CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE MEDIA IS ENHANCED BY COOPERATION

On May 21, 2015 the Climate Publishers Network was launched. More than two dozen international news publishers agree to freely share climate change-related news content for 6 months, until December 11 , the final day of the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris. It is coordinated by the Global Editors Network, and also spearheaded by The Guardian in the U.K., and El Pais  of Madrid.  Montreal’s La Presse is a founding member, and the Toronto Star is in the process of signing up, joining a group that includes India Today, The Seattle Times, China Daily, The Sydney Morning Herald , The Irish Times, and others. See “Media failing on Climate-Change Coverage” in the Toronto Star (May 31).

TWO IMPORTANT GLOBAL ENERGY UPDATES

From REN21, the annual Renewables 2015 Global Status Report  provides up to date data on the global renewable energy industry and policy landscape. It credits China’s increased use of renewable energy and the OECD’s progress for “landmark ‘decoupling’ in 2014 –  For the first time in four decades, the world economy grew without a parallel rise in CO2 emissions. “ From the International Energy Agency, the World Energy Outlook Special Report on Energy and Climate Change  presents a detailed assessment of the energy sector impact of known and signalled IDNC national climate pledges for the COP21 meetings, and concludes that they will be insufficient to meet the 2 degree C goal. The report states, “A transformation of the world’s energy system must become a uniting vision if the 2°C climate goal is to be achieved.”  The IEA sets out “four pillars for success” in that endeavour.

G7 MEETINGS HISTORIC FOR UNANIMOUS AGREEMENT TO PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS

Globe-Net answers the question: “Just what did the G-7 Leaders Decide about Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment?” in a thorough summary of the communiques from the G7 meetings in Germany in June 2015. All the official documents from the meetings are here.  In “ G7 Fossil Fuel Pledge is a Diplomatic Coup for Germany’s ‘Climate Chancellor’ ”(June 8), The Guardian calls the leaders of Japan and Canada, “ climate recalcitrants” and applauds the fact that even Canada has agreed to the G7 plan to phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century. The press release from Prime Minister Harper’s office on June 8 however, doesn’t mention that pledge amongst the achievements of the G7. “Canada commits to G7 plan to end use of fossil fuels” in the Globe and Mail (June 8) hints at Mr. Harper’s lack of enthusiasm.

31% OF THE WORLD’S GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM 32 ENERGY COMPANIES

According to a new report, Global 500 Greenhouse Gas Report: The Fossil Fuel Energy Sector, 31% of the world’s annual GHG emissions can be attributed to the operations and use of the products of 32 companies, ranked in the report. It is important to note that the calculations include emissions from “scope 3 use of product”, which accounts for the high percentage, and which leads the authors to state: “It is these companies’ value chains, and their customers in particular (which includes all fossil fuel users), which bear a burden of leadership and environmental stewardship, and it is the purpose of this report to bring transparency to the role of this sector to help us all manage our collective GHG footprint.”   Of the named companies, Gazprom was the single biggest emitter, producing 1.26 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2013, (roughly equivalent to Japan’s annual emissions). Coal India was 2nd by far, producing 820 million tonnes. The next biggest emitters, in rank order: Glencore, Petrochina, Rosneft, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil.

IF NORWAY CAN DIVEST FROM COAL ASSETS, WHEN WILL THE CANADA PENSION PLAN RECOGNIZE THE RISKS?

According to the New York Times   (June 5) “ Norway’s $890 billion government pension fund, considered the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, will sell off many of its investments related to coal, making it the biggest institution yet to join a growing international movement to abandon at least some fossil fuel stocks.”   Yet a June 15th Special Report in The Guardian, “ Coal Crash: How Pension Funds Face Huge Risk from Climate Change ”  highlights the coal assets held by the public pension funds of South Africa, Netherlands, U.S. teachers, and Canada, and estimates that Canada’s Pension Plan Investment Fund holds $590m in coal-related investments. The report includes private asset management companies as well, with BlackRock as the clear leader with $24.5billion in coal. The June 14th article in the Globe and Mail, “Campaigns to Divest from Fossil-Fuel Holdings Gain Steam”  describes divestment by Canadian universities and the United Church of Canada, but makes no mention of pension funds. Helpful reading on the growing trend away from coal: Chapter 3, “Closing the Coal Plants”   in The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy  from the Earth Policy Institute ; a series by Inside Climate News “Coal’s Long Goodbye: Dispatches from the War on Carbon”, and “Big Oil takes on King Coal: The Climate Fight Shifts Gears” , a May 28 article from the National Observer in Vancouver, which argues that the petroleum industry will abandon its partner, coal, in the fight for its share of the world’s carbon budget.

CARBON TAXES: THE POPE’S MORAL POSITION AND THE SECULAR ANALYSIS

On the issue of carbon taxes, the Pope’s Encyclical of June 2015 was clear:   “The strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors. ” Yet economists continue to take an interest: new analysis by B.Murray and Nic Rivers, released by Duke University, reviews the studies to date on the economic effects of British Columbia’s carbon tax, and discovers “little net impact” either for or against economic growth in the province. See British Columbia’s Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax: A Review of the Latest ‘Grand Experiment’ in Environmental Policy  . And in June, the Ecofiscal Commission released a brief, The Way Forward for Ontario: Design Principles for Ontario’s New Cap-and-Trade System  which outlines four fundamental principles of good cap-and-trade design for Ontario, based on their April report.

OPEN LETTERS FROM CIVIL SOCIETY: CANADA AND AUSTRALIA

On June 10, 2015 an Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper  was released by a group of Canadian and U.S. academics, including high-profile names such as Marc Jaccard (Simon Fraser University), Thomas Homer Dixon, ( University of Waterloo), David Schindler, (University of Alberta), Shawn Marshall, (University of Calgary’s Canada Research Chair in Climate Change). The Letter provides 10 reasons, based on science, for its demand that : “No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health, and respect treaty rights.”   In Australia on June 16, an Open Letter signed by civil society groups including Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, Environmental Farmers Network, and Friends of the Earth urged the government to adopt a zero carbon emissions target, and stressed the economic benefits of moving towards renewables.

Canadian Reaction to Pope’s Encyclical

The global press has made the Pope’s June 18th Encyclical, Care for our Common Home, a headline event, although Canadian reaction has been surprisingly quiet. Prime Minister Harper has made no official reaction; the most complete press coverage came from the CBC “Pope Francis Urges Decisive Climate Change Action”. One might expect an official reaction to be forthcoming from Kairos, the Canadian ecumenical group. The National Observer summary of  reactions to the leaked version of the Encyclical is here. The New York Times ran several stories, including “Championing Environment, Pope Francis takes aim at Global Capitalism” (June 18) and “Pope Francis May Find Wariness Among U.S. Bishops on Climate Change” (June 13). Laudato Si is available from the Vatican website

OPPOSITION TO KINDER MORGAN’S TRANS MOUNTAIN PIPELINE CONTINUES

The TransMountain Pipeline Expansion project by Kinder Morgan proposes to build a new pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C., as well as a new marine terminal, to be served by oil tankers. CBC has created a compilation of stories about the highly unpopular project and the protests against it, available here .   The project is currently under review by the National Energy Board with a recommendation to Cabinet expected in January 2016 – all official documents and proceedings are here . On May 26, the Tsleil-Waututh’s First Nation, whose traditional territory includes Burrard Inlet, rejected the project . The City of Vancouver also formally opposes the project and released a report estimating the economic damage to the City from potential oil spills.   On May 27, Unifor submitted evidence to the NEB, laying out the union’s reasons for its opposition, which include the environmental risks, but also relate to the economic interests of the union’s membership in the oil and gas sector and the B.C. commercial fishery. Unifor also criticized the narrow scope of the NEB review, which excludes consideration of the impacts of the pipeline project on workers and commercial interests as part of its “public interest” mandate. On June 1, a study released by Simon Fraser University and Living Oceans concluded that the public interest is not served by the project. Public Interest Evaluation of the Trans Mountain Expansion tests a variety of economic scenarios, and concludes that the project will result in a net cost to Canada that ranges between $4.1 and $22.1 billion, mainly because it will create excess pipeline capacity, and because of the enormous environmental risks.

ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF B.C. LNG DEVELOPMENT

A May 2015 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives considers six possible scenarios for liquefied natural gas export development in B.C., ranging in the number of export terminals from zero to five (the current government estimate). A Clear Look at BC LNG: Energy Security, Environmental Implications and Economic Potential  states that government claims of available gas supplies for export are greatly exaggerated, and that production would involved massive disruption, given that most wells would be fracked wells. Further, author David Hughes argues that is unlikely that anything close to the revenue projected by the BC government will ever be realized. And beyond the environmental dangers to the citizens of B.C., LNG will not reduce global GHG emissions: “From wellhead to final combustion, there are substantial leakages of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Given this, liquefied fracked gas from BC actually has GHG emission rates similar to coal.”   Researchers who wish to pursue these concerns will welcome a new interactive planning tool, called the B.C. Shale Scenario Tool , available online at the Pembina Institute website. It allows users “ to quantify the potential impacts of shale gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in northeast B.C. in terms of carbon pollution, land disturbance, water use and wastewater.”

WATER MANAGEMENT IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

California’s Oranges and B.C.’s Apples? Lessons for B.C. from California Groundwater Reform  was released in June by the Water Sustainability project of the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria. Regulations under the 2014 Water Sustainability Act are currently under development. This report looks to the legislation in drought-wracked California., and based on that analysis, argues that there is an urgent need to begin piloting groundwater sustainability plans in critical watersheds in B.C.. It also recommends clear performance standards, timelines, and accountability for local decision-making bodies to ensure successful watershed or aquifer plans; and points to the importance of shared responsibility between senior government and local decision-makers.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN ALBERTA & BRITISH COLUMBIA

In one of its first announcements, on June 4 the new Government of Alberta announced a $2 million investment in the province’s Municipal Climate Change Action Centre    to promote energy efficiency and conservation initiatives led by local governments. The Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance recently released a brief report, GHG Savings and Energy Efficiency High – Level Opportunity Analysis in Alberta  , which forecasts that over 15,000 new jobs could be created in one year, provincial annual GDP increased by $3 billion, and nearly $200 million/year in additional tax revenue could be raised , if the Alberta government were to invest in energy efficiency to a level equivalent to other provinces. The Alberta study uses the same methodology as a Canada-wide study released in November 2014 by the Acadia Center, Energy Efficiency: Engine of Economic Growth in Canada. A Macroeconomic Modeling & Tax Revenue Impact Assessment . The Canada-wide study found that, for every $1 million invested in efficiency programs, 30 to 52 job-years are generated. Both studies were prepared by Dunksy Energy Consulting.

Accelerating Energy Efficiency in BC’s Built Environment: Lessons from Massachusetts and California was released by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the end of May. The report compares the policy framework for energy efficiency in the three jurisdictions and concludes that B.C.’s Energy Efficient Buildings Strategy had merit when it was launched in 2008, but has lagged in success because it lacks accountability and public reporting mechanisms. Amongst the recommendations: “Appoint an expert, permanent and broad stakeholder representative Energy Efficiency Advisory Council to work with the province to develop, implement and ensure the delivery of an ambitious 20-year building energy efficiency strategy; Empower local communities via legislative changes to become niches for super-efficient buildings; Establish a transparent, deliberative process for setting utility energy savings targets that align with the province’s mitigation and market transformation goals.”

DUTCH COURT RULES THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS A LEGAL DUTY TO ITS CITIZENS TO CUT EMISSIONS:

On June 24th, 2015 the courts of the Netherlands ruled that the government  has a legal duty of care to its citizens to improve the environment, and ordered the government to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020. According to the BBC report , the court ruling was based on the judgement that under current policy, the Netherlands would only achieve a 17% reduction at most in 2020, which is less than other nations and less than the climate crisis demands. Where does that leave Canada? The BBC describes the case as “unexpected”, a “landmark”, and quotes a Greenpeace official who says “This is the start of a wave of climate litigation” . In fact, similar cases are being pursued already in Belgium and the Philippines . The arguments and progress of the case are thoroughly documented at the Urgenda website  – Urgenda is the NGO which sponsored the class action lawsuit on behalf of 900 Dutch citizens.

INTERNATIONAL UNIONS LOBBYING FOR CLIMATE ACTION

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) continued its Climate Change campaign with a Global Week of Action, from June 1 – 7, 2015. To support the campaign, the ITUC has released two Frontlines Briefing documents: Climate Justice: There are no Jobs on a Dead Planet (March 2015), and Climate Justice: Unions4Climate Action (May 2015)    .   In May, the ITUC also posted a Sustainlabour report, Reducing emissions from the Workplace and Creating Jobs: 4 European case studies, which describe commitments and proposals from British, Spanish, Belgian and German trade unions. As part of the Global Week of Action, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) sent a letter to Canada’s Environment Minister , urging Canada to participate ambitiously in the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, restating a commitment to a Just Transition for workers, and urging a national energy plan for a low-carbon economy.   The ITUC is organizing a Union Climate Summit in Paris on September 14 – 15.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: HOW AN INDC BASED ON 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY COULD BENEFIT CANADA, U.S., EU, CHINA AND JAPAN

A report by the New Climate Institute in Germany provides an overview of the general co-benefits that climate action can achieve: reduced oil imports and fossil fuel dependency, lives saved from lower air pollution, and jobs created from growing the renewable energy sector. Assessing the Achieved and Missed benefits of Countries’ National Contributions: Quantifying potential Co-benefits  then presents scenarios for the U.S., China, the EU, Canada and Japan , comparing the impacts of each country’s stated Intended Nationally Determined Contribution targets (INDCs) with those that could be achieved through targets of 100% renewable energy in 2050. For Canada, the report projects that shifting to a 100% renewable energy system by 2050 could prevent 700 premature deaths, compared to 100 premature deaths under Canada’s INDC target , and could create approximately 5,000 additional jobs in the domestic renewable energy sector, compared to the 3,000 jobs predicted under Canada’s target scenario. The Canadian results are summarized in a separate 3 page document .

U.S. CLEAN POWER PLAN AND ITS EMPLOYMENT IMPACTS

The U.S. Clean Power Plan  mandates a 30 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 2030, using the baseline year of 2005. The Plan, submitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the White House Office of Management and Budget on June 1, now proceeds to review and is expected to be finalized in August 2015 – when it is also expected that legal challenges will begin immediately. Good background reading about the CPP:   The Clean Power Plan: A Climate Game Changer   from the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Center for Energy and Climate Solutions website has compiled links to detailed documents, (including an April 2015 report on the impact of the CPP on Canadian hydropower exports to the U.S. .) Amidst the controversy,  the Economic Policy Institute has released Employment Impacts of the Proposed Clean Power Plan in the U.S., by Josh Bivens. Bivens disputes the employment impact analysis done by the EPA. He concludes that the Clean Power Plan is likely to lead to a net increase in of roughly 360,000 jobs by 2020, but that the net job creation will diminish rapidly to approximately 15,000 jobs in 2030. Bivens differentiates between job-gaining and job-losing industries, and characterizes the workers in job-losing industries as less likely to have four-year college degrees, and substantially more likely to be unionized. He also points to a geographic concentration of gross job losses in poorer states. Another report, Assessment of the Economy-wide Employment Impacts of EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan  was released by the University of Maryland in April 2015. Perhaps the most controversial on this topic: “Potential impact of Proposed EPA Regulations on Low Income Groups and Minorities”, was authored by Roger Bezdek and published by the National Black Chamber of Commerce in June . Its dire predictions include that by 2035, job losses would total 7 million for Blacks and nearly 12 million for Hispanics. The Bezdek study is roundly criticized by the Union of Concerned Scientists in “ New Flawed Study of the Clean Power Plan: How the MISI Study Gets It So Wrong”  and by the National Resources Defense Council which states: “We should not let the polluter industry mislead us through the use of junk science and “mercenaries with PhDs” whose only goal is to prioritize polluter profits over the well-being and health of people.”

ONTARIO’S NEW INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION OPENS DOOR TO GOOD CONSTRUCTION CAREERS FOR YOUTH, IMMIGRANT, WOMEN, ABORIGINAL WORKERS THROUGH COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENTS

As part of its commitment to invest $130 billion in public infrastructure over 10 years , the Ontario government passed the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2015 on June 4th.  The Act states: “Infrastructure planning and investment should minimize the impact of infrastructure on the environment and respect and help maintain ecological and biological diversity, and infrastructure should be designed to be resilient to the effects of climate change.” And “Infrastructure planning and investment should endeavour to make use of acceptable recycled aggregates.” Regarding the workforce, it requires: “Infrastructure planning and investment should promote community benefits …. to improve the well-being of a community affected by the project, such as local job creation and training opportunities”.  Steve Shallhorn, Executive Director of the Labour Education Centre and Chair of the Toronto Community Benefits Network  states, “This is a huge step forward” in a Globe and Mail article  (June 3 ) . The Toronto Network negotiated the Eglinton –Scarborough Crosstown Line Community Benefits Agreement with transit authority Metrolinx in 2013 . Their website provides “Definition of a CBA”  and “CBA’s Here and Elsewhere” , which highlights models from Vancouver, Los Angeles, and other programs in Toronto. Separately, the City of Toronto Council recently passed a motion  to consider inclusion of Community Benefits Agreements as part of the review of the city’s Social Procurement Policy for development and infrastructure projects, due at the end of 2015.

CANADIAN CLEAN TECH INDUSTRY – CONTINUED EMPLOYMENT NEEDS INVESTMENT

Ottawa-based research and consulting firm Analytica Advisors released the 2015 edition of its annual Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report    at the Canadian Energy Summit in Toronto at the end of May. The report notes that more than 800 clean tech firms in Canada directly employed almost 50,000 people in 2013 – a growth rate of almost 21% since 2012, making the industry a bigger employer than the aerospace manufacturing sector, logging or pharmaceuticals and medical devices. 20% of workers in the industry are 30 years old or under. While current employment growth is encouraging, continued growth of the sector may not be assured, as the report documents a troubling loss of export markets. U.B.C.’s Sauder School of Business in “ The Ups and downs of Cleantech Venture Capital in B.C.” also casts doubt on the future of clean tech by contrasting the risk-averse culture of Canadian capital markets to that of the U.S. The interview concludes that “Without strategic changes brought on by the private sector and government, business will continue as usual.” – i.e. companies will continue to favour the U.S. over Canada as a place to invest.   Case in point:   the Obama administration announced “More than $4 Billion in Private Sector Commitments and Executive Actions to Scale up Investment in Clean Energy Innovation ” on June 16. Note also the analysis of the U.S. funding by The Guardian which states “.. arguably more important than the $4bn raised was the fine print: a new federal information source and new financing options for would-be investors.”

Update on the “Keep it in the Ground” Divestment Campaign at The Guardian newspaper

The Keep it in the Ground campaign, urging the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest from fossil fuels, is keeping up the pressure with an investigative series on the practices of Big Oil. For an update on the campaign and links to the latest major stories, go to Leading Health Charities should divest from Fossil Fuels say Climate Scientists      at The Guardian  news site (May 23).  Information about the Divestment campaign is consolidated here;  Sign the Divestment petition here.

And watch for:  another interactive feature of the Keep it in The Ground campaign at  The Guardian, asking readers “How has your job been affected by climate change”…  From the website:  “We’d like you to complete the sentence “What I wish others knew about climate change … ” using the form below and we will create an article with contributions from individuals around the world. “

Pension Funds ill-prepared for the risks of Stranded Assets

A survey by Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) found that only 76 of the 500 largest asset owners in the world (pension funds, insurance funds, foundations and endowments) have taken meaningful action to manage climate risk. 21 of the 32 large Canadian institutional investors in the survey scored badly, including the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and the Ontario Public Service Pension Plan. “ Risky Management ”  at Corporate Knights magazine (April 29) provides a summary of the survey results. The full report is at the AODP website .

The Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) is an independent not-for-profit global organisation whose objective is to protect retirement savings and other long term investments from the risks posed by climate change. AODP and a London-based environmental law firm, ClientEarth, have announced they will work with pension fund members to challenge trustees and managers to fulfill their legal duty to protect investments from climate risk. The campaign could result in a test case to clarify the legal duties of pension fund fiduciaries.

The Dangers of Stranded Assets and Carbon Bubbles

The HSBC Bank released advice to investors in April, titled Stranded Assets, What Next?  The letter admits that coal and fossil fuel investments are highly likely to become stranded, and advises that there are “reputational as well as economic risks to staying invested”. A blog by the Pembina Institute  summarizes the HSBC report and considers the dangers of stranded assets for Alberta.

At the international level, G-20 leaders have asked the Financial Stability Board in Basel to convene a public-private inquiry into the dangers to the financial sector as climate rules become much stricter, and fossil fuel assets become stranded. All member countries have agreed to co-operate or carry out internal probes, including the United States, China, India, Russia, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. The investigation will be modeled on that commissioned by Mark Carney at the Bank of England, which is set to report in July 2015. See “G20: fossil fuel fears could hammer global financial system”   in The Telegraph (April 29).

IMF Report estimates Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies at $5.3 Trillion – More than global spending on Public Health

A new working paper from the International Monetary Fund , How Large are Global Energy Subsidies? reflects the shifting attitudes in the corporate world to the fossil fuel industry . A quote from the summary at the CBC website  : “Described as a “post-tax” subsidy, the figure doesn’t take into account the pre-tax incentives used to encourage exploration and production, and is still much larger than ever before calculated.”… “The fiscal implications are mammoth: At $5.3 trillion, energy subsidies exceed the estimated public health spending for the entire globe”. The report concludes that energy subsidy reform is urgently needed, and though not perfect, “energy taxes” are the most effective tool currently available .

Business Leaders endorse Carbon Pricing, an end to Fossil Fuel Subsidies, and Science-based GHG Reduction Targets

BUSINESS LEADERS ENDORSE CARBON PRICING, AN END TO FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES, AND SCIENCE-BASED GHG REDUCTION TARGETS : The Business and Climate Summit in Paris on May 20-21 was opened by the President of France, with the UN’s Ban Ki Moon in attendance, along with 2000 international business leaders, policymakers and investors. The final press release called on policymakers to leverage public funds and private sector finance towards low-carbon assets; to introduce carefully designed and predictable carbon pricing; and to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

Another business group, the Caring for Climate program within the UN Global Compact, issued a statement at the Summit  which commits them to carbon pricing, to set long-term targets based on science, and to speak up publicly against negative lobbying on climate action. As part of this effort, the Science Based Targets Initiative, led by the Carbon Disclosure Project and WWF, released Mind the Science,  and Sectoral Decarbonization Approach: A method for setting corporate emission reduction targets in line with climate science . Both reports are available here  .

