Trudeau and Biden Pledge to Work Together On Climate Change

The February 23, 2021 virtual meeting of Biden and Trudeau was the first bilateral one-on-one for US President Biden since taking office. Six priorities were set, one focusing on accelerating climate ambitions. There are plans for a high-level climate ministerial meeting to coordinate and align policy in efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. “In real terms the roadmap for a renewed US-Canada partnership speaks of working together to boost battery production, and cross-border electricity transmission, reduce methane emissions and coordinate a transportation policy. More broadly, Biden’s presidency should accelerate momentum toward a cleaner economy and that might clear further political space for Trudeau to act.”

Biden wants North America to demonstrate climate change leadership in order to spur other countries to raise their own ambitions, and it seems Australia is one lagging country Biden wants to influence. Biden immediately rejoined the Paris Climate Accord when he became President last month and plans a 2 trillion clean energy package with 40% of investments aimed at disadvantaged communities. Some say Canada will have to work hard to keep up, but we have in place the foundation for the changes that are coming. One uncertain factor that can hinder this doubling down plan is the ‘Buy American’ policy that is still in place in the USA.

Joe Biden’s Ambitious Climate Agenda is Canada’s Opportunity

An upbeat opinion piece in the Toronto Star a month ago by Stewart Elgie and Brian Murray states Canada and the USA can mutually benefit in three ways from Biden’s bold climate agenda. First Canada could export some of its surplus emissions-free hydroelectricity to the USA, where they are still more reliant on fossil fuels resulting in a win-win scenario. Secondly, Biden’s big push for more electric vehicles will complement Canada’s existing efforts to grow EV use and manufacturing, and can incentivize each other further in this pursuit since our auto industries are strongly linked. Thirdly, “Canada has built a world-class array of clean technology companies, which can help the U.S.’s efforts to drive low carbon growth across its economy, provided the ‘Buy American’ barriers can be avoided, which will require diplomatic agility.”

“Other areas where the two climate agendas can align include agriculture and forestry, high-emitting industries like cement and steel, clean fuels, and fostering a just transition for vulnerable workers and communities. The countries also have mutual interest in co-developing emerging technologies like small nuclear reactors or capturing and utilizing waste carbon.”

“While Biden’s agenda will cause friction from time to time, like with the Keystone XL pipeline, the two countries share a vision and direction on climate change for virtually the first time in 12 years (other than a brief overlap with Trudeau and Obama), which can form the basis for building a cleaner, stronger North American economy.”

Merran Smith, Executive director of Clean Energy Canada says Canada can benefit now from Biden’s Climate plan. Canada has and can deliver a lot of green clean energies and low carbon products that the USA now wants under Biden’s new plan. She says now is a time for Canada to “send a clear signal” about the direction we are moving in. Trudeau has already put in place a carbon price, coal phase out and a clean fuel standard. What he still needs to do is pick up the pace on transitioning to the clean energy economy by developing policy and investing in green energy.

In listening to a podcast about the impact on Canada of the Biden new green deal, Dan Balaban, President and CEO of Greengate Power, a leading Canadian renewable energy company based in Calgary, says that Canada can benefit from the synergy, shared knowledge and amplifications that come from being aligned with the USA on green energy. We can also contribute/export resources needed by the USA for green energy such as lithium, nickel and cobalt.

In researching Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan and it’s affect on Canada we were thrilled to read that Boeing Co. will begin delivering commercial airplanes capable of flying on 100-per-cent-biofuel by the end of the decade. This is great news from the Globe and Mail.

Canada is Uniquely Positioned to Hit Net Zero Emissions by 2050

Canada will have to enact increasingly strict policies to support proven climate technology, while investing in riskier research proposals to hit its climate goals, a new report suggests. ( Go Ultra Low/Getty Images)

Sarah Rieger of the CBC reports on February 8, 2021 that Canada is in an advantageous position to reach its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a new report suggests, if governments capitalize on the right opportunities today.

“Uncertainty can either paralyze or propel us,” said Jason Dion, research director for the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, the publicly funded, independent institute behind the report. “On the one hand, there’s enough that we know that we can act on based on what we know … On the other hand, we are going to have to make calculated risk decisions … and if we’re placing those bets smartly and we’re hedging those bets, I think Canada has enough advantages that there’s a real win for us here.”

“The report, titled Canada’s Net Zero Future, looks at more than 60 modelling scenarios, as well as consulting with experts and a review of existing research to chart multiple pathways the country could take to hit its goal — looking at different combinations of possibilities to see what drivers are consistent factors in pushing a transition.”

