Landmark Guidance Document for Pension Managers released by UNEP

On October 8, at the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Lima, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released the final report of the Design of a Sustainable Financial System Inquiry, titled The Financial System We Need, capping UNEP research stream that dates back to 2005. The documents produced include Fiduciary Responsibility in the 21st Century (September) , an analysis of investment practice and fiduciary duty in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan, South Africa, the UK and the US. “This report is a landmark piece in the global dialogue…By clearly defining the full remit of fiduciary duty and providing recommendations for how it should be implemented, this work serves as a definitive guide for any fiduciary unsure of the role that sustainability should play in their decision-making process”.

Sustainability in the corner office: Business and Climate Change

Corporate Knights magazine released the results of its annual ranking of MBA programs in October – unlike most surveys, it includes measures of social and environmental responsibility in the teaching and research at MBA programs around the world . As in previous years, the 2015 Better World MBA survey ranks Canadian universities at the top: for the 12th year, York University’s Schulich School of Business ranked #1, followed by Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, and Copenhagen School of Business as #3. And the latest Harvard Business Review ranks the “Best Performing CEO’s in the World” using a changed system: in 2015, long-term financial results achieved by the CEO are weighted at 80%, rather than 100% as before. The remaining 20% goes to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance.
 

Most telling: business leaders are making sure that their viewpoint is part of climate change policy discussions, especially leading up to and including COP21. Earlier this year, Citigroup bank announced that it would lend, invest, and/or facilitate $100 billion towards climate and environmental solutions, and more recently renounced investments in coal, led by its Environmental and Social Policy Framework document. Coordinated by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), six major U.S. banks issued a Climate Action Statement in October, as did the CEO’s of ten major food companies, including Mars, General Mills, Unilever, and Kellogg, who issued a joint letter to world leaders. C2ES also released Weathering the Next Storm: A Closer Look at Business Resilience. More businesses signed on to RE100, a global business campaign committed to 100% renewable electricity. And on October 19, the White House announced that 81 U.S. companies, with combined revenue of $5 trillion, have now signed the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge”, launched in July 2015.

Landmark Clean Energy Legislation passed in California

The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, (Senate Bill 350) was signed into law on October 7th, 2015,  requiring the state to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, as well as double energy efficiency in homes, offices and factories. It also sets up a framework for an integrated electricity grid, and encourages utilities to install more charging stations for electric vehicles. The Natural Resources Defense Council called it “one of the most significant climate and energy bills in California’s history”. An earlier version of Bill 350 had been defeated – see the New York Times (Sept. 10) “California Democrats Drop Plan for 50 Percent Oil Cut”. Using regulatory authority instead, on September 25, the California Air Resources Board approved the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which requires reduction of the amount of carbon generated by gas and diesel fuels by at least 10 percent by 2020. See “California Says ‘Yes!’ to Clean Fuels and ‘No!’ to Oil Industry Lobbyists”.
 
 

Deep Decarbonization Pathways Reports released

POLICY PRESCRIPTIONS FOR A DECARBONIZED ECONOMY
The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project is a consortium of energy researchers from the 16 countries which are the world’s largest GHG emitters. In mid-September, the DDPP released a  Synthesis Report and 16 country studies, outlining policy directions for long-term (to 2050). The Canadian report identifies six decarbonization pathways under three main themes: Deepening Current Trends, Encouraging next generation technologies; and Structural Economic Pathways, for which the report simulated oil price scenarios of $114, $80 and $40 per barrel in current dollars in 2050. The Canada report recommends “regulations that strengthen existing policies for buildings and transport sectors, a cap and trade system to drive abatement in heavy industry, and finally a complementary carbon price on the rest of the economy that returns revenues to reduced income and corporate taxes”. All DDPP reports will be tabled at the COP21 meetings in Paris in December.

Brazil and India submit INDC statements before COP21

All the major emitters have now submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions statements to the UNFCC: Brazil on September 28, with a commitment to reduce GHG emissions 37% by 2025 and 43% by 2030, and a goal to eliminate illegal deforestation and restore 12 million hectares of land.
India, on October 2, pledged to reduce the intensity of its fossil fuel emissions 33 percent to 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, and to produce 40 percent of its electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030. India stated that $2.5 trillion U.S. would be required between now and 2030 to meet its goals; in a softening of its position, India did not make emission cuts conditional on aid, according to the New York Times, although a government official quoted by Inside Climate News quotes states that its efforts will be tied to the “availability and level of international financing and technology transfer”. On October 5th, Reuters reported “Germany offers India $2.25 billion for solar, clean energy”; Reuters also reported that India is opening one coal mine a month in a drive to double its coal production by 2020.

