30% of Canadians exposed to air pollution from road traffic – with SUV’s and diesel trucks the top polluters

The scientific journal Nature underscored the health dangers of air pollution in an April 2019 editorial titled, “Stop denying the risks of air pollution”, which stating that exposure to outdoor air pollution accounts for 4.2 million deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization.   Although we face nothing like the tragic current situation in Delhi India , Canadians should  not be complacent. A two-year study into traffic-related pollutant concentrations found that nearly 30 per cent of Canadians live near major roadways and thus are exposed to a “soup” of pollutants in their daily lives.

air pollution 2019 coverScientists measured pollutants at six monitoring stations near Toronto, including Highway 401, and Vancouver  between 2015 – 2017, and published their latest results in October, in Near-road air pollution Pilot Study . Findings include:

Highly polluting diesel trucks are making a disproportionate contribution and they represent the major source of key pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and black carbon. Data for these pollutants indicate that excessive exposure to diesel exhaust can occur near roads with a significant proportion of truck traffic.

Canada’s cold winters can increase concentrations. Ultrafine particle concentrations, for example, are higher in winter. Nitrogen oxide concentrations are higher on cold winter days, suggesting that the emission control systems for diesel vehicles may not perform well at low temperatures.

… non-tailpipe emissions of particles from brakes and tires have been rising in Toronto since 2012 and now exceed primary emissions through tailpipes. The cause is attributed to the growing popularity of SUVs and pickup trucks, which cause more tire and brake wear because they’re heavier.

 

Many of  the recommendations of the pollution study relate to strategies for continued scientific monitoring of transport-related pollution, but the report also recommends:

“Exposure to traffic-related air pollutants should be reduced where people live, work and play. Strategies should be taken to shape communities so that residents’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution is reduced. These strategies can contribute to existing plans for vibrant and compact communities. For example, a mix of land uses (e.g., commercial, retail, etc.) can be promoted within higher exposure areas; pedestrian and cycling infrastructure can be moved away from high exposure areas; and walkability, transit service quality and access, and parking management can be improved. Indoor exposure can be reduced by improving building design and operation, including ventilation and filtration systems.”

The research was conducted over a two-year period by The Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research at the University of Toronto (SOCAAR), in collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and Metro Vancouver.  The lead author is Professor Greg Evans of the University of Toronto.  The full report is available in English only; a  Summary report is available in English or French from this link .

Although the results have been published previously in academic journals, the study was widely covered in the media – for example,  in the Toronto Globe and Mail , and a thorough summary by the CBC .

The growing threat of SUV’s and Diesel trucks :

An October blog  by the International Energy Agency highlighted “a dramatic shift” to SUV’s: “…there are now over 200 million SUVs around the world, up from about 35 million in 2010, accounting for 60% of the increase in the global car fleet since 2010. Around 40% of annual car sales today are SUVs, compared with less than 20% a decade ago.” The full analysis underlying the blog will be published in the forthcoming World Energy Outlook 2019 in mid-November 2019.

In Canada, heavy duty trucks form the majority of the freight fleet, and freight transport accounts for 10.5% of our greenhouse gas emissions.  The Pembina Institute published  Fuel savings and emissions reductions in heavy-duty trucking in May 2019, to provide a roadmap to the technological solutions already available to reduce trucking emissions.  On October 16, the Capital Plan for Clean Prosperity published recommendations for the transportation sector:  How greening transport can boost economy and curb GHGs These policy recommendations deal with all personal transportation, public transit,  and freight transportation; regarding freight, the Capital Plan recommends that a federal grant system be established to allow for 50% of new freight trucks to be zero emissions vehicles, at an estimated total cost of $14.4B .  Estimated benefits for the freight industry include emissions reductions,  savings of $53.8 billion in fuel and maintenance costs, and  24,800 to 50,000 new jobs in the freight industry alone.

B.C.’s Energy Step Code estimated to generate 1,700 jobs by 2032 while improving energy efficiency

BCenergySTEP_Logo_NavThe B.C. Energy Step Code, enacted in April 2017, is a voluntary standard  which outlines an incremental approach to achieving more energy-efficient buildings in the province of British Columbia, over and above  the requirements of the B.C. Building Code. According to a report released  on March 7 by the Vancouver Economic Commission, the Energy Step Code has created a local market of $3.3 billion for green building products and the potential to create over 1,700 manufacturing and installation jobs between 2019–2032.

Green Buildings Market Forecast :  Demand for Building Products, Metro Vancouver, 2019–2032 was written for “manufacturers, suppliers, investment partners and other industry professionals to help them understand and prepare for changes in building product demand and performance requirements …”  Along with a companion technical report , BC Energy Step Code Supply Chain Study – Final Report  ( March 2019), it describes the basics of the Energy Step Code, and provides regional data and demand estimates for various products such as high-performance windows, lighting, heat pumps and renewable energy systems.  Employment impacts are not the main focus, but the report also estimates the potential job creation impact to be 925 sustainable manufacturing jobs throughout B.C., as well as 770 ongoing installation jobs in Metro Vancouver.  The Market Demand Forecasting Tool which underlies the report was developed by Vancouver Economic Commission in consultation with real estate and construction industry experts over eight months in 2018; modelling for the report was done by The Delphi Group. The details of the forecasting tool are documented in Appendix One of the report.

Two related, earlier reports: 1.  Energy Step Code Training and Capacity , a consultants report from 2017, discusses the competencies required by professions (including architects and engineers) and trades, and provides an extensive inventory of training agents in the province.

The State of Vancouver’s Green Economy (June 2018) by the Vancouver Economic Commission, which states that the largest segment of jobs in Vancouver in 2016 were in the  Green Building sector, with 7,689 jobs.  The total Green Economy job count,  encompassing Green Building; Clean Tech; Green Mobility; Materials Management; and Local Food was estimated at 25,000 jobs.

The B.C. Energy Step Code launched a new website in 2019.

102 Cities globally are sourcing 70% of their energy from renewables

Recent meetings have prompted the release of several new research reports about cities, described as the “front-line of climate action” at the 10th anniversary meetings of the EU’s Covenant of Mayors in February . The biggest meeting, and first-ever Cities and Climate Change Science Conference , was co-sponsored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and was held in Edmonton, Alberta in March 5 – 7. The conference commissioned five reports , and included several others, including “Six Research Priorities for Cities and Climate Change” , which appeared in Nature in February.   Detailed daily coverage of the conference was provided by the International Institute for Sustainable Development  (IISD); the closing press release is here .

In advance of the IPCC Cities conference,  CDP released The World’s Renewable Energy Cities report , with new data that shows  that 102 cities around the world are now sourcing at least 70 percent of their electricity from renewables  (more than double the 40 cities from their list in 2015).  The 102 cities  include Auckland (New Zealand); Nairobi (Kenya); Oslo (Norway); Seattle (USA) and from Canada: Montreal, Prince George ( B.C.), Winnipeg, and  Vancouver.  The full report identifies data by type  of renewable energy: hydropower, wind, solar photovoltaics, biomass and geothermal.  Related, broader reports are: Renewable Energy in Cities: State of the Movement  (Jan. 2018), which offers a global overview of local policy developments and documents  from 2017, and Renewable Energy in Cities  (October 2016) by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

All of  these reports are more encouraging than another recent study in the news:  “Future heat waves, droughts and floods in 571 European cities”, which appeared  in Environmental Research Letters in February 2018.   These are warnings we’ve read before, but this study offers unique detail: it names cities that could be expected to experience the worst flooding in the worst-case scenario – Cork and Waterford in Ireland, Santiago de Compostela in Spain – and those that could expect the worst droughts: Malaga and Almeria in Spain. Stockholm and Rome could expect the greatest increase in numbers of heatwave days, while Prague and Vienna could see the greatest increases in maximum temperatures.

Some recent news about Canadian cities:

downtown CalgaryAs the IPCC Cities conference met in Edmonton, the nearby City of Calgary convened its own  Symposium  as part of the process to develop its Resilience Plan, to be presented to Council in Spring 2018.  The website provides overview information and links to documentation, including nine research briefs in a series, Building a Climate-Resilient City: Climate Change Adaptation in Calgary and Edmonton  from the Prairie Climate Resilience Centre, a project of the University of Winnipeg and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

English_Bay,_Vancouver,_BCVancouver:  The Renewable Cities program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver recently released two reports from a collaborative project called “Mapping Enabling Policies for Vancouver’s 100% Renewable Energy Strategy”. The Policy Atlas is a brief, graphic guide ; The Dialogue Report summarizes the views and discussion of 19 participants at a workshop held on November 30, 2017 – and attempts to clarify the roles of the federal, provincial, and local governments around issues such as a zero emission vehicles, energy efficiency in housing, land use planning, and electricfication and distributed energy, among others.

Toronto largeToronto: In February, Toronto City Council approved $2.5 million for its Transform TO climate plan  – which is  a fraction of the $6.7 million in the budget recommended by city staff.  The Transform TO  goals include 80 per cent GHG reduction by 2050 (based on 1990 baseline); the website provides documentation and updates.

Finally, the mainstream Globe and Mail newspaper promises a new series of articles focusing on Canadian cities and climate change.  The first installment: “Halifax’s battle of the rising sea: Will the city be ready for future floods and storms?” (March 5).

