News Articles

Highway 413: If Doug Ford paves paradise, he’ll wind up with a rush-hour parking lot

The Editorial Board

Published October 20, 2021

Last March, as opposition grew to a proposed superhighway that would cut across thousands of acres of farmland, waterways and the protected Greenbelt northwest of Toronto, the government of Ontario alleged the project was far from a done deal.

“There’s still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done here. Some consultations that have to happen with our partners in the area, an environmental assessment,” House Leader Paul Calandra said. “If it makes sense for the highway to proceed, it will; if it doesn’t, we won’t.”

That was then; this is now. And right now, the Progressive Conservatives are paving a path to re-election next year out of the $6-billion ribbon of asphalt called Highway 413.

In an ad released last week, Premier Doug Ford positioned the PCs as the only provincial party that will say “yes” to growth in the Greater Toronto region by building more highways – the 413 included.

But nothing has changed since March. There have been no new consultations, no environmental assessments, nothing to suggest the project ought to move ahead.

On the contrary, the day after Mr. Calandra spoke last spring, city councilors in Vaughan – one of the municipalities through which the 413 would run – voted against the project, over environmental concerns.

The two largest affected municipalities, Mississauga and Brampton, are also opposed. And in May, federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said there might be cause for a federal review, based on the fact the project could affect endangered species and increase greenhouse-gas emissions.

This page has criticized the project as a sprawl-spreading boondoggle. The planned route, which would connect the juncture of two 400-series highways – the 401 and the tolled 407 – in the west with Highway 400 to the east, with 11 interchanges along the way, would open up vast swathes of farmland to development. It’s suburban planning from the 1950s.

Ontario’s previous Liberal government killed the project in 2018, after an expert advisory panel found it was not the best way of addressing the region’s growing population and transportation needs.

The panel found that the proposed route would reduce travel times for commuters and truckers by no more than 30 seconds, and that other, less expensive options could better help ease congestion. Those included lowering tolls on the 407 to make it more attractive to drivers, expanding existing highways, bringing in congestion pricing, and – best of all – not creating new commuters by adding to sprawl.

Yet in spite of these drawbacks, Mr. Ford is making it clear going into next year’s election that a vote for his party is a vote for Highway 413.

It’s a wedge issue, one Mr. Ford believes will help him win seats next June. The other provincial parties oppose the 413, but commuters from the more suburban parts of the GTA are a large voting bloc that in the past have supported the PCs and their religiously pro-car leader. For these voters, a promise of more asphalt could be ballot-box gold.

They should be wary, though. Mr. Ford says Ministry of Transportation figures show that the new route could cut commute times by 30 minutes, not 30 seconds, for people travelling one end to the other.

It’s an implausible claim, given that the new route would be 59 kilometres long, while the trip from the proposed starting point to the proposed end point of Highway 413 along existing multi-lane highways is about the same distance.

According to Google Maps, the one-way trip from point to point would take about 50 minutes using the tolled Highway 407 during Monday rush hour. How that could be cut to 20 minutes is hard to see – unless Mr. Ford imagines cars traveling at 180 kilometres an hour.

At best, the project might save someone determined to avoid tolls a few minutes, assuming no congestion on the 413. But the 413 will create its own congestion. More highways means more development of car-based communities, which means more people who want to drive, and who have to. It’s called induced demand. If you build it, they will come.

Rather than shorten commute times, Mr. Ford’s unnecessary highway would create a whole new generation of suburban homeowners condemned to a life in their cars, while paving over valuable farmland and plowing through the Greenbelt.

No one should say yes to that.



*Published in the Kitchener Waterloo Record; October 15, 2021, and the Burlington Post

Oct 15/21

What we need from Trudeau in Canada's climate change fight:

Commitments made at upcoming Conference of the Parties in Glasgow will be decisive for our future – good or bad

MERVYN RUSSELL


Dear Prime Minister,


The upcoming COP Climate Conference is the 26th such conference.


However, from the time of the first conference in 1995 until now, global carbon emissions have risen despite the solemn promises made by state parties to honor their commitments made at the Earth Summit [1992], Kyoto [1997] and at Paris [2016], and despite the dire predictions and warnings about not doing so, given by the International Panel of Climate Scientists. Canada’s emissions continue to rise and, per capita, are higher than most other nations. This is a deplorable and terrifying record and a dismal and depressing failure of political will.


The scientists tell us we have nine years to exert any control over the destructive environmental processes that have been set in motion since the beginning of the industrial revolution, but which have increased exponentially in the last decades. Failure to achieve the required reductions in carbon emissions will result in climate changes that will be so strong, extensive and continual in their self-strengthening, that it will be beyond any human power to control their destruction of civilized life, accompanied by millions of deaths of both humans and all living things.


The commitments made at this COP conference and the integrity of will to carry them out, will be decisive for future generations to come. Your responsibility as the leader of Canada, and as an experienced world leader in relation to other national leaders, could hardly be greater.


We implore you to make strong and binding commitments to reduce Canada’s Co2 CO2

emissions at COP 26. Please do not let us down.

We, therefore, urge you to commit Canada to reduce its carbon emissions by carrying through on the following actions:


- Reduce Canada’s carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2005 levels

- Remove all financial supports for all oil and gas exploration, development and

transportation as quickly as possible.

- Provide tax incentives for promising industrial carbon capture technologies

-Provide tax incentives for the production and purchasing of electric vehicles

- Invest only in carbon-free public transportation

- Fund the retrofitting of residential, institutional and commercial buildings

- Fund tree planting, wetland preservation and renovation, and the retention of farmland

- Invest in the research, development, manufacture and implementation of renewable

energy products and systems

-Adhere to the requirements of the Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in

all proposed industrial developments that impact traditional Indigenous lands

- Establish a Crown Corporation for the training of workers in the renewable energy

sector and industrial transformation

- Research significant reductions in carbon emissions from the Armed Forces and all

Federal Departments and Agencies

- Raise the tax on aircraft fuel to that placed on fuel used by the general public



An Overlooked Climate Strategy - Creating Denser Cities

ALEX BOZIKOVIC The Globe and Mail

he housing crisis and the climate crisis have caught the attention of the major parties in this federal campaign.

One policy solution would address both challenges at the same time: Letting more people live in dense urban neighbourhoods. Here, many jobs are close by and daily errands don’t require a car. If people reduce or eliminate their car commutes, if they live in apartments rather than detached houses, their emissions will fall.

The pattern is very clear across North America, where city residents consistently generate fewer emissions. One American study suggested that doubling urban density brings down carbon dioxide emissions by 48 per cent for travel and 35 per cent for residential use.

Yet we are doing the opposite. The bulk of Canadians live in car-oriented suburbs, and the fastest-growing cities in the country – Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver – continue to build more in their suburbs than nearer to their urban cores. Montreal’s suburbs are growing while the city’s population stagnates.

This isn’t entirely an accident. Provincial governments, to a degree, shape how cities are allowed to grow, says Phil Pothen, a land-use planner who is Ontario environment program manager at Environmental Defence. Mr. Pothen points out that in the Toronto region, Ontario’s provincial Growth Plan is sending 80 per cent of new residents and jobs into car-oriented suburbs.

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A 'For Rent' sign posted outside of a Mile-End apartment on Esplanade Avenue.


Of a projected 3.5 million new people by 2051, only 700,000 are directed into the City of Toronto. And yet, Mr. Pothen argues, if the goal is to add new people in places that support walking, cycling and public transit, Toronto neighbourhoods have most of the “low-hanging fruit.”

“The demand to live there” – in walkable neighbourhoods – “is much higher than what we are planning for,” Mr. Pothen says, citing survey data and high prices. “And yet the vast majority of people end up settling in neighbourhoods where they simply can’t get by without a car.”

As climate disasters come to museums’ doorsteps, curators decide what to save or leave

Former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat offers lesson on high-design affordable housing

The local details vary, but the situation is similar in major cities. And so is the big problem: To build housing in existing cities is politically difficult. Over the past 40 years, North American cities have mostly grown by expanding outward. At the same time, the politics of planning have changed to give local groups much stronger ability to push back against change. Anti-development politics, often characterized with the phrase NIMBY, or “not in my backyard,” are very powerful.

They make it especially hard to create the ideal form of architecture for a climate-friendly city: middle-density housing, which can be built more efficiently and less carbon-intensively, using predominantly wood for its structure rather than concrete. This so-called “gentle density” can incur huge political pushback while delivering few homes.

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The federal government should be pushing urban municipalities to accept more people, taking the pressure off local elected officials.

