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Facing despair as a strong economy fails to defeat climate change: Don Pittis

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It is not unreasonable that the majority of Canadians and the 97 per cent of scientists who understand that climate change is real are feeling a certain amount of despair.

Optimism following the 2015 Paris summit that the world could and would halt the growth of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere and slow the devastating effects of rising seas, storms, drought and forest fires has turned to gloom.

And perhaps most disheartening is the fact that despite a strong, growing economy in many parts of the world, including Canada and the United States, governments have failed to reverse the damage. So what happens when the economy goes into retreat?

Backsliding at the G20

As the G20 meets in Argentina today, reports from groups that monitor greenhouse gas output show that none of the world’s richest 20 economic powers have met their Paris targets that would limit temperature increases to two Celsius degrees above pre-industrial levels.

“Current nationally determined contributions would lead to a global temperature increase of around 3.2 C,” says the report from Climate Transparency, based on numbers assembled using the various governments’ own data.

And yet people who have seen it say the draft resolution of the G20 concluding document backslides on climate, partly to make it palatable to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has already withdrawn his country from the Paris accord and promotes increased use of coal.

Experts say climate change is already affecting poor countries, helping to spur waves of migration that are expected to increase as the climate warms. These migrants were intercepted Thursday in the Mediterranean Sea off Spain. (Jon Nazca/Reuters) 

Study after credible study show the increasing impact of climate on human lives and health. It is already contributing to mass migrations that will worsen.

Trump reportedly tried to suppress a recent U.S. government study by releasing it on the day after American Thanksgiving. That may have backfired when the release — which declared climate change had already cost the economy hundred of billions of dollars and would cost hundreds more — was unofficially labelled the Black Friday Climate Report.

“Climate change … is arguably the biggest threat humanity has ever faced,” says Stewart Elgie, chair of the Smart Prosperity Institute, a think-tank based at the University of Ottawa, comparing it to the impact of nuclear war. “We are messing with the planet’s life support system in a way that we haven’t before.”

Captured by selfish forces

But despite large support for climate action, governments have been captured by selfish forces that seem bound to sacrifice the planet for short-term interests. Well-funded voices of opposition use social media to discredit sound science. 

In Canada the government of Ontario has tossed out carbon pricing, the favoured free market way of cutting carbon, on the grounds that it will slow economic growth. Yesterday they replaced it with costly taxpayer handouts to business that have been shown to be ineffective in parts of the world where they have been tried.
The governments of Alberta and Canada continue to use taxpayer billions to subsidize oilsands transportation when market forces have signalled we should stop.

 

Repeatedly, public funds are being spent to make climate change worse, instead of investing in alternatives that would make it better. And since Earth’s climate is the ultimate shared resource, there sometimes seems no advantage in taking individual action, if others others just produce the carbon you have saved and more.

But rather than despairing, Catherine Gauthier is using the law to fight back. A spokesman for the Quebec youth group Environnement Jeunesse, the 29-year-old has helped launch a legal campaign to sue the federal government in an effort to keep it from destroying the planet for future generations.

“We are bringing the government to court because it is infringing our fundamental rights,” says Gauthier. Under Quebec law, that includes the right to a safe environment and the preservation of biodiversity, she says.

Growing visible impacts

Gauthier says the technique has been used elsewhere, including the Netherlands, to give the fight against climate change a legal basis that stands above individual economic interests.

Sarah Buchanan, a policy expert with Environmental Defence Canada, has had moments of despair. But she still hopes democracy and capitalism can solve the problem, in part because people will increasingly witness climate change in their lives.

A policeman stands in front of a G20 banner at the summit’s media centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)

“People who do not see these immediate impacts right now are going to start seeing them very soon,” says Buchanan.

While she objects to increased government subsidies for fossil fuel production, she insists it is false to see a conflict  between fighting climate change and supporting the economy. And while poll after poll show most Canadians realize something needs to be done, she thinks their voices have been overwhelmed by the financial clout of pro-carbon interests.

Buchanan says she hears from despairing people who ask what they can do, and she always asks them if they have told their elected officials how much they care.

“More often than I expect, the answer is, ‘No,'” she says.

Paralyzed by fear

Elgie, like other climate scientists and activists I spoke to, will not let despair divert him from helping to move the world to a low-carbon economy.

“Fear can be paralyzing,” says Elgie.

But he says that the world leaders in climate change, including the countries of northern Europe, have cut their carbon use per person to levels less than half that of Canada, with a quality of life as good or better than Canadians’.

He admits that dramatic shifts are always disruptive and often go through a process of “two steps forward and one step back.” It may be that in recessions people will be less willing to make changes, but he says whether we realize it or not, the process of decarbonization is underway and is unstoppable. 

“In 20 to 30 years, we will live in a low-carbon global economy. We can debate the pace of change,” he says, “but the fact that change is happening is now undeniable.”

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis
 

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Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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