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Canada, U.K. lure four more states into global push to wean world off coal

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  • OTTAWA — Canada and the United Kingdom have drawn four more U.S. states and two major American cities into their global alliance to kick the world of its coal energy habit, even as U.S. President Donald Trump touts a coal renaissance in his country.

    Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is in California for a global climate change summit where the Powering Past Coal Alliance welcomed 10 more signatories, including the states of New York, Minnesota, Connecticut and Hawaii. The cities of Honolulu and Los Angeles in the United States, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Wales in the United Kingdom, the Australia Capital Territory and the Balearic Islands in Spain also signed the plan.

    The goal of the alliance is to get the developed world to stop burning coal to make electricity no later than 2030, and the rest of the world by 2050. Canada, which now gets about one-tenth of its electricity from coal, has committed to phasing it all out by 2030.

    More than two dozen nations, 17 state, provincial and city governments, and 28 corporations have joined the alliance, most of them being lesser users of coal like Canada.

    Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network in Canada, said the American states signing the alliance are sending a clear message that Trump’s love affair with coal does not matter to them.

    “I don’t think we can understate the importance of the morale building importance of these kind of initiatives,” said Abreu. “I do think the Powering Past Coal Alliance has had an impact on the conversation around climate action in the world and the need to accelerate the phase out of coal fired energy.”

    Trump campaigned on promises to restore America’s storied coal mines to their past glories and support from coal miners was part of the coalition that led him into the White House.

    He has made multiple attempts to put a stopper in coal plant closures, including a June order to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take “immediate action” to stop coal and nuclear-powered electricity generating stations from closing down. In August, the White House rolled back pollution controls on coal plants put in place under former president Barack Obama.

    Still, with states like California and New York working against coal no matter what Trump says, as much as 12,000 megawatts of coal-power is scheduled to go offline in the U.S. in 2018 — roughly the amount used to power 12 million homes. In its place is cheaper natural gas, which produces half as many emissions as coal, and renewable fuels like solar and wind power.

    Abreu said the alliance is having an impact despite Trump’s pro-coal push and the fact that other big users of coal like China, India and Germany are not on board.

    However, while it’s all well and good to commit to getting the world off coal, it’s an entirely different thing to working together to develop a plan to do it, Abreu said. She pointed to India, which is planning more coal plants to try and get power to millions of people who don’t have it.

    “How can we help them leap frog coal dependence? How can we help keep them from making the same mistakes we’ve made?”

    The alliance needs to start doing more than just talking about getting off coal if it is to have a real impact, said Abreu.

    The job for the alliance is harder than ever, as coal has been on an upswing in 2017 and 2018, after showing sharp reductions in 2016. Last year the global consumption of coal went up for the first time in four years, led by the development of new coal-burning facilities in India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and South Korea. More than 1,500 new coal plants are in development around the world.

    Next week McKenna will push on coal and other climate change initiatives when she hosts G7 environment ministers in Halifax.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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    Freeland says Khashoggi case not closed; but Trump says facts may never be known

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  • OTTAWA — Canada will use the upcoming G20 summit to push for answers in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says.

    Freeland said Tuesday Canada considers his murder to be very much an open case, a contrast to a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump that the facts surrounding Khashoggi’s death might just never be known.

    “Canada very much does not consider the Khashoggi affair to be closed,” Freeland said, hours after Trump released a statement that attempted to bring the controversy to a close for the U.S.

    Freeland said she expects the Khashoggi case to be an issue during the talks among leaders of the world’s 20 top economies in early December in Argentina, and says Canada will persist with its push for a transparent international investigation.

    “It is very clearly Canada’s position that those responsible for this horrendous murder must face full responsibility for it,” she said.

    “We certainly imagine that the Khashoggi murder will be an issue, which we discuss with many of the partners who we will be meeting with.”

    The kingdom is a member of the G20, and the Saudi-owned television station Al-Arabiya says Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto leader, will attend the summit.

    U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that bin Salman ordered the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

    “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a written statement.

    “That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”

    Regardless, Saudi Arabia remains a “steadfast” partner of the U.S. and has helped keep oil prices stable, Trump said. He also said he doesn’t want to jeopardize US$450 billion in Saudi investment in the U.S., including $110 billion to buy American-made military hardware.

    Trump said the U.S. has already sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals under its Magnitsky Act, and isn’t planning any further action.

    Freeland, meanwhile, has said Canada is contemplating similar sanctions, but she gave no indication why that has yet to happen or what is taking so long.

    A senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deliberations, said any decision on sanctions will be made by federal cabinet, and will be part of a larger process that will see Canada working in co-ordination with its allies.

    The process includes a consideration of sanctions, a co-ordinated push for an international investigation and an assessment of the Turkish recording of Khashoggi’s death, the official said.

    Freeland has not heard the recording, but has been briefed on its contents by the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who travelled to Turkey to hear it, said the official.

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press



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    Ride-hailing group says B.C. model looks a lot like expanded taxi industry

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  • VANCOUVER — A coalition of businesses and interest groups advocating for ride-hailing in British Columbia says legislation introduced yesterday will just create an expanded taxi industry, not the ride-hailing services that customers expect.

    Ian Tostenson of Ridesharing Now for BC says members are “bewildered” that the future of ride-hailing in the province remains uncertain and the government hasn’t committed to a start date for the service.

    Tostenson, who also represents the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, says the coalition is especially concerned that the Passenger Transportation Board would have power to limit the number of drivers on the road, where they can drive, and also set rates.

    He says the organization was expecting to see legislation that more closely matched the customer-driven supply and demand model that exists in other jurisdictions.

    Tim Burr of ride-hailing company Lyft says the company sees legislation introduced Monday as a “procedural step forward” but the regulation and rule-making process will come next.

    He says the company is used to rolling up its sleeves to work with legislators and regulators in many jurisdictions and remains committed to working with the B.C. government to bring the service to the province.

    The Canadian Press


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