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Shifting to EVs is not enough. The deeper problem is our car dependence – CBC News

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This column is an opinion by Paris Marx, a technology writer based in St. John’s. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a bold claim: Canada “isn’t just going to be a global player in EVs, … we get to be global leaders.” Over the past year, the federal government has been announcing a series of deals with auto companies and suppliers aimed at growing the domestic electric vehicle industry.

With gas prices soaring above $2 a litre for the first time in May and Atlantic Canada‘s record temperatures serving as yet another reminder that the world is rapidly warming, it’s clear that we desperately need to rethink our transport system. But is the government placing too much focus on electric vehicles instead of encouraging more people to ditch their cars altogether?

Electric vehicles tend to produce fewer emissions over their life cycles than equivalent vehicles powered by fossil fuels, but the framing often used by government and industry that they are “zero emissions” is misleading.

Unlike a conventional vehicle whose emissions come from burning fossil fuels, a greater share of an EV’s emissions come from its production; more specifically, its battery. This is the side of the EV that often doesn’t make it into the ad campaigns.

The International Energy Agency estimates that there will need to be a significant increase in mineral extraction to fuel a green transition that places emphasis on EVs over alternatives like public transit and cycling. For example, demand for lithium is expected to soar by 4,200 per cent and cobalt by 2,100 per cent.

Greenwashing operations

Those figures sound great to the mining industry, which hopes to use EVs to greenwash its operations, but they have severe human and environmental consequences throughout the supply chain.

The “lithium triangle” in South America is poised to be a significant source of the mineral, but already it’s polluting the water and lowering the water table, threatening fresh water access for local communities.

Meanwhile, the site of much of the world’s cobalt extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) experiences high rates of birth defects, contaminated water, and around 40,000 children are believed to work in artisanal mines. In 2019, electric carmaker Tesla was among a number of companies named in a lawsuit over child deaths at cobalt mines in the DRC.

But this isn’t just happening abroad. Part of the prime minister’s pitch for Canada to be a global EV leader is to increase mining as well. Lithium mines in Quebec have already been responsible for environmental accidents and subject to community opposition, while Indigenous opposition is already mounting over plans to exploit the Ring of Fire in Ontario. We’re sure to see more as provinces across the country look for mineral deposits to exploit.

An electric vehicle charging space is pictured at a parking lot in Surrey, B.C.
Unlike a conventional vehicle whose emissions come from burning fossil fuels, a greater share of an EV’s emissions come from its production; more specifically, its battery, writes Paris Marx. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In 2019, transportation accounted for 25 per cent of national emissions, second only to oil and gas, and that had grown by 54 per cent since 1990, in part because people were driving more and buying big trucks and SUVs instead of sedans. There’s a need to address the transport sector’s emissions, but the problem goes beyond tailpipe emissions.

According to Statistics Canada, 73.7 per cent of Canadians live in urban areas, but the majority are in the suburbs, not the downtown core, and those suburbs keep growing. That reality is the product of decades of government policy that incentivized suburban living and prioritized cars above other forms of mobility.

A study released in January found that 83 per cent of Canadians own or lease a vehicle, and 81 per cent of car owners felt it would be impossible not to because so many of our communities have been built to deny residents a reliable alternative. Those suburban communities also have higher carbon footprints than denser urban areas.

But car dependence isn’t just an environmental problem. In 2020, an estimated 1,745 people died in motor vehicle collisions and another 7,868 people sustained serious injuries. Commute times are also getting longer in Canadian cities, and sitting in a car is associated with a whole range of adverse health impacts.

On top of that, owning a car is more expensive than many people realize. Before the pandemic, inflation and soaring fuel costs, the Canadian Automotive Association estimated the annual cost of vehicle ownership was between $8,600 and $13,000, depending on the model. It’s surely higher now.

