What else happened? – updated

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Okay. So Baird came and went and announced money for Sable Island which some environmentalists had been asking for for some time.

The federal government will spend $5 million over the next five years to protect Sable Island off Nova Scotia, Environment Minister John Baird announced Friday in Wolfville.

Baird said that $4 million will be used to ensure the four Environment Department employees now on Sable Island will stay there to carry out weather monitoring and climate change research.

The other $1 million will be used to help protect the island’s fragile eco-system, Baird said, by having it eventually designated a National Wildlife Area, under the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada.

“We believe that it is in the best interest of Canadians to ensure that Sable Island is preserved for generations to come and we are providing important funding for its long-term conservation,” Baird said in a release.

The announcement is part of the federal government’s Action Plan for Clean Water, and investment of $61.5 million over five years to improve the health of our oceans.

[link to source CBC]

But is that all? We are told this announcement was subsequent to Baird’s meeting with the Atlantic premiers here yesterday but this was obviously something the Feds planned prior to the meeting. In the reports there is little said about the meeting itself. What did the Premiers have to say? The report on Canada east is even slimmer. Unacceptable.

This report (from Michael Tutton of CP) is only slightly better; it does give a bit more background information and a reaction from the Ecology Action people.

Ottawa had considered closing Environment Canada’s weather station on the 30-square-kilometre sandbar, which is surrounded by shipwrecks and natural gas rigs.

However, Baird said a staff of five is needed there for weather monitoring and to promote conservation.

“The continual human presence has been pivotal for Sable Island’s unique and fragile ecosystem,” he told a news conference. “It’s also important for meteorological and air quality monitoring and for scientific research programs that take place on the island.”

Mark Butler, policy director with the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, applauded the move.

“It’s hard to protect something if there’s nobody there to do the protection,” he said in an interview. “They also run a lot of important scientific programs off the island and, for that, you need a human presence.”

As well, the island still has a role to play in terms of national security and marine safety, he said. …

Jim Abraham, Atlantic regional director of Environment Canada, said the employees of the weather station do much more than watch the weather.

They also conduct routine surveillance to ensure visitors don’t damage the island, and they release weather balloons as part of Ottawa’s monitoring of climate change.

The island had been managed by Transport Canada under the Shipping Act, as it was once considered a serious hazard to shipping. Abraham said shifting responsibility to Environment Canada made more sense because the island is valued as a wilderness preserve.

He confirmed that maintaining the weather station was not enough to justify a human pre sense on the island.

But still nothing about the meeting and the Premiers reactions or input.

UPDATE: In the Globe there is a report which mentions some slightly more substantive details about the meeting and its outcome.

The federal government and the Atlantic provinces signed an agreement yesterday pledging to co-operate on environmental issues… Federal Environment Minister John Baird said in a news release that by signing the agreement, Ottawa and the provinces are formally demonstrating their commitment to the environment. …

The memorandum of understanding creates a steering committee of senior officials from all five governments to collaborate on environmental issues.

It calls on them to share information and work together to achieve shared environmental objectives and agreements. Their first focus will be on water….

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Mark Parent said the government is aiming to make the province one of the cleanest and most sustainable environments in the world by 2020. [this from a province which has had many chances to clean up Halifax harbour -just one example of dragging their heels, not on emissions but on matters that do count]

“Co-operating with our Atlantic and federal partners will help bring us closer to that goal,” he said in a statement.

New Brunswick Environment Minister Roland Haché didn’t attend yesterday’s meetings of the ministers, but the province has signed the agreement.

Prince Edward Island’s George Webster said the collaborative approach will produce results.

“By setting down a framework for intergovernmental co-operation this memorandum of understanding ensures environmental work in Atlantic Canada is delivered effectively, and that it is delivered by the government best positioned to respond to a given issue,” he said.

There seems to be a lot in the report about one group’s reaction, ie. The Ecology Action Group . Why this particular group gets favored with a reply in the press rather than another group is a question without an answer. Their reponse was to call the agreement “empty” which of course then appeared in the headline which exposes the paper’s bias for those who care to notice it.

Mr. Butler [of Ecology Action] said the agreement lacks details on how the federal and provincial governments are going to address issues like regulation of greenhouse gas, investment in energy efficiency and the promotion of green energy. …

Mr. Butler said he wishes the agreement addressed climate change issues, but without details the memorandum is “relatively empty.”

“Until you know where it’s going to lead to, or what it’s going to deliver, it doesn’t in itself mean much,” he said.

You know, all agreements are “empty” unless followed up with action. Let’s see who acts and on what. Will it be on things that really count or will it be on things that don’t count? Of course it is up to us to know what does count and what is just hot air – or perhaps we should say CO2.

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