Is it time for Canada to claim environmental hero status?

Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are well below the world average and despite a resource extraction economy, our air pollution improvement is among the best in the world—so why are we made to feel so guilty?

Recently, I discussed to how politicians continue to “virtue signal when advocating for renewable energy.  And sometimes, they omit facts. That might be because the omitted facts fail to support the “virtue” they are promoting, like a clean green environment, or maybe, the politicians don’t feel the need to discuss  cost/benefit or examine that closely.

New information has come to light as to why politicians leave out the facts sometimes.

On December 19, 2018 an article by Philip Cross published in the Financial Post on renewable energy was blunt in its lede: “StatCan just exposed how worthless ‘green’ industries are to Canada’s economy” — that was exactly what many have long suspected.  Mr. Cross  detailed how false or exaggerated information is fed to politicians by proponents of ventures (wind and solar power, for example) and how those politicians in turn, embarked on “virtuous” actions, based on those supposed facts.

They issue press releases which are then gobbled up by the media for the masses to digest.

Excerpts from the Cross article highlight the failings of those “green” industries. 

“Environmental and clean-technology industries accounted for a puny 3.1 per cent of Canada’s GDP in 2017. More importantly, StatCan noted that this ratio has remained relatively stable since 2007 when the data began. The green economy’s share of GDP stagnated for 10 of the biggest years for pro-green policies and hefty government support, and against historically slow growth in the rest of the economy. If the green economy cannot flourish in these circumstances, it is doubtful it ever will.

The green economy is even less important for jobs, contributing only 1.6 per cent of total employment. If clean-tech and green-tech are the jobs of tomorrow, as their boosters tirelessly claim, then our job prospects are bleak indeed.”

A few weeks after the StatCan report, another discovery the media apparently missed (or ignored) came to light.

At some point in early 2018, just before the Wynne-led Ontario government lost the election, Global Affairs Canada issued a 144-page Voluntary National Review in respect to the 2030 Agenda.  The “Agenda” was a precursor to The Paris Agreement and the synergies in respect to aligning issues related to climate change are significant.

Here are a just few examples:

  1. “The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the poorest and most-vulnerable populations affected by climate change and has committed $2.65 billion in climate finance by 2020-2021 to help developing countries transition to a lower-carbon, climate-resilient economy.”
  2. “The Investing in Canada Plan allocates $9.2 billion to provinces and territories for green infrastructure investments to support mitigation projects, build infrastructure to help communities respond and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, and build other green infrastructure that supports a healthy environment, including water and wastewater infrastructure.”
  3. “Significant investments are being made to develop a national network of charging and re-fuelling stations for alternative fuel vehicles. This infrastructure will enable Canadians to use lower-carbon or zero-emission vehicles.”
  4. ”In addition, Canada is working with its continental partners on the North American Renewable Integration Study (NARIS). By 2019, NARIS is expected to identify the key opportunities and challenges of integrating large amounts of wind, solar and hydro capacity into the North American electricity grid.”
  5. “Clean, non-emitting electricity systems will be the cornerstone of a modern, lower-carbon economy. Several programs have been introduced to support this goal, including initiatives to reduce the use of diesel in rural and remote areas, including for Indigenous communities, and support renewable power technologies, such as geothermal, tidal and offshore wind projects.”

Those five examples are a demonstration of the current Canadian government’s belief that simply spending billions of Canadian tax dollars in Canada and around the world will somehow impact climate change.

Climate change advocacy via continued virtue signaling about a carbon-tax is being challenged by several provinces; however, Canada’s federal government seems intent on causing further damage to Canada’s economy despite the evidence on “green” fails by StatCan.

The “Voluntary National Review” suggests how the spending will be paid for: “… revenues from oil and gas production will help fund the lower-carbon transition.” Clearly, “revenues from oil and gas production” is a reference to the “carbon tax” which will increase substantially over a short time period, affecting all Canadians and pushing our economic prospects down as those “revenues” a.k.a. “carbon taxes” drive up the price of everything we consume.

The “Review” references other reports/studies, for example, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and a report on health, the “Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project [which] ranked air pollution as the fourth-leading risk factor contributing to early deaths (6.9 million deaths worldwide) each year. In Canada, the GBD ranked air pollution as the 11th leading risk factor for premature death.”

The GBD report compares data from 2007 to 2017 and provides + or – percentages. For Canada, the drop in the “air pollution” risk factor was negative 17.5% and appears to be one of the biggest drops of any country. Surprisingly, Poland which gets 80% of its electricity from coal, shows a drop of 14.4%. China was up by 1.7% whereas India was down 2.7% and the USA by 5%. Germany (the bastion of renewable energy) was down by only 2.7%. This data suggests Canada is a leader in reducing air pollution.

As one would expect, the Review says a lot about GHGs and climate change, and laid out reputed accomplishments and future plans. The Review also lectures us, telling us to use less: “The best energy is the energy we do not use. By doing more with less, Canadians can significantly reduce GHG emissions, save money, improve their environment and make their homes more comfortable.”

Most of us heard similar lectures by the Ontario Liberal government (Premier Wynne once chided Ontarians for being “bad actors” when it came to electricity use) and we did consume less. However, we failed to see any savings. In fact, we paid more for less!  (Voters didn’t buy the non-truths, judging from the election results last June.)

On the issue of GHG emissions the data available is extensive and varying.  A simple Google search on list of countries by carbon dioxide emission provides almost 8.7 million hits. Canadians are generally told they contribute 1.6% of Global GHG and from what was available in reviewing some Google links, that appears to be in the ballpark.

One measure where Canada seems to stand out favourably is in the measurement of “Emissions (kg) per $1,000 [US$] of GDP” despite our dependence on agriculture, energy, forestry and mining which collectively represent over 50% of our exports.  Canada’s emissions were 301.0 kg/$1,000 of GDP versus the world average of 490.8 kg. The USA is 324.2 kg and China is 1,235.0/kg. France stands out as the lowest at 110.5 kg and Uzbekistan is the highest at 1960.9.

Taking all this into account, and with the knowledge that Canada is leading the world in reducing air pollution while actually being a low emitter of GHGs in respect to our GDP, and despite our dependence on extraction of natural resources including oil and gas, the question is this — why is the Government of Canada demanding a carbon tax from us and penalizing us domestically with useless intermittent renewable energy and massive conservation spending? With only 1.6% of global emissions we are unable to save the world.

It’s time to let the rest of the world and their 98.4% of emissions catch up!

PARKER GALLANT

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Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

6 thoughts on “Is it time for Canada to claim environmental hero status?”

  1. Extremely well done, Parker. Should be distributed widely. Canada is somewhat a laughing stock: hypocritical, as you say, virtue signalling, with ambiguous and mixed messages, and providing one of the largest transfers of wealth we can think of. Time to vote them out.

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  2. Allow me to expand on a few of the points you make, first on the federal government’s contribution of $2.65 billion to support climate change mitigation in developing countries. This, in fact, was announced in late 2015, shortly after the Trudeau government took office. It was one of the first major announcements of climate change policy. It should be seen in context. This was intended to be a contribution to the Green Climate Fund, agreed upon in principle around 2012 and confirmed at COP21 in 2015, which committed the “Annex II” countries (mostly OECD countries) to contribute at least $100 billion per year (!) to developing countries to support mitigation and adaptation efforts starting in 2020. Of course, the contributions globally have been nowhere near that, and the departure of the United States from the Paris Agreement means that the largest potential contributor has refused to participate. Meanwhile, the developing countries have hardened their negotiating position with respect to the Green Climate Fund. They have insisted that their commitments to reduce emissions (such as they are) are dependent on the Annex II countries paying their full share; in other words, if we don’t pay, they won’t play (and it is clear most countries won’t pay). Second, the developing countries have insisted that they will not be accountable for how they use the funds. While the Green Climate Fund is theoretically to finance mitigation, the developing countries insist that it is more “compensation” by the developed countries for having been the source of past emissions, so the developing countries should be free to use the funds any way they wish. Finally, the developing countries have insisted that the $100 billion a year is not enough. India has claimed, for example, that it alone will need at least $1 trillion. China, of course, is not among the contributors; it may, in fact, qualify as a recipient. Fortunately, the UN has made zero progress since 2015 either in deciding the shares to be borne by the OECD contributors or the shares to be received by each of the developing countries. The $2.65 billion was, in retrospect, just more expensive virtue signalling.

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  3. Parker, allow me to expand on a second point in your excellent article, concerning the expenditures by the federal government. In its report to the United Nations on progress in attaining the 2030 emissions reduction target, the federal government included as an annex a brief description of the federal government measures to reduce GHG emissions both in Canada and abroad; these included subsidies, guidelines, information programs, regulations, fees and taxes. There were over 300 measures listed, touching every aspect of the Canadian economy. In the Government’s Main Estimates for 2018-19 indicating planned expenditures for the current fiscal year, there is no way to clearly identify how much the government will spend on climate change. However, the budgets of the two main departments involved, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada, total a combined $1.14 billion. The expenditures will only go up from here.

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    1. Thanks Robert. On the latter point I have read some recent articles about some of the spending for different sectors (federal) coming from several different ministries/politicians that have no bearing to the actual budget of the Ministry meaning the money is coming from several different ministries so I suspect the same here. What that effectively means it is impossible to find it within the budget document itself.

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