KARENE-ISABELLE JEAN-BAPTISTE/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

That dynamic will not change overnight. But arguments about the climate could help shift it. Look to California. There, the effects of climate change are being felt in the form of droughts and wildfires; and pro-housing advocates have made the link between the state’s acute housing shortage and longer commutes. “As cities that are job centres make it hard or impossible to build housing … people who are priced out move further away, resulting in sprawl that covers up farmland and open space, clogs freeways and increases greenhouse gas emissions,” the state senator Scott Wiener wrote in a New York Times op-ed.


So how to put these pieces together? The federal government has to play the heavy. Local governments effectively control land-use planning. Meanwhile, the federal and provincial governments have the bulk of the responsibility for climate policy – and they don’t have to deal with neighbour-on-neighbour battles. The federal government should be pushing urban municipalities to accept more people, taking the pressure off local elected officials.

In theory, this should be popular. Most of us understand, at some level, that it’s undesirable to pave over green space and agricultural land for new housing and roads. Such development also generates emissions.

Among the major party platforms, the Liberals are gesturing most clearly in this direction. They’ve proposed a “Housing Accelerator Fund” that will send dollars to cities that approve more housing more quickly, and those that “encourage transit-oriented development.” The Conservatives have a plank to tie transit funding to higher density. And the NDP promise to build large quantities of much-needed social housing.

But where? Building urban housing is relentlessly difficult. And yet it is a necessary part of a robust climate strategy.



Crushing climate impacts to hit sooner than feared: draft UN report

The report details the sobering consequences of humanity's greenhouse gas pollution

Marlowe Hood with Patrick Galey and Kelly Macnamara

22 June 2021·7-min read

Climate change will fundamentally reshape life on Earth in the coming decades, even if humans can tame planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, according to a landmark draft report from the UN's climate science advisors obtained by AFP.

Species extinction, more widespread disease, unliveable heat, ecosystem collapse, cities menaced by rising seas -- these and other devastating climate impacts are accelerating and bound to become painfully obvious before a child born today turns 30.

The choices societies make now will determine whether our species thrives or simply survives as the 21st century unfolds, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says in a draft report seen exclusively by AFP.

But dangerous thresholds are closer than once thought, and dire consequences stemming from decades of unbridled carbon pollution are unavoidable in the short term.

"The worst is yet to come, affecting our children's and grandchildren's lives much more than our own," the report says.

By far the most comprehensive catalogue ever assembled of how climate change is upending our world, the report reads like a 4,000-page indictment of humanity's stewardship of the planet.

But the document, designed to influence critical policy decisions, is not scheduled for release until February 2022 -- too late for crunch UN summits this year on climate, biodiversity and food systems, some scientists say.

In response to AFP's reporting, the IPCC released a statement saying it "does not comment on the contents of draft reports while work is still ongoing".

- Allies into enemies -

The draft report comes at a time of global "eco-awakening" and serves as a reality check against a slew of ill-defined net-zero promises by governments and corporations worldwide.

The challenges it highlights are systemic, woven into the very fabric of daily life.

They are also deeply unfair: those least responsible for global warming will suffer disproportionately, the report makes clear.

And it shows that even as we spew record amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we are undermining the capacity of forests and oceans to absorb them, turning our greatest natural allies in the fight against warming into enemies.

It warns that previous major climate shocks dramatically altered the environment and wiped out most species, raising the question of whether humanity is sowing the seeds of its own demise.

"Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems," it says.

"Humans cannot."

- 'Irreversible consequences' -

There are at least four main takeaways in the draft report, which may be subject to minor changes in the coming months as the IPCC shifts its focus to a key executive summary for policymakers.

The first is that with 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming clocked so far, the climate is already changing.

A decade ago, scientists believed that limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius above mid-19th century levels would be enough to safeguard our future.

That goal is enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, adopted by nearly 200 nations who vowed to collectively cap warming at "well below" two degrees Celsius -- and 1.5 degrees if possible.

On current trends, we're heading for three degrees Celsius at best.

Earlier models predicted we were not likely to see Earth-altering climate change before 2100.

But the UN draft report says that prolonged warming even beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius could produce "progressively serious, centuries' long and, in some cases, irreversible consequences".

Last month, the World Meteorological Organization projected a 40 percent chance that Earth will cross the 1.5-degree threshold for at least one year by 2026.

For some plants and animals, it could be too late.

"Even at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, conditions will change beyond many organisms' ability to adapt," the report notes.

Coral reefs -- ecosystems on which half a billion people depend -- are one example.

Indigenous populations in the Arctic face cultural extinction as the environment upon which their livelihoods and history are built melts beneath their snow shoes.

A warming world has also increased the length of fire seasons, doubled potential burnable areas, and contributed to food systems losses.

- Get ready -

The world must face up to this reality and prepare for the onslaught -- a second major takeaway of the report.

"Current levels of adaptation will be inadequate to respond to future climate risks," it cautions.

Mid-century projections -- even under an optimistic scenario of two degrees Celsius of warming -- make this an understatement.

Tens of millions more people are likely to face chronic hunger by 2050, and 130 million more could experience extreme poverty within a decade if inequality is allowed to deepen.

In 2050, coastal cities on the "frontline" of the climate crisis will see hundreds of millions of people at risk from floods and increasingly frequent storm surges made more deadly by rising seas.

Some 350 million more people living in urban areas will be exposed to water scarcity from severe droughts at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming -- 410 million at two degrees Celsius.

That extra half-a-degree will also mean 420 million more people exposed to extreme and potentially lethal heatwaves.

"Adaptation costs for Africa are projected to increase by tens of billions of dollars per year with warming greater than two degrees," the report cautions.

- Point of no return -

Thirdly, the report outlines the danger of compound and cascading impacts, along with point-of-no-return thresholds in the climate system known as tipping points, which scientists have barely begun to measure and understand.

A dozen temperature trip wires have now been identified in the climate system for irreversible and potentially catastrophic change.

Recent research has shown that warming of two degrees Celsius could push the melting of ice sheets atop Greenland and the West Antarctic -- with enough frozen water to lift oceans 13 metres (43 feet) -- past a point of no return.

Other tipping points could see the Amazon basin morph from tropical forest to savannah, and billions of tonnes of carbon leech from Siberia's permafrost, fuelling further warming.

In the more immediate future, some regions -- eastern Brazil, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, central China -- and coastlines almost everywhere could be battered by multiple climate calamities at once: drought, heatwaves, cyclones, wildfires, flooding.

But global warming impacts are also amplified by all the other ways that humanity has shattered Earth's equilibrium.

These include "losses of habitat and resilience, over-exploitation, water extraction, pollution, invasive non-native species and dispersal of pests and diseases," the report says.

There is no easy solution to such a tangle of problems, said Nicholas Stern, former chief economist at the World Bank and author of the landmark Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.

"The world is confronting a complex set of interwoven challenges," said Stern, who did not contribute to the IPCC report.

"Unless you tackle them together, you are not going to do very well on any of them."

- 'Transformational change' -

There is very little good news in the report, but the IPCC stresses that much can be done to avoid worst-case scenarios and prepare for impacts that can no longer be averted, the final takeaway.

Conservation and restoration of so-called blue carbon ecosystems -- kelp and mangrove forests, for example -- enhance carbon stocks and protect against storm surges, as well as providing wildlife habitats, coastal livelihoods and food security.

Transitioning to more plant-based diets could also reduce food-related emissions as much as 70 percent by 2050.

But simply swapping a gas guzzler for a Tesla or planting billions of trees to offset business-as-usual isn't going to cut it, the report warns.

"We need transformational change operating on processes and behaviours at all levels: individual, communities, business, institutions and governments," it says.

"We must redefine our way of life and consumption."






Some random notes from the climate fight, and the next three chapters of The Other Cheek.


Bill McKibben

Sep 10

It’s been a grueling summer across North America, but autumn is coming--at least to the northern mountains. I took that picture a day or two ago, at the end of a short hike; I’m leaving this morning for a longer one, three days of bushwhacking off trail through the birch and beech and maple. Which explains why this Friday post comes to you a little earlier in the day than usual.

As I explained last week, these Friday sessions will be more informal and scattered than the newsletter on other days--it’s a time for catching up, within the community. For now they’re free just like the posts on other days; but beginning in October they’ll be for subscribers only, a little bonus.

Subscribe now

Anyway, a few things of note this week, before we get back to the novel

+Can’t help noting one more time that the climate movement, after a decade of hard work, forced Harvard--the world’s richest university yesterday--to divest its massive endowment from fossil fuels. It’s one more signal accomplishment in what may be the largest anti-corporate campaign in history, with over $15 trillion in endowments and portfolios joining in. Such credit to all who fought so long and so hard, especially the students from @divestharvard

+The good people at the Carbon Tracker Initiative in London have an important new paper, arguing persuasively that in the six years since Paris the price of renewable energy has fallen so far that our story about the future should shift a little: “Mitigating climate change is no longer an expensive collective action problem; it is a technology revolution with enormous wealth-generating and redistributive potential.”

