1. 2 mins 3 Lessons From Standing Rock (Dec. 6, 2016)
This brief opinion piece from the U.S-based For the Love of Water (FLOW, not to be confused with the Canadian FLOW [Forum for Leadership on Water]) concisely sets out a disturbing but not new issue regarding environmental assessments (EAs) of many projects, but most particularly, these pipelines: piecemeal EAs that obscure cumulative effects. This has long been seen as a tactic to avoid addressing the massive effects that a project would have should the entire project, in all phases and extents, be evaluated at once. While it can be the case that future projects expansions are not known at the time of the first development, this is unlikely. Good projects involve planning often decade or more in advance. The full extent of the project is known; yet the project is split into smaller elements or phases to avoid seeing a complete picture of the full environmental impacts. Canada’s EA laws are currently under reform, and cumulative effects are a long-standing problem here also. What is not acceptable is that the public should have to resort to this level of protest just to ensure good and proper EAs occur. Without them, good decisions are made by chance, not on good science and information.Governments should protect their right to make good decisions by demanding strong EAs that address cumulative effects of the entire project.
2. 8 mins Local Governments can Lead on Climate Efforts (Dec. 7, 2016)
Around the world it is the sub-national governments and local community governments that have led, are leading and will continue to lead in the battle against global warming and climate change. In Canada where we have lived through ten years with a climate denying federal government, it was the provinces, territories and local governments that did all the heavy lifting when it came to climate change and global warming. I say this with certainty having just completed 20 years as an NWT MLA, 9 of those years as the Minister of Environment and Natural resources. Now the local governments in the US will have to continue to lead as their newly elected, climate denying president-elect prepares to take office. Local governments, the level of government closest to the people, have been doing amazing things around the world when it comes to protecting the environment, advancing the use of renewable energy, protecting the environment, rethinking urban design and transit, by using local law making and zoning authorities, often in spite of active resistance by national governments. National governments continue to try to lead on this issue, but at a global level, as of today, they are still remarkably unsuccessful given the extreme gravity of the situation. Through it all, local governments go about their business, working with their citizens to protect the planet. Please continue….
3. 8 mins Pipelines or Paris? (Dec. 6, 2016)
There is a plethora of articles on the “pipelines versus climate” theme, but this one is different because it give specifics regarding our commitment to achieve the Paris agreement. Spoiler alert: it concludes that if we go ahead with Kinder Morgan, that when the pipeline is actually developed in 2025 it will use up two thirds of our Canadian emissions targets. This doesn’t allow much room for the rest of Canada to emit greenhouse gases. Emissions intensity improvements might improve this scenario a bit but in all likelihood, what this really means is that Canada won’t meet it’s Paris commitments. And does this mean that Canada is expecting the rest of the world to allow it to over pollute, while some other Country or region picks up the slack, in order to keep the world at a habitable 2 degrees?
4. 5 mins The Win at Standing Rock (Dec. 6, 2016)
This is a great article by Risa Schwartz who explains why Standing Rock is illustrative of a deep need to reform what we consider to be “consultation”. We have written in the past about “collaborative consent” as a way to deal with the mutual consent that should be at the heart of respectful intergovernmental relations between indigenous governments and other Canadian levels of government. Our concept takes consultation and leaves it at the project level decision-making as a safety net, but creates a much higher level obligation between governments to set common goals, and make decisions jointly. This author’s suggestion of the need for “government to government consultations” might marry the consultation and collaborative consent ideas. We need to ensure that the decisions are collaborative rather than being ultimately still a one way event with just more (even if it is better) consultation.