The recent oil spills in Alberta and Lac Megantic have raised the public profile of rail transport of oil and gas products in Canada. The Fraser Institute, apparently in response to the worsening prospects of U.S. approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline, released a report on Intermodal Safety in the Transport of Oil on October 15. Although the paper cites summary data from the National Energy Board about oil spills and injuries in Canada, the conclusions are based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for the period 2005-2009. The paper compares injury statistics amongst workers in the pipeline, rail, and road modes of transport and finds that the rate of injury requiring hospitalization among oil pipeline workers was 30 times lower than that of rail workers, and 37 times lower than trucking workers. The paper concludes, “The evidence is clear: transporting oil by pipeline is safe and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, pipeline transportation is safer than transportation by road, rail, or barge, as measured by incidents, injuries, and fatalities- even though more road and rail incidents go unreported.” The paper does NOT address the environmental damage caused by spills, or injury to citizens.
The final version 3.0 of Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff Rules, posted on October 9th, includes reductions to the minimum domestic content requirement levels (MDCR) in order to move towards compliance with the World Trade Organization ruling of May 2013. The levels of domestic content have been lowered from 50% to 28 – 19%, depending on the solar (PV) technology used. For on-shore wind projects, the MDCR has been lowered from 60% to 20%. Furthermore, minimum domestic content levels will no longer be required throughout the entire project, but only during the development and construction phases. According to the Minister’s letter of direction, further changes will follow.
An article in North American Wind Power discusses the new FIT program and concludes that wind power projects will suffer. He notes, “As long as the Small FIT cap remains at 500 kW, the FIT program is no longer accessible to wind developers, except for those using small-scale turbines”, and “The greater latitude given to municipalities in the location and siting of wind farms may make permitting more difficult for developers and preclude the siting of wind farms in municipalities that have a strong anti-wind bias.”
On October 2nd, one of Canada’s Big Five banks, the TD Bank, released a report on “green economics” in Canada. TD found that environmental considerations have already become entrenched in corporate decision-making in Canada, and that reducing environmental impact often reduces costs, drives innovation, and stimulates growth. TD’s preliminary analysis indicates a recent “decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation”, wherein the percentage of GHG emissions per 1% GDP increase has fallen, while improved air and water quality, recycling rates and protected lands have accompanied strong overall growth. The report suggests that in order to better understand and encourage these trends, Canada needs a holistic focus on the “greening of the economy” in all sectors, rather than dichotomizing “green” and “brown” economics. To this end, TD calls for the development of environmental, economic, and government policy, and corporate responsibility indicators to help measure gains across industries and at all levels.
The Corporate Knights survey for 2013 was released on September 23, ranking business schools for their integration of sustainability into the academic experience. This year, the survey expanded beyond its Canada-only focus to include MBA programs from 17 countries.The Schulich School of Business at York University (Toronto) ranked first, followed by John Molson School of Business at Concordia University (Montreal). Third place went to the University of Exeter Business School in the U.K., followed by the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, and the Nottingham University Business School in the U.K. 30 schools were ranked in the main survey, with a further 10 small schools in a separate ranking.
The Corporate Knights survey is based on the methodology of the pioneering Beyond Grey Pinstripes survey of the Aspen Institute (which ceased in 2012). The rankings follow three categories: faculty research, course content, and institutional support. Responses are from faculty and administrators, with the student perspective reflected in measures of student-led initiatives (e.g. student groups, consulting clubs, faculty groups, and student committees/task forces). Unlike many other surveys of MBA programs, the Corporate Knights survey does not include alumni salaries in their metrics, on the grounds that rankings could be skewed because students entering the non-profit sector typically earn less after graduating.
In late September, the European Union announced a new forest strategy which takes into account the effects of climate change on the forest ecosystem. Surprisingly, the EU press release states that “forests cover more than 42% of the EU’s land area and forest biomass…supplies half the EU’s total renewable energy. ” The new strategy calls for sustainable management of woodlands, and is accompanied by a “Blueprint” document to guide forest industries, (wood-processing, furniture, pulp and paper, and printing) to increase efficiency and create jobs. The Blueprint outlines the economic and technological state of the art for these four forest sub-industries, and discusses their challenges, including the aging demographic of the workforce, the need for training, and possible mechanisms for training delivery.
Marking five years after the launch of Britain’s Green New Deal, two recent reports examine the experience: First, from the Green New Deal Group, a report which states that government support for renewable energy has melted away in the face of austerity programs and the lingering uncertainty in the global financial system. The authors propose a systematic programme of investment in green infrastructure of at least £50 billion a year, beginning with a nationwide effort to retrofit existing buildings and to build new, affordable, sustainably-sited, energy-efficient homes. The authors contend that thousands of jobs will be created by their proposals, and support that contention by citing numerous sectoral employment impact studies in Appendix 1 and in their bibliography.
A second report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment was released on October 8, reflecting the hearings and submissions to the governmentinquiry into sustainable construction and the Green Deal. The report found that the Green Deal provisions are over-complicated and uncompetitive, with little financial incentive for participation. “Without regulation and financial incentives in place, households and businesses retain the status quo…Hand in hand with this, the integration of construction skills, knowledge and work practices are of concern in the construction industry.” One of the key stakeholders in the process, the UK Green Building Council, welcomed the report as a credible voice urging improvements to the existing program, and also commended its expansion to social housing.
The 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released on September 27. Dealing with the physical sciences, the report projects future weather, ocean levels, global warming and carbon dioxide levels. According to U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, the report provided the first “carbon budget” – how much carbon dioxide we can emit before global temperature increase exceeds 2ºC and the planet overheats. The bad news? We’d already used half of it by 2011, and could now be approaching two-thirds. Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the IPCC working group, points out that more fossil fuels exist than can be burned if we are to remain within the budget. In other words, some valuable reserves will need to remain untapped.
The Globe and Mail summarized early Canadian reactions to the IPCC report, and cited the absence of comment from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. Provincial premiers have been similarly silent. The David Suzuki Foundation is one of the few Canadian organizations to have commented, highlighting provincial successes and calling for the federal government “to prioritize clean energy and eliminate the billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies.” The Climate Justice Project at the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis analyzed the IPCC report in relation to British Columbia, and asks, “will LNG development blow B.C.’s carbon budget?”. The Pembina Institute released a brief statement. A call to arms can be found in the Opinion piece by Andrew Weaver in the Globe and Mail, which states, “While the U.S., the E.U. and even China are making a profound shift to address the root causes of climate change, the Canadian government continues to focus our economy predominantly around the extraction, transportation and combustion of fossil fuels. Even British Columbia, which used to be considered a leader in the development of climate policies, is now moving in the opposite direction with its focus on the development of a Liquefied Natural Gas industry. The IPCC report could and should inspire us to take a different approach.”
“IPCC: 30 Years to Climate Calamity If We Carry on Blowing the Carbon Budget” in
A review of Quebec’s energy strategy is underway, with public consultations from September to October 11, and the final strategy document promised in 2014. The six strategic objectives to the energy review are: “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; promote the electrification of transportation and develop the industry; promote energy efficiency in all sectors ; rely on the production of renewable energies (hydroelectricity and wind energy) and develop alternative renewable energies (underwater generators, passive solar energy, geothermal energy, and so on) and foster development and innovation; responsibly explore and exploit Québec’s hydrocarbon reserves; and ensure the long-term security and diversity of Québec’s energy supplies.” The Public Consultation on Energy Issues in Quebec website is at: http://consultationenergie.gouv.qc.ca/english/ (English) and http://consultationenergie.gouv.qc.ca/ (French language).
The Consultation paper From Greenhouse Gas Reduction to Québec’s Energy Self-Sufficiency – Consultation Paper, is at: http://consultationenergie.gouv.qc.ca/pdf/energy-issues-consultation-paper.pdf. An archive of all written briefs submitted to the Commission is available at the French language section of the website only, at: http://consultationenergie.gouv.qc.ca/documents/memoires.asp
A report published by West Coast Environmental Law starts from the position that climate change is a cross-cutting issue that affects advice and decision-making in many different professions, including architects and engineers, professional foresters, biologists, insurance professionals, accountants, and city planners. The report calls for an enhanced role for professional associations using the existing tools, such as codes of conduct and ethics, standards of practice, requirements for continuing professional development, and policy statements. In one example, the author suggests a statement of ethical responsibility to “act in the public interest (including promoting sustainability); not speak beyond one’s expertise or competence; not make misleading statements or falsify data; and act with due diligence”. The report describes exemplary climate change initiatives underway by such groups as the Canadian Institute of Planners, Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC), and Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (GHGMI).
Professionals and Climate Change: How professional associations can get serious about global warming, written by Andrew Gage and published by West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), a British Columbia “non-profit group of environmental law strategists and analysts dedicated to safeguarding the environment through law”. Available at: