Update September 21, 2018: Yesterday, in the latest round of environment cutbacks, the Ontario government tabled legislation to repeal the Green Energy Act, a 9-year old law that aimed to kickstart province's clean energy industry.
At a time when fighting climate change is more urgent than ever, our own governments seem to have left Canadian climate leadership hanging in the balance.
At the federal level, the Trudeau government’s purchase of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project prompted celebration in the oil patch and outrage from the environmental community. In August, the pipeline’s future became less certain when the federal court of appeal overturned the government’s 2016 approval of the project, sending it back to the review stage.
I get that these pipeline decisions are tough, multifaceted, and include a lot of political give-and-take -- Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has tied the approval of the pipeline to the province’s carbon tax, for example. Nevertheless, a lot of people feel let down.
If you voted for Trudeau because you wanted strong climate action, the pipeline buyout represents the failure to break free of legacy fossil fuel infrastructure, and a shrinking of the window of time when we can prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
“With or without government, there’s still a lot we can do as individuals to move forward with the clean energy transition.”
Over in Ontario, PC Leader Doug Ford will become the province's next premier after winning a majority in the June 7th election. During his campaign, Ford promised to kill the province's cap and trade program and take the federal government to court over the implementation of a carbon tax.
Still, there are signs of hope. Around the world, people are mobilizing, businesses are doing their part, cities and towns are stepping up. The “we’re still in movement” response to Trump’s attempt to roll back U.S. climate policies and his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement is a perfect example.
It’s important to remember that with or without government, there’s still a lot we can do as individuals to move the clean energy transition forward.
Here are some great places to start:
1. You can divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy projects.
First, find out what you’re invested in. As CoPower’s own research has shown, that the average Canadian does more climate damage with their investment portfolio than they do with all other actions in their daily lives combined. The good news is the opposite can be true too.
Take a look at your mutual funds and RRSPs. There are great tools available like Fossil Free Funds that have analyzed over $11 trillion in assets, making it easy for you to see the carbon footprint of your mutual funds and ETFs.
Start the conversation – ask your financial institution, advisor and pension plans what kind of fossil free options they have available. There are hundreds of advisors who are members of Canada’s Responsible Investment Association and who are specialists in this area.
And take the plunge. There are a growing number of responsible, fossil free investment funds now available, and even better, individuals can now invest directly in clean energy projects loans via products like CoPower Green Bonds.
More and more data is showing that fossil free investments are performing at or above benchmarks. That’s not even considering the enormous carbon bubble risk that Mark Carney has highlighted.
2. You can cut your energy consumption at home and work.
Reducing demand for energy. Easy switches like installing energy efficient light bulbs or appliances and improving insulation can save energy and money. One of our latest blogs features Jup Bhasin, a CoPower Green Bond investor & sustainable building expert who shares his tips on homeowners can make deep reductions in their energy use and bills.
If you live in Ontario and are wondering what programs and supports are still available for home and building owners looking to go green, The Atmospheric Fund has you covered. Check out their blogs on low carbon granting programs as well as the many utility and municipal incentives and programs still available to Ontarians.
3. You can buy clean energy credits that offset conventional power.
Organizations like Bullfrog Power generate clean energy on your behalf. Based on your personal or business energy usage, they’ll inject an equivalent amount of clean energy into the grid, offsetting energy from conventional sources like coal. We’re proud to say that our own operations are Bullfrog powered.
4. You can install clean energy or lease your roof to a solar developer.
The costs of solar have decreased dramatically as have the costs of installation. Geoexchange heating and cooling systems might also be a cost-effective choice depending on your location.
5. You could form or join a community solar garden.
This model is excellent for individuals who can’t install clean energy at home, for example, those who rent. Own a share in a community energy project, for example, the Nelson Community Solar Garden, and earn credits on your electricity bill.
Or check out Charged Up, a new project by the David Suzuki Foundation, which connects renewable energy champions across the country.
6. You can buy a hybrid or electric car.
The majority of your oil use is probably related to your car. Next time you’re in the market, consider investing in a now much more affordable EV like the Chevy Volt, or a Tesla if you’re feeling fancy.
7. You can support companies that are going clean.
Vote with your dollars. Companies like Ikea, WholeFoods and Apple have invested massively in solar for their own operations. Besides its own operations, Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, is even funding solar rooftops on 1500 houses in the US.
8. You can donate.
9. You can speak up.
Finally, despite government approval and purchase, the pipeline project may not go ahead. Groups like 350.org and the First Nations communities who live along Kinder Morgan's path have vowed to continue the fight. You can support them via campaigns like this, or write to your elected representatives and tell them about the climate leadership you expect from them if they want your vote.
Fossil fuels may be on an overall downward trend globally, but it’s not steep enough to keep the climate cool. Now more than ever, we need to be doing all we can to support the clean transition.