen overnight, so it will have to be phased in over the next five years, as noted earlier. It will take upwards of a year just to set up a task force to organize and implement the plan and to retrain workers.
Setting up this task force is only the beginning; hundreds, if not thousands, of details will have to be worked out. It should be led by a forward-thinking group (say, three individuals) who’d have no personal conflicts of interest in its implementation. I can think of several Canadian visionaries who’d fit this bill: John Ralston Saul, Naomi Klein, Margaret MacMillan and Frank McKenna; I’m sure you can add many more potential names to this list.
One way to get buy-in to this enterprise from all Canadian citizens would be to emulate a European initiative. In Denmark (and several other European countries), cities, towns and villages are co-owners of the local energy systems. These include electricity (wind turbines, photovoltaic arrays, biomass enterprises) and heating (district heating), so everyone has a stake in producing the “greenest” energy possible — at the lowest price.
All stakeholders will pay the lowest price for energy and, if there are any dividends, they will share equally in their proceeds.
The question now facing us is, “How can we implement this climate crisis task force?” With a relatively newly-elected minority government, we have a chance to start the process.
We can’t use the excuse that Canada produces such a small fraction (less than two per cent) of the world’s GHGs, and that reducing our emissions won’t make any difference to the global picture. If everyone uses this excuse (and many countries and individuals have), nothing will ever get done.
One country has to be the first to enact this type of legislation — and there is no reason why Canada cannot be that country! If we set the example — to prove that it can be done — then other like-minded countries will follow suit. It’s up to us to convince our government members at the federal and provincial levels to get us started on the right track to tackle this genuine climate crisis.
Einar Christensen lives in Halifax.
An innovative economy requires an innovative government – The Hill Times
Government’s job is to empower rapid innovation in the private sector, not control it. Promote a new wave of digital-first ADMs and DMs across departments and prioritize candidates who have worked in high growth SMEs, and who value competition and competitiveness in everything they do, writes ISG Senator Colin Deacon. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
China’s New Growth Plan May Push Economy Past U.S. Within Decade – Bloomberg
Communist Party officials gather in Beijing this week to map out the next phase of economic development, just days before one of the most contentious U.S. elections in history will produce a president resistant to China’s ascent no matter who wins.
The country’s 14th five-year plan is expected to center around technological innovation, economic self reliance and a cleaner environment. Officials will also set goals for the next 15 years as President Xi Jinping seeks to deliver on his vow for national rejuvenation by gaining the global lead in technology and other strategic industries.
If China’s economy — which is already recovering swiftly from the coronavirus shock — can stick to the growth trajectory of recent years, it’ll surpass the U.S. within the next decade. The prospect of ever deeper frictions with the U.S. underpins Xi’s strategy to accelerate plans to shield China from swings in the world economy.
“It reflects China’s realist reassessment of the current global climate,” said Fred Hu, the founder of Primavera Capital Ltd., a private-equity fund based in Beijing. “Self reliance is about developing certain domestic capabilities through investments in R&D and innovation, a necessary and prudent response to external uncertainties.”
“However, it doesn’t mean China will repudiate its longstanding ‘open door’ policy and turn inward,” said Hu, who previously worked for the International Monetary Fund and led Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in China.
Xi and other officials have recently insisted the economy will further open its doors to foreign capital and competition, reflecting concerns about how the world will perceive the upcoming plans. In a speech in Shenzhen this month, Xi vowed to drive technological innovation, but softened that message by making it clear he wants a “new open economic system.”
That desire to avoid having the new plans become the latest lightning rod in the nation’s deteriorating relations with the U.S. and other trading rivals may mean the language around them is toned down. A previous strategy dubbed “Made in China 2025” went dark after it inflamed trade hawks in the Trump administration and spurred unease in Europe and other economies at risk of losing out to increased competition.
What Bloomberg’s Economists say…
“An emphasis on encouraging domestic circulation would not signal that China is closing its doors on the world. We expect the plan to encourage two-way trade and promote services trade.”
–Chang Shu and David Qu. Bloomberg Terminal clients can read the report HERE.
There’s already growing support in capitals from Washington to Canberra to restrict China’s access to strategic technologies. President Donald Trump’s aggressive stance toward China now has bipartisan backing and Chinese officials worry Joe Biden may be even more effective by bringing allies together to curb its development.
Which is why the new plans “will be much less explicit and not as specific as before, because the Made in China 2025 plan had brought so much trouble for China and helped energize the opposition from the U.S.,” said Chen Zhiwu, director of the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong. “So, I expect them to focus on general guidelines and stay vague on specifics,” said Chen, who is a former adviser to China’s State Council.
Officials have been quick to argue that what’s good for China is good for the world. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian cited media reports to reporters on Wednesday that said a third of Mercedes Benz AG’s profits came from China in the third quarter and that China’s box office sales of more than $2 billion surpassed that of North America for the first time this year.
This proves that China’s massive market will generate “sustainable impetus for Chinese and world economic growth,” Zhao said.
That’s backed up by IMF forecasts. Bloomberg calculations based off the latest estimates show China will be the world’s biggest growth engine in the years ahead.
Unlike its peers, China’s economy is the only major one in the world forecast to grow this year after authorities aggressively contained the coronavirus.
Still, the number of countries that consider Chinese technology companies as national security threats is growing. Some are banding together to shift import dependency away from China as criticism grows over its domestic policies. Global companies are also assessing their supply chains due to reports of forced labor and China’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang and its policies toward Hong Kong.
That resistance from the international community is pushing China to look inward for sources of growth. So far, tariffs and sanctions have done little to change China’s behavior. It maintains an extensive negative list of foreign companies operating in China that it may target, while recent actions aimed at Australian exports show it’s prepared to retaliate when it feels its interests have been threatened.
A more coordinated effort that brings together Europe, Japan and other American allies may be harder to resist and could push China onto a more isolated path.
That overseas wariness will impact the flow of outbound Chinese investment, said Hu, with the likelihood that state-backed investment into markets such as the U.S., U.K. or Australia is scaled back and ambitions around other projects, such as Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, will be readjusted.
Five-year plans, a legacy of China’s command economy, have recently focused on industrial restructuring and maintaining a medium to high rate of growth. State media has reported that China will likely downplay the GDP target in the upcoming plan as it shifts to high-quality growth. While deliberations will be announced after the gathering, the document in its entirely will only be made public at an annual parliamentary session in March.
Delivering on self reliance while still benefiting from globalization — or “dual circulation” as the twin goal is dubbed by Chinese officials — will be a challenge given that hawkish rhetoric toward China will persist, said Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS Group AG in Hong Kong.
“China is facing a more challenging external environment of development,” she said. “Going forward, China has to be more ambitious on domestic reform and opening. It will probably intensify.”
— With assistance by Lucille Liu
Free webinars will focus on AI, circular economy and Bullfrog Power – OrilliaMatters
It Sustainable Orillia Month in Orillia. With that in mind Sustainable Orillia has been offering free webinars throughout October. The final three webinars are planned for this week. Here’s a rundown of topics and what to expect.
The first webinar will focus on how using artificial intelligence (AI) can help commercial building owners reduce their heating, venting and air-conditioning costs.
This webinar will be of special interest to building operators who have buildings larger than 75 sq. ft., and where a significant portion of the energy used in these buildings is used for HVAC systems. AI can help you manage and reduce these costs.
During this presentation, you will meet Bryce Conacher, Sales Director, National Accounts BrainBox AI.
Conacher has worked for the Canadian Standards Association and has been a GHG Instructor at the School of Environment at the University of Toronto. Prior to this he was with Brookfield Renewables, one of the world’s largest investors in renewable energy. He has been with BrainBox for about nine months.
You can expect to learn how BrainBox AI’s technology converts existing HVAC equipment into autonomous HVAC systems using artificial intelligence and cloud computing. In addition, this system can also be used to improve air quality in hotels and/or other buildings being considered for temporary hospitals during these COVID times.
Plan to attend How Using Artificial Intelligence Can Help Commercial Building Owners Reduce Their HVAC Energy Costs on Tuesday, Oct. 27 2020 at 2 p.m. Please go to https://sustainableorillia.ca/so-month/ for registration details.
The second webinar will focus on how you can Bullfrog Power your home and your business
This webinar will be of special interest to people with homes and businesses who want to help reduce their GHG emissions and promote renewable energy in Canada.
It will appeal to the growing segment of eco-conscious consumers, as well as companies which want to engage their employees in a sustainability-minded culture. The webinar will address both electricity and natural gas.
During this presentation, you will meet Dave Borins, working for Community Renewable Projects at Bullfrog Power. Borins has been with Bullfrog for seven years. He provides critical financial support to communities bringing new renewable energy projects online across Canada. Bullfrog Power has supported 140 projects to date.
During this webinar, you can expect to learn:
- How Bullfrog Power works for both homes and businesses (Why go green?)
- How it can help reduce your environmental impact
- How it can increase businesses’ employee engagement and differentiate your brand
- How your business can better engage with the community
Plan to tune in to How you can Bullfrog Power your home and your business on Thursday, Oct. 29 2020 at 11 a.m. Please go to https://sustainableorillia.ca/events for registration details.
Do you understand the circular economy? That’s the topic of the third webinar, which will be of special interest to people who would like to explore how countries around the world are accelerating progress toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through the lens of the “Circular Economy (CE).”
During this presentation, you will meet Audrey Bayens, a long-time volunteer for community sustainability projects. As an emerging leader in the Circular Economy movement, her focus is on increasing adoption so Canada can take its proper place in this movement as it hosts the World Circular Economy Forum in Toronto in September, 2021.
In this webinar, you will learn how this new reality presents opportunities to achieve sustainability in ways that help us thrive. The Circular Economy is a “toolbox” of ways to achieve many SDG targets.
At the core of CE practices is the aim to restore natural capital through a broad range of models such as reuse, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing, recycling, industrial symbiosis, biomimicry, product-sharing and supporting better design practices.
Plan to tune in for Understanding the Circular Economy on Thursday. Oct. 29 at either 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. Please go to https://sustainableorillia.ca/so-month/ for registration details.
There is no charge to participate in any of these webinars. If you can’t catch it the first time, the recording will be available for future viewing via Sustainable Orillia’s website www.sustainableorillia.ca.
Join other local people who care about the future of our community for a valuable hour of new and useful information, followed by questions and answers.
With 879 new COVID-19 cases, Quebec passes grim 100,000 milestone – The Sudbury Star
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