Monday, 9 May 2016

Liberal Greenwashing: Budget 2016-17 and Recent and Past Performances, updated, May 9, 2016

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
Albert Einstein
The text presented here offers an in-depth portrait of the Liberal greenwashing record on addressing climate change, from past Liberal governments, to the 2015 election campaign and to the period up to, and including, the Budget for the fiscal year 2016-17.  The links with past Liberal governments reflect my experiences as a former Government of Canada employee who has worked for several Ministries on sustainable development during previous Liberal reigns. 

Beginning with previous Liberal climate change action plans, emissions rose despite generous clean tech innovation programs, plus ongoing consultations with all stakeholders, because of the following weak links in the Liberal chains, 1) the absence of a backbone to stand firm with the lobbies of power and money, 2) feebleness with regard to taking action via new legislation; and 3) highly selective listening skills with stakeholders. -- Not all that different than Hillary Clinton!

These weak chain links remain very much alive today.
All of these weaknesses are evident with the decision of the Justin Trudeau government to accommodate Air Canada's request to undertake a legislative change - while imposing closure in the form of two days allotted for Parliamentary debate -- for the purposes of removing the Air Canada obligation to provide 2600 middle class aircraft maintenance jobs in Canada.  This is an important signal as it raises questions on how on earth could one expect the Trudeau government to be firm with the Suncor, TransCanada, the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel sector at-large?  How can one expect Trudeau to keep his promise on eliminating fossil fuel subsidies in Canada, estimated by the International Monetary Fund to be $46B USD for the year 2015?

Most disheartening, the Trudeau/Liberal corporate rule mindset explains why Budget 2016-17 affirms that the "too close to Big Oil" National Energy Board will remain the permanent authority in charge of pipeline environmental assessment processes. This is to say that the Liberals have broken their election promise on credible environmental impact evaluations and are upholding the Conservative government smoke screen for the purposes of the manipulation of public opinion.

Budget 2016-17: Low Carbon Economy Fund, reallocating fossil fuel subsidies and clean Technologies

While the Liberal government continues to promote the pipelines, it is not doing a good job on preparing Canada for the green economy.  Consider the following factors

Low Carbon Economy Fund
The Budget 2016-17 three-sentence description of the Low Carbon Economy Fund has a resemblance to the $1B Climate Fund, a fund announced by St├ęphane Dion just prior to the defeat of the previous Liberal government by the Conservatives.  Under the still-born Climate Fund, the greater an entity's emissions, the more money one could get from the government to reduce one's emissions.  Put another way, that means that the largest emitters, such as the petroleum and other fossil fuel sectors, would be the largest beneficiaries of a "pay the biggest polluters the most dollars fund" -- a sharp and perverse contrast with "the biggest polluters pay more model".  While this may make the fossil fuel companies appear to be righteous, it is an inefficient and costly way to reduce emissions.

Examples of More Cost-effective  Ways for Canada to Catch up with it's Competitors on the Green Economy
There is no magic solution for achieving climate goals, rather it is like addressing poverty. One needs a combination of measures that collectively contribute to goals pursued.  With so many countries ahead of Canada, there is a wealth of examples from other countries to draw upon. These examples include:   
1) a legislative agenda with meaningful penalties for non-compliance;
2) expenditure-neutral shifting of some of the $46B/year in 2015 USD in Canadian fossil fuel subsidies to investments in a) the clean tech sectors and b) the diversification of the fossil fuel sectors, to accelerate their migration towards green economics while integrating the training of fossil fuel workers for green jobs; and c) more generally, the creation of a more diversified and less vulnerable Western Canada economy;
3) engaging the Business Development Bank of Canada and other financing arms of the federal government to establish clean technology portfolios/programs regarding the development of green sectors coupled with a meaningful green bond programs, comparable to European models (as opposed to the paltry/token green bonds fund of Budget 2016-17);
4) revamping government supported clean technology innovation activities to include a) networks of research centres on clean technologies that cultivate public-private partnerships plus b) a national clean technology integration centre that links clean energy, low carbon buildings and clean transportation -- the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory is one model, among many models, on clean tech integration nodes;
5) measures to support for clean technology product development and manufacturing including meaningful support for Quebec's electric vehicle sector to reap the opportunities associated with vehicle manufacturers increasingly turning to outside suppliers for these technologies; 
6)  initiatives comparable to that of China and California for encouraging a rapid migration to low and zero emission vehicles including a) vehicle fuel consumption legislation more stringent than that of the US federal government, with examples including California and 7 other US states; and b) policies to influence consumers on their respective choices of vehicles; and 
7) government procurement policies -- to name just a few!

Item# 2 Above: Diversification of the Fossil Fuel Sector is Both Possible and Necessary

The Liberal government had promised to reduce subsidies to the fossil fuel sectors but this has since become a broken promise, with the story line being that the economic slump in the resource sectors indicate now is not the right time to pursue the the subsidy reduction option.

Quite the contrary, now is the ideal time to re-allocate some of those fossil fuel subsidies to kick-start a major diversification of the fossil fuel sectors, the petroleum sector in particular, so that Western Canadian and Canada at-large can engage in a common effort to fully participate in the high growth, high job creation global green economy that is advancing rapidly in China Europe and the US.

Such diversification of the sector is possible, as outlined in Pipelines to Nowhere and as per Norway's Statoil 1) for which the new CEO is formerly from the Statoil renewable energy division  2) which has become a major global investor in clean technologies, including avant garde clean tech innovation including global leadership on offshore wind floating platforms; and 3) which has set up a venture capital entity to invest in clean tech start-ups.