Streaming Video is slowing Efforts to Green the Internet

Greenpeace has been evaluating the energy demand of the Internet, and the energy choices made by individual Internet companies,  since 2010 , with its Cool It campaign.  A new report, Clicking Clean: A Guide to Building the Green Internet  identifies two major problems for companies who are moving to greener practices: 1. several critical data centre hubs must rely on monopoly electric utilities which provide only coal-generated electricity; and 2. the rapid rise of streaming video is driving significant growth in power use by data centers and network infrastructure. Profiles of the major tech companies show that Apple leads the way in the greening.

New Workforce Certification Guidelines for U.S. Commercial Building Occupations

The National Institute of Building Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy have developed voluntary national guidelines to improve the quality and consistency of commercial building workforce credentials. The Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines     were introduced  in March  2015 and cover four energy-related occupations: Energy Auditor, Building Commissioning Professional, Energy Manager, and Building Operations Professional.   See the press release here.

Leadership of the Arctic Council passes to the U.S.; U.S. approves Arctic drilling

At the end of April, 2015  chairmanship of the Arctic Council passed from Canada to the U.S., as reported in the Globe and Mail . The U.S. stated their priorities for the chairmanship as addressing the impacts of climate change; supporting Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; and improving economic and living conditions in Arctic communities.  Yet barely two weeks later, the U.S. Department of the Interior granted conditional approval to Shell to begin drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea this summer. See “ U. S. will allow Drilling for Oil in Arctic Ocean”  in the New York Times (May 11) .  Reaction has been strong: read Bill McKibben’s OpEd in the New York Times , “Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial” (May 12)   , or “ Letting Shell drill in Arctic could lead to catastrophic oil spill, experts warn” in The Guardian (May 12) .

Also in mid-May, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted provisions under the Polar Code which will govern the safety and environmental impact of ships around the Earth’s poles, starting in 2017. The agreed provisions prohibit the discharge of sewage, noxious liquid substances, and oil or oily mixtures; require that fuel tanks be separated from the outer shell; and restrict garbage discharge. Disappointingly, the delegates put off adoption of a GhG reduction target for the shipping industry till a future date.

New Canadian Association for Renewable Energy industry

The Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity was launched on May 6, 2015.  Founding members are Canadian Hydropower Association, Canadian Solar Industries Association, Canadian Wind Energy Association, and Marine Renewables Canada. The council “aims to engage and educate Canadians on the opportunity to expand renewable electricity and strengthen our nation’s position as a global renewable-energy leader”.  Each of the associations continues to maintain its own website, and the new Council  website is available at http://renewableelectricity.ca/.

Wind and Solar Energy Updates: May 2015

Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 , published by the International Energy Agency,  “ provides a comprehensive analysis of long-term trends in the energy sector, centred on the technologies and the level of deployment needed”….. “Wind and solar PV have the potential to provide 22% of annual electricity sector emissions reduction in 2050 under the 2DS” (2 degree scenario). The report is accompanied by Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2015, which finds that “ the deployment rate of most clean energy technologies is no longer on track to meet 2DS targets”. ….. “Policy certainty, incentives, regulation and international co-operation are required to meet stated ambitions and transform the global energy system”.

In the U.S., the U.S. Department of Energy released Enabling Wind Power Nationwide , which supports the U.S. ambition to expand utility-scale wind energy to all fifty states. The Enabling report highlights the the need for technological advancements, especially taller wind turbine towers and larger rotors, currently under development by the Energy Department and its partnering national labs, universities, and private-sector companies. The DOE Wind Program website is available here . A similar focus on the need for research and technological advancement is found in The Future of Solar Energy report  , released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative (MITEI) . Read also a related overview of current solar technologySolar Power for CO2 Mitigation  by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics.