The proponents of Raven Coal failed because of their short-sightedness. A risky, 16-year coal mine project is unsustainable in every sense of the word and Central Vancouver Island rightfully rejected this model of long-term pain for short-term gain. So what does this mean, and where do we go from here?
While coal phaseout and the clean energy transition is the right decision for Alberta, towns like Hanna, Forestburg, Wabamun, and more are going to be very affected by the change in the short and medium term. We need a high quality employment and investment strategy that supports workers, families and communities affected by the clean energy transition.
With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and the need to curb emissions. In light of this, I don't get the current brouhaha over Kinder Morgan, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or the Energy East pipelines.
For those not counting, there have been eight B.C. trade missions to China alone in the last 18 months. Forests minister Steve Thomson is set to leave on a ninth mission this Friday. Trade missions aren't cheap, they set the B.C. government back $767,000 in 2014 and that doesn't include the bill for local governments, universities and other agencies.
Alberta is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada and the oilsands are the country's fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Growing emissions from the industrial sector are the reason Canada will not meet its emissions reduction target under the Copenhagen Accord, according to Environment Canada.
The message to Canadians who care about health, the environment and the economy is clear: on October 19, voting is the most important thing you can do to protect the people and places you love. The sooner Canadians speak up in favour of a coal phase-out, the sooner we can rid ourselves of this deadly fuel for good. While the U.S. looks to coal for nearly two-fifths of its power, the figure in Canada is just 12.6 per cent. Some provinces, such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, burn a lot of it, with serious environmental consequences, but as a country our reliance is fairly modest. In comparison with America's challenge, ours looks straightforward.
How is Canada faring in our industrial diversification? Progress on trade diversification over the past 15 years is likely one of the most remarkable developments in Canadian economic history. A strong dependence on traditional markets was only enhanced by the Canada-US FTA, which saw exports to the US soar to over 85 per cent of the total. But a big shift began in the New Millennium.
Some see low fuel prices as good news, but there are many downsides. With driving becoming less costly, more cars and trucks could be on the road, which is good for the auto industry but bad in terms of pollution, climate change and traffic accidents. And because the price of oil is now lower than the cost to extract oilsands bitumen, the industry is starting to put the brakes on rapid expansion plans -- bad news for workers and businesses in Fort McMurray and those heavily invested in the industry but good news for the planet.
So long as all of that good work in the U.S. can be undone by backward Canadian decision-making, we'll never make true progress. That's exactly why it is so critical for Americans, Canadians, First Nations and Tribes to come together to stop fossil fuel exports from the west coast of North America -- particularly through the waters of Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, collectively known as the Salish Sea.
Birds have long been the "canaries in the coal mine" for our destructive ways. Extinction of the passenger pigeon sparked the first large environmental movement in the U.S., and led to restrictions on hunting, as well as federal and international regulations to protect migratory birds. Now, birds face a range of new problems, most caused by humans and many serving as further warnings about our bad habits.
Depending on where you are, it's been getting hotter, colder, drier, wetter, stormier. Indeed, the changes, particularly the intensity of heatwaves and droughts, have been occurring faster than many scientists predicted. And that's made it a bit easier to feel there is something real about climate change.
The National Energy Board (NEB), Canada's chief energy regulator, has come out with a new report projecting energy development in Canada out to 2035. The potential for growth (and economic benefits to Canadians) is massive, but the NEB shares our concerns that the potential for bottlenecks and infrastructure short-falls imperil this projected growth.
Areas of Earth that have remained relatively free of industrial development have taken on a special significance. In Canada, they include awe-inspiring landscapes like the Sacred Headwaters in northwestern B.C. But the Sacred Headwaters is not protected under law. It remains at risk from a multitude of proposed mines, railways, transmission lines and other projects that will eviscerate the landscape if approved.
This weekend's tragic rail disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec should serve as a reminder that there is no completely safe method of transporting oil, gas and other volatile substances. There are just magnitudes of risk. Canada and, especially, the U.S., need to curb carbon emissions and step away from their addiction to fossil fuels. But will blocking new pipelines in the U.S. or across Canada lead to a faster end to this addiction? Or will it simply lead to the substitution of rail transport -- by most measures relatively safe, but statistically not as safe as pipelines? These are valid questions on both sides of the border and ones brought into sharp focus by Lac Megantic.