Food Products Industry and their Supply Chains

In the latest report of the Oxfam Behind the Brands campaign about the international food products industry, the Big 10 food and beverage companies are said to have made significant new commitments over the past three years to improve social and environmental standards in their supply chains, with progress most evident in the areas of protecting land rights, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling gender inequality. However, The Journey to Sustainable Food   states that companies “must go much further and fundamentally re-write the business models in their supply chains to ensure that much more power and much more of the value their products generate reaches the farmers and workers who produce their ingredients.” Companies monitored are: Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.

A March 2016 study by Greenpeace International assesses 14 companies that committed to “no deforestation” to understand the impact of palm oil production on the plantations of Indonesia. The companies reviewed in Cutting deforestation out of the palm oil supply chain – Company Scorecard    are:  Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Ikea, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Orkla, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Unilever.

Aviation Industry – the Pivotal Climate Change issue of 2016?

airplaneThe global airline industry accounts for more GHG emissions than either South Korea or Canada – about 2% of global emissions, and expected to triple by 2050 without new policies.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)  has pledged to adopt  a proposed Global Market-Based Mechanism (GMBM) to curb emissions in September 2016.  In light of the importance of the issue, an international alliance of environmental groups, including the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA) has launched FlightPath 1.5 , with the goal to make “ aviation emissions the pivotal climate change issue of 2016.”  Download their Checklist for an Effective Plan to Cut Aviation Global Warming Pollution  here . The National Observer (March 24) provides an overview of the issue; for a comprehensive discussion, refer to Raising Ambition to Reduce International Aviation and Maritime Emissions,  published by New Climate Economy in 2015.  See “How significant a source of emissions is air travel?”  for background and progress  in the U.S. , and Reducing emissions from Aviation website for a European overview.

Climate Change and Health, including Mental Health

The U.S. Global Change Research Program released its landmark synthesis report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment   in April 2016.   Chapter 8,”Mental Health and Well-being”,  states  that mental health risks can be caused by climate-related or weather-related disasters, as well as ongoing anxiety over climate change. Extreme heat exacerbates physical and mental problems.  Groups at highest risk are “children, the elderly, women (especially pregnant and post-partum women), people with pre-existing mental illness, the economically disadvantaged, the homeless, and first responders.” Communities  that rely on the natural environment for sustenance and livelihood or with direct exposure to climate change are also at high risk. For follow-up reading, consult the 13- page list of references at the end of the chapter. For an overview of the entire report, see Fact Sheet: What Climate Change Means to your Health and Family  .

Research funding dries up for Fracking and Water

The impacts of fracking on groundwater is one of the research areas of the  Program on Water Issues (POWI) at University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for Global Affairs, “one of the nation’s most celebrated and effective water study programs ” which brought together Canada’s “best scientists and policy-makers … in an independent, non-partisan forum”.   Now, after supporting the program for 15 years,  the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation have announced an end to their support. Although no official reason has been given for the decision,  a report  by Andrew Nikoforuk in The Tyee (April 19)  suggests that  research into fracking may have been a factor in the decision. Other research topics pursued at POWI included water withdrawals from the Athabasca River by the oil sands industry, groundwater monitoring, carbon capture and storage, climate change, the future of the Columbia River Treaty, and bulk water exports.

Also: An April report from Environment America, Fracking by the Numbers: the Damage to Our Water, Land and Climate from a Decade of Dirty Drilling   catalogues a host of  dangers, including contaminated drinking water, depletion of scarce water resources; and air pollution and methane leaks in the U.S.  And speaking of contamination of water, see also a new report by Environmental Defence-  Energy East: A Risk to our Drinking Water , which documents the nature and proximity of  the proposed pipeline to major municipal and community drinking water supplies in four provinces.

Three Canadian NGO’s to cooperate for Climate Change Advocacy

Canadian environmental advocacy groups Environmental Defence   , Équiterre    and the Pembina Institute announced  their new partnership in a public event in Ottawa on April 14, 2016.   The three organizations “will deploy their research, convening and public engagement capacities to build cross-sectoral support for ambitious policy reforms” to meet the challenge of Canada’s climate change goals.