China-U.S. Announcements include a National Cap and Trade program for China

On an official state visit to the U.S. on September 25, China’s president, Xi Jinping, announced that China would establish a national cap and trade program in 2017 covering power generation, iron and steel, chemicals and building materials industries. He also committed $3.1 billion in climate financing to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change, capping off a series of recent announcements. The Rocky Mountain Institute summarizes the full slate of pledges made by the U.S. and China on September 25, “Today’s U.S.-China Announcement is the Most Significant Milestone to Date for Battling Global Climate Change”Inside Climate News summarizes the Chinese announcement.   In the New Yorker (September 25)  “What can China achieve with Cap-and-Trade?” cites the irony of a market-based system from a communist country, in contrast to the U.S. approach of regulation from a centralized bureaucracy.

Following in Urgenda’s Footsteps – another Landmark climate change decision by Pakistani Court

FOLLOWING IN URGENDA’S FOOTSTEPS – ANOTHER LANDMARK CLIMATE CHANGE DECISION BY PAKISTANI COURT
According to the Climate Law Blog of the Columbia Law School, “Leghari v. Federation of Pakistan now joins the Urgenda decision in the Netherlands as an important judicial decision directing a national government to take action on climate change based on fundamental legal principles”. When a farmer in Pakistan sued his government for failing to carry out the country’s National Climate Policy and Framework, the High Court of Lahore ruled in September that “Climate Change is a defining challenge of our time...On a legal and constitutional plane this is clarion call for the protection of fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, in particular, the vulnerable and weak segments of the society who are unable to approach this Court”. Citing the life-threatening dangers of drought and flooding in the country, the judge directed several government ministries to ensure the implementation of the Framework, with a deadline of December 31, 2015 for action plans. The court also created a Climate Change Commission with representatives from government, NGOs, and technical experts. An article in the Toronto Star (Oct. 3) quotes Canadian legal experts on the decision. See the text of the decision at the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide website.

Public Opinion about Climate Change policies: Alberta and Canada

In September, 2015  Pembina Institute released an opinion poll of Albertans, conducted by EKOS Research. Of the 1,885 respondents, 50% would support an economy-wide carbon tax, rising to 72% if the proceeds were invested in low-carbon projects; 70% want stricter enforcement of the existing environmental rules and safeguards in the oilsands; 70% support investing in renewables to reduce coal use, and 86% want the province to increase support for clean energy and clean technology.  
 
Other opinions were expressed at the 2015 Alberta Climate Summit, convened on September 9 by Pembina Institute. Discussions centred on the economy and jobs, carbon pricing, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.
 
The Climate Change Advisory Panel of the Alberta government invited submissions from Albertans in August and September. Views of individuals, companies, academics, advocacy groups and associations, and three labour unions are available: A list by name helps to locate items of interest amongst over 400 documents. The union submissions are: #94, by the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 110 (Alberta); #387, by the Alberta Federation of Labour and #494, a 1-page statement by the Business Agent of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 955.
 
Environics Institute, partnered with the David Suzuki Foundation, released Canadian Public Opinion about Climate Change, showing that support for the B.C. carbon tax is at an all time high in that province, and has increased to 60% in other provinces – notably Atlantic Canada, and amongst women. 74% of Canadians say they believe it is possible for their province to shift most of its energy requirements from fossil fuels to clean renewable forms of energy.

Enbridge Line 9 Given Green Light

According to a brief Enbridge press release on September 30, 2015 ,  the National Energy Board (NEB) has approved the results of required hydro-static tests on Line 9, removing the last safety test required before the pipeline can begin transporting crude oil from Sarnia to Montreal. The Globe and Mail reported the decision, “Canadian Regulators give Enbridge’s Line 9 the Green Light” (Sept. 30), yet the official NEB website for Line 9 did not post a press release . As reported by the Globe and Mail, “Approval of Enbridge’s Line 9 applauded by Quebec Refineries” (Oct. 1), but CBC reports that “Montreal protesters denounce Energy East, Enbridge Line 9 pipelines”.

Unifor joins First Nations and Environmental Groups in Court against the Northern Gateway Pipeline decision

Eighteen lawsuits were consolidated and heard in a Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver, from October 1 to 8, as eight First Nations, four environmental groups and Unifor challenged the decision of the Federal Joint Review Panel on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. Lawyers representing Unifor argued that the Joint Review Panel erred by focusing on the economic benefits of oil sands development and refusing to consider greenhouse gas emissions produced by upstream development (see Unifor’s detailed Memorandum of Fact and Law here). West Coast Environmental Law provides a Legal Backgrounder with official documents, a day by day summary of proceedings and will cover the decision when it is announced in the coming months. “How Harper triggered a First Nations legal war over Northern Gateway” in the National Observer (Oct. 1) provides background.

Chronicling the Destruction of Canadian Environmental Laws

Canada’s Track Record on Environmental Laws 2011 – 2015 was released by West Coast Environmental Law on October 14. On the same day, Centre Québécois du droit de l’environnement released the french language version, Bilan des changements apportés aux lois environnementales fédérales. The report catalogues “the repeal or amendment of most of Canada’s foundational environmental laws since 2011”, beginning with Bills C-38 and C-45 in 2012. It notes that socio-economic considerations can now be more easily ignored or excluded under the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, damaging Canadian livelihoods. A summary at Desmog Blog and the website Environmental Laws Matter complement the report.

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement may threaten Environmental Regulation and Labour Standards

Completion of the Trans Pacific Partnership was announced on October 5th 2015, though the text will only be revealed to the Canadian public when it is debated in the new Parliament. Although environmentalists take comfort in some concessions regarding wildlife protection, the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis says “Trans-Pacific Partnership a big win for Corporate Interests” (Oct. 5) especially because of the investor protection rules (ISDS). The Council of Canadians furthers the CCPA discussion in “ISDS and the Paris Climate Agreement”, as does a detailed paper by Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Hall Law School in An ISDS Carve-out to Support Action on Climate Change, which aims to “identify language for an ISDS carve-out that is reliable and clear considering the importance of climate change action”. As Maude Barlow states in the introduction to the Van Harten paper: the ISDS “gives foreign corporations the right to directly sue governments for financial compensation if those governments introduce new laws or practices – be they environmental, health or human rights – that negatively affect corporations’ bottom line”.  Another paper released by the Centre for International Governance (in Waterloo, Ont.), Investor-State Arbitration Between Developed Democratic Countries is the first in a planned series reviewing and assessing ISDS from a global and legal perspective, without a focus on climate change aspects.

Canada’s new Liberal government: What lies ahead for climate change policy?

Justin TrudeauAccording to the CBC at “New Liberal Government: Where does it get started?”, Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau’s first order of business is to meet with the Premiers to discuss climate change policy before COP 21. For slightly more detailed information, we can also refer to the Liberal platform statement, or a very complete analysis by  West Coast Environmental Law (Oct. 22) . Read reactions,  ranging from the positive and optimistic by Environmental Defence; to the factual “What Your New Liberal Majority Government Means for Climate, Environment, Science and Transparency” by DeSmog Canada; to the pessimistic “After Harper: Confronting the Liberals” at RankandFile.ca.  Internationally, see reaction from The Guardian: “Trudeau victory may not signal a U-turn in Canada’s climate policy”; Politico; and the New York Times. In Canada, optimism is tempered, and 350.org is organizing Climate Welcome demonstrations, from November 5 – 8 in Ottawa, to remind the new Prime Minister of the urgency of climate change policy reforms.  Justin Trudeau will be sworn into office on November 4th.

What’s the best way to Motivate Action about Climate Change?

News Media and Climate Politics: Civic Engagement and Political Efficacy in a Climate of Reluctant Cynicism was released by the B.C. Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in September 2015. It reports the results of seven focus groups from Vancouver who were selected for high levels of awareness about climate change but relatively low levels of political engagement. The responses indicate that positive, optimistic attitudes result from news of success stories, especially concrete examples which illustrate the connection between individual and collective actions. Local information is more engaging; description is more powerful than prescription; and providing information about how to engage politically is just as important as motivating the desire to do so. In addition to the empirical results, this report provides valuable context about other climate change communications research, especially the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. For an easy-to-read summary of some of Yale’s insights, see the September interview of the Director, Anthony Leiserowitz, in Grist “What’s the Best way to communicate about Climate Change: This Expert offers some Answers”.

TUC Report calls for a Just Transition with “Skilled work at its heart”

GreenCollarNationThe Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Greenpeace released a joint report on October 19, Green Collar Nation: A Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy. Acknowledging that the TUC and the environment movement have had their differences in the past, this report looks to a future which identifies “the shared agenda of managing the costs and reaping the benefits of the move towards a cleaner and stronger economy”. The report cites several U.K. economic studies of the potential of clean energy and new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, discusses the differences between TUC and Greenpeace policies re the aviation industry, and makes practical recommendations  for energy and climate policy. The spirit of the paper lies in a concluding statement: “Drawing on the key pillars proposed by the International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) for a just transition, we have argued in this paper for a transition that puts skilled work at its heart. Achieving this transition cannot rely on a political narrative of guilt, debt and punishment, either at an individual or national level. Instead it should build on the politics of the common good, seeking active co-operation in solving a shared problem, developed through strong relationships, robust institutions and the harnessing of technological innovation and optimism wherever it can”.

Job creation impacts of Energy Efficiency Programs: Best practices for measurement

A September 2015 report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy reviews the current methodologies used in studying the job creation impacts of energy efficiency programs, with a view to establishing best practice and a model framework for future analyses. Verifying Energy Efficiency Job Creation: Current Practices and Recommendations classifies, explains, and compares the methodologies currently in use in North America, as either top-down (modelling) or bottom-up (head-count). It then examines several exemplary studies, including two from Canada: the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) study of its Industrial Accelerator Program (IAP), a financial incentive and resource acquisition program started in 2010, and a study of Efficiency Nova Scotia, which measured the economic impact (in employment, payroll, and GDP) of organizations in the province’s energy efficiency sector. 

 

The Boom in Green Construction, and Energy Efficient Buildings

According to a report prepared for the U.S. Green Building Council by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the green construction industry is currently outpacing traditional construction, and will be responsible for 38% of all construction jobs in the U.S. by 2018. The 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study measures gross domestic product (GDP), jobs, labour earnings, individual states’ tax contributions and environmental indicators for green building and LEED construction, at the state and national level. The report is free, but requires registration to download.
 

Pembina Institute released a series of reports about energy efficiency and net-zero buildings  over the summer of 2015, to contribute to B.C.’s Climate Leadership consultations. The most recent, concerning passive houses, were presented at the North American Passive House Network conference in Vancouver in October. Barriers and solutions to near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) and High Performance envelope in Europe and North America notes the role of work practices, lack of training, and regulatory barriers. Programs or Policies in North America that have Encouraged Passive Houses lists examples of changes to procurement policies, building codes, and permitting practices which have encouraged the growth of passive houses; most examples are for Vancouver and the west coast of the U.S.

Employment Impacts of Reinstating annual increases to B.C. Carbon Tax

 
A proposal made at the September 2015 convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities called for a reinstatement of an annual increase to the provincial carbon tax, at the rate of $5 per tonne, with new revenues invested in local climate programs such as transit and infrastructure. The carbon tax had been structured with this annual $5 per tonne increase when it was introduced in 2008, but has been frozen at 2012 levels. Although the resolution was defeated by a narrow vote, the new economic impact research which supported it is of interest. Commissioned by the Pembina Institute and conducted by Navius Research, the modeling showed that the $5 per tonne annual increase would stimulate economic growth by an average of 2.1% per year until 2030, creating approximately 850,000 new jobs, reducing B.C.’s carbon pollution by 2.1 million tonnes, and saving households an average $1,200 per year.

Community Input to the Sustainable Canada Dialogue on a Low-Carbon Economy

In March 2015, Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD) released Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars – a “consensus paper” which compiled proposals for a national climate action plan from 60 Canadian academics. On October 8, SCD followed up with the release of Acting on Climate Change: Extending the Dialogue Among Canadians – which compiles the formal responses from First Nations, businesses, NGOs, labour, youth and private citizens, organized into topics which include Employment and Labour, Social Justice, Indigenous Perspectives, Reinventing Cities, Renewable Energy Challenges, Youth, and more. Highlight papers: “The role of workers in the transition to a low-carbon economy”; “Protect the Environment by Doing More Work, Not Less” by Lana Payne and Jim Stanford of Unifor, Comments by Andrea Harden-Donahue on behalf of the Council of Canadians; and “Envisioning a Good Green Life in British Columbia: Lessons From the Climate Justice Project” by Marc Lee of the CCPA. The report was accompanied by an Open Letter to the Leaders of Canada’s federal parties, and is signed by the participating academics. Catherine Potvin from McGill University, who spearheads Sustainable Canada Dialogues, states that the goal was to “provide the seed for an inclusive, country-wide consultation on the best ways for Canada to transition toward a low-carbon, sustainable economy and society”. The overview report, Agir sur les changements climatiques: vers un dialogue élargi à la société civile canadienne, and individual papers are available in French.