An unprecedented opportunity

The climate crisis offers us an unprecedented opportunity to re-imagine how we move and how we build our communities, but the push for electric vehicles is about making the smallest possible change — one that likely won’t deliver the scale of emissions reductions we need. Meeting the scale of that challenge requires taking on the dominance of cars in our communities.

The federal government has increased transit funding, but much of the money won’t flow until 2026 and beyond. Meanwhile, subways in the major cities need expansions to keep up with demand, municipal bus systems need operations funding to provide a more frequent and reliable service, and many Canadian cities lack proper cycling infrastructure.

Similarly, the Liberals finally approved VIA Rail’s high-frequency rail plan between Toronto and Quebec City after five years of delay, but even then it won’t arrive until the early 2030s. And it still won’t match the high-speed rail being built in countries across Asia and Europe. The ambition we need simply isn’t there.

Electric vehicles will be part of the solution, but the deeper problem is how many Canadians are dependent on their cars with no reliable alternatives. Governments serious about climate action need to change that.


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Canada boosts capacity of key supply hub for weapons to Ukraine – CBC News

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Defence Minister Anita Anand says Canada is boosting its capacity at a key transportation hub in Scotland, so weapons and other supplies can more easily be shipped to Ukraine and other countries in eastern Europe.

Canadian forces have been responsible for delivering four million pounds of cargo since March, and the Prestwick, Scotland hub will now be expanded into an air mobility detachment with a third CC-130 aircraft and 55 Canadian Armed Forces members present.

“We are expanding the ways in which we are assisting Ukraine and getting military aid to Ukraine by delivering even more aid,” Anand told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview airing Sunday.

CBC News reported earlier this week Ukraine has written to the Canadian government to request armoured vehicles, howitzers and winter clothing.

Canada has promised to deliver 39 armoured troop carriers, and Anand said she’d be meeting with industry partners in Canada to talk about the issue of supply.

Anand said NATO countries are all trying to strike a balance between arms shipments to Ukraine and maintaining supplies to their own armed forces.

“This is front and centre in my mind,” she said.

Canada must say yes to Ukraine: Rae

Canada has committed or delivered $626 million in military aid to Ukraine since February.

Asked about Ukraine’s list of weapons requests in an interview on CBC Radio’s The House that aired Saturday, UN Ambassador Bob Rae said Canada would be hard pressed to deny the asks.

“It may be a career-limiting move for me to say this, but I don’t believe we could say anything less than yes,” Rae said.

“That’s been my consistent advice to whoever, whoever, whoever is listening. Obviously, governments have to decide the pace at which they can do it.”

LISTEN | UN Ambassador Bob Rae discusses latest developments in Ukraine war:

Some NATO countries have struggled to strike the balance Anand described Sunday, due in part to a lack of robust inventory.

“Since the end of the Cold War, not only have allies considerably restructured their armed forces, they also don’t hold the stockpiles anymore that they used to have,” Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, told CBC News earlier this week.

“And so, effectively, most of what you ended up giving away today comes out of your current stockpile. So this is equipment that you’re actually going to be actively short.”

The calls for more aid from Ukraine come as offensives in both the country’s east and south continue, but also as Russia announced a partial mobilization to bring hundreds of thousands more soldiers into its ranks. Russian President Vladimir Putin also threatened this week that Russia was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend itself.

Russia also announced and rapidly began referendums in occupied Ukrainian territories.

Anand said Putin’s decision to raise the threat of nuclear war and mobilization were “acts of desperation.”

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Atlantic Canada begins assessing, cleaning up damage from Fiona – CBC.ca

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People across Atlantic Canada are beginning to assess the damage and clean up after post-tropical storm Fiona swept through the region Saturday.

As of 9 a.m., remnants of Fiona are over southeastern Labrador and have merged with a trough — a long region of low atmospheric pressure.

Fiona spent early Sunday morning moving inland in southeastern Quebec as a post-tropical storm, according to Environment Canada. It’s expected to dissipate over the Labrador Sea.