Divestment decision at University of Toronto amid further financial warnings

At the end of March, the President of the University of Toronto issued an official response  to the Advisory Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels, which had reported in December 2015. The University rejected a blanket divestment strategy and opted to pursue a targeted approach which will incorporate environmental, social, and governance-based factors (ESG) in investment decisions. It states that the core mission of the university, research and teaching, will be used as its main contribution to the fight against climate change. The statement  is summarized in a  Globe and Mail article (March 30) .  On April 12, the New York Times reported  that Yale University had also found a compromise position regarding investment strategies for its endowment fund, rather  than outright divestment.  Arguing against such approaches: from researchers at the London School of Economics,  “Climate value at risk’ of global financial assets” in Nature Climate Change online (April 4)  which uses models to estimate the impact of twenty-first-century climate change on the present market value of global financial assets, and concludes that “losses could soar to $24tn, or 17% of the world’s assets, and wreck the global economy”.  An article in The Guardian   (April 4) summarizes this and other studies.  Even the Harvard Business Review (April 14)  is sounding the alarm, based on the latest research.   An article in Corporate Knights magazine, “Defending Divestment”   (April 6) considers the financial and moral arguments about divestment.

Progress in reducing Transportation emissions: Electric Busses and Biofuel

Electric car London 2013While the world gawked and lined up to buy the new Tesla Model 3 electric car in March,  a report from Yale 360 describes the encouraging progress toward electric heavy duty vehicles.   “As Electric Cars Stall, A Move To Greener Trucks and Buses” (March 24) suggests that the industrial sector may be quicker than individual consumers to pay for expensive new technologies because costs can be amortized and benefits such as fuel savings will multiply across equipment fleets.  As proof, the article cites growth of electric bus fleets in the U.S. and Europe, and states that China, the world leader in manufacture and export of electric buses, already has  80,000 electric buses on the road ; Shanghai has announced plans to add 1,400 electric buses a year .  In Canada, electric vehicles continue to attract incentives , for example with Ontario’s new program announced in February .

To measure how carbon pollution is improving under renewable fuel standards, Clean Energy Canada, Navius Research and Simon Fraser have produced a new report,  Biofuels in Canada: Tracking progress in Tackling Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation Fuels . The analysis concludes that government policy is clearly driving biofuel adoption:  renewable fuel standards and low-carbon fuel standards have reduced annual carbon pollution in 2014 by 4.3 megatonnes CO2eq, (equivalent to taking one million cars off the road), and biofuel use has increased to 3.9 million m3, (equivalent to 5% of all gasoline and diesel use in Canada). However, the report calls for additional government policies in the future.  Funding for the report was provided by Advanced Biofuels Canada; Clean Energy Canada maintained full control over research, analysis and editorial content.

Quebec announces new Energy Policy to 2030

Quebec’s Energy Minister announced a new energy strategy , with legislation to be introduced before June, 2016.  The strategy includes goals to reduce oil consumption by 40 per cent by 2030; eliminate the use of thermal coal; increase by 25% overall renewable energy output; and increase by 50% bioenergy production.  Documentation in French is here .  See the summary in the Montreal Gazette  . For a summary of recent Quebec announcements, see “The Quebec Premier just slammed future oil exploration in his province”   in The National Observer (April 11) .

Nova Scotia holds off on a Carbon Tax

In advance of the Nova Scotia Budget  on April 19, the  Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, CCPA-Nova Scotia, and clean energy groups issued an  Open Letter    calling for made-in-Nova Scotia carbon pricing, stating “The Nova Scotia government should immediately create a multi-sectoral working group on this issue, including environmental, anti-poverty and fair economy groups.”  Their concerns were not addressed in the Budget, as government policy focused mainly on  protecting the small budget surplus reported.  For a summary, see the CBC report here   .