 

Cities continue to fight climate change

The North American Climate Summit   held in Chicago from December 4 to 6, 2017  brought together the mayors of 50 cities from Canada, Mexico, France, and Tanzania, to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.  The mayors signed the  Chicago Climate Charter , which is not legally binding but commits the municipalities to at least match the emissions reductions goals of their home countries, and sets out reporting mechanisms. The  Summit was also the setting for  the 5th annual 2017 C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards, which recognized exemplary city  programs from around the world (none of the winners was Canadian). The Summit was co-sponsored by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

U.S. cities in particular are keen to demonstrate their climate change-fighting resolve – many through the “We are Still In” coalition which formed after President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and which was very active at the COP23 meetings in Bonn.  Additionally, the Sierra Club has published  the Cities are Ready for 100 2017 Case Study Report , highlighting the U.S. cities which are committing to a 100% Renewable Energy target.   Disappointingly, on December 4, Bloomberg News reported that the Trump administration has terminated the Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems, an interagency group created under President Obama to help municipalities protect their residents against extreme weather and natural disasters.

English_Bay,_Vancouver,_BCIn November, the City of Vancouver updated its Renewable City Strategy,  setting an interim 55% renewable energy target for 2030, which covers electricity, heating and cooling, and transport. For a discussion of Vancouver’s progress, see “Can Vancouver achieve 100% renewable energy?” in The Vancouver Sun (Nov. 5).

Net-Zero and Net-Positive Green Building: Vancouver’s New Policy, and a Pilot Project in Waterloo, Ontario

green building and bike VancouverOn May 1, the Green Building  Policy for Rezoning  took effect in the city of Vancouver, mandating that new commercial and multi-unit residential buildings  be built to standards modeled after the international Passive House standards, with airtight design, exceptional insulation, and good ventilation.  The Policy, originally approved in November 2016, is part of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan and its Zero Emissions Building Plan .  Matt Horne, the city’s Climate Policy Manager, writes in an OpEd in the Vancouver Sun  that the new rules will result in buildings which emit half as much carbon pollution, with slightly lower construction and operating costs.  Vancouver’s new rezoning policy  is in line with the province-wide standard for energy efficiency in new construction, the B.C. Energy Step Code , which came into force in April, 2017 in an effort to upgrade municipal building codes across the province.

Pembina Vancouver green-buildings-jobs-2017The Pembina Institute praises Vancouver’s new Rezoning policy and its benefits for workers in “Vancouver’s green buildings policy is good news for homeowners and renters” : “Constructing new energy-efficient homes and offices will be a boon to Vancouver’s green building sector. In B.C., the sector already employs over 23,000 people, and the industry is ready to respond to increased demand. New trades training is being offered by such institutions as the British Columbia Institute of Technology, which recently launched a new hands-on High-Performance Building Lab. Passive House Canada now trains hundreds of people a year, including designers, builders, and government staff. Energy-efficient buildings are one of B.C.’s biggest opportunities for real and lasting job creation.”   A February  article in the Globe and Mail, “The Economic Case for Retrofitting Buildings” echos this “ready to work” idea in the context of retrofitting: “we have the know-how and technology to be a key player in meeting a steep challenge. Building efficiency isn’t just low hanging fruit, it’s the fruit that’s ripened and ready to fall into our lap.”

Evolv1 is a net positive building project in Waterloo Ontario, being described as a “game-changer”,“groundbreaking”, and “iconic”.    Evolv1  will generate more energy than it needs for its own operation from 1.5 acres of solar panels on the roof and carport, allowing it to power the building’s 14 electric vehicle charging stations  and sell any remaining excess  to the provincial electricity grid.  The building is also aiming for LEED Platinum certification through the use of triple-glazed glass, very high levels of insulation,  digitally-controlled LED lighting with occupancy and light level sensors, natural light, a three-storey green wall to improve air quality, and a geo-exchange system that extracts heat from the ground for winter heating and returns excess heat to the ground in the summer. Finally, the building will have direct access to the city’s light rail transit system to reduce the environmental impact of commuters.  Completion is scheduled for 2018. The project is being built by  Cora Group  construction, in partnership with Sustainable Waterloo Region and the University of Waterloo, as well as  anchor tenant, consultants  EY Canada.  The  Cora Group website provides illustrations.

Evolv1 was highlighted in the Waterloo Region Record in “An office building so green it actually produces energy”  (Feb. 17),  and in the May issue of  the Natural Resources Canada Newsletter, Heads-Up.  Sustainable Waterloo released its own press releases about the project: “Raising the Standard” , and a description of the vision for the project.