+A remarkable report from the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International found that resistance led by indigenous groups has derailed enough fossil expansion plans to Indigenous resistance to stop greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.

+The Pope, the Orthodox patriarch, and the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury walked into a bar…No, they released a joint letter demanding swift action on the climate crisis. “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

+A new study finds that universities that divest from fossil fuels improve their rank in global academic standings. Doing good by doing right!

+200 of the world’s medical journals combined to publish a joint editorial pointing out that the climate crisis is the greatest threat to global health

+The Green Party is surging in Norway’s election polls, on the promise of ending oil exploration in the northernmost (and most beguiling) petrostate

+New data shows Alaska and New Jersey have heated faster than any other states

+Climate activists, including the filmmaker Josh Fox, are working to relieve New Orleans’ power woes by bringing in solar arrays. Meanwhile the intrepid energy reporter Antonia Juhasz traveled to Louisiana’s Cancer Alley to chronicle the devastation from Ida in that beleaguered territory.

+In one of those “should be in a novel but sadly isn’t” vignettes, the ski resorts in the mountains around Lake Tahoe have been using their snow guns to try and fight the massive wildfire threatening the lakeshore.


OPINION

Canadians need real incentives to fuel-switch away from natural gas if we hope to achieve our climate goals

JOHN LORINC

SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

PUBLISHED 1 DAY AGO

UPDATED JUNE 7, 2021



Houses in an aerial view in Langley, B.C., on May 16, 2018.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

John Lorinc is a Toronto-based journalist who covers sustainable building issues for The Globe and Mail and Corporate Knights.

When Justin Trudeau unveiled the federal government’s plan to offer $5,000 retrofit grants to homeowners in late May, he talked about how making dwellings greener and more energy-efficient would cut utility bills, reduce emissions and create jobs.

“This new grant is going to help you keep the heat inside in the winter and your money in your pocket all year long,” he said. It sounded like it would be a win all around.

But the Prime Minister made no mention of the complicated role of natural gas in home heating as a source of carbon emissions, nor did he invoke the politically fraught rhetoric of “fuel switching” – the notion of shifting away from fossil fuels such as natural gas and moving to renewables (including hydro, wind and solar) to provide energy for home heating.

While electric vehicles have recently garnered intense attention from investors, policy-makers and manufacturers for their potential role in the fight against global warming, there’s been no comparable groundswell of interest in alternatives to the domestic uses of natural gas. This is a big problem, given Canada’s goal of getting to net zero by 2050: There are 15 million residential buildings in Canada, and about half are heated with natural-gas furnaces, with the highest proportions in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, according to federal data. Fossil-fuel space and water heating in buildings generate 13 per cent of all national greenhouse-gas emissions.

In provinces with low-carbon electrical grids (B.C., Quebec, Ontario), homeowners who switch off natural gas to viable alternatives, such as electric air or ground-source heat pumps or tankless water heaters, will be helping to bring down the country’s fossil-fuel consumption. Fuel switching isn’t simply about improving energy efficiency – it’s about getting off gas, and it would be the equivalent of replacing a car powered by a combustion engine with one that runs on batteries.

Yet fuel switching isn’t yet an explicit goal of Canada’s climate-change agenda. That might not be a surprise, given that the natural gas industry is huge and influential, and operates an extensive network of pipelines that begin in Western Canada and connect to local distribution networks that send gas to virtually every municipal address in some regions and cities. Natural-gas giants have invested billions into this infrastructure, even as gas prices have fallen steadily due to increased U.S. production. Incentives to get homeowners to fuel-shift, then, represents an existential threat to the industry.

There’s a certain irony about the reluctance of policy-makers to promote such changes. After all, fuel switching in the 1970s and 1980s – via policies that encouraged millions of homeowners to abandon heating oil, coal and wood in favour of lower-emission natural-gas furnaces and boilers – resulted in a slight decline in house-related carbon emissions between the late 1990s and 2015, according to federal data.

Natural gas, in other words, was seen as a kind of energy white knight at the time, one that would allow homeowners and builders to feel good about installing high-efficiency gas furnaces and water heaters. In the coming decades, however, policy-makers will have to reckon with the continued residential use of natural gas if they hope to drive down emissions.

Some environmentally conscious homeowners have begun to invest in heat pumps or geothermal systems as alternatives to natural gas – and indeed, these devices, which are popular in Europe, do qualify for Ottawa’s green home-retrofit grants and loans.


But because heating with electricity is still more costly than heating with gas, a truly effective fuel-switching policy must include price mechanisms that level the playing field. Such a strategy would also mean that provincial energy officials will have to add renewable capacity to their electrical grids – or, in the case of provinces such as Alberta or Nova Scotia, phase out coal-fired generation.

It’s true that natural gas prices will rise through 2030 as Ottawa’s accelerated carbon pricing schedule clicks in. Enbridge estimates the increasing annual carbon costs for a typical house will amount to an additional outlay of $790 every year by 2030.

Yet the expected increase in price isn’t going to be sufficient to drive change. In a 2019 brief to the Ontario government, The Atmospheric Fund called for more assertive policy tools, such as targeted rebates for heat pumps in retrofits and new home construction, as well building-code changes.

Stepping back from these details, one point is clear: In transportation, the path to net-zero emissions pivots on drastic shifts in both vehicle technology and in how energy is distributed (i.e., gas stations). But if Canada truly wants to meet its Paris accord obligations, we also need to halt the emissions that come from the home-heating devices hidden in the corners of our basements.


Homeowners face daunting choices as federal programs aim to promote energy efficiency

JOHN LORINC

TORONTO

SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

PUBLISHED 1 HOUR AGOUPDATED JUNE 4, 2021

FOR SUBSCRIBERS

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Eve Wyatt controls the climate from a panel installed in her home in Toronto on May 27, 2021.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

For the past decade or so, Eve Wyatt, a retired public transit engineer who lives in the east-end Toronto neighbourhood known as The Pocket, has been systematically chipping away at the little defects that made her older working-class home energy inefficient. She added insulation, new windows, a solar hot water heater and a tankless water heater.

“There is always maintenance to do, fresh caulking in a few places for air sealing,” she says. “And our basement has not been insulated. That would make a big difference to both air leakage and heat loss, but would have to be part of a bigger project with other improvements, and we are not ready for that just now.”

Ms. Wyatt, in fact, is part of a network of Pocket homeowners who have banded together to make energy-efficiency improvements to their dwellings. But they, too, have bumped up against practical and financial limits, such as figuring out what to do with century-old walls made from two layers of brick and crumbling mortar. “In a lot of these houses,” says architect Paul Dowsett, who first organized the group, “we can’t effectively add insulation.”

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Ms. Wyatt next to the heat pump unit installed outside her home.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

For environmentally conscious homeowners, however, the calculus will change soon as the federal government launches what it calls a “deep retrofit” program, featuring free energy audits and interest-free loans of up to $40,000. The measures were introduced in the fall economic statement and the April budget.

Ottawa has signalled its plans to allocate $4.4-billion to this climate-change initiative over the next five years. The program will include dedicated funds for low-income homeowners, co-ops and affordable housing providers. While the program is meant to launch this summer, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. officials declined to provide further details.

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The government this week also launched a $2.6-billion fund for grants (as opposed to loans) worth up to $5,000 for home energy improvements, such as furnace or window upgrades. In late May, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan announced $10-million to hire and train about 2,000 energy “advisers,” who will direct homeowners looking to make improvements that qualify for the grants.

In some regions, the loan offer layers on top of provincial or municipal programs, some of which include significant rebates on equipment or windows (see sidebar). While renovations right now are expensive, these enriched incentives hold out the potential for homeowners to make a substantial dent in their energy costs and their house-related greenhouse gas emissions.

The phrase “deep retrofit” comes from the green building world, and signals that more involved projects have to be carefully planned and staged to derive the maximum benefit, both financially and from a climate perspective. “You have to think of a building as a system,” says Monte Paulsen, a passive house specialist with RDH Building Science in Vancouver. Both the government and homeowners, he adds, should be aiming for ambitious, measurable targets.

Mr. Paulsen says it’s critical to begin with the low-hanging fruit instead of investing heavily in elaborate or showy technologies such as rooftop solar-power systems, or energy-storage devices. Herewith, some advice on how to think about deep retrofits:

SWEATING THE DETAILS:

A larger-scale retrofit program should begin with seemingly minor fixes that can reduce energy consumption and heat loss. These include heat recovery devices for drains, LED lightbulbs, smart thermostats, and low-flow fixtures on taps and shower heads. “There’s a lot you can do with efficiency improvements,” says Shoshana Saxe, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto. “The first thing is to consume less.”

STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

INSULATION:

For many homes, a no-brainer, as insulation can be pumped into gaps in exterior walls or attics and crawl spaces. To reduce so-called “embodied” carbon – meaning carbon associated with the production of synthetic building materials – it’s worth investigating alternatives to spray-foam or pink insulation, such as cellulose, mineral wool or even straw.

But some older brick homes are difficult to insulate. Recladding the exterior with Styrofoam panels and stucco, for example, can be extremely expensive, while adding insulation to the inside of exterior walls can reduce floor space in already cramped rooms.

Insulation projects should go hand-in-hand with the eradication of drafts that come through ill-fitting windows, electrical sockets, door jams and so on. Yet improving air tightness and insulation necessitates the installation of energy- or heat-recovery ventilation devices to prevent condensation and mould, including inside walls, says Peter Sundberg, executive director of City Green Solutions in Victoria. The result, he adds, is quieter interior spaces with improved air quality. “These are things that people don’t associate with energy efficiency.”

The eventual decision to purchase a high-efficiency furnace or an air-source heat pump (see sidebar) should come only after insulation and air-tightness investments are complete, Mr. Sundberg says, so owners are buying the smallest unit necessary to heat the available space.

WINDOWS:

A big-ticket item, and therefore well suited for a larger-scale program. Replacing older single-pane glass windows with double- or even triple-pane models made with low-conductivity frames – e.g., vinyl, fibreglass or foam-filled aluminum – can significantly improve heat loss. The costs can run from a few thousand dollars to more than $30,000 in high-price markets. Still, Mr. Sundberg says, “there are lots of great reasons for doing windows.”

While a $40,000 interest-free loan can finance a fairly ambitious retrofit, Mr. Dowsett, who runs the design firm Sustainable, is mindful of the scale of the problem if the government’s broad goal of carbon reduction is to be met. By most estimates, buildings emit about 50 per cent of all greenhouse gases, and there are millions across Canada. The City of Toronto alone has 421,000 houses, while the federal government’s budget estimates that the entire $4.4-billion program will reach about 200,000 houses across Canada.

“We don’t need a few people to be perfectly sustainable [with their projects],” he says. “We need a whole lot of people to be imperfectly sustainable.”

Fuel Switching

In provinces with plenty of clean electricity and natural gas grids in urban areas, an emerging strategy for reducing carbon is to switch from a gas-fired furnace to an “air-source heat pump” that runs on electricity. In the City of Toronto, natural gas consumption in buildings produces half of all carbon emissions, according to a 2018 assessment.

Heat pumps, which draw in and compress ambient heat in outside air even on colder days, are widely used in Europe and are making inroads in North America, especially in rural regions where propane, a costly fuel, is used for home heating.

Eve Wyatt, as part of her decarbonization efforts, invested in a hybrid system – an air-source heat pump and a high-efficiency gas furnace – when her old furnace died recently. The heat pump replaces the air conditioner, and can also supply warm air to the house as long as the outside temperature is above -4 C, below which point the gas furnace kicks in.

The system cost about $8,800, she says, and has reduced her gas consumption by 59 per cent. “The additional cost of moving to an electric heat pump can typically be offset by undertaking energy efficiency retrofits at the same time,” she says. “In our case, we had already done a lot of insulating before the heat pump installation, and our combined annual gas and electric bills were under $1,200 per year.” The heat pumped adding about $35 to her monthly energy bill. “For me, it’s worth it.”

Energy contractor Brendon Aldridge, who owns Dr. HVAC, in Brampton, Ont., says he’s seeing more interest from consumers who want to reduce their natural gas consumption by investing in a hybrid heat-pump system, even though their energy costs may rise somewhat. Some higher-end models, he says, can be programmed to switch back and forth as temperatures fluctuate.

Mr. Aldridge expects that increases in carbon pricing, from the current $50/tonne to $170 by the end of the decade, will drive up gas bills, gradually making such investments more financially attractive. Ms. Wyatt points out there are no rebates for heat pumps as is the case for high-efficiency furnaces.

Enbridge officials estimate that legislated increases in carbon pricing will raise the cost of natural gas to an average 2,500-square-foot home by about $790 a year by 2030.



Hamilton will design home energy retrofit program, if it gets funding

Buildings count for 18 per cent of overall emissions in the Bay area, says organization

Christine Rankin · CBC News · Posted: May 19, 2021 5:31 PM ET | Last Updated: May 19

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said retrofit programs have come and gone based on "different governments" being in place, but was pursuing one now was particularly relevant to combating climate change.


The City of Hamilton will look at designing a home energy retrofit program, as long as it gets funding to cover most of the costs.

The initiative dates back to 2016, when staff were first directed to look at the feasibility of a program that helps people afford updating their homes in order to impact greenhouse gas emissions.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in a general issues committee Wednesday that he was glad the city was back to exploring the option.

"I think many folks in our community have done retrofits of their homes, but there are many, many more that need to be done, and a lot of them probably are facing barriers of income or affordability to be able to do that," he said.

"Certainly this program helps offset that in significant ways."

Program contingent on funding

The mayor said programs have come and gone based on "different governments" being in place, but pursuing one now was particularly relevant to combating climate change.

"I think we can put our weight behind that," he said, noting it would also increase business for the "windows and doors" industry.

All councillors voted in approval of designing a program and applying to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for funding.

The city says it would involve a one-time project budget cost of $200,000. If approved, the federation would cover up to 80 per cent.

Homeowners would first have to have an energy audit before accessing any fund to help retrofit.

Burlington is one step ahead

Buildings count for 18 per cent of overall emissions in the Bay area, according to Bianca Caramento, executive director of the Bay Area Climate Change Council (BACCC.)

The city says the residential sector represents the second largest source of building green house gas emissions at approximately 885,651 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which mostly come from space heating and water heating

Caramento said the council sees home retrofits as a "one piece of the puzzle" to bring these emissions down.

The Bay Area Climate Change Council says buildings are responsible for 18 per cent of emissions in the area. (Bay Area Climate Change Council)

Burlington is already in the process of setting up a program, Caramento said, and BACCC has been helping them with their design.

"Knowing that if we have a regional strength in this area, and looking to make retrofits affordable for folks in both Hamilton and Burlington, we're going to see the emission reductions that we need to see to meet our targets," she said.

While the city says the most commonly recommended format is to place a loan on property taxes, which is paid off over time, how the program will work will be decided during the design process.

BACCC said it would also help, such as recommending the types of projects to include.

Bang for our buck

The group performed three different analyses, which looked at different programs around the world, reviewed local context, and explored the cost benefits — anticipated changes to energy inputs, emissions, and utility bills for 12 common retrofit projects.

Caramento said the council went through potential programs — like replacing windows or a furnace and insulating the walls — to compare the cost and emissions reductions and find out the "biggest bang for our buck."

According to BACCC modelling in 2018, if Hamilton and Burlington retrofitted 98 per cent of dwellings by 2050, there would be thermal and electrical savings of 50 per cent.

The city says the retrofit isn't meant to hit these targets alone, but be a "kick-starter program."

Renoviction concerns

Trevor Imhoff, project manager of air quality and climate change, said the retrofit programs would be voluntarily.

But he hopes the city will use data — from sources like Hamilton's Airshed modelling system and Canadian Urban Sustainability Practitioners energy poverty rates across the city — so it can figure out what areas need the retrofits the most.

He said BACCC has also researched concerns that retrofits could be used for "renovictions," where landlords evict tenants under the guise of home improvements.

"They've spoken to the Landlord Tenant [Board] and other legal aid organizations to ensure that that doesn't happen and that is considered throughout the development of this detailed design," he said.

Ian Borsuk, climate campaign coordinator for Environment Hamilton, said without the program, people might not otherwise have the ability to make retrofits.

"This is extremely overdue in a lot of ways," he said. "I can see this being something that in five to 10 years the City of Hamilton really values and really looks back on as a key step that we took to really st to address the climate emergency."


Oakville makes progress on emissions reduction, but some residents are not impressed

Efforts not enough, say some climate advocates

David Lea

Oakville Beaver

Monday, May 17, 2021

Mayor Rob Burton says significant progress has been made in implementing a local strategy aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions; however, some residents say much more needs to be done.

During a recent meeting, councilors reviewed an update of the Community Energy Strategy, which outlined some of the key energy projects being completed in response to the climate emergency declared by the town in June 2019.

The strategy was developed by the town and other members of the Oakville Energy Task Force, a team of 19 community leaders from local businesses, government, utilities, schools and community groups.

In February 2020 council unanimously approved this strategy, which sets community goals for improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing the local economy.

