Environment Forum

Solar power mounts in Canada

canadaflag Solar power is heating up in the northern reaches of  Canada, a country not exactly known for its sunny rays and warm weather.

The industry has seen a heap of news from the region this week. US. solar heavyweight First Solar and Canadian pipeline company Enbridge announced that they are quadrupling the size of a solar farm in Ontario.

That’s on top of Chinese solar company Canadian Solar’s plans for a new $23 million plant in the province and a supply deal for Suntech in Ontario, too.

Why Canada and solar?

As Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov pointed out, having optimal solar patterns is not as important for the economics of a project than the right set of incentives.

(Case in point: Germany is the world’s top solar market, not a ranking it won by its weather.)

from Mario Di Simine:

Fossil of the Day Award: And the winner is…

carsThe UN Conference on Climate Change is a weighty gathering of serious folks looking for a way to cut carbon emissions. It's also a great place to bring some much-needed humor and along the way hammer a few perceived laggers in the fight against global warming.

Enter the Fossil of the Day Awards, a tongue-in-cheek dishonor first presented in 1999 and given to the countries with the worst performances at the previous day's talks during UN climate conferences.

Three awards, compiled by CAN (Climate Action Network), a coalition of more than 450 NGOs, are presented each day with the country scoring the most points over the course of the conference winning the grand prize.

The view from the Arctic: on Sarah Palin and caribou soup

While the world gets ready for December’s climate meeting in Copenhagen, a group of native Arctic women traveled to Washington this week to talk about what climate change is doing right now in places like Arctic Village, Alaska, and Whitehorse, in Canada’s Yukon.******Five of the women talked emotionally about how much harder it is to hunt for traditional game animals like caribou in a time of global warming, and how important these traditional foods are to their culture and health. They also took aim at some of Sarah Palin’s statements, especially her push for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.******Watch below as Norma Kassi, a member of the Gwich’in nation — sometimes translated as “People of the Caribou” — talks about her practices as a hunter, and her take on Palin and her “drill baby drill” strategy. (It’s a fairly long video; her comments on Palin start about halfway through):************Now watch Sarah James, of Arctic Village, talk about the plain fact that “Western” fare like pizza, meatloaf and fast food simply can’t satisfy her son like a soothing caribou soup:************Kassi, James and other members of the Arctic delegation are telling their story on Capitol Hill and to members of the Obama administration. Some are planning to attend the Copenhagen conference, despite dampening hopes of a major agreement from that gathering.******They have an invitation for President Barack Obama: they’d like him to visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge next year, the 50th anniversary of this far-north protected area where caribou herds have their calves and where some energy companies have hoped to drill.******Video credits: REUTERS/Deborah Zabarenko (Washington, November 11, 2009) ******Photo credit: REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder (Sarah Palin outside the Mocha Moose Espresso after voting in Wasilla, Alaska, November 4, 2008)

A messenger Canada would rather ignore

If there’s one person the Canadian government would perhaps rather not hear from right now, it’s Tim Flannery, the vocal Australian climate change campaigner. Canada, which over the last 20 years or so has largely preferred to let economic development trump environmental concerns,  is trying to keep a low profile in the run-up to the Copenhagen meeting in December charged with producing a successor to the Kyoto accord.  Canada’s Conservative government — following the lead of former U.S. President George W. Bush – walked away from Kyoto on the grounds that it would damage the economy. Canada has made an enormous amount of money shipping oil to the United States, much of it from the tar sands in the western province of Alberta. Developing those sands burns up a huge amount of carbon and Canadian emissions are rising steadily, so it’s no coincidence that Canada says it is for action on climate change while allowing responsible economic development.  Environment Minister Jim Prentice told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Wednesday that Canada would bring “a reasonable constructive approach” to Copenhagen.  This is a message which wins few friends among environmentalists.

Flannery rolled into town on Wednesday and loudly announced that Ottawa’s role in the talks leading up to Copenhagen so far had been very unhelpful. “We desperately need Canada to play a much more positive role in the coming months . . . the Canadian government is largely isolated in its stand vis-a-vis the Copenhagen agreements. It would be tragic, I think, to see a country like this standing in the way of agreement,” he told reporters.

If the truth be told, Canada is not doing much of anything on the environment right now, in part because of last year’s U.S. presidential election and the victory of Barack Obama, who vowed tough action on climate change.  Ottawa had promised to introduce rules to cut emissions starting in 2010 but those are on hold until Washington decides what approach it will take on climate change. The same goes for Canadian plans to set up a carbon trading market: let’s wait for Obama.  While this is understandable — there’s little point taking the time and trouble to craft a green policy only to see it wrecked because your main trading partner decided to go off in a different direction — it only adds to the impression of inertia.

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