But like a dog hanging on to it's bone, the Liberal's seem to be oblivious to the clear signs of the demise of the fossil fuel era being imminent with 
1) 90% of all new electricity generation capacity in 2015 being represented by renewables;
2) global emissions production remaining flat since 2013;
3) China's coal consumption having declined in both 2014 and 2015;
4) US coal producers representing 45% of US coal output having gone into bankruptcy ;
5) 21 countries have experienced economic growth while diminishing their respective emissions since year 2000;
6) the tipping point favouring electric vehicles being projected to occur as early as 2020 and the end of the monopoly of internal combustion engines, potentially happening as soon as 2025.;
7) further on item #6, Ford, Hyundai-Kia and Volkswagen having ambitious plans for the introduction of a wide range of electric and hybrid models by 2020 and 10% of BMW brand North American sales in April 2016 were electric vehicles;
8) the Chief Financial Officer of Suncor, Alister Cowan in April 2015 having candidly said that "The years of large, multi-billion projects are probably gone"; and 
9) The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers indicating negative financial results for 2016 for the Canadian oil and gas industry to the tune of $30B in spending plans coupled with $17B in revenues, making it clear that these sectors will be cutting costs and avoiding big projects for several years to come.

But the Trudeau government continues to do everything possible to promote Energy East and Kinder Morgan for which the signs suggest that these pipelines may be economically redundant.  Incredibly much new information has been identified since the Pipelines to Nowhere article was first published in The Common Sense Canadian on March 7, 2016 with the result that a new Blog version of Pipelines to Nowhere  was created to incorporate a multitude of new developments.

Clean Technology Funds
The amounts of funding for clean technologies in 2016-17 are lower when compared with the funding that was available during past Liberal governments -- a period when emissions went up.  

One example is that of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) which had an average allocation of $40M/year during past Liberal governments while Budget 2016-17 only provides for $50M over 5 years. 

Another former Liberal government sustainable development program was Technology Early Action Measures, a program complementary to that of SDTC, which had an allocation of $56M for the period 1999-2001. 

As well, past Liberal governments offered substantial funding for clean transportation innovation but Budget 2016-17 only calls for $56.9M over two years which is to be divided up to cover the development of regulations and standards, including international emission standards for the air, rail and marine sectors.  Thus this money will only cover a handful of clean transportation projects.

This has all the appearances of a money shell game.

With Canada's share of global clean tech markets at 1.3% while the green economy is advancing at a extraordinary pace along with a corresponding decline in the fossil fuel sectors -- as outlined in the preceding section -- it is clear that Trudeau and his Liberals have a poor sense of priorities that favours aligning with traditional centres of power and money.

Pipelines and the Broken Promise on Credible Environmental Impact Analyses
Perhaps most disconcerting, is the Liberal broken election promise on the creation of bonafide environment impact analyses for pipelines. 

First, the "interim plan" for National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on Energy East involving a mere 3 month prolongation and an expanded NEB mandate to take into account emissions, constitutes insufficient time to put into place research contracts on scientific studies on GHG impacts.

More disturbing, is that Budget 2016-17, as indicated in the introduction, the "too close" to the industry NEB is confirmed as the permanent authority for environment impact analyses concerning pipelines. Unfortunately, the much dismantled and formerly internationally respected Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, as per the latest Budget, is relegated to that of an advisory body on environmental impact analyses.

A bonafide review would entail starting the Energy East and Kinder Morgan review processes over, with the right parameters from the outset, and overseen by a competent team. -- at least comparable to that of the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Infrastructure Funds
The "all of the above", positives and negatives, cancelling one another out, modus operendi that is the Liberal trademark, is very prominent in the Liberal plan for infrastructure.  While Budget 2016-17 funding to support public transit is a strong positive, Trudeau has let it be known that the provinces and municipalities will define the projects for federal support.  In other words, urban sprawl related road and services infrastructures will also be eligible for this Santa Claus re-election fund, thereby undermining gains made on reducing GHGs attributable to public transit projects.


Further on the recent/current weak links in the Liberal's climate change chains, note that: 
2.     Trudeau had praised Alison Redford for her boasting of Canada's environmental record as a means to warm up the Obama administration on approving Keystone XL;
3.     the Energy East and Kinder Morgan pipelines, should they get approved, could cancel out any advances in the reductions of emissions attributable to the Liberal new funding for clean technologies; and
4.     the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision of the Trans Pacific Partnership would allow corporations to sue a national government in the event domestic environmental laws impedes the maximization of profits.  On this latter point,cross country Liberal consultations on the TPP have been primarily with highly restricted audiences, little advance notice and no answering of tough questions.


Suffice to say that there are many options for engendering cumulative impacts for transformative change of the order of magnitude of green economy actions planned, and already adopted, by China, the EU and the US.

As progressive Canadians, we must 1) rise above the hype or the charming veneer of the Trudeau government on climate, 2) recognize that the Leap Manifesto is out-of-date and needlessly inflammatory on the global green economy and 3) focus on what Canada must do to catch up with its competitors.

For more detailed analyses on the weak links in the Liberal chains, one can refer to the accompanying document regarding 1) the 2015-16 actions of Justin Trudeau; 2) the Liberal machine, past and current and 3) Budget 2016-17.  As such the accompanying document underlines the sharp contradictions between Trudeau's charm giving rise to uncritical journalism projecting Trudeau as a Messiah on the environment.

Will Dubitsky: Updated 09/05/16