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New Canadian Climate Institute Warns of ‘Harsh Realities’ Ahead


The new Canadian Institute for Climate Choices (CICC), an independent think tank that begins life with C$20 million in federal funding over five years, is warning of the harsh realities and global economic shifts the country will face as the climate crisis evolves.

The institute formally launched yesterday with an inaugural report that “says change is coming whether the world shifts quickly, to low- and zero-emitting energy sources, or continues as it is, and then also has to face the social, economic, and environmental disruptions that ensue,” The Canadian Press reports [1].

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“I think there is no question that the game is changing,” said CEO Kathy Bardswick. “The realities of Canada’s position in the world, and how we’re going to ensure our prosperity going forward, is changing. How we provide value as a country is changing.”

“I hope that we’re able to contribute some really good, solid, evidence-based analysis and advice that looks at the issues and complexities of climate and what decisions the country is facing in a more integrated frame,” she added [3] in an interview with CBC. “The country is facing choices, they’re complex choices, and they need to be well supported.”

So far, the CICC “has mainly a virtual existence, with staff and experts spread across the country conferring with each other mostly through various online platforms,” CP says. “The board has met in person twice thus far, and there was an opening summit in November where members met in regional groups.”

But now, the institute “will produce at least three major reports a year across the three main areas of climate action: adapting to a lower-carbon reality, mitigating against the effects of a changing climate, and developing and producing the clean technology needed for both of those things.”

CBC reports that the institute’s 11 board members include former Privy Council Clerk Mel Cappe, former Ecofiscal Commission Chair Chris Ragan, and Dave Collyer, former president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Its three expert panels on adaptation, mitigation, and clean growth “are made up of some of Canada’s prominent experts and voices on climate policy,” including Blair Feltmate, Nancy Olewiler, Mark Jaccard, Nicholas Rivers, Jennifer Winter, Stewart Elgie, and Kathryn Harrison.

“Bardswick said everyone at the institute is aware of the anxieties and divisions that climate policies can create,” CP writes. “She said the hope is that if the institute can help develop a clear road map for Canada’s role, it could help calm everyone down.” While yesterday’s report sees emission reductions triggering “an economic transformation on a scale not seen since the first and second industrial revolutions,” it states “that even under some of the most aggressive decarbonization attempts, fossil fuels are expected to play some role for many decades,” CP says.

The CBC coverage ties yesterday’s announcement to the Harper government’s decision to shutter the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy in 2012, 25 years after it was established by then-prime minister Brian Mulroney. “At the time, Conservative environment minister Peter Kent said the roundtable was no longer needed because there were other organizations producing research and analysis,” CBC writes. “But another minister, John Baird, later suggested the Conservative government didn’t approve of what the roundtable was saying.”

Fast forward seven years, and “it seems like there is wave after wave of climate announcements, whether it’s corporate, whether it is international policy, whether it is climate impacts, like Australia. It just seems like these issues that we’re talking about are accelerating and becoming harder to manage and more complicated and more imminent in a lot of ways,” said Dale Beugin, the new institute’s vice president of research. “So it feels like this is the right time to try to bring some clarity to that conversation for Canadians.”

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1 Comment To "New Canadian Climate Institute Warns of ‘Harsh Realities’ Ahead"

#1 Comment By Bill Henderson On January 22, 2020 @ 2:53 PM

‘Some clarity to that conversation for Canadians’?

In a front page article at the new CICC website [4] Rachel Sampson cites Lenton on tipping points and Weitzman on the existential danger of fat-tail uncertainty. She describes a cascade of latent feedbacks leading to runaway warming. She makes the point that uncertainty is not in our favour and that we should choose ‘climate choices’ because we risk economic pain if we don’t.


The climate choices inherent in the new institute’s name, in the program described in their inaugaral paper, and that Sampson talks about are the incremental, completely within BAU instruments and policies of carbon pricing aided decarbonization as exemplified in the Pan-Canadian Framework. They are climate choices that are restricted by the neoliberal worldview to not endanger BAU and the sum total of all of the policies advocated for by CICC will not in all probability even achieve the old too weak by half Harper-era emission reduction targets.

You can search the website and paper and you will find no mention of emergency government or supply-side policies such as regulated managed decline. Climate is an existential emergency requiring urgent action but the government has contributed $20 million to a new org to keep you thinking that our only climate choices are carbon pricing, clean energy development and adaptation.

Yesterday at Davos Greta again spoke truth to power telling the real governors of the world that they were doing nothing and she specifically told them that no new fossil infrastructure, a complete divestment out of fossils and programs for an immediate end of fossil production should be TODAYs policy priorities. There’s a table in the CICC paper that shows all of their ‘climate choices’ policies and aside from thin words on investment there is nothing about restricting fossil production at all.

What a bunch of myopic dinosaurs. CICC would become the new pretend mitigation enabelers, a smokescreen to keep Canadians thinking that climate action is happening while the fossil captured government continues to expand production for export.

Sampson must know that the bottom line carbon math is a 50% reduction globally by 2030 (60% plus for wealthy developed countries like Canada) but she (and everywhere in the website) refers instead to the new Trudeau govt kick the can down the road 100% by 2050 target. The CICC are I’m sure good people well intentioned but they are buying into being enabelers of a plan to fail and all of them should know better. I’m sure they rationalize that they are there to lead against the considerable powers that want no mitigation, and that getting what is possible even if presently inadequate is a step in the right direction, but (INHO) they are this years advocates for staying within BAU instead of getting to our last chance for effective mitigation to keep us safe from that cascade of latent feedbacks and death to all we know and care about.

We need emergency government to get us all on the same page about the full suite of climate dangers and the full pallette of possible policy alternatives to get as close to 60% by 2030 as possible. The people involved in CICC and the government funding them are in effect working for the fossils who don’t want effective mitigation to happen, who don’t want Canadians to even suspect that emergency action such as winding down fossil production is our last chance.