New Brunswick establishes a Select Committee on a Green Economy

The New Brunswick legislature voted to establish an  all-party select committee on Climate Change on  April 8 , to hold public consultations and produce a report . Read the summary by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick here  . The Premier held an “Opportunity Summit” meeting  on April 4  in Edmundston to consult on green economy issues.

Plans for a carbon levy revealed with Alberta’s Budget

Faced with unprecedented economic challenges, the Alberta government delivered an April  Budget with frequent references to its Climate Leadership Plan, including plans for $3.4 billion to be invested in large-scale renewable energy projects and technologies; $25 million to be invested directly into new apprenticeship and training opportunities; $25 million for startup companies with high job growth potential, such as clean energy and clean technology; and funding and training for workers in communities affected by the promised coal phase-out. See coverage in The Globe and Mail  and the Calgary Herald  .  Most attention went to the specifics of the Climate Leadership Adjustment Rebate , to help individual Albertans offset the costs of the carbon levy.

Academic research advice related to carbon pricing for Alberta appeared in Policy Options in March: “Alberta’s Carrot and Stick approach to GHG Emission Reduction”   and from the University of Calgary School of Public Policy,  Make the Alberta Carbon Levy Revenue Neutral .

NDP and the Leap Manifesto

Amidst the enormous media coverage of the role of the Leap Manifesto  in the outcome of the NDP Convention in Edmonton in April, a few items which you may have missed:  “The Leap: Time for a Reality Check”   in Rabble.ca, in which Noami Klein defends the Leap document and counters another Rabble.ca article, “The federal NDP’s ‘Leap’ of faith advocates and Alberta’s right-wing opposition: Strange bedfellows?” (April 13) by David Climenhaga.   And after the dust has settled somewhat, Ed Broadbent and the Broadbent Institute issued “Canada’s Left is having a Moment”   which appeared in the Toronto Star (April 22).   The Leap website has compiled links to news coverage of the debate here . The CBC has also attempted an overview and compilation of links at  “The Leap Manifesto that is dividing the NDP” (April 17).

Ceremonial Signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, Earth Day 2016

cop21 logo As widely reported, over 170 national representatives took part in a ceremonial signing of the Paris climate agreement    at the U.N. in New York on April 22, Earth Day.  The Paris Agreement comes into force when countries representing at least 55% of total global greenhouse gasses, and 55% of the population, join the agreement.  See “US and China lead push to bring Paris climate deal into force early”   in The Guardian for details of each country’s proportion of emissions, and national ratification prospects.  “The Key Players in Climate Change” in the  New York Times (April 21)  provides an overview of the major emmiters: U.S., China, EU, Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia.  Although Canada is one of the highest per capita emitters in the world, it represents approximately 1.6% of total global GHG emissions in 2012.

A brief  press release from Canada’s PMO is here.   Prime Minister Trudeau pledged that Canada’s House of Commons would ratify the agreement by the end of 2016 – matching the date pledged by the U.S. and China, in an article in  the Globe and Mail. The Prime Minister spoke against a backdrop of  two recent reports about Canada’s emissions. The  National Inventory of  Report of GHG Emissions 1990 – 2014 , released by  Environment and Climate Change Canada, is an annual compilation of statistics mandated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It shows that total GHG emissions decreased overall between 2005 and 2014, but have increased by 5.2% from 2009 to 2014. Six provinces’ emissions have declined since 2005, but emissions in  Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland  have increased.    81% of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2014 originated in the energy sector (which the IPCC  broadly defines to include the fossil fuel industry, electricity, industrial production, transportation, agriculture and more).  Emission intensity for the entire economy (GHG per GDP) has declined by 32% since 1990, which the report attributes to “fuel switching, increases in efficiency, the modernization of industrial processes, and structural changes in the economy”.   The French version of the National Inventory Report  is here.

The Conference Board gives Canada a “D” grade overall on three dimensions it measured in its April 21 report:  How Canada Performs: Environmental Report Card  : climate change, air pollution, and freshwater management.  Canada ranks 14th among the 16 peer countries, with only the U.S. and Australia worse.