Some of the town-led initiatives that have been completed or are underway include:

• Collaboration with Natural Resources Canada to install 46 public electric vehicle charging stations across the community by December. Currently, 14 of the 46 have been installed and are available for use.

• Successfully securing more than $48 million from the province and Government of Canada to begin the transition and expansion of Oakville’s public transit fleet with fully battery-electric buses.

• Greenhouse gas emissions reduction of corporate facilities through lighting retrofits, energy conservation projects and more.

“The town and the task force have made significant progress in the first year of implementing the Community Energy Strategy, carrying forward the community-driven spirit in which the strategy was developed,” said Burton.

“This effort is gaining attention globally as an innovative and a best practice approach to community energy implementation.”


However, not everyone is impressed.

Mervyn Russell of Halton Action for Climate Emergency Now (HACEN) said he wanted to see the town take more responsibility for energy efficiency projects in the community — where the majority of Oakville’s greenhouse gas emissions come from.

“In following through on its climate emergency resolution, the municipality deliberately freed itself of directly reducing community energy use,” said Russell.

“Council decided that outside of its internal corporate responsibilities, those reductions would have to be brought about by community involvement, effort and majority financing. Council, therefore, set up a public-private partnership where most of the heavy lifting will be done by the private partner.”

Since February 2020 the town has approved $200,000 in funding to cover startup costs for Future Energy Oakville, a non-profit organization developed by the Oakville Energy Task Force to champion community-driven energy efficiency and emissions reduction projects.

Russell argued Future Energy Oakville has not received anywhere near the funding it needs to make an impact on community emissions noting an executive director has not even been selected yet.

Those present also heard from Hart Jansson, also of HACEN, who said the town could pave the way to greater emissions reductions by engaging in a home retrofit pilot program.

“The mechanics of this Phase 1 augmentation program involves replacing the air conditioning unit with a heat pump to cut 50-70 per cent of emissions. It costs about $8,000 depending on the size of the house and is cash positive even without federal grants and loans,” said Jansson.

He called on the town to fund the administration and promotion of this program later in 2021, noting federal loans and grants and private loans would pay for the actual retrofits.

Not all delegations had issues with the strategy.

Cindy Toth of the Halton Environmental Network called the strategy one of the most innovative and ambitious plans out there.

Burton noted the approach the town is taking has generated and will continue to generate the public buy-in that is so critical for the strategy to succeed.

“That community engagement and community buy-in is the magic sauce without which nothing is going to happen,” said Burton.

“We simply don’t have the dictatorial powers to order people.”




Germany’s highest court rules government must update climate laws

© Greenpeace / Gordon Welters / private / picture alliance / dpa. Nine young people took their case to Germany’s highest constitutional court - and won!

Germany’s supreme federal constitutional court has ruled that the country’s climate law is insufficient and violates fundamental human rights. The court ruled that the government has until the end of 2022 to make necessary revisions to the law, including attaining climate neutrality by 2045, lowering carbon emissions by 65% by 2030, and then lowering them by 85-90% by 2050 — in order to safeguard the rights of young people and future generations!

This victory sends a clear message to other countries to take their climate targets seriously. And what makes it even more impressive is that it was won by nine amazing young climate activists. With the support of Greenpeace Germany and other environmental organisations, this win shows what we can achieve when we work together!

Australian industry giants commit to 100% renewables

School strikers protest outside AGL Energy's coal-fired power station in Victoria, Australia. AGL Energy is Australia’s single biggest climate polluter.

Down under in Australia, a couple of major industry players are going green!

Supermarket giant Coles has powered forward in the retailer race to renewables with an announcement that it will commit to 100% renewable electricity by 2025. And Telco giant TPG Telecom, one of Australia’s top energy users, has dialled up its clean energy ambition and committed to power its Australian operations with 100% renewable electricity by 2025.

These wins are the result of major public pressure that Greenpeace has been proud to support. We’ll be working hard to keep this pressure on and the momentum going. That means lobbying Australia’s biggest industrial polluters like AGL Energy to transition from dirty coal to green energy. And we’re committed to continuing until we’ve made a complete transition to renewable energy. Together we can turn the tide on fossil fuels!

A five-year campaign to clean up hazardous waste in Hungary pays off!

For half a decade, Greenpeace and other local NGOs have been campaigning for the Hungarian government to clean up a huge amount of dangerous waste that has been abandoned on the edge of the town of Kiskunhalas, in Hungary.

Meanwhile, a hazardous waste site in Kiskunhalas, a town in southern Hungary, finally gets a clean-up from 1,000 tons of toxic substances. This win comes after a five-year-long campaign by Greenpeace Hungary and other local organisations.

Greenpeace worked tirelessly and strategically to ensure the government addressed this issue. During our campaign, we gathered multiple samples, kept the issue in the public eye with media interviews, and even took a drone to the site. After five long years, all that hard work paid off with an investigation by the Hugarian Ombudsman. Their conclusion? Greenpeace was right to demand an immediate clean-up and authorities should have acted earlier. As I write, the removal of the hazardous waste has begun!

Supporter Spotlight




Sofia, a 15-year old high school student based in Edmonton, Alberta, has committed to doing clean-ups in her community and avoiding using single-use plastic every day for 30 days. As well as raising awareness and helping her community, Sofia is taking on this challenge to raise $300 to support Greenpeace — and she’s almost reached her goal! What an inspiration.


If you want to take on your own challenge or fundraiser to support Greenpeace, check out our new #BECAUSE fundraising campaign — and get started in a few simple steps.



GET STARTED

Hart, your support makes all of our work, achievements and victories possible. I hope this dose of positive news brightens your day, and reminds you that when we work together we can create a greener and healthier future for all.

Thank you for all that you do,

Christy

Executive Director, Greenpeace Canada


LOCAL GREEN NEW DEALS GAINING STEAM IN CANADA

Dylan Penner

2 weeks ago

The Green New Deal is already here, all around us. And it’s growing.

Three municipalities in Canada have already raised the bar on tackling the climate emergency with their own local Green New Deals.

Across Canada, the U.S., and UK, 15 communities a combined population of over 31 million people have begun implementing local Green New Deals. In many cases, these programs are a central part of plans for a just recovery from the pandemic.

These plans share in common a recognition of the climate crisis as an emergency and they all act accordingly with 2030 targets that centre climate science, justice, anti-racism, a just transition, and systemic change. Many of the local Green New Deals also institutionalize regular progress reports and accountability mechanisms.

Municipalities in Canada have control over 44 per cent of national emissions, so each new municipal Green New Deal reduces emissions while building momentum for provincial and federal Green New Deals.

This Earth Day, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada's new target is 40-45 per cent reductions by 2030, while the U.S. targets are now 52 per cent. While 40 per cent is a marginal improvement, it isn't nearly good enough. That's why we need Green New Deal Communities like these ones to push us even further into a transformed future.

Read on to learn more about the details of local Green New Deals in Canada.

Want to help build a Green New Deal where you live? You can get involved here.


Vancouver (Population 631,000)

In November 2020, Vancouver city council adopted a comprehensive climate justice plan that is a municipal Green New Deal in all but name.

Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan focuses on the two primary areas that account for most of the city’s emissions: buildings and transportation. It also addresses food, racism, historic oppression of marginalized communities, affordable housing (including developing plans to prevent energy retrofits being used as a pretext for renovictions), equity, public health, carbon budgeting and accountability, and Indigenous rights.

The plan commits that by 2030, “50% of the kilometres driven on Vancouver’s roads will be by zero emissions vehicles” and “carbon pollution from building operations will be cut in half from 2007 levels,” while prioritizing low-income, racialized, and otherwise marginalized communities for transit improvements.

The plan also commits to “collaborate with the xʷməθkʷəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓ íl̓ witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations on the development and implementation of climate plans” as well as funding local Indigenous nations’ own climate plans.

According to local climate organizers Avery Shannon and Naia Lee, who mobilized support for the initiative, “Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan specifically names that people made marginalized by society, such as disabled people and lower income folks, must be prioritized in climate action. The plan also emphasizes the city’s commitment to working with the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, and Musqueam Nations on the development and implementation of these measures. As uninvited people of colour on stolen, ancestral lands, we know that it is imperative for us to weave intersectionality and decolonization into all climate action.”

Halifax (Population 403,000)

In 2020, Halifax began implementing HalifACT 2050, which is “as much an economic development plan as a climate action plan.”

The plan includes expanding and electrifying public transit, active transportation infrastructure, net-zero emissions for new buildings, large scale renewables, a food action plan, a rooftop solar program, retrofitting existing buildings, decarbonized infrastructure, coastal preparedness, and “approximately 170,000 person years of employment generated between 2020 and 2050, an average of 5,500 annually.”

While the overall emissions reduction target for 2030 could be clearer, the plan recognizes the importance of sticking to a carbon budget (i.e. the absolute limit of cumulative emissions possible between now and 2050 to still stay within the Paris agreement / limit to 1.5 degrees warming), and of doing more, sooner.

Cumberland, B.C. (Population 3,700)

Cumberland council has adopted a local Green New Deal in principle, responding to efforts by two young local organizers, Ben Mason and Lister de Vitré, based on the organizing guide and sample resolutions published by the Council of Canadians.

Cumberland council has directed municipal staff to develop a report on how to implement a local Green New Deal that includes measures for cutting emissions in half by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050, as well as “green jobs, Indigenous rights, anti-racism and equity measures, housing, independence of elected officials, transit and transportation, energy, drinking water, wastewater and food security.”

According to local news reports, “the biggest target is reducing greenhouse emissions in half by 2030, with the aim of going net-zero by 2050 [and a cut of] 25 per cent by 2025.”


Building a Green New Deal in your community

Winning local Green New Deals doesn't happen in a vacuum. Years of grassroots organizing on multiple fronts have been creating the conditions for local Green New Deals to be winnable. And our work to win local Green New Deals can and should recognize, amplify, and help build connections between these various movements.

There are many communities that have already made strides toward the kind of transformation we need to tackle the crises of the climate, racism, precarious work, and inequality. They just need to be woven together.

There are now more than 1,900 local governments in 34 countries including over 500 in Canada that have declared a climate emergency. These communities are ripe for organizing to build their own local Green New Deals and the communities listed here are just the beginning.

We’re supporting community groups and Council of Canadians chapters from coast to coast in working to build many more local Green New Deals.

Want your community to be the next one to build a local Green New Deal? Get involved here.


What an Oakville dispute tells us about flood risks for thousands of Canadian landowners

Amid climate change and rampant sprawl, downstream Oakville, Ont., residents discover they may be forced to soak up the risks of expanding floodplains

MATTHEW MCCLEARN


A housing development next to the Fourteen Mile Creek upstream from Brenda Morrison's home in Oakville, Ont., on May 2, 2021.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Roughly 10 per cent of Canadian homes are at high risk of flooding, according to an estimate by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, but few owners know it. A $1-billion lawsuit in Ontario’s largest town, Oakville, portends what might happen as more citizens find out.

Some living along Oakville’s rivers and creeks, such as the Bronte Creek, Sixteen Mile Creek, Fourteen Mile Creek and Wedgewood Creek, are furious with their mayor and other local officials after learning that their homes now lie within designated flood hazard zones. Consequently, they’re restricted from building extensions, pools, garages and other amenities. They say their property values have declined, and they’re suing Oakville and neighbouring municipalities to recover damages.

“Within the last 10 years, there’s been a major expansion of the floodplain” in southeastern Oakville, said Gary Will of Will Davidson LLP, which represents the plaintiffs. “Municipal authorities have not taken the steps to protect the downstream residents.”

Poor flood-risk maps, or none at all, are keeping Canadian communities in flood-prone areas

The allegations have not been proved in court; the lawsuit, known as Banfi v. Oakville et al, is before a case management judge who will determine whether it should be certified as a class action. The municipality said in a statement that it is defending the claim through its insurer “on the grounds that it has no merit and that at all times the Town has acted in good faith.”

The Banfi lawsuit nonetheless offers a test case. Untold thousands of Canadians are in the same situation as the Oakville plaintiffs, but simply haven’t realized it yet. A national survey of 2,500 Canadians living in designated flood-risk areas conducted last year by the University of Waterloo found 81 per cent of respondents hadn’t reviewed flood maps; just 6 per cent knew they lived in a flood-risk area. Possible explanations for this widespread ignorance include a lack of easily accessible flood maps in many communities and apathy or lack of awareness on the part of homeowners.

Open this photo in gallery

Brenda Morrison, whose home borders on the regulatory floodplain of the Fourteen Mile Creek, stands in her home in Oakville.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

But many more rude awakenings seem likely. Governments face rising pressure to update and publish flood maps. (The latest federal budget earmarks $63.8-million to help provinces and territories complete flood maps for high-risk areas.)

Property insurers are increasingly doing their own mapping and homeowners in high-risk areas might be slapped with higher premiums and deductibles, coverage caps or in some cases be denied coverage altogether. To protect themselves, more home buyers and realtors may start doing their own research.

“We’ve predicted that these types of lawsuits, especially class actions related to flooding in communities, will become more widespread,” said Laura Zizzo, who formerly practised law related to climate change and last year co-founded Manifest Climate, a Toronto-based consultancy.

“The trend that I see is that people are being harmed by increased flooding, and they’re looking for people to blame. And they’re looking to governments, who have big deep pockets, to help them recover from damages.”

RUDE AWAKENINGS

Open this photo in gallery

The Fourteen Mile Creek is heard during storms, but not seen from Ms. Morrison's house.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

When the representative plaintiff, Erwin Banfi, purchased his home backing on Fourteen Mile Creek in 2003, he says, town officials told him he could build an addition. But his subsequent permit application was denied because the property now lay within the regulatory floodplain. A notification of this flood risk was attached to the property’s title, “which will significantly diminish the property value and carry with it a lasting stigma,” the lawsuit alleges.

Brenda Morrison and her late husband purchased a home nearby in 1984. She usually can’t see Fourteen Mile Creek from her home, but during a storm she can hear it.

“I refer to it as the Colorado River,” she said. “A good thunderstorm will do it. During a heavy storm, there’s more runoff now than there was years ago.”

Her property flooded in May, 2000. Some years later, the municipality sent her a map showing that the creek’s regulatory flood-hazard zone almost reached her back door. (A recent map shows it now fully encompasses the home.) Through conversations with neighbours, she began to realize the implications.

“It’s affected the value of the property,” Ms. Morrison said. “I would be obliged to tell a potential purchaser that it’s on a floodplain.”

An analysis by The Globe and Mail shows such problems extend well beyond Fourteen Mile Creek. In half a dozen neighbourhoods across Oakville, dozens of homes now lie within flood-hazard zones.

IN HARM’S WAY

An analysis by The Globe identified a handful of neighbourhoods where dozens of homes lie within Conservation Halton's latest flood hazard zone. Using ArcGIS Pro, a geographical information system, we overlaid that flood zone with Microsoft’s Building Footprints and identified 681 buildings (mostly homes) in Oakville at risk. Most are located between the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) and Lake Ontario, or immediately north of the highway.

Burnhamthorpe Rd W



Many affected residents remain unaware that their homes are now within regulatory floodplains, Mr. Will says. Conservation Halton, a provincial body that manages watersheds and forests in Oakville and surrounding areas, began publishing flood maps online in 2016, and says the onus lies with citizens to consult them.

ASSIGNING BLAME

Many experts warn the warming climate will produce increasingly frequent, sudden downpours. But the Banfi lawsuit points to another culprit: rapid sprawling development.

Like other municipalities near Toronto, Oakville (population: 216,000) has grown rapidly. Nearly one-third of its dwellings have been built since the turn of the century. Mr. Will contends in the statement of claim the town and its neighbours and co-defendants (among them the Town of Milton, the Regional Municipality of Halton and Conservation Halton) issued development approvals “unabated and unreasonably”: Developers tore out thousands of acres of green space. Golf courses became neighbourhoods. With each new asphalt street and rooftop, more rainwater and melting snow ran off into creeks and streams that would otherwise have percolated into soils, causing them to swell dangerously during heavy rainfall.


'I would be obliged to tell a potential purchaser that it’s on a floodplain,' Ms. Morrison said.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

That upstream development can raise flood risks for those living downstream has been understood for decades. A 2011 letter by Conservation Ontario (an umbrella group representing the province’s 36 conservation authorities) to the provincial government noted that many of its members were expanding their flood-hazard limits, partly in response to increased development.

Conservation Ontario knew this spelled trouble. “This creates obvious difficulties in explaining to downstream landowners and municipalities that their lands have been ‘relocated’ into the floodplain with all of the attendant restrictions on the use of those lands,” the letter warned.

Responsibility for managing flood risk largely falls to municipalities. They maintain storm sewers to handle heavy rainfall. They determine which new developments get approved, and which land can be used for what purposes. Such choices affect who gets flooded, and who doesn’t.


There have been a few examples of Canadians suing municipalities over flood-related damages, with mixed outcomes.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

But flooding experts warn that local officials face perverse incentives. Developers want to build high-priced properties near lakes, rivers and the sea. Elsewhere, they’d prefer to build unmolested by onerous and expensive flood mitigation measures. Should a municipality impose harsher flooding regulations, swaths of land may remain undeveloped; grant permits, on the other hand, and significant one-time development fees and ongoing tax revenues flow.

The Banfi lawsuit places past development choices under a legal microscope. That it’s happening in Ontario is perhaps ironic: Its conservation authorities, established after 1954′s deadly and destructive Hurricane Hazel, effectively took much of the authority for flood-related decisions out of municipalities’ hands. Unique to Ontario, they’re often cited as a reason why the province has fewer citizens residing within floodplains than elsewhere.

Mr. Will doesn’t dispute that contention, but he says Conservation Halton came up short. “Clearly, some conservation authorities have done a much better job protecting their residents than Conservation Halton has done,” he said. (Citing the ongoing litigation, Conservation Halton declined to comment.)

A FLOOD OF LITIGATION?


Even if the Banfi lawsuit fails, it puts all municipalities on notice, University of Waterloo head says.

CHRISTOPHER KATSAROV/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Though observers expect lawsuits similar to the Banfi action in the years ahead, they are hardly slam dunks. Municipalities enjoy formidable legal protections, notably something called “the doctrine of Crown immunity.” Historically, courts have been loath to expose small local governments to endless claims they can neither afford nor insure against. Municipalities have considerable latitude to make policy decisions even when they harm citizens; some judges have left it to voters to punish reckless officials at the ballot box.

There have been a few examples of Canadians suing municipalities over flood-related damages, with mixed outcomes. Ms. Zizzo added that while there have been some precedents for certification of class actions relating to flooding, others have failed or been dropped.

Some municipalities might seek to avoid such lawsuits using a head-in-the-sand approach, by suppressing flood-risk maps and neglecting to update them. But Blair Feltmate, head of the University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, said that even if the Banfi lawsuit fails, it puts all municipalities on notice.

“With the new knowledge we have on the threat that climate change presents relative to flood risk, any future authorities that allow building that is in harm’s way of flooding will most probably be found culpable.”


Climate Strike Canada is a national network of grassroots, youth-led activism and advocacy groups, and individuals, from across the country. Here is their message following the Leader’s Summit on Climate.

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

You attended President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate. Forty world leaders attended to announce new climate targets and ambition in the lead up to COP26, this November. We are pleased to see the White House taking leadership in the global fight by uniting other countries, but the United States, yourself, and the rest of the world still have a very long way to go.

We are alarmed by what you displayed on the world stage: promises without any plans for concrete action at home. Your announcement of a new emissions target of 40 to 45 per cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030 was woefully inadequate. Science calls for at least 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. You continue to provide very little transparency about what these numbers mean, or how we will achieve them.

Through the youth climate strike movement, young people across Canada and around the world have been rising up and pleading for action. You marched with us, you declared a climate emergency, you promised us a livable future, but you let us down, time and time again.

Climate change is not a crisis of emissions; it is a crisis of equality. The most affected people and areas are those who contribute the least to climate change. If Canada does not meet and exceed its climate target, marginalized people in Canada and around the world will bear the brunt of our inaction. Solutions involve reimagining our systems and addressing structures that threaten the preservation of communities most impacted by this crisis. Canada is an exporting nation, so tackling climate change in Canada means tackling oil and gas production, the fastest and largest source of growing emissions in this country. Canada needs not only to refine and upgrade climate targets but also push for a just transition. Our planet and its people don’t have time for empty words. We need action.

Sincerely,

Climate Strike Canada


Climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050, risk experts say

BOB WEBER

THE CANADIAN PRESS

PUBLISHED APRIL 22, 2021

UPDATED APRIL 22, 2021



Smoke pours from the stacks at the Portlands Energy Centre, in Toronto, on Jan. 15, 2009.

FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada will be more than $100 billion poorer by 2050 if the world doesn’t work harder to fight climate change, says one of the world’s largest insurers.

That anticipated drop in GDP is much higher than the economic effect the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to have on the country’s gross domestic product, said Jerome Haegeli, chief economist for Swiss Re, a multinational corporation that insures insurance companies, large corporations and governments.

“That’s huge,” Haegeli said from Zurich on Thursday.

Swiss Re looked at 48 countries, as well as North America and the European Union as a whole, to try to assess the economic effects of climate change under different scenarios.

If temperatures rise by about 2.6 degrees Celsius, considered to be the most likely scenario under current climate policies, the global economy can expect to see a drop in GDP of 10 per cent within the next 30 years, the study says.

In Canada, the hit would be about seven per cent. Given the size of the economy, that means the country would be about $140 billion poorer than it would be if there were no climate change.

That’s almost as much as this fiscal year’s projected federal deficit of just under $155 billion.

Costs would come from reduced agricultural output, effects on human health, lower labour productivity, consequences of a rising sea level, tourism losses and increased household energy demands.

Even if the world is able to bring global warming to within the two-degree limit proposed by the Paris agreement, the study concludes the economic loss would still be about three per cent, or about $600 million, in Canada.

“(Climate change) is the No. 1 risk. There’s no question about it,” Haegeli said.

The good news is that Swiss Re concludes Canada is the fifth-best country in the world when it comes to resiliency. That’s due to our northern latitude and advanced economy and infrastructure.

The study was released on the opening day of a virtual meeting of world leaders convened by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at the meeting that Canada has increased its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent of 2005 levels over the next nine years. The previous target was 36 per cent.

As well as measures that directly cut emissions, governments and corporations have to be much more open about their exposure to climate risks, Haegeli suggested. Many companies have promised their net emissions will be reduced to zero, but few have explained how.

“More needs to be done in the private sector,” he said. “We need to have more regular reporting about how private companies are going to achieve their climate goals.”

Companies also need to release more information on how the fight against climate change will affect their operations, he said. The report concludes a carbon tax of $125 a tonne would cut earnings in North American’s energy sector by 60 per cent.

Haegeli said the world has to get used to factoring climate into all its decisions.

“You need to take climate change into the public balance sheet.”


'Increase in mortality': Troubling new numbers in Burlington climate change emergency

Emissions increased significantly in past two years and city not on track for carbon neutral target

Roland Cilliers

Burlington Post

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

It’s been about two years since the City of Burlington joined governments around the world and declared a climate emergency.

So, how’s that going?

According to a report by the Atmospheric Fund, a regional climate agency, Halton is not on track to reach its 2030 and 2050 climate targets. In fact, emissions actually increased seven per cent year-over-year, according to their latest carbon emissions inventory of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

That’s the opposite direction the City of Burlington wanted to be going as it has set a goal of being a net carbon neutral community by 2050.

Bryan Purcell, a representative with the Atmospheric Fund, said the consequences of inaction on this issue will be dire.

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“Climate change is a real and present danger that’s already impacting people and infrastructure in Halton region and will continue to do so to a greater extent in the future. We are already seeing, for example, more extreme weather, heat waves. Every time we have heat waves, there’s an increase in mortality,” said Purcell.

The biggest increase in the region’s emissions is directly connected to the rapid population growth being experienced. As more homes are built, the demand for heating increases, and what follows is an increase in the burning of gas for space and water heating.

That poses a serious challenge for achieving net neutrality as projections indicate the population with the area is expected to continue growing. Burlington also has a sizeable stock of older homes with inefficient heating systems.

“We want to move buildings on to heat pumps as well as bring in more energy-efficient measures, such as insulation, to reduce the heating demand, and that’s a big challenge as we need to retrofit the majority of existing building stock by 2050 to achieve our targets,” said Purcell. “When you do the math, that requires very quick ramping up the rate of energy efficiency renovation activity in the region.”

The challenge is a massive one and would require the overhaul of a significant percentage of the buildings in the city.

There are a number of strategies governments at all levels can use to encourage adoption of energy efficient designs.

Coun. Rory Nisan believes the municipal level of government can be central in addressing carbon issues for buildings.

“Home energy retrofits are absolutely critical. It’s doable too. It’s a zero-cost program where, just by backing up the loans for people so they have low or no interest loans, they can redo their windows, redo their insulation — they can redo their furnaces and air conditioning and then pay off those costs over time in their energy savings. That’s a no-brainer,” said Nisan.

Vehicle emissions are also a massive source of emissions, and Burlington has already taken early steps to address it. A wholesale switch to electric vehicles is essential to climate change goals and the city can encourage that change through its own fleet, bussing and making charging stations available.

“We need to really drive adoption of electric vehicles. There’s no path into these targets without basically eliminating the use of the internal combustion engine and driving transportation patterns towards electric vehicles, both for personal transportation and trucking — that’s a key priority,” said Purcell.


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Even through the pandemic, climate change has continued to be a major issue. After a number of climate-friendly measures, the city continues to struggle to hit its goals. We thought the two-year anniversary of the climate emergency was a good point to look into just how Burlington is doing.


