Friday, March 25, 2011

Do We Need An Election Now?

If we can rely on the polls from recent weeks, there is no certainty that the outcome of an election will return a parliament much different than what we have now. So why should we have an election? Many would say that we need to express our disapproval of the transgressions against parliament and the Canadian taxpayers by the Conservatives. Others say that these actions are not much different than committed by the Liberals during their terms in power. However those actions did contribute to a change in government.

The Green Party rejects this budget because it fails to address three deficits facing this country; the economic deficit, the ecological deficit and the social deficit. There are only tokens measures in the budget to keep up the appearance of addressing these issues. One may argue that an election will only delay these steps in the right direction. However, there are larger steps identified in the budget to be taken which lead in the wrong direction, especially on the economy, which is supposedly the Conservative’s strong suit.

The Conservatives want this election to be about the economy. I agree that it should be.

The corporate tax cuts in the budget are neither necessary nor helpful. Our corporate tax rates are competitive enough to attract investment and will mostly help corporations already making large profits. There are many businesses barely scraping by which employ many people but will not gain from these cuts. The budget did not end corporate welfare, especially the subsidies to fossil fuel companies which are among the most profitable in the world. Since the government has not fully revealed the costs of their prison expansion program, their tough on crime measures, the new fighter jets, and the corporate tax cuts, we cannot rely on the rosy projections in the budget.

The stimulus money will end soon and the economy may falter as a result. Had the stimulus been focused on cost savings then the benefits would have continued after the monies ended. Support should have been for energy efficiency projects rather than energy consuming projects. Repairing or replacing existing deteriorating infrastructure to reduce future costs would have been better than adding new infrastructure which add to government costs and eventually to taxes. Investments in the green economy reduce costs to government, industry, and families. They will help keep taxes lower, profits higher and the cost of living more affordable. This strategy allows for more public services, protects jobs and a better standard of life for all of us.

Do we need an election now? Yes. Even small improvements in our federal budget will make up quickly for the delays caused by the election. It’s time, vote Green.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Do We Make Progress To Reduce Climate Change?

The following was originally submitted as a letter to the Editor of the Sudbury Star. It has currently not been published.


Climate change has occurred ever since this planet has had an atmosphere. However the majority of the world accepts that the climate change that we are presently experiencing is dramatically different due to the actions of humankind. Extreme weather events in recent years and the related economic and human costs are certainly the result of climate change. These costs are devastating the economies of some countries and severely impacting others. That includes countries that send aide to help with major disasters. There is a growing recognition that these costs will eventually exceed the worst estimates of the costs of reducing greenhouse gases.

Over the last 200 years our activities have returned the carbon from fossil fuels back into the active carbon cycle to levels comparable to tens of millions of years ago. In the last 50 to 100 years the rate of dumping carbon into the atmosphere has increased dramatically. It is still increasing and will continue at an increasing rate because many developing countries are working hard to provide basic services to their citizens that we in the developed world take for granted.

We know what the problem is, we know the cause, and we know what needs to be done to at least reduce the devastating consequences. It is also clear that all countries have to be part of the solution. So why has the world community had so little success in agreeing to move ahead with the obvious solutions? Some believe that addressing carbon emissions will harm the already fragile economy. But many countries have shown that conservation and investing in the green economy has strengthened their economy. Energy efficiency reduces production costs hence improves global competiveness and protects against the inevitable rapid rise in energy costs.

Secondly, when you factor in the costs related to extreme weather events, it is much more economically wise to reduce carbon emissions than to pay for the consequences of not doing so. The United States and Canada seem to believe that refusing to commit to action before the major developing nations make stronger commitments will lead to progress. This has not worked, nor should we expect it to work. It is like asking these nations to slow the rate that they lift their poor out of poverty while we continue to enjoy our comfortable lifestyle and wasteful ways. Also Canada’s 2% of total global emissions gives us very little bargaining power with the developing world, given our relatively tiny population.

So what is an alternative? If we believe that the world must reduce GHG emissions urgently then any progress by individual countries can only help. We can encourage our industries to dramatically reduce carbon emissions through tax shifting and incentives and not penalties to avoid “carbon leakage” (Businesses leaving the country to avoid pollution penalties). Canada has already experienced “carrot leakage” (Businesses leaving to receive green economy incentives from more enlightened governments).

