Worldwide study by investors group pleads for action
This article was written by Ed Davey and was published in the Toronto Star on July 29, 2022.
The world’s most influential banks need to substantially accelerate climate efforts if global temperature rise is to be kept within the targets of the Paris Agreement, an assessment released Thursday by an institutional investors group warned.
The efforts of 27 giant banks in North America, Europe and Asia to align their policies with global warming of no more than 1.5 C are falling far short in every area measured in the pilot study, obtained exclusively by The Associated Press. The report said no major bank has committed to end financing for new oil and gas exploration, and only one has promised to cut all coal financing in line with International Energy Agency guidelines.
The evaluation was prepared by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), whose more than 350 members are mainly asset managers and owners. They include Barclay’s Bank UK Retirement Fund, BlackRock and Goldman Sachs Asset Management International. Group members have $52 trillion (U.S) in assets under management and advice, according to the IIGCC website. That amounts to roughly a tenth of total assets held by financial institutions worldwide. The Transition Pathway Initiative, a research group that tracks corporate emissions, was a co-author of the report.
The evaluation is significant because it comes from within the financial community, echoing the idea that fossil fuel investments must wind down, which environmentalists, scientists and energy experts have argued for years.
Witold Henisz, vice dean of the environmental, social and governance initiative at the Wharton Business School, said the study “establishes convincingly that banks are not yet demonstrating substantive progress toward net zero, and often even their own commitments.” A growing body of research suggests low public rankings shame companies into responding, he said — and investors may punish them.
Any quibbles over methodology “will not alter the above high-level conclusion,” he added.
The study assessed banks for six areas where they should be showing progress if their lending and other services were aligned with a sharp ramp down of emissions: the strength of net zero pledges; shortand medium-term emissions targets; decarbonization strategies, namely, plans for exiting polluting industries; lobbying on climate regulation; how climate risk is reflected in accounts and audits, and governance, meaning how climate risks are incorporated into leadership structures.
Evaluators set benchmarks for each area. Banks were graded on how many they hit. A 100% rating would mean a bank was completely aligned with the Paris goals in that category.
As gatekeepers of the world’s money, banks play a critical role in climate change, the study said. They make new fossil fuel projects possible via financing. They decide whether to lend money for coal mines and for agribusinesses that fell tropical rainforest. There are other sources of finance, and private equity in particular has a growing role, but banks remain the most important.
Two-thirds of banks have committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions, the study found, but these commitments “vary widely.” Only UBS commits to net zero over its entire business, the study found.
The four Chinese banks in the report, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, have made no commitment to net zero emissions, the study found. They were the worst-rated institutions, each scoring zero in five of the six categories assessed.
The AP sought comment from these banks on several occasions, but none responded.
Each year, a body known as the Financial Stability Board, based in Basel, Switzerland and created by the Group of 20 heads of major economies, gauges which banks in the world are most influential based on their size and importance to the global financial system. The world’s four most influential banks in 2021 — JPMorgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Citigroup and HSBC — each were assessed at zero in two or three areas in the evaluation. Climate governance was the only category where all were judged to be making substantial progress.
By email, Citigroup and JPMorgan both declined to comment. Both banks published targets to align the company’s practices with the Paris goal in spring 2021.
In a statement, BNP Paribas said it has made new climate commitments, including a 25 per cent reduction in oil financing, since Feb. 25, the last date included in the research.
The bank reasserted its commitment to achieving a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5 C. BNP Paribas has implemented “pioneering policies” to protect the climate and biodiversity, especially in forests, it said. It will “progressively reduce its exposure” to companies that won’t decarbonize fast enough.
Scientists say emissions must sharply ramp down in the short and medium term, so benchmarks for 2030 and 2035 are crucial.
The evaluation is significant because it comes from within the financial community, echoing the idea that fossil fuel investments must wind down
Controversial link across north B.C. can now go ahead
This article was written by Christopher Reynolds and was published in the Toronto Star on July 29, 2022.
The company behind the contentious Coastal GasLink pipeline spanning northern British Columbia says it has reached a “milestone” settlement with the group that is building a liquified natural gas terminal on the West Coast.
Amid rising global demand for fossil fuels, TC Energy Corp. CEO François Poirier said it has signed a deal with LNG Canada “that settles all outstanding disputes” and allows for the “safe and timely execution of our largest LNG-linked project.”
The 670-kilometre pipeline, which aims to carry natural gas across the province to the LNG Canada processing and export facility in Kitimat, is about 70 per cent complete, he said.
TC Energy expects “mechanical completion” — when all construction and testing is wrapped up and the tubes are ready to move the chilled gas — by the end of 2023.
Details of the settlement are undisclosed, but it concerns costs stemming from causes as wideranging as COVID-19, the weather, project “scope” and “other events outside of Coastal Gaslink LP’s control,” TC Energy said.
The pipeline’s new cost estimate stands at $11.2 billion, versus $6.6 billion forecasted a year ago.
“Together with LNG Canada, this project will provide the first direct path for Canadian natural gas to reach global LNG markets,” Poirier said.
The project has faced political and environmental obstacles over the past few years.
A series of protests by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and other Indigenous and green groups has repeatedly stalled progress along parts of the pipeline, while a pair of fines from the B.C. government nabbed the company for non-compliance with environmental orders this year.
TC Energy has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the route, and signed option deals earlier this year for potential sale of a 10 per cent stake to two Indigenous groups representing 16 of those communities, Poirier noted on a conference call.
He also alluded to the energy turmoil stirred up by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, saying global demand for LNG is projected to grow by 50 per cent to 75 billion cubic feet a day by 2030 from 50 billion currently.
“This growth is largely underpinned by heightened energy security concerns and the reorder and reorientation of the energy mix,” he said. “This next wave of LNG demand is creating significant opportunities that align with our strategy. TC Energy’s unparalleled asset footprint will play a critical role in securing global energy supply.”
However, analyst Robert Kwan of RBC Capital Markets questioned whether returns on the pipeline will be more modest than the initially anticipated returns, “which I think were pretty low to begin with.”
“Phase 1 clearly didn’t achieve its initial return objectives,” replied Bevin Wirzba, TC Energy’s head of natural gas pipelines. “But as we indicated, coming to a settlement puts the project in the best position to move forward.”
Phase 1 of the project comprises constructing the pipeline, while Phase 2 involves more than doubling its capacity through the installation of compressor stations.
TC Energy, which owns 35 per cent of the venture, sold a 65 per cent stake in it to Alberta Investment Management Corp. and KKR & Co. Inc. in 2020.
The Calgary company posted a lower quarterly profit Thursday, reporting net income attributable to shareholders fell to $889 million or 90 cents per diluted share in the second quarter from $975 million or $1 per share a year earlier.
The pipeline operator’s comparable earnings were $979 million or $1 per common share, down from $1.04 billion or $1.06 per share in the same period of 2021.
Revenue for the three months ended June 30 increased to $3.64 billion from $3.18 billion during the same quarter last year.
Together with LNG Canada, this project will provide the first direct path for Canadian natural gas to reach global LNG markets.
This article was written by Andrea Mandel-Campbell and was published in the Toronto Star on July 29, 2022.
It’s funny how things happen. Thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many a pundit has been quick to predict the end of net-zero carbon goals; the push for environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practices; and the viability of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
And then along came a recordbreaking summer heat wave that buckled rail lines in the U.K., has literally combusted homes and fuel tankers, and sparked massive wildfires in Spain, France and Italy — and again in California and B.C.
Opting out of the climate crisis clearly not an option. We need to get ready for the next revolution in the fight to save the planet: protecting and restoring what is left of our natural world. And by “we,” I don’t just mean government or NGOs. Business, including Canadian companies, will need to step up, and in a big way.
With one million species now threatened with extinction and 10 million hectares of tree cover disappearing every year, new global commitments and corporate financial disclosures are coming down the pipeline that will require a whole new level of accountability, as well as significant private sector investment.
