January 8, 2015

Not all forest certification systems are created equal

A report released yesterday by ForestEthics shows that a forest certification system called the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) is misleading and lacks rigour. Peeling Back the Eco-Labels compared SFI to another leading certification system called the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and analyzed audit reports from the past 10 years. It found that SFI was “dramatically less transparent,” its audit teams were smaller and took less time to conduct audits than FSC.  Not only did SFI miss important data, it rarely required logging companies to improve their operations when a problem was found. “Corporate customers and the public rely on forest certifications to know that the paper, fiber, and lumber they buy is responsible,” said Todd Paglia, ForestEthics executive director, in a statement. “These labels should allow consumers to avoid products that destroy forests, poison waterways and wildlife, and violate human rights. In the case of SFI, the label is misleading.” None of this should be surprising since SFI is governed and financed by the logging industry, said Paglia. “It’s bunk, plain and simple,” he added.


Much of Canada’s oil will have to stay in the ground

New research published in the journal Nature is adding to the oil industry’s woes by showing that trillions of dollars of extractable coal, oil and gas will have to stay in the ground if global warming is to stay below 2 degrees Celsius. Most of Canada’s oil sands, all Arctic oil and gas and much potential shale gas cannot be burned, the Guardian reported yesterday. “We’ve now got tangible figures of the quantities and locations of fossil fuels that should remain unused in trying to keep within the 2C temperature limit,” Christophe McGlade, lead researcher for the study, told the Guardian. The study assumes that the cheapest fossil fuels will be burned first, with more expensive fuels eventually being priced out of the market as carbon emissions are increasingly restricted. This is particularly bad news for Canada’s oil sands. The model assumes that cheaper conventional oil will be burned first, leaving Alberta’s crude oil unused before the carbon limit is reached.


New York City bans foam containers and packing peanuts

Many restaurants offering take-out in New York City will have to find new containers for their food as of July 1. The city has banned the use of plastic foam cups and containers, as well as the sale of packing peanuts within the city limits. This is a victory for Mayor Bill de Blasio who has failed to pull through on other promises, such as banning horse carriages, the New York Times wrote yesterday.  The move is being praised by environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, which have argued that foam containers are needlessly piling up in landfills when more environmentally friendly alternatives exist.


Australia’s power sector is getting dirtier

Australia’s National Electricity Market, which serves the eastern part of the country, has seen an 11 per cent increase in emissions since June. The latest Cedex report by energy consultants Pitt & Sherry found that the share of coal in the company’s energy mix had risen to an 18-month high of 74.5 per cent by the end of 2014.  This is simply a matter of coal displacing hydro, Hugh Saddler, principal consultant with Pitt & Sherry told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. Low rainfall has cut storage levels for hydro companies across the country, including Hydro Tasmania which saw its production drop to a five-year low of 32 per cent.  All of this comes after the Australian government scrapped its carbon price and shifted its sights to a $2.55 billion fund that pays polluters to cut emissions. This scheme will only become more expensive if pollution from the electricity sector jumps, the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out.


Denmark’s power sector sets a clean energy record

While Australia was creating more emissions from dirty power generation, Denmark was busy setting a world record for wind production. After deriving 39.1 per cent of its overall electricity from wind turbines in 2014, the country is well on track to meeting its 2020 renewable energy target of 50 per cent.  Denmark achieved this feat by installing around 100 new offshore wind turbines last year. If it continues down this path, it could even end up fossil fuel-free by 2050. Rasmus Helveg Petersen, Denmark’s climate and energy minister, was even more optimistic: The record “shows that we can reach our ultimate goal, namely to stop global warming,” he said.

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