“It separates those solutions into two categories that will both require investment, Dion said: safe bets and wild cards. Safe bets, like smart grids or electric cars, will need to be scaled up through increasingly strict policies to generate the majority of needed emissions reductions. Wild cards are described as bets on more high-risk, high-reward technologies like hydrogen fuel cells — technologies that could play a big role, but are significantly more uncertain.”

“We find that there are things that we can and should move forward with with confidence starting today, because no matter how the transition plays out, they’re always there,” Dion said. “We need to be working on both, to get the wild cards ready for when we need them … so we need to do pilot projects, research and development, even public investment to get these things off the ground. But that can’t distract us from the work that we have to do on safe bets.”

Liberals Unveil Net-zero Emissions Plan

“Major economies, businesses and investors are already moving in this direction because they understand that taking action on climate change is good for economic growth. It’s vital to start thinking about climate change, not just for the serious environmental and health impacts it poses, but for economic risks that could come from market responses — for example rising demand for electric vehicles or lower global demand for oil — which he said can arise on a larger scale independent of any domestic policy choices,” Dion said.

Oil and Gas Knowledge An Asset

“He said Canada could have an edge in delivering green tech, with assets like its landmass, resources and top energy minds at its disposal. “I think often we assume, Canadians assume, that their oil and gas sector makes a net zero transition a challenge for Canada. And certainly it does come with some challenges. But, also, the same expertise and capacity that exists in that sector also creates a lot of opportunities,” he said. He described how technologies like biofuel, geothermal energy production or carbon capture often rely on the same types of engineering expertise that’s used in the oil industry. “There’s certainly some alignment there … and so, there’s some advantages. That’s not to say that this is sort of a simple slam dunk in terms of a transition. We have to think about the match of skill sets that might exist.”

“Some major geothermal projects are already in the works in Alberta, while other oil companies say they’ve reached net-negative emissions by capturing more carbon than their operations produce.”

The full report can be read on the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices website.

Doubling Down on Climate Action

There is both urgency and building momentum for climate action.

Foundational Qs and As on Ted Talks

These one-minute  clips on TED Talks answer five key questions about climate change. “In the scope of Countdown, TED’s initiative to accelerate solutions to climate change, the TED team collaborated with scientists and the creative studio Giant Ant to prepare five short animations explaining concepts and answering important questions related to the climate. They are narrated by Kristen Bell.”  (Learn more about Countdown at

Why is the world warming up?

What is net zero?

Where does all the carbon we release go?

Snow in Unlikely Places Photo by Jim

Why is 1.5 degrees such a big deal?

Why act now?

Renewable Energy

It is such a big and multi-faceted challenge. Where do the solutions lie for accelerating the most impactful ways to tackle climate change with the scale and speed that scientists tell us is needed to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees? Let’s focus here on the energy-climate change connection, part of both the problem and the solution.

Innovating to Zero!

This TED Talk by Bill Gates continues to be as relevant and informative today as it was when presented in 2010.  We find it helpful in framing the energy-climate change connection, its implications for the global community (in particular the world’s poorest two billion citizens who  are central to the Gates Foundation mission and mandate, and intertwined with any approach to solving climate change), and, for offering hope about available solutions for making traction on what can feel sometimes like such an overwhelming and seemingly intractable problem. Many call it humanity’s biggest threat of all times….

But, back to the part about ‘hope’ and solutions…

In this 27-minute talk called ‘Innovating to Zero!’, Gates explains the importance of clean energy, the scope, scale and essential nature of the net zero challenge, and outlines promising innovations – CCS, nuclear, wind, solar PVI and Solar Thermal—that can contribute significantly as available solutions for the world’s nations, businesses and citizens to meet the net zero challenge and begin tackling climate change with the pace, urgency and impact needed to succeed.

Electrify as Much Human Activity as Possible

Fast forward from 2010 to 2021.  The case for urgent climate action is ever heightened and ever more present. Fortunately, as we have written about in past blogs, there are important signs of momentum building and commitment to action growing among global leaders. (See, for example, our September 2020 blog on Climate Action Momentum is Building at:

This month, Bill Gates has published a timely book on solving climate change, titled, “HOW TO AVOID A CLIMATE DISASTER: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need”.

It is addressed primarily at actions that government (policy makers) can/should/must take, although there is a chapter that speaks to actions that consumers/citizens may consider taking (more on this later).  As reviewer, Bob Ward, for the Guardian writes, Gates “…presents a complelling explanation of how the world can stop global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions effectively to zero.”

New York Times’ reviewer, Bill McGibben, while critical of a perceived absence of political activism in the book, concurs with Ward’s assessment above, writing that “Gates correctly understands the basic challenge is to ‘get to zero’ as soon as we can. ‘Humans need to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere,’ he writes, which is as useful a sentence as the English language admits. And he understands that  the key to doing this is to electrify as much human activity as possible: from powering our computers to turning the wheels of our cars and buses to producing steel.”  (

Both reviewers, while generally favourable toward the book, also offer helpful insight via their critique, further adding to our understanding of what’s required to solve the complex challenge of climate change.  Our take away insight from the New York Times’ reviewer’s critique is that it is important not to lose focus on, and to hold global leaders accountable for, urgency and accelerated efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, while enroute to the Paris Accord’s 2050 longer-term target. The Gates book points to credible, evidence-based solutions, but perhaps as these reviewers analyze, does not shine enough light on what needs to be done, and can be done, in the next decade.

As McGibbens puts it, “…One wishes Gates had talked, for instance, with Stanford’s Mark Jacobson, whose team has calculated how almost every country on earth could go to 80 percent renewable energy by 2030…. the key work will be done (or not) over the next decade, and it will be done by sun and wind.”

Still, the Gates book is one that is now high on our reading list—in our view it is helpful, and hopeful, to be able to learn more about climate change as a solvable problem, along with a seven step strategy that is offered for doing so.

Now, however, we will read with a more discerning eye thanks to these two insightful reviews. We encourage readers to check out the full reviews at: (Bob Ward,The Guardian, February 2021) (Bill McKibben, New York Times, February 15, 2021)

For Canadian perspectives, here are links to a CBC piece on the book, published on February 14, 2021 at: and a review, by Jeff Rowe, published in The Toronto Star on February 17, 2021:

For readers interested immediately in a quick preview of the seven action strategy, here is a link to an opinion piece by Bill Gates himself, published in the Globe and Mail on February 13, 2021

Finally, fyi, Gates is promoting his book with a virtual book tour, which includes a Toronto event on March 10

For Consumers and Citizens

On his website,, Bill Gates posts an excerpt from the chapter in his new book, in answer to a question he is often asked – “What can I do to help?”

He prefaces the piece with, “…The good news is that there are things everyone can do. Although the most impactful steps we can take to avoid a climate disaster must happen at the governmental level, you have power to effect change as a citizen, a consumer, and an employee or employer.” Interestingly, he says this when encouraging citizens to use our voices– “It may sound old-fashioned, but letters and phone calls to your elected officials can have a real impact.”

To read more, including five actions to consider taking, as a consumer:

Loop and Loblaws Ontario Pilot

Ontario consumers have an exciting new opportunity to send a signal to the marketplace that they (we) expect and support retailers in doing more to make reusable packaging an increasing part of the (new) way of doing business.  Read more in this CBC article about the Loop and Loblaws pilot test of whether “Canadian consumers are ready to change their habits” and join up with transformations in reusable packaging already underway in the U.K. and France.

Buying ice cream is about to get a whole new ‘cool factor’!

Catherine is entreating her fellow Ontarians–let’s show we are ready to move beyond green veggies, to rally behind  this pilot of new “green ways” to consume!! (Sorry for the bad puns)

CBC: What on Earth?

Every week CBC What on Earth sends an emailed newsletter and it always timely, interesting and digestible. They usually cover 3 topics a week, so here is one from each date- January 7, 14 and 21.

January 7/21

Flexitarianism, Buying Used and More Green Habits on the Rise

Flexitarian eating

“Citing United Nations data, Bloomberg News reported that per capita, meat consumption was expected to fall three percent globally in 2020— the biggest decline since 2000 — as a result of pandemic-related factors such as restaurant closures and COVID-19 outbreaks at meat-packing plants.”

“But even before COVID-19, Canadians were eating less meat, Univ. of Guelph researchers reported, and suggested it was as a result of health and environmental reasons. “It is relatively clear that ‘meat minimizers’ or flexitarians — those who still eat meat, but are eating less of it — are driving changes in meat consumption,” the Guelph researchers wrote.”

Buying Used

“Manufacturing a new product typically uses up resources and generates emissions and waste, so reducing, reusing and recycling are key to sustainability. For those reasons, more and more environmentally conscious consumers are buying goods second-hand. ThredUP, an online marketplace for used clothing that expanded to Canada last year, reported that the U.S. market for previously worn fashions has doubled to $24 billion US since the company was founded in 2009.”

“More and more retailers are also launching programs to make it easier to resell their products, including Patagonia, Levi Strauss and Ikea. Again, this is part of a broader trend.” Studies have shown that the “second hand economy” is growing in Canada and that the most active participants are those under 45 years of age.

Active Transportation

Photo credit Lucy

“Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the transmission risks on public transit, many cities in Canada and around the world have expanded cycling lanes and other infrastructure and the number of Canadians walking or biking to work has been increasing.” Studies have shown that since 1996 the trend toward active commuting has been on the rise. Those taking public transit, however, have recently seen a reduction in numbers, largely due to the pandemic.

— Emily Chung

January 14/21

Broader Implications of the Introduction of Water Futures

“Just before Christmas, the CME Group, the New York-based market operator that takes its name from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, began trading water futures. For the first time, Wall Street traders are now able to take a stake in the future value of water the way they have with other agricultural and mineral commodities. But the intent of the new water futures market is to share the risk of unexpected price swings for farmers and other water users.”

“Water has always been seen by economists as a special case. Like the air we breathe, it is more valuable to human life than gold or oil or even, in the short term, food. But because of its relative abundance, water’s traditional price in Canada has been close to zero.”

“Roy Brouwer, executive director of the Water Institute at the University of Waterloo, said that introducing various market price systems might fix that. Of course, in the past, leaving speculators in charge of the price of essential goods — such as when Enron helped bid up the price of gas and electricity in the early 2000s — has sometimes worked out badly for end users. “If you leave it completely to the market, you might end up with some of these extreme situations,” said Brouwer. “Somewhere in between considering water a human right and the commodification of water through these water markets is probably where you want to be.”

— Don Pittis , Business Comumnist

January 21/21

Indigenous Peoples and 7th Generation Philosophy

“Indigenous Peoples around the world use 7th GENERATION PHILOSOPHY, so when they make decisions they always have many generations ahead in mind. Unlike most other animals, humans have the ability to think in the long term. We plan not only for the coming days but also for years down the road: careers, children, homes and retirement. However, when it comes to considering the very long term — say, generations ahead — we often fall short.”

“Some believe that when it comes to climate action, this short-sightedness neglects to take into account how our actions today — such as continuing to burn fossil fuels or cutting down forests — will affect our grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on.”

“Philosopher Roman Krznaric notes that Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine back in the 1950s and later warned about nuclear proliferation, asked the question, “Are we being good ancestors? In other words, how are we going to be remembered by the generations to come?” said Krznaric, who recently published the book The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking. This question becomes even more relevant in an era of climate change, which promises to alter life on Earth for hundreds of millions of people in the decades to come.”

“This type of long-term thinking isn’t new to many Indigenous groups, who are used to what is termed “seventh-generation decision-making,” where people make choices based on how it will affect their community decades, if not hundreds of years, into the future. “Seventh-generation thinking says you have enough: Earth already provides everything you need to be happy and healthy, so take care of it well,” said Rick Hill, a member of the Tuscarora Six Nations in southern Ontario.”

Photo credit Lucy

“But in contemporary times, “we’re stuck with this idea that growth is necessary in order to be modern, to be competitive in the world.” Hill said that such a forward-thinking process doesn’t provide quick answers. If the government asked his community for a response on a matter of importance, for example, “we would then sit down and talk to our elders, talk to our women or talk to the children [and ask]: ‘What do we think about this? Arriving at a joint decision,” Hill said, “could take days, weeks, may take a year. Because you’re cautious, you’re careful and thoughtful.” As Hill put it: “We’re out of step with modern society. But we say modern society is out of step with the Earth.” 

“Some cities around the world are taking a longer view, such as North Vancouver, which has a 100 year sustainability plan and Amsterdam, which is aiming to have a completely circular (basically no-waste) economy by 2050. It’s more proof that modern science can learn from Indigenous knowledge. While the steps may seem small thus far, Krznaric said that environmental organizations such as Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future show that longer-term thinking may be taking hold in broader society. “I think these movements add up to something, which is about a recognition of the need to extend our time horizons,” he said.”

— Nicole Mortillaro

Photo by Lucy

Also great news, in last week’s What On Earth newsletter: Electric Vehicle batteries co-produced in Isreal and China are able to be charged in 5 minutes.