Canadians produces over four times the world average GHG’s per capita. There is ample opportunity to increase efficiency. A dollar spent on saving energy goes a lot further than a dollar spent on creating new energy. Canada can also financially support international programs such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The loss of forests is a major cause of increased carbon in the atmosphere.

Global warming has already greatly exceeded what was expected from previous ice age cycles. It will continue for decades after the world becomes carbon neutral. There will be many more disasters and much more human suffering. The sooner we make changes the better off we will all be. We have two choices: watch the degradation of the planet while we wait until all countries agree on a plan, or act on our own now to do all that we can.

Fred Twilley
Nominated Green Party of Canada Candidate, Sudbury Riding

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Saying it is Green Does Not Make it Green

It is obvious that the prices of all that we purchase, including food, are affected by the price of oil. Food production requires fossil fuels for farm machinery, fertilizer, transportation and processing. It is equally obvious that when agricultural products are diverted for fuel production that the supplies of food are decreased, the price of food rises. No one knows exactly how much the price of food has increased due to biofuel production, but it is certain that biofuels have a real impact. The grain required to produce 100 litres of ethanol (240Kg of maize) could feed one person for a year.

The actual burning of ethanol may be cleaner and greener than gasoline. However you must add the greenhouse gases (GHG’s) of farming, processing and transportation of corn and the distribution of the ethanol produced. The vast majority of the studies that I have read put the carbon foot print of ethanol from corn as close to or even greater than gasoline. The reduced supply of food with the price increases it causes has also lead to deforestation for agriculture which dramatically adds to GHG’s. Although indirect, this is attributable to biofuel production.

Biofuels need high fuel prices to be economic. Rising fuel prices lead to higher feedstock prices which are already rising due to increased demand. Presently biofuel programs survive due to subsidies, direct tax incentives, and loan guarantees. These use already scarce government funds. There is no good evidence that ethanol has led to lower fuel costs. If it was more cost effective we would not need mandated ethanol content in gasoline. The cost of reducing CO2 emissions with ethanol from corn is about $550/ ton which is 30 times the cost of purchasing CO2 offsets from the European climate exchange.

After objectively examining all of the direct and indirect effects of ethanol from corn and after reading countless studies, I have come to the conclusion that this technology is bad for the environment, bad for the economy and bad for all people especially the most vulnerable. Conservation is far more cost effective and beneficial for our economy and environment.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is there Public Support for Canada's Position in Cancun?

Cancun, Mexico) - Although there is probably some support in Canada for our government’s position, it is absent here in Cancun except from some of the government representatives. Over the past 11 Days I have talked to many Canadians, all non-government representatives expressed disagreement and disappointment with the government’s position. People from other countries are surprised that this government survives considering the unpopularity of this position.

On Thursday Dec. 9 we attended a news conference put on by the Climate Action Network. Representatives from four of our federal political parties, the Assembly of First Nations and four NGO’s, spoke out against the Conservatives position at this conference. The following statements are from their websites:

Opposition parties are sending a clear message today. The attitude of the Canadian government here in Cancun is putting the architecture of the Kyoto Protocol at risk."– Bernard Bigras, Environment Critic, Bloc Quebecois MP

President Calderon has inspired enthusiasm for a strengthened and substantive Cancun agreement. Canada must stand with its North American partner and commit to binding greenhouse gas reductions in an extended Kyoto agreement and expedite the needed regulatory and fiscal measures.”– Linda Duncan, Environment Critic, New Democratic Party MP

For the last fifteen years, I’ve been a witness of the extraordinary leadership that our country had shown on many occasions, both under Conservative and Liberal governments. Now, I only witness the destructive role that Canada is playing by opposing to the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. Today, we are at a crossroads. Canada can try to kill the only existing international treaty we have to face the most important challenge humanity as ever faced. Or, Canada can show leadership and act to protect the climate." – Steven Guilbeault, Deputy Director, Équiterre

Hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers are calling on the Harper government to hold onto Kyoto as THE legitimate foundation on which tobuild a fair, equitable and binding agreement."– Karen Hawley, National Representative for the NUPGE, the National Union of Public and General Employees.

