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Are we trading away our rights and environment? | Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation

Are we trading away our rights and environment? | Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation.

Photo: Are we trading away our rights and environment?

(Credit: Gord McKenna via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

Global trade has advantages. For starters, it allows those of us who live through winter to eat fresh produce year-round. And it provides economic benefits to farmers who grow that food. That could change as oil, the world’s main transport fuel, becomes increasingly scarce, hard to obtain and costly, but we’ll be trading with other nations for the foreseeable future.

Because countries often have differing political and economic systems, agreements are needed to protect those invested in trade. Canada has signed numerous deals, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to several Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA), and is subject to the rules of global trade bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Treaties, agreements and organizations to help settle disputes may be necessary, but they often favour the interests of business over citizens. With Canada set to sign a 31-year trade deal with China, a repressive and undemocratic country with state-owned corporations, we need to be cautious.

Should we sign agreements if they subject our workers to unfair competition from lower-paid employees from investor nations, hinder our ability to protect the environment or give foreign companies and governments excessive control over local policies and valuable resources? Under some agreements, basics like protecting the air, water and land we all need for survival can become difficult and expensive.

One recent case could put Canada on the hook for $250 million. Quebec has put a hold on fracking pending a study into the environmental impacts of blasting massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rock and release gas deposits. A U.S. resource company plans to sue Canada under Chapter 11 of NAFTA, claiming compensation for the moratorium’s damage to its drilling interests. Similar disputes have already cost Canada millions of dollars.

Ontario also wants assurances that fracking is safe before it allows the practice. That province is facing costs and hurdles because of another conflict between trade and environment. Japan and the European Union filed a complaint with theWTO, claiming a requirement under the Ontario Green Energy Act that wind and solar projects must use a set percentage of local materials is unfair.

Many of the problems arise because of an investor-state arbitration mechanism, which is included in NAFTA, as well as the proposed Canada-China FIPA, Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership. It allows foreign investors to bring claims before outside arbitrators if they believe their economic interests are being harmed by a nation’s actions or policies. So economics trump national interests.

This has caused many countries, including Australia, South Africa, India and several in Latin America, to avoid signing deals that include the investor-state arbitration mechanism. In Australia’s case, the country recognized the pitfalls when tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, attempted to claim damages under a bilateral investment treaty after the federal government introduced a science-based law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain, unappealing packages.

According to Australian National University law professor Thomas Faunce, Philip Morris then lobbied the U.S. government to include a similar mechanism in a new trade agreement it was negotiating with Australia. In an article for Troy Media, Faunce wrote that, with such a mechanism, the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes “would, in effect, become the final arbitrators on major Australian public policy questions concerning mineral royalties, fossil fuel and renewable energy, water, telecommunications, banking, agriculture and power.”

The 31-year trade agreement between Canada and China is worrisome, with its 15-year opt-out clause (compared to just six months for NAFTA), but the inclusion of the mechanism in other agreements is also cause for concern. At the very least, we could be on the hook for millions or billions of dollars if our environmental, health, labour or other policies were deemed to harm the interests of those investing in or trading with Canada.

The government’s desire to expand global trade may be understandable, but we mustn’t give away too much. We must tell our elected representatives to at least delay the Canada-China FIPA until it has been examined more thoroughly, and to reconsider the inclusion of investor-state arbitration mechanisms in all trade deals.

Lawsuit filed against Canadian government over endangered wildlife and Northern Gateway : thegreenpages.ca

Lawsuit filed against Canadian government over endangered wildlife and Northern Gateway : thegreenpages.ca.

Vancouver — Environmental groups are taking the federal government to court over its continued failure to meet its legal responsibilities under the Species at Risk Act. 

Ecojustice lawyers are acting on behalf of five environmental groups in this lawsuit — the David Suzuki Foundation,Greenpeace CanadaSierra Club BC,Wilderness Committee and Wildsight.

The groups argue that a number of industrial projects, including the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route, are putting threatened and endangered wildlife at risk. The case will be heard by the Federal Court in Vancouver January 8 and 9.

“The federal government’s chronic delays in producing recovery strategies for Canada’s endangered wildlife are forcing species already struggling to survive to wait even longer for the protection they desperately need,” said Devon Page, Ecojustice executive director. “Worse, not having these recovery strategies in place makes it impossible for regulators to consider the full environmental impact of major projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline.”

The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s multi-year delays in producing recovery strategies for four species: the Pacific Humpback Whale, Nechako White Sturgeon, Marbled Murrelet and Southern Mountain Caribou. The habitat for all four species would be impacted by the construction and operation of the Northern Gateway pipeline, among other proposed developments.

By delaying the recovery strategies, and therefore delaying identification of the critical habitat it must then protect, the federal government is making it easier for projects like Northern Gateway pipeline to speed through regulatory review without a full understanding of their long-term impacts on these wildlife species and their habitat.

The government delayed its final recovery strategy for the Pacific Humpback Whale until this past October, more than four and a half years past its due date, and far too late to be considered by the Joint Review Panel (JRP), which recommended in December that Cabinet approve Northern Gateway.

That recovery strategy identifies toxic spills and vessel traffic as two threats to the humpbacks’ survival and recovery. The recovery strategy also shows how the whales’ critical habitat overlaps significantly with the proposed tanker route for the Northern Gateway pipeline — all pertinent information that should have been considered during the review hearings.

“This recovery strategy clearly demonstrates that Northern Gateway would have a significant impact on humpback whales and their habitat, yet by the time this science was released it was too late for it to be considered by the JRP, which calls into question the credibility of the review process,” said Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director with Sierra Club BC.

More than 160 other at-risk species — including the Southern Mountain Caribou, another species that will be impacted by Northern Gateway — still await the release of their recovery strategies.

Woodland caribou still at risk, despite federal plan to help – Politics – CBC News

Woodland caribou still at risk, despite federal plan to help – Politics – CBC News.

An environmental group says more needs to be done to prevent an iconic Canadian animal from going extinct.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is releasing a report today, co-authored by the David Suzuki Foundation, on the status of woodland caribou.

CBC News obtained an embargoed copy of the report, “Population Critical: How are the caribou faring?”

It comes one year after the federal government issued a recovery strategy to prevent the woodland caribou from becoming extinct.

The caribou are listed as a threatened species at risk, largely because industrial development is destroying their habitat in the boreal forest.

Ottawa’s recovery strategy gave provinces and territories three years to come up with a plan to stop the decline of caribou herds in their jurisdictions.

The CPAWS report looks at what progress has been made in the past 12 months.

‘Caribou aren’t protected’

CPAWS national executive director Éric Hébert-Daly says there has been a lot of discussion, but little else.

“The truth is while we wait and while we plan and we do all that work, the caribou aren’t protected,” he told CBC News.

CPAWS gave three provinces and territories a medium grade for showing some signs of progress.

The rest got a low mark for doing little if anything to stop industrial development.

Hébert-Daly hopes that will change in the next 12 months.

“There isn’t really a jurisdiction yet that has really shone in terms of being able to lead the way, and so we’re looking for that in the next year,” Hébert-Daly said.

Some provinces declined to comment yesterday, saying they wanted more time to read the report.

A spokesman for Environment Canada said the department will keep working “with all jurisdictions” on recovery actions for the caribou.

“The Government of Canada has already acted to protect critical habitat in Wood Buffalo National Park (N.W.T./Alberta) and Prince Alberta National Park (Sask.),” Mark Johnson said in an email to CBC News.

 

Climate Change Could Throw Atlantic Canada into Chaos | David Suzuki

Climate Change Could Throw Atlantic Canada into Chaos | David Suzuki.

David Suzuki Foundation supporters who live in Western Canada often have eyes riveted on Ottawa to see what the federal government’s next move will be when it comes to environmental issues. So we sometimes too easily overlook Canadians in the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador — coastal regions, like ours, on the front lines of climate change.

As oceans warm, water expands and sea levels rise. Melting glaciers, icebergs and ice sheets add to the water volume. Scientists predict oceans could rise by more than a metre before the end of the century. They’re also increasingly convinced that escalating carbon emissions are linked to the risk of extreme weather events and intensified storms, such as the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or super storm Sandy in the U.S. in 2012. A key finding from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is that Atlantic Canada faces similar risks if climate change is left unchecked, with more severe storms causing surging tides, flooding and widespread coastal erosion.

For his captivating documentary, Climate Change in Atlantic Canada, Ian Mauro, an environmental and social scientist at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, interviewed farmers, fishers, local residents, First Nations community members, scientists and business people from all around the Atlantic provinces. All say climate change is affecting their communities and livelihoods. They also agree something must be done and that the “business as usual” scenario is no longer an option.

The heart of the problem is our seemingly unquenchable thirst for mainly fossil-fuel based energy resources. As our desire for comfort and efficiency grows, so does our energy consumption, prompting the search for sources increasingly difficult to extract. The wordstar sandsshale gasoffshore drilling and fracking have only entered our vocabulary in just the past few decades – including in Atlantic communities, many of which now also rely on these fossil-based industries to fuel economic prosperity.