Trudeau’s New Climate Pledge in Two Words: Fossil Fuels

By Mitchell Beer, The Energy Mix @TheEnergyMix -April 25, 2020


“With the world watching, Prime Minister Trudeau had a chance to prove he’s serious about facing down the climate emergency. Unfortunately, he blew it,” wrote Katie Perfitt from 350.org. in her recent email to members. She was referring to Trudeau’s announcement at the Leaders Climate Summit hosted by President Biden. Canada’s new emissions reduction target is now 40-45% below 2005 levels, well short of what science calls for and also the weakest target put forward at the summit. She sums up Trudeau’s new climate pledge in two words: fossil fuels.

(This article was previously published in The Energy Mix by Mitchell Beer)

Climate Pledge in Two Words: Fossil Fuels

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed Canada to a 40 to 45% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in an address to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate convened by U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Trudeau government arrived at the figure after the U.S. “made it clear that a target of less than 40% would be frowned upon,” CBC reported Wednesday, citing a Radio-Canada report. That same day, modelling released by seven climate and environment organizations showed how Canada could cut its emissions 60% in the next decade, a threshold the groups cited as “Canada’s fair share on climate action”.

After years of promising that the country’s Paris Agreement target of 30% by 2030 was a “floor”, not a “ceiling” on Canada’s climate ambition, Trudeau told the White House summit the country is “now on track to blow past our old target,” with emissions falling to 439 megatonnes this decade. “He conceded it may be tough for Canada, a major energy producer, to cut emissions so deeply, but he said all countries must rise to the challenge,” CBC writes.

“Our priority continues to be battling COVID-19. We rely on science to save lives and develop vaccines but we must also listen to climate science, which tells us we’re facing an existential threat,” Trudeau said.

“We must take action now because there’s no vaccine against a polluted planet,” he added.

‘Ambitious’ but ‘Attainable’

Just last week, Canada’s latest emissions inventory report showed the country’s carbon pollution rising fractionally in 2019, the first year the federal floor price on carbon took effect, making Canada the only G7 country to see its emissions rise since the 2015 Paris conference. Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said it was “really good news” the numbers in the 2019 inventory weren’t far worse.

This week, the minister said 40% by 2030 is “ambitious” but “attainable”.

“I think Canadians would say, ‘OK, you demonstrated an ability to actually provide a plan to get a long way, but there’s nine years to go before 2030 and we know from a science perspective we need to do more,’” he told CBC ahead of Trudeau’s announcement. “They would say, ‘OK, you don’t necessarily know exactly how you’re going to get there for that final small piece, but we expect you and future governments are going to stretch. You are going to have ambition, you are actually going to make investments next year and the year after and the year after that, to ensure that Canada is doing its part.’”

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rejected the higher target, telling the Globe and Mail a Conservative government would stick to the 30% goal the country adopted in 2015, and that his own brochure-style climate plan embraced last week. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called for a 50% reduction from 2005 levels, while Green leader Annamie Paul supported 60%.

That number was consistent with modelling produced by Vancouver-based Navius Research and released Wednesday by seven organizations: Climate Action Network Canada, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, Environmental Defence Canada, Montreal-based Équiterre, Stand.earth, and West Coast Environmental Law.

Canada Shouldn’t Be ‘Back of the Pack’

“Not only is this worth doing, Canadians will be better off,” Environmental Defence writes on the landing page for the release. “Household energy bills would fall; there would be more good, green, stable jobs; communities would be healthier; and there would be a lower risk of extreme weather events fueled by increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere.”

But to get it done, “Canada needs more stringent policies that will fundamentally shift every emission source away from fossil fuels and towards zero-emitting technologies. At the same time, we need stronger policies so that the zero-emitting technologies that are both available and affordable can be accessed by every Canadian family.”

The groups’ six-page summary of the more detailed modelling stresses that the policies and technologies are available to make a target of 60% by 2030 achievable. In the Navius scenarios, jobs, investment, and economic performance “remain strong”. Household energy costs go down despite a “sharply rising carbon price”, as homes and vehicles become more energy-efficient and clean energy replaces fossil fuels.

“Policies that restrict the production and use of fossil fuels are critical and, if implemented, a significant part of the transition away from fossil fuels would be completed by 2030,” the groups write. “Counterintuitively, economic growth in Alberta would remain higher than the national average despite the oil and gas sector shrinking considerably. That is because the Albertan economy is more diversified than most people think, and an economic and energy transition away from fossil fuels involves investment in many growing industries.”

News coverage leading into the summit painted a picture of a federal government that has worked hard to present itself as a climate leader, but is rapidly falling behind as other countries pick up the pace in their response to the climate crisis.

“If in fact the U.S. announces a 50% (target)…that really dramatically increases the pressure on Canada to up our game,” University of British Columbia political scientist Kathryn Harrison told the Toronto Star in the lead-up to the summit. “They expect their trading partners to match their ambition, and the U.S. is our biggest trading partner by far.”

“The target also lags behind new commitments from peers like the United States, United Kingdom, the European Union, and Japan.” — Helen Mountford

“Canada’s new 2030 emissions reduction target is stronger than its previous commitment, but it falls short of what is needed to avoid dangerous levels of warming,” Helen Mountford, vice-president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute, warned in a release.

Mountford added that Canada “should not be the back of the pack in the fight against climate change. Canada’s efforts to deliver real action on the ground are welcome, like placing a price on carbon pollution, but the country should aim for a much more ambitious goal than what it put forward today.”

Allegiance to Tar Sands/Oil Sands

The New York Times ties the disconnect back to Ottawa’s stubborn allegiance to the Alberta tar sands/oil sands industry. “Canadian officials insist that Mr. Trudeau’s policies simply need more time to work,” the paper writes, referring to the emissions increase in the 2019 inventory report. “But environmentalists counter that Canada can’t reduce emissions without reducing oil production from the sands.”

The nub of the problem is that, “as one of the world’s largest oil reserves, the oil sands are also among the most polluting, given the amount of energy required to extract it. But it’s unlikely that Mr. Trudeau would end production there,” the Times adds. “The oil sands are integral to the economy of the western province of Alberta [though not nearly as integral as people seem to think—Ed.]. If Mr. Trudeau or any other Canadian politician declared them obsolete, the political backlash would be overwhelming.”

But that means “there’s a disconnect, at least on the international stage, between Canada’s reputation on climate and the reality of action on the ground,” CAN-Rac Executive Director Catherine Abreu told the Times. “We really have to stop selling ourselves that perhaps comforting, but dangerous, lie that there is room for the oil sands in the future.”

Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart made the same point in a pre-summit interview with the Star. “The way you stop climate change is you stop burning fossil fuels, and anything else is fooling yourself,” he said.

In that same news dispatch, Wilkinson assured the Star that “our intention is to be very ambitious and to push as far as we absolutely can,” but his phrasing skipped the part about phasing out fossil fuels. He said he agreed Canada needs to start seeing emissions reductions from “all sectors of the economy,” adding that clean fuel regulations, the national carbon price, and zero-emission vehicle incentives will make that happen in the fossil sector.

“The faster we can go with respect to transportation, zero-emission technologies, the faster we will see the reduction in emissions from the oil and gas sector,” he said.

Canada Needs Courage to Lead

The new target produced a cascade of reaction from climate groups, all of them welcoming a higher emissions reduction target but declaring that Canada needs to do more.

“It’s good to see Canada driving up ambition and it’s not enough,” Abreu said, adding that she hoped to see the country toughen its target in the years ahead and in negotiations leading up to the next United Nations climate conference, COP 26, in November. “Canada is an energy exporting nation and that is one of the country’s main barriers to climate ambition. Canada’s new NDC [its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement] should address emissions from oil and gas production, ban fossil fuel subsidies, and enshrine just transition legislation.”

“Canada was once a climate leader,” said Leadnow Executive Director Sophie Theroux. “We can be again, but only if this government has the courage to acknowledge that we cannot reach our climate commitments so long as we rely on fossil fuels for jobs and our energy needs. Any successful climate plan must include massive investment in supporting oil and gas workers to transition to a clean energy economy.”

“The problem with Justin Trudeau’s new climate pledge can be summed up in two words—fossil fuels,” said Amara Possian, Canada campaigns director at 350.org. “Neither Trudeau’s new climate plan, nor his budget, nor this new climate promise include a plan to tackle soaring emissions from tar sands, fracking, and other fossil fuel expansion that makes Canada the only G7 country whose emissions have gone up since signing the Paris Agreement.”

“Canada could be a climate leader, but climate leaders do not deal in empty promises or half-measures,” said Climate Strike Canada youth organizer Alyssa Scanga. “Climate leaders do not build pipelines through stolen land or sign off on enormous fossil fuel subsidies with the same pen they use to legislate net-zero by 2050 targets.”