The Kyoto process must be continued, ambitious targets have to be set and we have to lead, not follow — not the U.S. or any other country — in protecting our citizens and solving the practical world-wide challenge of climate change. Canada can and must do better.”– Gerard Kennedy, Environment Critic, Liberal Party MP

The position of the Canadian government does not represent the will of provinces, Parliament, or Canadians, and especially not of our generation. By obstructing the Kyoto process and failing to take ambitious action domestically, Canada is acting directly against the interests of all young Canadians.”– Maggie Knight, member of the Canadian Youth Delegation to COP16

Canada once was respected for international leadership. In 1988, we hosted the first global scientific climate conference. In 1992, we were the first industrialized country to ratify the framework convention. Action by Canada helped save the Kyoto Protocol when the Bush Administration tried to kill it. And in 2005, Canada's hosting of COP11 helped the world find the path to these negotiations. Tragically, since 2006, Canada has been laying roadside bombs on the road to a continued agreement. We have lost credibility and respect around the world.”– Elizabeth May, Leader, Federal Green Party of Canada, O.C.

Canada can do better in the areas mitigation and adaptation, both domestically and internationally. One only needs to look at the situation in northern areas of Canada to see negative impacts of climate change. We really need to work collectively in Canada to develop innovative programs to put our own house in order before making demands on developing nations. Only then can Canada work internationally to curb further releases of greenhouse gasses.”– Regional Chief Eric Morris, Assembly of First Nations

It's time for the federal government to get its head out of the sand and realize that it's offside with the country it claims to represent. Climate change is a non-partisan issue whose impacts are already being felt by people around the world. We've come together today to call for an end to this government's reckless, do-nothing approach.”– Graham Saul, Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada

These statements from people that can speak for a majority of Canadians clearly show that our government is only representing the choice of a minority. Is this issue serious enough in the minds of Canadians to justify an election? Since how we deal with climate change is critical to the future of Canada and the entire world, it should be. If many more Canadians had the privilege that I have had here in Cancun, this government would not survive long. The vast amount of good science that has been presented here would convince most skeptics with an open mind. The question is how do we effectively communicate the seriousness and urgency of this issue?

With the conference now over, we need to digest the results to see what has really been achieved. The progress on dealing with deforestation and the climate change fund are cause for hope. A commitment to the second period for The Kyoto Protocol was not achieved. The protocol is still alive but on life support. That emissions have to be reduced is widely accepted but determining the reductions that each country will commit to is a long way off. In the comings weeks, the amount of real progress made in Cancun will become more clear.

Fred TwilleyNominated Green Party of Canada Candidate,Sudbury Riding

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Importance of Preserving the Kyoto Protocol

Cancun, Mexico - Today at the United Nations COP-16 climate change summit, we listened to many leaders and important ministers from many countries who are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. All emphasized the urgency to take action sooner rather than later since delays only make the challenges greater. Leaders from countries at most risk to climate change such as small island states or countries with low lying costal areas, spoke passionately about the continued existence of their nations if the world does not act strongly enough and soon enough.

The President of Georgia stated that the time to debate whether to take action is over; it is time to debate on how action is taken. The Kyoto Protocol is viewed as the best hope of ensuring progress despite its many flaws.

Many nations are taking unilateral action. Georgia is establishing an investment friendly environment for the green economy. 80% of new electrical energy will be renewable, even though Georgia currently produces a lot of fossil fuels. Georgia has made strong forest management commitments, and has begun undertaking the conversion of public vehicles to bi-electric.

The President of Ecuador talked about how many of the world’s poorest countries are the custodians of large amounts of sequestered carbon, mainly in the form of forests. Harvesting could dramatically help their economies, but opportunities to enhance sequestration could be of even greater benefit. Ecuador has forests that could provide income for many people and the government. It has large areas suitable for reforestation. It also has untapped oil reserves. Compensation for net avoided emissions and new carbon sinks are urgent, in Ecuador’s opinion. Ecuador’s constitution recognizes the rights of nature.

“We are accountable to nature, our children and millions of climate refugees,” said the President of Ecuador. He also spoke about intellectual property rights, and about how privatizing knowledge was wrong.

The Prime Minister of Samoa talked about how climate change does not need an agreement to cause destruction and we need to be motivated by both science and our conscious to act. Samoa has committed to be carbon neutral by 2020.

The Kingdom of Bhutan has committed to reduce deforestation to zero in five years and to reforest millions of hectares.

Norway has committed large sums of money to reduce emissions. They want carbon pricing as an incentive to reduce emissions and provide funds for climate change. The Prime Minister of Norway stated that deforestation is the cause of half of all global emissions of CO2, and as a result, Norway has pledged $4 billion to reduce deforestation.

Two leaders stated that very little of the $30 billion pledged in the Copenhagen Accord have been delivered. What is needed for success is a legally binding agreement like the Kyoto Protocol and it must be continued.

Canada’s position on all of the above is not completely clear.

On Reducting GHG Emissions, Canada Must Lead by Example

Ambassador Guy St. Jacques is Canada’s chief negotiator. Once a day, he meets with Canadian participants and observers to up date us on the progress of negotiations. After a short talk he answers questions. Most of the questions show that those asking them are in strong disagreement with Canada’s position. The answers Guy supplies are skillfully crafted and rarely satisfy the questioner. We in the room recognize that he must support the party line. At one point he said “My marching orders are 17%”.

Many of the side events that I have attended show that the evidence is getting stronger and that climate change is occurring faster. I was blown away by how serious the problem is in the oceans. Studies of the effects of climate change on the oceans have accelerated recently; only one major report came out in 2007. The chemistry and the mechanisms of the oceans are apparently better understood than for the atmosphere. It has been over 55,000,000 years since the oceans have been his acidic. A mass extinction before the end of the century is a real possibility.

My questions to St. Jacques have focused around this changing reality of climate change and how Canada could be a more effective negotiator if we lead by example, assuming that we believe that real action is necessary and urgent. In the light of this evidence, is it not better for Canada to take unilateral action and lead by example instead holding back until others get onboard? Canada only contributes 2% of the emissions so withholding action is a very weak threat. However, since we are less than one half of 1% of the world’s population, we are polluting at over 4 times the average per person. We need to have stronger targets than the world average.

In response to my questions the ambassador has repeatedly referred to “carbon leakage” as a reason for not taking unilateral action. When business moves to other countries to avoid high penalties for carbon emissions it is called carbon leakage. However, carbon leakage only occurs when the “stick” approach is used. That would not happen if carbon emissions were discouraged through tax shifting or incentives. In Canada we have experienced businesses leaving the country to take advantage of incentives from other enlightened governments. We could call this “carrot leakage”.

By insisting that large developing countries commit to more cuts to their emissions before Canada commits to reductions is in effect asking them to impede their progress in bringing their poor out of poverty while we Canadians continue to enjoy our comfortable lifestyle and wasteful ways. In order to reduce carbon emissions far enough and soon enough to have some hope of preventing climate catastrophe all countries will need to drastically cut carbon emissions. By leading by example Canada would have a much better chance of helping achieve some agreement at this conference.

Fred TwilleyNominated Green Party of Canada Candidate,Sudbury Riding

Monday, December 6, 2010

Observations From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (from Cancun, Mexico)

This COP-16 conference is a massive international undertaking. It involves thousands of people from all over the world. The daily program guidebook is over 30 pages long. It's my privilege and honour to attend this conference as an official observer.

As an observer, I am only exposed to a small part of what is going on. Many meetings are closed, and accessible only to participants, who are called “Parties”. Observers are referred to as “Non-Governmental”. Media personnel have a different status.

Most of the UN meetings occur at the Moon Palace in the lobby building, with meetings occurring in many of the guest rooms and in a large building about 100 metres away. In addition to the numerous meetings of the UN there are many side events at a separate set of buildings located about 5 kilometres away; these buildings are like two large warehouses. There are also a number of outside events at other hotels.

I have enjoyed conversations with members of all three groups (Parties; Non-Governmental; Media), and with people from all over the world. Some of the people I've met are from small countries that I have never heard of, which include small island nations such as the Seychelles. People from this small nation are afraid that their economy and livelihoods will be totally destroyed by climate change. Other small island nations are considering giving up trying to mitigate climate change, and abandoning their homeland to resettle elsewhere. The many people from other counties that I have had extensive conversations with, express pleasure that many Canadians do not share the same view as our Government. Many are pleased that the Green Party is an active force in Canada.

There has been little time to sit a computer and share my thoughts with you, between attending meetings, busing between venues, and walking between buildings, as well as eating and sleeping (which I've not had very much to do either). I started writing this blog on a public computer. I just left a meeting which would have driven you crazy. I have never seen such paralysis. I have much more to share with my friends and family back in Sudbury, and throughout Canada, and I will endeavour to provide you with updates as soon as I can.

Fred TwilleyNominated Green Party of Canada Candidate,Sudbury Riding