Good Sunday Morning!
My week was dominated by completing work with Shadow Cabinet and Parliamentary Caucus on the Green Party submission to the Emission Reduction Plan required by the so-called Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act. Just a sidenote that it is wonderful to be engaged in open and collegial work between MPs and the party. Not commenting on the past- just celebrating progress! I wrote about the public consultation process on climate last week, emphasizing the deadline for submissions was Friday, January 14.
On-line, climate groups were all alerting supporters to get comments in by January 14th. Then on Tuesday, I had an email from one of my favourite friends in the world, Janice Harvey in New Brunswick. She was getting ready to assign the on-line survey to one of her university classes and sharp-eyed, she noticed that the government website actually said comments were due “before January 14.” She asked me if I was sure the deadline was the 14th- or could “before January 14” mean January 13th? I sent a quick personal email to two people I regard as friends – one is the environment minister and the other his parliamentary secretary. Pretty quickly, I got a reply that the deadline was, in fact, midnight the 13th!
I started letting people know. And it got a bit confusing. I am super grateful that Amita Kuttner, our new interim leader, is prepared to treat Green Party members as activists who would want to know. The party sent out an alert (if you are a Green member, you should have gotten it) that the deadline was 24 hours earlier than we had thought.
On Friday, Environment and Climate Change issued a news release:
“Since the formal engagement process launched on December 10, 2021, the federal government received approximately 20,000 public submissions. In response to the overwhelming interest and useful feedback received so far, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, is extending the deadline for public submissions to the 2030 ERP by one week to 11:59 p.m. PST on January 21, 2022.”
Considering we had over 100,000 submissions on the electoral reform process, back when I was on the special committee struck to deliver on Trudeau’s promise that 2015 would be our last election under first part the post, (a Goldie Oldie of the Broken Promises Hit Parade), 20,000 does not strike me as a big number. With an additional week I hope we can encourage thousands more to demand stronger climate action. Here again is the excellent tool kit from Climate Messengers: https://link.
One area of controversy is the role, if any, of nuclear energy in climate solutions. As a both climate activist and also an anti-nuclear activist, I went through a real crisis back when I was Executive Director of Sierra Club of Canada. The whole organization went through a profound re-think. Green Parties around the world, including Canada, have also grappled with the question. Some members do not agree with our position.
If nuclear was any possible part of a solution to the threat of global warming, how could we rule it out?
It turns out, that is a very big IF and the answer to this day is NOT. Sure, Minister of Natural Resources, the Hon Jonathan Wilkinson says repeatedly “there is no pathway to Net Zero that does not include nuclear.” The federal Department of Natural Resources (formerly Energy, Mines and Resources) has historically favoured the nuclear industry. Canadians have invested tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for nuclear power. Then, under Harper, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd and its remaining assets were sold for a song ($15 million!) to that favoured and coddled insider group, SNC Lavalin.
My favourite quote on nukes was Fred Knelman’s great line from the 1980s, “Nuclear is a future technology whose time has passed.”
In the current context, nuclear is in the way of the decarbonization of our economy. The way the Green Party has analyzed it, we need to test any public energy investments for climate action against clear criteria:
· Per dollar invested, how many tons of carbon are eliminated?
· Per dollar invested, how many jobs are created?
· How quickly can the technology/investment be up and running, reducing emissions?
By these simple criteria, nuclear scores far below energy conservation and energy efficiency improvements. It is miles behind solar energy installation, wind power, or geothermal. It is capital intensive and creates few jobs. It takes over a decade, at a minimum, to move from concept to approval to construction. When poor performers take public dollars, there is an opportunity cost. New nuclear is an obstacle to a zero carbon economy.
On top of that, it involves uranium mining which has traditionally involved abuses of indigenous rights as well as environmental contamination. It involves the creation of high-level nuclear waste that must be contained from the biosphere for at least a quarter of a million years – with no known technology to do so. As well, nuclear energy inevitably increases the risk of nuclear proliferation for military purposes.
Now, we have the new propaganda for “Small Modular Reactors” – as though there is something magical about “SMRs” that would make new nuclear worthy of consideration. Again, the industry consortium promoting new nuclear, is led by SNC Lavalin. The federal subsidies going to New Brunswick where Point Lepreau’s high level nuclear waste essentially sitting in swimming pools, wlil be the source of “harvested” fuel. No existing SMR exists. This technology is experimental and unproven for commercial use. And First Nations in New Brunswick object to, yet again, violating indigenous rights.
Now the nuclear debate is raging in Europe after a committee of the European Parliament suggested that nuclear could be rated as a transitional form of energy. In any earlier consideration, nuclear has been ruled out in any climate friendly technologies, such as under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, or from any consideration for the Paris Agreement. Now the whole notion that the conditions that were suggested to make nuclear meet those tests has been called into question. The hypotheticals to be achieved would appear to put it out of the running. The vote in the European Parliament could be very close indeed. https://www.euractiv.com/
A reminder to please tune in next Saturday to hear from Interim leader Amita Kuttner, Mike Morice and me at our Saanich-Gulf Islands Green AGM! The link below is to RSVP. Please join us.
Hope you and your family are being careful and staying safe. John and I finally got our booster shots this week. But we know the vaccines alone do not provide full protection. Masks and distancing rules continue. Be well and healthy. And eventually, we can get to the other side of this. Let’s hope humanity learns some lessons!
Have a great week!
Here is the link to register for the SGI Green AGM – on Saturday, January 22, 2022, from 2-4 pm BC time.
Please RSVP here if you would like to attend the AGM online via Zoom. Note that this is a two-step process. After you register you will receive an email from Zoom asking that you register to get the meeting link. Hope to see you there!
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens