Eco­holic What hav­ing a cli­mate change de­nier in the White House means for Canada

When you’re ad­dicted to the planet

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - By ADRIA VASIL eco­holic@now­ | @eco­holic­na­tion

In the days fol­low­ing Don­ald Trump’s bal­lot-box vic­tory, even Canada’s most bat­tle-hard­ened en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists couldn’t help but bury their heads in Facebook mut­ter­ings about the end of the world as we know it. The new “leader of the free world” is, af­ter all, a coal-loving crotch-grab­ber who’s fa­mously called cli­mate change a hoax con­cocted by the Chi­nese to un­der­mine the U.S. econ­omy. Should Cana­di­ans start build­ing geo­ther­mal-cooled shel­ters? We drill into as­sump­tions about what Trump’s en­viro poli­cies may mean north of the bor­der.

“A fuck­ing disas­ter” for canada’s cli­mate plans. Most cli­mate sci­en­tists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists agree that Trump’s plans to put a no­to­ri­ous cli­mate change de­nier in charge of the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, gut bil­lions in cli­mate spend­ing and pull out of the Paris agree­ment are, as the Broad­bent In­sti­tute’s Rick Smith can­didly tells NOW, a “fuck­ing disas­ter” en­vi­ron­men­tally speak­ing.

But while the pres­i­dent-elect tries to fig­ure out how to wig­gle out of the Paris agree­ment’s four-years’-no­ticeof-can­cel­la­tion clause, the real ques­tion is how much Trump’s ac­tions will un­der­mine Canada’s re­solve to act on cli­mate change. Al­ready, Con­ser­va­tive Party pols are us­ing Trump’s win as ammo against Lib­eral plans to slap a na­tional price on car­bon.

With 76 per cent of Cana­di­ans telling poll­sters they’d have voted for Clin­ton over Trump, Smith ar­gues that “Trudeau will clearly ben­e­fit po­lit­i­cally in this coun­try by ag­gres­sively con­trast­ing him­self with Trump, not har­mo­niz­ing with him. The Libs can’t af­ford not to move for­ward with a na­tional cli­mate plan.”

But how ag­gres­sively will cli­mate plans get im­ple­mented if our num­ber-one trad­ing part­ner no longer cares how green we, or our oil, are? UBC po­lit­i­cal sci­ence prof Kathryn Har­ri­son is hop­ing history doesn’t re­peat it­self, not­ing that Canada did an aw­ful lot of cli­mate coasting af­ter U.S. pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush pulled out of Ky­oto in 2001. Says Har­ri­son, “We re­main ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble while the di­rec­tion of our econ­omy is pred­i­cated on the as­sump­tion that the world won’t get its act to­gether on cli­mate change.”

Will plumes of coal dust start bil­low­ing up from Across the bor­der like it’s 1999? Trump has boldly promised to end the “war on coal.” Con­sid­er­ing up to half of On­tario’s smog has his­tor­i­cally come from Amer­i­can coal plants, the po­ten­tial re­vival of the in­dus­try would seem cause for con­cern on this side of the bor­der. But Equiterre di­rec­tor Steven Guil­beault doesn’t think so, given the value of coal, which he says “has melted like snow,” los­ing 92 per cent of its mar­ket value from more than $60 bil­lion in 2011 to $4 bil­lion in 2016. En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence’s Tim Gray agrees. “Coal hasn’t been con­strained by reg­u­la­tion; it’s been con­strained by the mar­ket.” Thanks to frack­ing, nat­u­ral gas is now cheaper than coal, and pretty much ev­ery an­a­lyst agrees there’s no chance in hell Trump can bring the in­dus­try back from the ashes – or kill re­new­ables for that mat­ter. He might have an eas­ier time scrap­ping the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which forces Amer­i­can power plants to slash their car­bon emis­sions. Not good for On­tar­i­ans liv­ing up­wind from smoggy Mid­west­ern coal-fired plants, al­though en­vi­ros say any at­tempt to re­peal the act would likely be chal­lenged in court.

al­berta’s oil patch be pop­ping the cork on some bub­bly. Trump hasn’t been shy about ex­press­ing his affin­ity for “sweet beau­ti­ful oil” and has said he’d “ab­so­lutely ap­prove” Trans-Canada’s 1,900-kilo­me­tre Key­stone XL pipe­line, rev­ers­ing pres­i­dent Obama’s veto. No doubt hav­ing a frack­ing bil­lion­aire like Harold Hamm at the helm of the U.S. De­part­ment of En­ergy would grease the path of Key­stone’s ap­proval. Al­berta’s oil patch should be “jump­ing for joy,” the neo-con Heart­land In­sti­tute sug­gests. But maybe not. Trump’s also said he’s “not in love with the idea of tak­ing Canadian oil” and would want a “big, big chunk of the prof­its or even own­er­ship rights,” as in “25 per cent of the prof­its, for­ever,” in re­turn for Key­stone’s ap­proval. Ei­ther way, the line would still need ap­proval from sev­eral U.S states where op­po­si­tion is strong. Green­peace’s Keith Ste­wart says, “Trump can grant per­mits, but that doesn’t mean they can be built. The more he tries to bully grass­roots op­po­si­tion, the stronger it will be­come.” What’s clearer is that Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley doesn’t seem to be count­ing on Key­stone. She says she’s still gun­ning to get Al­berta crude to Canadian tide­wa­ter.

rene­go­ti­at­ing nafta Will be good for canada. Many left­ies and en­vi­ros would love to see NAFTA ripped up, or at least rene­go­ti­ated to get rid of Chap­ter 11’s dis­pute res­o­lu­tion mech­a­nism that’s al­lowed dozens of U.S. cor­po­ra­tions to suc­cess­fully sue the Canadian gov­ern­ment over tougher en­vi­ron­men­tal regs. But that’s not what Trump’s likely to tar­get for rene­go­ti­a­tion. “My fear is that Trump will want to put up walls against Canadian and Mex­i­can im­ports,” says Coun­cil of Cana­di­ans chair Maude Bar­low. She tells NOW that Canada would also be un­der pres­sure to gut wa­ter pro­tec­tion laws and kill Canada’s flimsy pro­tec­tions against bulk wa­ter ex­ports. Con­sid­er­ing that Trump owns a bot­tled wa­ter com­pany, Coun­cil of Cana­di­ans’ Brent Pat­ter­son spec­u­lates the pres­i­dent-elect “would un­doubt­edly be re­cep­tive to the busi­ness case for bulk wa­ter ex­ports.”

trump’s elec­tion could be bad news for na­tional emis­sions stan­dards. It took the Al­liance of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers, which rep­re­sents au­tomak­ers in Wash­ing­ton, DC, a mil­lisec­ond to start press­ing for weaker emis­sions stan­dards. They sent Trump’s team a memo last week ask­ing to “har­mo­nize and ad­just” fuel econ­omy regs, ar­gu­ing that they “pose a sub­stan­tial chal­lenge to the auto sec­tor due to the steeper com­pli­ance re­quire­ments” in ef­fect un­til 2025. Another prob­lem: the same lob­by­ists want to see elec­tric car quo­tas dropped in the U.S.. On­tario may not have much of an auto sec­tor left if NAFTA is rene­go­ti­ated. For­mer Bank of Canada gov­er­nor David Dodge spec­u­lates that plants here might move south to avoid cross-bor­der trade skir­mishes. Hope­fully, more prov­inces will drive us to­ward a brighter fu­ture by pass­ing zero-emis­sion ve­hi­cle re­quire­ments like Que­bec just did.

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