This is a political gunfight intended to target, intimidate and harm organizations that hold views that differ from those of the government,”

lawyer Barry Robinson Ecojustice challenging Alberta oil inquiry in court
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Don’t Be Fooled: Alberta Is Still Playing the Coal Game

Reinstating the Coal Policy does little to protect the Rockies or already scarce water resources relied on by two million people.

Some view the Alberta government’s abrupt move to reinstate the 1976 Coal Policy and hold some kind of public consultation about coal mining in the Rockies as a sign that a tone-deaf government is finally listening to an enraged electorate.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage even made a grandiose claim. “We recognize that rescinding this policy has caused tremendous fear and anxiety that Alberta’s majestic eastern slopes would be forever damaged by mountain top and open-pit coal mining,” she said. “Let me be clear. This will not happen in Alberta.”

But a leopard never changes its spots.

So don’t be fooled: open-pit mining is still firmly on the government’s agenda.

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Complacency on climate change is ‘the larger gamble’ for corporations

Plans to combat climate change are quickly evolving from nice-to-have to necessary for survival in the corporate world.

Pledges to go carbon-neutral, once billed as bold acts of environmental leadership, are now key to maintaining a competitive edge across many sectors.

“We have entered a phase where staying with the status quo is now the larger gamble,” says Matthew Hoffman, a political-science professor at the University of Toronto and co-director of its Environmental Governance Lab.

“The entire business environment is now climate-constrained. There are enough trend lines in terms of market signals, policy signals and social signals that we should be seeing more announcements” around net-zero emission.

He points to examples such as Ford Motor Corp.’s pledge last summer that it would power all of its manufacturing plants with only locally sourced renewable energy by 2035. The company also vows to be carbon-neutral globally by 2050.

More recently, General Motors Co. said it would only sell zero-emission vehicles by 2035 and plans to be carbon-neutral across its global supply chain and product lineup by 2040. It also signed the Business Ambition Pledge for 1.5⁰C, an urgent call to action from a global coalition of UN agencies, business and industry leaders.

“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” GM chief executive officer Mary Barra stated. “We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.”

Isabelle Turcotte, federal policy director for clean-energy think tank the Pembina Institute, says a strong climate plan “is increasingly becoming the same thing as having a strong business plan.”

Adds Ms. Turcotte, “We are in a position now where our major corporations really need to position themselves to be globally competitive with their environmental standards. You just can’t talk about the cost of climate action anymore without also talking about the cost of inaction.”

Failure to move fast enough could leave Canadian companies unable to access major export markets, warns Chris Bataille, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

“Markets that are implementing net-zero policies first are going to start erecting trade barriers fairly rapidly in order to protect their own industries,” says Dr. Bataille, who is also a researcher at the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

Those barriers, often referred to as “carbon border adjustments” or “carbon tariffs,” are effectively a tax on carbon-intensive imports. The European Union has been among the most vocal proponents of them to avoid so-called carbon “leakage,” whereby heavily emitting businesses can simply relocate from jurisdictions with high environmental standards. Carbon border adjustments would eliminate that incentive.

“My initial guess was that this would start in the late 2020s, but now I wouldn’t be surprised if there are fairly significant carbon-price barriers in place by 2025 at this point,” Dr. Bataille says. “So, for companies not moving fast enough towards net-zero, a lot of big markets may simply not be available to them. Those markets could even include China. It will definitely include Europe, and the United States is now heading in that direction as well, so [net-zero] is just about plain old survival at this point.”

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