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Catherine McKenna, David Suzuki react to UN’s failing grade for Canada on climate targets




A recent United Nations report warns that emissions are rising for the first time in four years. Scientists say to keep temperatures from rising above 1.5 C by 2030, governments need to take immediate action to reduce emissions. 

In light of the report, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and environmental activist and scientist David Suzuki spoke separately with Stephen Quinn, host of CBC’s The Early Edition, about what Canada is and isn’t doing to mitigate climate change.

McKenna weighed in first after declining Quinn’s offer to have Suzuki join her.

Stephen Quinn: The UN report names Canada for falling short on its commitment to the targets from the Paris agreement. How does it feel to essentially be getting a failing grade?

Catherine McKenna: We took a year to negotiate with provinces and territories and our emissions are going down while our economy is growing. We need to do more, of course, and we’re making historic investments in public transportation. We just announced a national plastic strategy for doubling the amount of nature we protect.

To meet its emissions goals, Canada would need to fall to a maximum of 385 million tonnes a year. In 2016, we were almost twice that. There is no way we’re going to reach the goal by 2030.

We’ve taken a significant number of measures. Some of the measures aren’t going to come into effect right away. Regulatory measures take some time. But the reality is, we need to meet our goal and we need to go further.

New National Energy Board hearings are underway for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. Ottawa has not only championed the project, but taxpayers own the pipeline now. Why continue to push through a project that would increase our emissions?

This project fits within our climate plan. Alberta put a hard cap on emissions. They said they were phasing out coal. They put a price on pollution and when they announced their climate plan, which they knew would include one pipeline to get their resources to market, they had business leaders, environmentalists and Indigenous leaders there. The reality is this is a transition that is going to take decades.

Catherine McKenna: ‘We are natural resource-based economy and we are diversifying, but people are still driving cars.’ (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The U.N. report says we have to make significant changes within 12 years.

That’s why we’re doing things like putting a price on pollution. That’s why we’re phasing out coal. But this transition doesn’t happen overnight. We are natural resource-based economy and we are diversifying, but people are still driving cars. We need to figure out how to grow our economy and how we can create incentives.

The Liberals positioned themselves as climate change champions and won a majority government. Then you bought a pipeline and approved LNG in B.C. What do you say to people hoping for more than just words?

We came in after a decade of a government that took no action on climate change. We’re re-doing environmental assessments to make sure that we’re looking at environmental impacts, including impacts on climate. We need to continuously work hard, at the same time being mindful that people need jobs.

David Suzuki responded to McKenna’s comments from Oslo, Norway, where he’s attending a conference. 

Stephen Quinn: The minister says Canada’s economy is a resource economy. She says the transition is taking place, albeit slowly, but greenhouse gas emissions are coming down in Canada.

David Suzuki: Ms. McKenna always acts as if the economy is something that has got to be her focus. We have to reduce by 45 per cent by 2030 and we have to be 100 per cent emission free by 2050. Those are the targets. Now stop playing politics. 

But do Canadians not worry about jobs and paycheques?

Yes, but when Mr. Harper said for years and years that dealing with climate change is crazy economics, what he and Ms. McKenna seem to be doing is elevating the economy above the very atmosphere that gives us air to breathe; that gives us weather, climate and the seasons. Surely protecting that has got to be our highest priority.

Reducing our emissions is a huge upheaval in the way that we live. Our whole energy sector will have to change. Of course there will be jobs, but they will be different kinds of jobs. The minister’s challenge is to make sure that we can transition people into that new type of economy. 

David Suzuki: ‘Reducing our emissions is a huge upheaval in the way that we live. Our whole energy sector will have to change.’ (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

We heard from the minister that phasing out fossil fuels takes time if you don’t want it to to affect the economy adversely. I know you would like that to happen faster. So here’s the question: how did you get to Norway?

Of course I flew. You know, I landed in Calgary, on my way to the University of Alberta to get my degree. And this guy came up to me as I was waiting for my luggage and said, “I hope you flew on a solar-powered airplane or otherwise you’re a hypocrite.” What is needed now is the infrastructure to make the transition. 

So you’re agreeing with the minister here that this is a transition that’s going to take time?

Absolutely. It’s not going to happen overnight. The question though is, what are we going to do in this 12-year period the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has given us? 

These interviews aired on The Early Edition on Nov. 30 and have been edited for clarity and structure.


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla




Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm




Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover




KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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