Demanding a Just Transition for Peabody Coal Workers

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest publicly-listed coal mining company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on April 13.  This seemingly good news for the world’s GHG emissions raises human issues, as outlined in “Why Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, just went bankrupt” in Vox    (April 13) and “How your taxes ended up enriching coal executives who are betraying their workers”   in Vox (March 18) .  DeSmog Blog reports on protests by activists (April 19) who demanded a $14 billion Just Transition Fund be established as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. DeSmog blog asks, “What would a more Just Bankruptcy look like?”, and lists: fully- fund worker pensions and health care plans;  an immediate stop to the forcible relocation and harassment of Diné (Navajo) people in northern Arizona, and full reparations for cultural genocide caused by Peabody; Guaranteed full funding for clean-up and full reclamation of all mined lands and polluted and depleted aquifers used by Peabody; payouts to communities negatively impacted by Peabody’s practices in areas left stranded in the bankruptcy, as a priority before other shareholders;  support for communities as they transition from coal-based economies toward renewable energy and self-sufficiency, including healthcare funds for communities in and adjacent to mining and coal-processing areas. Many of these issues were raised and explained in the 2012 report by Labor Network for Sustainability, Jobs Beyond Coal: A Manual for Workers, Communities and Environmentalists , which included a case study of Black Mesa and the Just Transition group.

Benefits of Community Energy in Canada

Community Energy Planning: the Value Proposition. Environmental, Health and Economic Benefits   reports on Community Energy Planning activities and programs in Canada, with comprehensive economic analyses and case studies of six.  The report states that more than 180 communities across Canada, representing over 50% of the population, live in communities with some community energy plan. The cities of Barrie and Hamilton, Ontario are given as examples:  the study evaluated the long-term effects (over a period from 2008-2031) of maximizing cost-effective building energy efficiency retrofits and technologies and found that for every $1 million invested in building energy efficiency retrofits, over 9 person-years of permanent employment would be created within the province of Ontario. The report is part of a  collaborative initiative, Getting to Implementation,    spearheaded by the Community Energy Association, QUEST – Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow, and Sustainable Prosperity, with the goal of  improving efficiency, cutting emissions, and driving economic development, including local job creation.   Sustainable Prosperity has also recently released the  Sustainability Alignment Manual,  detailing market-based incentives for local community sustainaiblility efforts,   and the University of Waterloo maintains a library of research articles and studies of community sustainability plans  across Canada.

Setting the record straight on Economic Analysis of Energy Efficiency Programs

On April 16, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a White Paper, Critiques of Energy Efficiency Policies and Programs: Some Truth But Also Substantial Mistakes and Bias . The paper examines recent U.S. studies of energy efficiency programs , “ … pointing out  a variety of recurring mistakes, such as misunderstanding the programs and markets they are examining or unreasonably extrapolating their findings to areas they did not study.”  The accompanying blog provides additional links and highlights a new study about Ontario,  by the Fraser Institute.  Demand-side Mismanagement: How Conservation became Waste  examines energy conservation programs in Ontario and concludes that they have not saved money for consumers, but according to the ACEEE , “Their conclusion is not based on data from Ontario, but cites previous critical studies of other programs, in particular a controversial study from 1992. Their analysis ignores or downplays other more recent studies that found much lower costs.”

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy  also launched a new website in April, providing detailed energy efficiency metrics for the United States , as well as overview measures for the international community , including Canada.

Employment in Canadian Clean Tech and U.S. Clean Energy

On April 19, with Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna in attendance, Analytica Advisors held a press conference to release their 2016 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report   . This is the fifth report, based on the business results for 2014 and plans for 2015 reported by 107 companies – (the report is available in full only to the participants). Although it includes clean energy generation, the scope of the report also includes energy infrastructure and green buildings, transportation, recycling, water and waste water treatment, and others.    From the publicly-available Synopsis, we learn that this broad Clean Technology sector in Canada includes 775 technology companies directly employing 55,600 people, an increase of 11% from 2013. The Backgrounder    states that “More people are now directly employed in the clean technology industry than are employed in the aerospace manufacturing, forestry and logging or pharmaceuticals and medical devices industries.” 21 percent of employees are under age 30; 20 percent of clean technology company employees are engineers.

The main focus of the report is on revenues and market share: “after Japan, Canada’s is the steepest decline in global market share among top exporters.  For Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency manufactured environmental goods, Canada has lost 39 percent of its 2005 market share and is the biggest loser of market share among the top exporting countries.”  The report advises: “To reverse this trajectory and get back to the spectacular growth of previous years will require a price on carbon as well as a rethink of innovation, regulation and green infrastructure policies.  Equally important, it will require new models to finance the growth of companies including those with high capital requirements.”   Industry associations BC Cleantech CEO Alliance, Écotech Québec, the Alberta Clean Technology Industry Alliance and Ontario’s MaRS Discovery District are co-ordinating their efforts to lobby the federal government for funding, according to a recent  Globe and Mail article  .

In the U.S., a March 2016 report from  consultants Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), found that  2.5 million Americans work in the clean energy industry.  With 1.9 million workers, energy efficiency is the largest sector, followed by  renewable energy generation, which employs nearly 414,000 people, and advanced vehicles with nearly 170,000 jobs.  Clean Jobs America  is  based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Energy data and a survey of tens of thousands of businesses across the country. It provides “ a comprehensive analysis of clean energy and clean transportation jobs” across the U.S., providing detailed statistics and an overview of the policies which have encouraged investment and growth, including the Clean Power Plan.  The report was written in conjunction with the Clean Energy Trust, The Solar Foundation and Advanced Energy Economy.  The Wind Industry Annual Market Report, released   by the American Wind Energy Association on April 12, showed a 20% increase in jobs in the past year, with 88,000 at the start of 2016.  The national business association Advanced Energy Economy (AEE)  is quoted as saying that  California leads the  U.S. in energy employment  with an industry growth rate of 18% last year – six times the overall state employment growth rate . California also ranks first in installed solar capacity and number of jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association , the national trade association.

Low Carbon Economy Future for Alberta

A new report from Greenpeace Canada projects that  “Alberta has the potential to create over one hundred and  forty-five thousand new jobs — 46,780 jobs in renewable energy, 68,400 jobs in energy efficiency, and 30,000-40,000 jobs in mass transit.”  100,000+ Jobs: Getting Albertans back to Work by building a Low-Carbon Future   (April 22), aims to “spark a creative conversation” by providing very specific examples of job creation opportunities by sector and across sectors, and calls for policy changes and actions to diversify the economy. The Alberta Green Economy Network and Gridworks Energy Group also cooperated on the report.    A poll taken by the Alberta Green Economy Network   shows that  58% of Albertans  want the carbon revenues announced in the recent budget to be directed toward green projects (28% want the money to be invested in research to reduce emissions from fossil fuel companies).

On the ground, a group of  oil sands workers have banded together as “Iron and Earth”,  to help laid-off workers transition to the renewable energy sector.    Their website  states  :  “ Together we can encourage more sustainable carbon-based extraction and build the renewable energy infrastructure we need to both meet the demands of consumers and diversify our energy economy so it isn’t so reliant on the boom and bust associated to a single resource.”  Its first project is a “Solar Skills” campaign to retrain 1,000 laid-off electricians from Alberta’s oil industry, to help build 100 solar installations on public buildings throughout the province.   The group, mostly in Alberta but also including members from Atlantic Canada,  states that it is non-partisan; it seeks supporters, donations, and possible partnerships with unions, including the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, as well as corporations.   See “Amid Price Plunge, North American Oil and Gas Workers Seek Transition to Renewable Sector”  from Truthout;  Iron and Earth and the dilemma of Alberta’s energy economy are presented in “Does National Unity Have to be a Casualty of Canada’s Energy Debate?” at DeSmog Blog (April 4).