A new report produced by Ceres and Sustainalytics assesses the progress of 613 of the largest, publicly-traded companies in the U.S. in integrating sustainability into business systems and decision-making. Gaining Ground uses the framework of the Ceres “Roadmap”, reporting on greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs, human rights in supply chains, and the sustainability aspects of product design, transportation and logistics, and supply chains. The Roadmap includes 3 activities related to employees (under the “Performance dimension”): recruitment and retention, training and support, and promotion of sustainable lifestyles. The report states that only 6 percent of companies can be considered “Tier 1”, or exemplary, regarding their efforts to systematically engage employees in sustainability issues. General Electric is highlighted for “using its Human Resource department to integrate sustainability into the company’s culture-from hiring practices to job education and training to employee well-being programs.” Campbell Soup requires that every employee have a “CSR oriented goal” in their annual performance objectives (Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) includes sustainability). Bank of America provided $3,000 reimbursement to employees who purchased hybrid vehicles. Gaining Ground concludes that there is progress in corporate sustainability initiatives, but it is insufficient at the current rate.
Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability is at: http://www.ceres.org/roadmap-assessment/progress-report, with interactive links to topics and company information. The Summary of employee related information is at: http://www.ceres.org/roadmap-assessment/roadmap-in-action/explore-by-topic/performance-employees.
See the Ceres Climate Declaration and list of signatories (including some Canadian companies) at: http://www.ceres.org/bicep/climate-declaration/climate-declaration-full-signatory-list.
Researchers at the University of California at Davis were commissioned by the state Department of Food and Agriculture to prepare estimates of the economic impacts of the current drought to enable targeting of drought relief efforts. Their preliminary report concludes that losses will reach $1.7 billion and 14,500 full-time and seasonal jobs in the intensively-farmed Central Valley. “…the smaller than expected reduction of water availability, crop acres and employment comes at the expense of the exhaustion of reserve groundwater storage and a substantial increase in groundwater overdraft. There will be substantial long term costs of groundwater overdraft that are not reflected in this study. Furthermore, if another critically dry year occurs in 2015 the socioeconomic impacts will likely be much more severe.” Although the drought will cause hardship for farmers and communities, agriculture accounts for less than 3 percent of the state’s $1.9 trillion a year gross domestic product. Other economic concerns are for forest fires, the fisheries industry, and consumer prices for fruit and vegetables. California has been under a state of emergency since January 2014; its normal dry season begins around May.
Preliminary 2014 Drought Economic Impact Estimates in Central Valley Agriculture is at: https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/Preliminary_2014_drought_economic_impacts-05192014.pdf, with a press release summary at: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10933.
To keep abreast of the hardships and actions relating to California’s drought, go to the government website at: ca.gov/drought.
On May 21, more than 50 unions representing millions of workers joined the Unions4Climate global campaign at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Congress in Berlin. The sign-up launches the mobilisation campaign for industrial transformation, just transition measures to organise workers in green, decent jobs, and ultimately for a climate agreement in Paris in 2015. Hassan Yussuff, newly-elected President of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Secretary Treasurer Barb Byers attended the Berlin meeting, though the CLC is not named in the press release as one of the signatories.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has released a detailed position statement regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, currently under discussion between the EU and the U.S. The ETUC position includes demands for consideration of the environmental impact of tar sands and shale gas, and for protection of labour rights on both sides of the Atlantic. On May 15, 240 unionists and activists were arrested in Brussels in protest against budget austerity and the trade agreement.
The Unions4Climate Action website, including a sign-up form for individuals, is at: http://act.equaltimes.org/unions4climate; the full Statement, Climate Change is a Trade Union Issue, is at: http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/en_unions4climate.pdf. The website for the 3rd Congress is at: http://congress2014.ituc-csi.org/, and includes a press release about the campaign.
“ETUC position on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” statement from the European Trade Union Confederation is available at: http://www.etuc.org/documents/etuc-position-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership#.UxX0sYW7Tm4. See also “What does the TTIP really mean for workers?” (March 10) from ETUC’s Equal Times at: http://www.equaltimes.org/what-does-the-ttip-really-mean-for?lang=en.
Sierra Club and Power Shift TTIP analysis: Energy Trade in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Endangering Action on Climate Change is available at: http://sierraclub.typepad.com/compass/2014/05/exposed-transatlantic-trade-pact-endangers-action-on-climate–1.html.
“Hundreds of Protesters Arrested In Brussels as Business Leaders Debate ‘Maintaining Citizen’s Trust'” at: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/european-business-summit-2014/hundreds-protesters-arrested-brussels-business-leaders-debate.
Following changes to railroad safety regulations in April, the Canadian government released back-to-back announcements of changes governing oil tankers (on May 13) and pipelines (on May 14). Regarding spills from oil tankers, the new regulations will increase company liability from the current $161 million per incident to $400 million per spill, and will also impose a levy on companies, with a total of $1.6 billion available to clean up an oil spill and provide compensation. (The government’s own expert panel had recommended that corporate liability be unlimited in its report, delivered December 2013.) See the government press release at: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=847519 or the CBC report at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/new-tanker-spill-rules-raise-liability-for-companies-1.2641217.
The changes to pipeline safety announced on May 14 include the introduction of “absolute liability” for all National Energy Board (NEB)-regulated pipelines, making companies liable for costs and damages irrespective of fault, up to the limit of $1 billion for major oil pipelines; companies continue to have unlimited liability when at fault or negligent. The powers of the National Energy Board are expanded to give the NEB authority to order reimbursement of any cleanup costs incurred by governments, communities or individuals, and to take control of any clean-up operations if the company is unable or unwilling to do so. The regulations also call for developing a strategy with industry and First Nations communities to increase First Nations’ participation in pipeline safety operations. See the government press release and backgrounder at: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=848059.
The Report of the Review Panel on British Columbia’s Site C dam was released on May 8. See the Report of the Joint Review Panel at: http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p63919/99173E.pdf, the Globe and Mail coverage (May 8) at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/site-c-recommendation/article18565850/ or the summary at The Tyee at: http://thetyee.ca/News/2014/05/08/Site-C-Review/. The Panel was mandated “to inquire into the environmental, economic, social, health,and heritage effects of the Project and their significance, to examine proposals for the mitigation of adverse effects, and to record assertions of Project effects on the Aboriginal rights and treaty rights of the affected First Nations and Métis peoples.” Their only recommendation relating to employment issues was that “If the Project proceeds, BC Hydro must work with training institutions to focus on employment in indirect and induced sectors for Aboriginal workers, as these jobs are likely to be longer lived than those related strictly to construction.” An earlier WCR post links to a David Suzuki report about the Site C Dam: see: https://workandclimatechangereport.org/2013/12/19/the-jobs-argument-and-the-costs-of-energy-development-two-views/
On May 1, the Council of Canadian Academies released a report by a multidisciplinary panel of experts who considered the state of knowledge of potential environmental impacts from the exploration, extraction, and development of Canada’s shale gas resources. The report does not address the safety, nor the economic benefits of development. As stated in the press release: ” It reviews the use of new and conventional technologies in shale gas extraction, and examines several issues of concern including potential impacts on groundwater and surface water, greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative land disturbance, and human health.” The report concludes that suitability of shale gas development depends on regional context because of Canada’s different geographies, geologies, and ecologies. Further, it states that scientific understanding is not yet sufficient nor conclusive. The Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada is at: http://www.scienceadvice.ca/uploads/eng/assessments%20and%20publications%20and%20news%20releases/shale%20gas/shalegas_fullreporten.pdf; a press release and summaries are available at: http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en/assessments/completed/shale-gas.aspx (English) and http://sciencepourlepublic.ca/fr/assessments/completed/shale-gas.aspx (French).
In the U.K. in early May, a Select Committee of the House of Lords tabled a report, The Economic Impact on UK Energy Policy of Shale Gas and Oil. The report examines the U.S. experience, and discusses U.K. environmental impacts, job impacts, and climate change implications. It concludes: “We consider that the risks to human health and the environment are low if shale development is properly regulated, with the improvements we recommend. We welcome the community benefit schemes announced by the industry which, if well-targeted, could play a role in winning public acceptance. We also recommend that the industry improves its presentation and communication skills and puts across more convincingly the economic and employment gains shale development can bring to areas like Lancashire.” The official summary of the recommendations is at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/economic-affairs-committee/news/report-publication/; the Report is at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldselect/ldeconaf/172/172.pdf.
A report released by the right-wing Fraser Institute on May 15 states: “Our examination of Canadian data leads us to conclude that energy use in Canada is not a mere by-product of prosperity, but a limiting factor in growth…policies favouring the abundant availability of energy are important for sustaining strong economic growth, and policies that deliberately limit energy availability will likely have negative macroeconomic consequences.” Read Energy Abundance and Economic Growth at: http://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/display.aspx?id=21204. For a critique of the report, see the Broadbent Institute blog by Matthew Patterson of the University of Ottawa, at: http://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/en/blog/economic-freedom-and-politics-environmental-performance.
The landmark National Climate Assessment report was written by 300 experts, guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee, and reviewed by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. It documents climate changes, makes future projections, and analyses impacts nationally and regionally on seven sectors – human health, water, energy, transportation, agriculture, forests, and ecosystems. The report is available in a variety of formats – go to http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights. On May 14th, the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses and its Military Advisory Board (composed of 16 retired generals and admirals) released a “bipartisan call to action” in the form of its report: National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change at: http://www.cna.org/sites/default/files/MAB_2014.pdf. The report argues that climate-related events such as flooding, drought and rising sea levels bring population dislocation and food insecurity, and therefore act as “catalysts for instability and conflict”. Importantly for Canadians, they warn that an ice-free Arctic will bring competition for shipping lanes and access to undersea oil deposits – see an article in The Guardian at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/14/climate-change-arctic-security-threat-report?CMP=EMCENVEML1631.
The bipartisan Shaheen-Portman bill, which would have raised energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and provided tax incentives for energy-efficient homes and commercial buildings, became pegged to the Keystone XL and coal plant issues during election-year political dealings, resulting in its defeat on May 12. See “Energy Bill Caught Up in Keystone XL Dispute” article from the Huffington Post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/12/energy-bill-keystone_n_5308819.html or “Shaheen Energy Bill to Promote Energy Efficiency Failed” in the New York Times at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/13/us/politics/bill-to-encourage-energy-efficiency-fails-in-senate.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0
On April 29th, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). About 1,000 power plants will now be required to adopt new restrictions on nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Information on the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) is available from the EPA at: http://www.epa.gov/airtransport/CSAPR/ and see also “Justices Back Rule Limiting Coal Pollution” (April 30) in the New York Times at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/us/politics/supreme-court-backs-epa-coal-pollution-rules.html. New coal plant carbon regulations, which are expected to spur carbon trading on the west coast, will be announced on June 2 but still face legal and political challenges from the Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, utilities, coal companies, and others. See the EPA’s website at: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/what-epa-doing#overview and http://www.c2es.org/publications/carbon-pollution-standards-existing-power-plants-issues-options/.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making headway in other areas, including taking the first step towards regulating the chemicals used in the fracking process. The EPA is considering filing information about the chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but has not yet committed to forcing companies to submit data or to actively controlling chemical use. See “EPA Takes First Step Toward Regulating Fracking Chemicals” at Bloomberg News at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-09/epa-considers-requiring-disclosure-of-fracking-chemicals.html.
In what is being called the “Backwards Budget” delivered on May 13, the government of Australia continues to dismantle the existing national agencies related to a low-carbon economy. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) joins the previously announced Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation on the chopping block. Funding for the Emissions Reduction Fund is now muddy, and the 3-year old carbon pricing system will be abolished, if government proposals are approved by the Senate in July. See the positions of Australia’s Climate Institute at: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/, Australia’s coal miners’ union (CFMEU) at: http://cfmeu.com.au/campaigns/national/climate-change or blogs by Alexander White from The Guardian: “Australia’s Extreme Budget Meets Extreme Climate” (May 21) at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/southern-crossroads/2014/may/21/may-heatwave-budget-2014-abbott-renewable-energy-cuts and “Could Australia Really Dismantle its Carbon Price” (May 26) at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/southern-crossroads/2014/may/26/carbon-price-abolish-tony-abbott-australia.