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Alberta just created the world’s largest boreal protected forest.. right next to the oil sands!

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From the Province of Alberta

The largest contiguous area of boreal protected land in the world has been established in northern Alberta.

The Government of Alberta partnered with The Government of Canada, the Tallcree First Nation, Syncrude and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) on the conservation of more than 6.7 million hectares (67,000 sq. km) of boreal forest.

The creation of the Kazan, Richardson and Birch River wildland provincial parks connects the federal government’s Wood Buffalo National Park to other existing wildland provincial parks.

The new and expanded wildland provincial parks are: Kazan, Richardson, Dillon River, Birch River and Birch Mountains. In total, these northern Alberta parks contribute more than 1.36 million hectares to the province’s protected area network.

This is the largest addition to the Alberta Parks system in its history, and will constitute the largest contiguous protected boreal forest in the world under the guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Our government is committed to protecting our land, water and forests for future generations. Preserving these areas has allowed Alberta to establish the largest contiguous boreal protected area in the world. This historic achievement shows what can be accomplished when governments, First Nations, industry and environmental organizations work together.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

“The environment and the economy go together – that’s why our government is investing in protecting nature and wildlife habitat. It’s encouraging to see governments, Indigenous peoples, industry and conservation groups working together to protect this significant part of Alberta’s boreal forest as an important natural legacy for Albertans, Canadians, the world and future generations.”

Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Identified in the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) in 2012, the new parks were fully reviewed to ensure there are no economic impacts on natural resource industries or communities. Industry tenures in the parks were compensated years ago, leaving the lands free for protection.

For the five new and expanded wildland provincial parks, the Government of Alberta proposes to enter into cooperative management arrangements with Indigenous communities. Indigenous advice and knowledge will inform decision-making and management of these lands and the province will provide resources to support this process.

“Our government is listening to the Indigenous peoples of Alberta who share a deep connection with this land. This opportunity for cooperative management will help to enrich and strengthen the planning, management and operation of Alberta’s provincial parks, while also implementing our commitment to reconciliation and our respect for Indigenous heritage and traditional knowledge.”

Richard Feehan, Minister of Indigenous Relations

“This collaboration between the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the governments of Canada and Alberta, and industry are aligned with the Tallcree Tribal Government’s values regarding the preservation of the boreal forest. The boreal forest holds greater value to the First Nation for exercising our traditional way of life and the quiet enjoyment of our treaty rights.”

Rupert Meneen, Chief, Tallcree First Nation

In addition, Alberta plans to integrate an Indigenous Guardian Program into these wildland provincial parks. Under this program, First Nations and Metis peoples will be hired to monitor the areas, help maintain the lands and provide education and outreach to park visitors.

“The new wildland provincial parks ensure Indigenous peoples have places to hunt and fish with their families for generations to come. The Government of Alberta’s commitment to work collaboratively with Indigenous communities to develop cooperative management plans provides a historic opportunity to have Indigenous knowledge and values influence land-use planning.”

Bill Loutitt, CEO, McMurray Metis

Treaty 8’s Tallcree First Nation, in cooperation with the NCC and the Alberta and federal governments and with support from Syncrude, generously relinquished their Birch River area timber licence and quota to enable one of the new parks (Birch River WPP) to proceed.

The Government of Alberta thanks the Tallcree First Nation for working with the government and the NCC to achieve this historic outcome. Alberta and the Tallcree First Nation have agreed to manage the Birch River WPP with mutual benefit toward conservation and economic opportunities.

“Canada’s boreal forest is unique in the world. The ecological value of this region cannot be overstated—this is a conservation achievement of global significance. Through partnership, we have been able to make a significant step forward in advancing meaningful conservation in Canada.”

John Lounds, president & CEO, Nature Conservancy of Canada

In addition, the environmental benefits created through the establishment of the Birch River WPP will provide conservation offsets that Syncrude can apply towards future industrial activities.

“Syncrude is proud to play a role in this remarkable initiative that provides both economic and environmental benefits for Albertans and Canadians. This agreement supports our commitment to responsible development of the oil sands resource while contributing to the conservation of the boreal forest for future generations.”

Doreen Cole, managing director, Syncrude Canada Ltd.

“Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac) extends our support and congratulates the Government of Alberta as it formalizes the creation of the world’s largest network of protected areas in Canada’s boreal forest. Al-Pac has long recognized the importance of conservation areas as an integral part of managing human activity in the boreal forest for the long-term benefit of both biodiversity and the economy. ”

Elston Dzus, forest ecologist, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.

Establishing the wildland provincial parks (WPPs) will mean a protected area that is more than twice the size of Vancouver Island (32,000 sq. km), slightly smaller than the province of New Brunswick (72,908 sq. km), slightly bigger than the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia (64,000 sq. km), and 10 times the size of the Greater Toronto Area (7,124 sq. km).

Background

  • In 2010, the Lower Athabasca Regional Advisory Council, consisting of representatives from municipalities, industry, First Nations, and environmental non-governmental organizations, recommended that the Government of Alberta establish the Kazan, Dillon River and Richardson WPPs and expand the existing Birch Mountains WPP.
  • In 2012, the Government of Alberta completed the Lower Athabasca Region Plan (LARP), establishing the Birch River Conservation Area in a section of the A9 forestry management unit (FMU). While the oil sand agreements in the area were cancelled, forestry was permitted.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, the Government of Alberta spent $45 million to purchase oil sands and metallic mineral leases in the identified conservation areas.
  • In March 2018, the Government of Alberta, the NCC, the Tallcree First Nation, and Syncrude signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would see the Tallcree First Nation relinquish its timber licence and quota in the A9 FMU to the Government of Alberta.
  • By Tallcree First Nation voluntarily relinquishing its timber licence and quota, commercial forestry will no longer take place in Birch River WPP.
  • The establishment of the Kazan (570,822 hectares of new land for a total of 659,397 hectares), Richardson (264,727 hectares of new land for total of 312,068 hectares), Dillon River (191,545 hectares) and Birch River (331,832 hectares) WPPs, and the expansion of the Birch Mountains WPP (by an additional 1,563 hectares) create 1,360,390 hectares of new protected land.
  • Birch Mountains WPP is already designated and is now 145,969 hectares in size.

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Business

Share debacle a rare setback for Indian tycoon Adani

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By Krutika Pathi in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian billionaire Gautam Adani grinned as he posed this week for photos with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu after acquiring one of the country’s main ports, in Haifa.

“I promise you that in the years to come, we will transform the skyline we see around us,” said Adani, his manner upbeat even as his business empire was losing billions. Investors have been dumping Adani shares for more than a week after U.S. short-selling firm Hindenburg Research put out a report alleging his businesses have engaged in fraud and stock price manipulation. The Adani group has denied this.

Before the debacle, Adani, 60, was Asia’s richest man and the third wealthiest in the world, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Not anymore.

The massive losses are a rare setback for the coal mining tycoon from western India’s Gujarat state and raise questions about what lies ahead.

Expansion has been at the heart of Adani’s success story. The son of a middle-class family in the Gujarat capital, Ahmedabad, he quit college to become a diamond trader in the country’s financial capital, Mumbai. He returned home to join his brother in importing plastics before establishing Adani Enterprises in the 1980s, trading in everything from shoes to buckets.

Adani shifted to investing in ports, construction and coal mining as India opened up its economy in the 1990s. A new middle class emerged and the ambitious businessman placed bets on providing energy to serve them.

Adani’s first big project, Mundra Port, is now India’s largest commercial port and he is the country’s biggest private port operator. Within a decade, he also became India’s largest developer and operator of coal mines.

Today, Adani companies also operate airports in major cities, build roads, generate electricity, manufacture defense equipment, develop agricultural drones, sell cooking oil and run a media outlet. He has his eyes set on becoming the world’s largest renewable energy player by 2030.

Citing market volatility, late Wednesday his flagship Adani Enterprises scrapped a $2.5 billion share offering that, despite the bloodletting in the group’s shares and a 28% plunge that day in its own share price, had been oversubscribed.

In a video address Thursday, Adani said the share offering was canceled to “insulate investors from potential losses.”

“For me, the interest of my investors is paramount and everything else is secondary,” he said.

The share offering was seen as a test of investor confidence in the self-made industrialist, whose ascent has been celebrated as a symbol of India’s economic ambitions. The Adani Group said in a statement that canceling the offering would not “have any impact on our existing operations and future plans.”

The Adani Group said its balance sheet was “very healthy” and its history of servicing debt was “impeccable.”

Still, Brian Freitas, a New Zealand-based analyst with Periscope Analytics who has researched the Adani Group, said the collapse in share prices for India’s second-largest conglomerate may hinder its future plans for expansion.

“It’s going to be difficult for them to raise new money,” he said.

Adani shares are still losing value. Shares in Adani Enterprises tumbled 27% Thursday, while stock in six other Adani companies fell 5%-10%.

The tycoon, who favors a plain white shirt and dark trousers over fancy dress and is said to be affable and quiet spoken, slid from being the world’s third richest man to the 13th as his fortune sank to $72 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. Prior to the Hindenburg report, his net worth was about $120 billion.

More vitally, the company is now without the funds it had hoped to raise in this week’s offering. Companies often launch such share offerings to finance growth while reducing debt.

“Thanks to the short-seller, Adani’s plans will get slowed down significantly,” said R.N. Bhaskar, a journalist who wrote a biography on Adani.

Analysts say that rapid expansion has largely been fueled by borrowing. The group’s debt stands at $30 billion, out of which $9 billion is from Indian banks, the group’s chief financial officer said recently.

After the stock rout of the past week, lenders may deem his group high risk and toughen their criteria for borrowing, like demanding higher interest rates or more collateral, said Freitas.

“Equity investors are going to be wary because the stock isn’t doing well — if they can’t raise equity, they will have to go to the debt market,” he added. “Given the situation, foreign lenders will think twice before lending any new money to Adani.”

Despite Adani’s longstanding ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a fellow Gujarati, and other powerful politicians, the government has so far remained silent on his recent troubles even as pressure from the political opposition for an investigation into Adani’s situation grows.

In recent years, Adani has pumped money into sectors like agriculture, defense and renewable energy — all seen as high priorities for the Indian government.

Like Adani’s commitment to the port in Israel’s Haifa, many of the group’s overseas infrastructure projects, in countries such as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, have served as an Indian counterweight to rival China’s holdings.

The Haifa deal was a coup for India, located close to another port managed by the Shanghai International Port Group.

“India is working with great fervor with Israel on defense and technology, and Adani now has a port there. You think the Indian government can sniff at that?” said Bhaskar. “The thing is, you can’t wish away Adani — because he is indispensable at this point.”

He expects Adani to remain undaunted.

“The more challenging a situation gets, the more defiant and creative he becomes to overcome it,” Bhaskar said.

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International

Ex-UK leader Truss to urge tougher China stance in Tokyo

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By Sylvia Hui in London

LONDON (AP) — Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss will join the former leaders of Australia and Belgium at a conference in Tokyo later this month to call for a tougher international approach to China.

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, an international group of lawmakers concerned about how democratic countries approach Beijing, said Friday that Truss will speak alongside former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Feb. 17 event in the Japanese Diet. Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who is also a European Parliament lawmaker, will attend as well.

Conference organizers hope the event would help spur more coordinated diplomacy on threats raised by China ahead of the next Group of Seven richest democratic countries’ summit, scheduled in May in Hiroshima.

Truss is expected to address growing concerns over Beijing’s threats to Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory. Morrison will call for more targeted sanctions against Chinese officials for serious human rights violations, while Verhofstadt will speak about the European Union’s role in maintaining international rules under pressure from Beijing.

“The scale of the challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China is such that we all need to rise above our differences and come together to defend our fundamental values and interests,” Verhofstadt said in a statement.

The three former leaders will address about 40 Japanese lawmakers as well as legislators from the U.K., Canada, the European Union and Taiwan. Senior Japanese ministers are also expected to attend.

Truss has kept out of the public eye since she quit as Conservative British prime minister in October after just 45 days in office, following an ill-conceived economic plan she unveiled that triggered a political and financial crisis.

As foreign secretary she was outspoken in criticizing China, advocating stronger ties between democracies so they can counter China and Russia more effectively. She had suggested that the U.K. should work with its allies to ensure Taiwan could defend itself against Chinese military aggression.

Her successor, current British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has rejected “grand rhetoric” against China and wants a more “pragmatic” relationship with Beijing. While he has called China’s growing authoritarianism a “systemic challenge,” he stopped short of describing China as a threat to British security and said the U.K. and its allies needed to engage Beijing in diplomacy.

Western countries are rethinking their relationship with Beijing after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the U.S., Britain and the EU’s 27 member states have disagreed with each other over how to approach an increasingly assertive China.

In November, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was criticized by both his European partners and his own coalition government when he led a delegation of senior business leaders to visit Beijing.

Critics said the bilateral visit undermined unity among EU leaders, who discussed reducing their heavy economic dependence on China during a Brussels summit in October. While Scholz said there should be recognition that China was increasingly a competitor and systemic rival, he also warned against decoupling ties.

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