As part of a new global framework soft launched in 2021, the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, companies will soon be expected to report on their environmental impact and their exposure to nature loss. And at an upcoming United Nations meeting in Montreal this December, a global pact to preserve 30 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity by 2030 is at the top of the agenda.
It’s a recognition, albeit late, that nature loss is a systemic risk to the global economy — and that its protection is critical to fighting climate change. According to the UN, more than half of the global economy is dependent on nature in some form. Failure to address overexploitation has a direct impact on human health, jobs and corporate bottom lines, not to mention the integrity of the planet.
But beyond the UN communiqués and paperwork that will keep corporate compliance officers busy, what does it actually mean to put nature at the heart of economic decision-making? Because that’s what it will take — in both the private and public sector, and at a strategic as well as local implementation level — to achieve meaningful change.
It means that when it comes to key sectors of our economy, we aren’t draining wetlands to build the next Amazon warehouse or subdivision. And we aren’t cutting new logging roads into ancient forests that are the last redoubt of the woodland caribou (critically endangered throughout Canada, despite being on our quarter).
There are some indications that business is starting to get it. Vancouver-based Mosaic Forest Management recently announced it was deferring the harvest of 40,000 hectares of old-growth forest along the B.C. coast, opting to sell credits on the 10 million tonnes of CO2 that will be stored instead. Teck Resources, a B.C. mining company, is donating 14,000 hectares of land in Canada and Chile, along with $22.6 million to conservation efforts in a bid to be “nature-positive” by 2030.
But we need to get a whole lot more ambitious. The UN estimates investments in so-called “naturebased solutions” — investments in the sustainable management, conservation and restoration of forests and oceans and in regenerative agriculture — will need to triple to $400-billion U.S. a year by 2030 “if we are to have a shot at solving the planetary emergency.”
Private capital, which currently represents just 14 per cent of all investments in nature, will need to scale substantially.
Given the dour predictions around simply meeting our climate goals, saving nature may seem impossible. But this wouldn’t be the first time that “the end” of something has been wrongly predicted. Sometimes, it’s a signal that it’s just the beginning.
Centuries-old papal edicts empowered Europe to colonize non-Christian lands and people
This article was written by Alex Boyd and was published in the Toronto Star on July 29, 2022.
Calls for the Pope and the Vatican to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery have been front and centre during Francis’s visit to Canada.
On Thursday, protesters unfurled a giant banner that read, “Rescind the Doctrine,” as the Pope was about the celebrate mass at a pilgrimage site near Quebec City.
So what is the Doctrine of Discovery?
It is a legal concept — based on 15th-century papal bulls, or official declarations — that gave the church’s blessing to European explorers “discovering” and exploiting land in the New World and Africa that was already inhabited by non-Christians.
“Basically, it allows for a European nation to lay claim on any territory that the state discovers, as long as it is uninhabited,” said Tamara Pearl, an assistant professor of law at the University of Alberta.
“It began with this concept of terra nullius, which was Latin for ‘deserted’ or ‘uninhabited’ area, but that concept, without any justification, was expanded to mean uninhabited by civilized peoples.”
Indigenous leaders say the doctrine essentially provided the justification for their land to be taken and for treaty obligations to often be disregarded by European settlers.
There are signs the church may be budging.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the doctrine in 2016, following the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report into residential schools. But the Pope himself has not.
Laryssa Waler, a spokesperson for the papal visit, told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that the Vatican has previously said the papal bulls linked to the doctrine have “no legal or moral authority” within the church.
“However, we understand the desire to name these texts, acknowledge their impact and renounce the concepts associated with them,” she wrote in an email.
“Galvanized by the calls of our Indigenous partners, and by the Holy Father’s remarks, Canada’s bishops are working with the Vatican and those who have studied this issue, with the goal of issuing a new statement from the church,” she added.
“Canada’s bishops continue to reject and resist the ideas associated with the Doctrine of Discovery in the strongest possible way.”
She also referred to parts of the Pope’s apology that she said “directly condemned” policies linked to the Doctrine of Discovery.
She said that included when he said “many members of the church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools.”
Back in the 15th century, the church had a lot more power over European governments, particularly the Catholic ones, as the pope was seen as God’s representative on Earth. What the church said formed part of what would have been considered international law at the time.
In 1455, the pope issued a bull that gave Portugal the right to conquer or enslave any pagan lands or peoples, said Pearl, who in addition to being a law professor is also a Nehiyaw iskwew, or Plains Cree woman, from One Arrow First Nation.
Half a century later, Spain wanted in, and the pope at the time issued another bull giving it the right to conquer as well. Over time, these bulls fed the philosophical and legal idea that European nations had a right to non-Christian lands.
When the French and English first showed up in North America, they were relatively respectful of the first Indigenous groups they met — who, at that point, far outnumbered them.
The first agreements they signed, known as the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed with the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy First Nations, were seen by the Europeans as deals between equals.
But as more and more Europeans arrived in North America, they started to gain the upper hand, and increasingly disregarded the treaty obligations they had agreed to. The idea that they had a right to these lands was informed by the Doctrine of Discovery.
The idea that Europeans were superior to other groups then paved the way for laws like Canada’s Indian Act, Pearl adds, as well as the residential school system.
In 2016, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned the doctrine following the release of the TRC’s final report into residential schools. But the Pope himself has not.
Auto sector, politicians sigh in relief after U.S. tweaks bill
This article was written by Rob Ferguson and was published in the Toronto Star on July 29, 2022.
Canada’s auto sector is breathing easier after a U.S. deal to scrap “buy American” provisions in an electric vehicle tax-credit plan and widen them to all vehicles made in North America.
The federal and Ontario governments had been fighting the protectionist push from U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration for more than a year, warning it threatened the existence of domestic auto manufacturers and suppliers in Canada, put tens of thousands of jobs at risk and would hurt U.S.-based parts makers as well.
“The new language is exactly what we have been lobbying very hard for,” Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association president Flavio Volpe said Thursday after news of the breakthrough in Washington.
“If the exact same car costs less because it’s made in the U.S., no one would be making them at Canadian plants,” he added in reference to proposed subsidies of up to $12,500 (U.S.) per electric vehicle for American consumers.
The dramatic change came Wednesday night when Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — both Democrats — agreed to propose an amendment to Biden’s climate and health bill expanding the tax credits to North American electric-vehicle production.
Manchin had been holding out on the change, which will probably face stiff opposition from Republicans.
The GOP will be wary of giving Democrats a legislative win with midterm elections this fall.
Nevertheless, it is “good news for Canadian workers, jobs and our manufacturing industry,” federal Trade Minister Mary Ng said in a statement.
“Since the prime minister’s first meeting with President Biden last year, we have been relentless in underscoring that the original proposal would be harmful to both Canada and the U.S., so we’re glad to see that recognized in the new version of the bill.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who also sounded the alarm on the original proposal and travelled to Washington himself to lobby U.S. politicians, took to Twitter to hail the deal.
“Thank you to everyone who joined in the push,” he wrote.
“Let’s keep building a North American partnership that works for everyone.”
“There was a lot at stake,” said Ontario Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli.
“This is the next step towards closure … it gives us a clear signal to go after even more auto parts business.”
While he also hailed the deal as “good to see,” president Brian Kingston of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association — which represents General Motors, Ford and Chrysler’s parent company Stellantis — said the U.S. subsidies for EV buyers are substantially higher than the $5,000 offered in the Trudeau government’s last budget.
“We have to match,” he added, noting the Detroit Three are investing billions in electric-vehicle production in Canada, including a $5-billion electric-vehicle battery plant by Stellantis and LG in Windsor, which will be supplied with critical minerals from northern Ontario mines.
“We can play a huge role in this battery supply chain.”
This is the next step towards closure … it gives us a clear signal to go after even more auto parts business.