The agency said winds were at 80 km/h and all wind warnings associated with the storm have ended.

In Newfoundland, some homes were washed away or flattened, others were flooded, roads were washed out and people were evacuated. The damage was most striking in Port aux Basques, where boulders and debris were scattered across the community.

On Sunday morning, CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler said the bulk of the damage in Port aux Basques was caused by storm surge.

The Salvation Army has co-ordinated an emergency shelter for people displaced from their homes in the Port aux Basques area at the local school.

In Nova Scotia, hundreds of thousands of customers were without power on Sunday, and the Canadian Armed Forces has been called in to help restore electricity.

Nova Scotia Power president Peter Gregg said in a statement Sunday that the utility knows “there will be customers who face outages for multiple days” given the damage created by the storm.

Two municipalities in Cape Breton declared a state of emergency. The fastest winds clocked in at 171 km/h in Arisaig, just north of Antigonish.

The devastation of a day: Scenes of Fiona’s damage across Atlantic Canada

6 hours ago

Duration 3:05

Within hours, post-tropical storm Fiona caused destruction and upheaval in all four Atlantic provinces, as well as in eastern Quebec. See some of the impact as gathered by CBC News crews.

Ottawa has also approved Nova Scotia’s request for funding for disaster assistance to help municipalities repair damaged infrastructure, and to assist individuals and small businesses pay for uninsured losses

On Prince Edward Island, winds hit 150 km/h and almost 100 millimetres of rain fell, homes and businesses were damaged and flooded, and at one point about 95 per cent of Maritime Electric customers had lost electricity.

Premier Dennis King said Sunday that his province’s road to recovery “will be weeks or longer” since the damage may have been “the worst we’ve ever seen” from a tropical storm. 

Residents in Charlottetown are now being asked to stay off the roads and shelter in place after the storm rushed over the Island. 

In New Brunswick, roads were flooded, a bridge was destroyed and tens of thousands were without electricity. Residents there are also being asked to stay away from dangerous, storm-ravaged areas.

Bill Hogan, the province’s public safety minister, said it will take time to fully calculate the damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona, but he expects help will be made available to affected residents.

Power outages are still widespread on Sunday morning, with more than 365,000 customers in the dark across the four Atlantic provinces, including more than 260,000 in Nova Scotia.

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Officials across Eastern Canada set to begin assessing full scope of storm damage

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After hammering Atlantic Canada, post-tropical storm Fiona has moved inland in southeastern Quebec, with Environment Canada saying the storm will continue to weaken as it tracks across southeastern Labrador and over the Labrador Sea.

As of 6 a.m. local time, nearly 267,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were still affected by outages, 82,414 Maritime Electric customers remained in the dark and more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick were without power, with some provincial utility companies warning it could be days before the lights are back on for everyone.

Newfoundland Power reported outages affecting more than 3,600 customers, as high-end tropical storm force winds knocked down trees and power lines, although Environment Canada said winds would diminish in the morning.

In an early Sunday morning update, Environment Canada said strong winds continued over the northern Newfoundland, southeastern Labrador and parts of southeastern Quebec.

A wind warning remained in effect for the western part of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, while storm warnings are in place for parts of the Northeast Gulf and Strait of Belle Isle marine areas.

As Fiona continued to weaken, government officials across Eastern Canada prepared to survey the full scope of the damage left behind.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, along with several members of his cabinet, were scheduled to tour some of the hardest hit areas of Cape Breton by helicopter Sunday morning.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who cancelled his planned visit to Japan for the state funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, said he will visit as soon as possible, while noting he doesn’t want to displace any emergency teams who are focused on important work on the ground.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said Saturday members of the Canadian Armed Forces had begun preparing to respond before receiving the request for assistance from Nova Scotia, and troops will be deployed to other provinces that ask for help.

No details were provided on the number of troops being deployed, but Anand said reconnaissance was underway to ensure they go where and when they are needed most.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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