But with current talks about oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, shale gasfracking in New Brunswick, and moving tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the East Coast, we must ask if economic profit and prosperity for a few are worth the environmental and social risks to so many — especially when the latest IPCC report suggests that to avoid global catastrophic climate chaos, we must leave much of the known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground.

In light of what the scientific community is telling us about the scope and impacts of climate change – largely a result of burning fossil fuels – we owe it ourselves and our children and grandchildren to consider the implications of the choices we’re about to make in Atlantic Canada and the rest of the country. As former Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Scott Vaughan reminded us before leaving his position earlier this year, Canada is not prepared for a major oil spill off the East Coast. And, as New Brunswick Chief Medical Health Officer Eilish Cleary points out regarding the economics of shale gas development, “[We] cannot simply assume that more money equates to a healthier population.”

Coastal regions such as Atlantic Canada have a long cultural history based largely on fishing, tourism and other marine activities. Although fossil-fuel activities have been in Atlantic Canada for decades, proposed new on- and offshore energy projects will likely put Atlantic Canada’s existing economy and way of life at risk, affecting tourism and fishing in the ocean and on rivers like New Brunswick’s famous Miramichi.

When it comes to climate change, our future will not be determined by chance but by choice. We can choose to ignore the science, or we can change our ways and reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s up to us and our leaders to consider and promote energy alternatives and other solutions that modernize our energy systems, provide a clean, healthy environment for our families and offer long-term economic prosperity.

I’ll be touring Atlantic Canada with local and national experts at the end of November, premiering Mauro’s film and holding conversations with Atlantic communities about climate change and energy issues. Please join us and be part of the solution!

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation-Quebec Science Project Manager Jean-Patrick Toussaint. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

 

 

Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation

Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues | Notes from the Panther Lounge | David Suzuki Foundation. (source)

Photo: Food and Water First: The fight to protect prime farmland continues

A new grassroots movement is spreading across southern Ontario: Food and Water First (Credit:Jason van Bruggen)

By Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola

Last fall the David Suzuki Foundation and our allies in the farming and local food movements defeated a mega-quarry proposed by the Highland Companies, that, if built, would have destroyed hundreds of acres of class 1 soil near Melancthon township, Ontario. Much of Canada’s most productive farmland has already been drained, dug up or paved over with urban sprawl and unsustainable aggregate pits, quarries and other development. The project would have been yet another outrage against this country’s rich agricultural heritage.

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The successful fight to stop the mega-quarry was inspired by tactics of the civil-rights movement and other grassroots campaigns — and people power eventually won the day. Local residents and allies held protests and rallies, wrote letters to politicians, gathered thousands of signatures, created land-inspired art, and participated in hundreds of other activities to raise awareness and put pressure on Highland Companies. The campaign benefited from support from some of Canada’s top musicians, artists, writers and actors, including Barenaked Ladies, Sarah Harmer and Rachel McAdams, and culminated in Soupstock, a giant community picnic/culinary protest that brought 40,000 people together in Toronto’s Woodbine Park.

Though the mega-quarry proposal was withdrawn, our precious farmland is still at risk of being destroyed. Currently, nothing prevents another similar project from going forward. So a new grassroots movement is spreading across southern Ontario: Food and Water First. Its goal is to ensure stronger government policies and laws to protect prime agricultural land and source drinking water areas from development.

The Food and Water First coalition, which includes the David Suzuki Foundation as well as farming organizations, local businesses and other NGOs, has already managed to get nearly a dozen communities — from small townships such as Melancthon to giant cities like Toronto — to pass council resolutions recognizing the importance of farmland and committing to protect it.

Recently, Food and Water First again joined with the Canadian actor Rachel McAdams, indie band Whitehorse and film maker Jason van Bruggen to produce an inspiring short video about the need to place our most precious assets — food and water — ahead of short-term economic gains brought about with their destruction.

Join the fight to save Ontario’s prime farmland by signing the Food and Water First pledge.

 

Environmental groups sue Ottawa over use of pesticides linked to cancer and water contamination | News

Environmental groups sue Ottawa over use of pesticides linked to cancer and water contamination | News.

Do You Believe in Mind Control or Climate Change? | David Suzuki

Do You Believe in Mind Control or Climate Change? | David Suzuki.

 

Why You Should Give a Buzz About Bees | David Suzuki

Why You Should Give a Buzz About Bees | David Suzuki.

 

What’s the Value of Something We Can’t Live Without? | David Suzuki

What’s the Value of Something We Can’t Live Without? | David Suzuki.

 

Four places to cut your carbon | Reduce your carbon footprint | What you can do | David Suzuki Foundation

Four places to cut your carbon | Reduce your carbon footprint | What you can do | David Suzuki Foundation.

 

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