December 19, 2014

Message to EPA: Don’t shut out Canada!

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency has been accepting comments regarding its Clean Power Plan, a proposal that would reduce carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This plan is a critical part of President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat climate change, so the EPA’s process is being followed closely. Paying particular attention is the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA), which is worried the U.S. regulator won’t allow clean power imports from Canada to count toward emission-reduction efforts. In a comment to the EPA this week, CEA president and chief executive Jim Burpee urged that the door be open to Canadian hydro, wind and even nuclear power. “The interconnection of the Canadian and U.S. electric grids serves as a valuable and advantageous platform from which to maximize reductions in carbon emissions across North America,” wrote Burpee. “With a national electricity mix that is already comprised of approximately 80 per cent non-emitting resources, Canada is therefore well positioned to support our American partners in fulfilling their carbon-reduction objectives.”


Developing countries most affected by pharma pollution

Pollution from drugs, everything from antidepressants and antibiotics to cancer medication and painkillers, ultimately end up in our waste and wastewater systems. We either toss them out or excrete and flush them, or they exist as effluent from pharmaceutical manufacturers. Unlike pathogens and heavy metals, which are destroyed or captured by most treatment technologies, the molecules in the drugs we produce and consume often slip through. This is messing up the ecology of lakes and rivers – from bugs, amphibians and fish to the creatures that eat them – and it’s why new technologies are emerging to tackle the problem. But developing countries are the least likely to use these technologies, making them more vulnerable, according to research from Rai Kookana, a scientist with the Common Wealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Speaking to ABC News in Australia following release of new research, Kookana said China and India are particularly impacted. “Nearly 60 per cent of the generic drugs of the world are produced in China and India,” he said, adding that developed nations have a responsibility to help developing countries combat the problem.


Harper challenged on climate, carbon tax comments

Proponents of carbon pricing in Canada were stunned this week after listening to an end-of-year interview with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the CBC. Harper has previously called any mention of carbon pricing as an attempt to force a “job-killing tax” on Canadians, but now he was singing a different tune. He talked about Alberta’s carbon levy, generally recognized as weak and ineffective, as a model he could see spreading across the country. And perhaps as a nod to Stephen Colbert, he stretched the definition of “truthiness” by taking credit for Canada’s falling emissions. He even suggested this whole climate problem would be under control if the world just followed Canada’s lead. Critics were quick to pounce, including Glen Murray, Ontario’s environment and climate minister, who on Twitter called the CBC exchange an “odd interview.” In addition to pointing out Harper’s carbon pricing flip-flop, Murray said the prime minister was disingenuously taking credit for Ontario’s coal-plant closures. Canada’s emissions did fall slightly during the economic downtown, and while it has leveled off, this is largely because of Ontario’s coal phase-out. As the CBC reported, Harper’s comments are “more about politics than policy – an attempt to soften his image on the environment in an election year when climate change is again becoming a hot political topic.”


Study says world’s food production at great risk

Rising global temperatures resulting from climate change could see up to a fifth of world food production destroyed by 2050, according to a new study from researchers at the International Institute of Applied System Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. The study, appearing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, said the biggest challenge will be managing water resources to adapt to changing rainfall patterns. With the right investment in infrastructure and irrigation – for example, expanding the reach of irrigation by 25 per cent – the researchers suggested it is possible to eliminate most food-production impacts. However, doing so may requiring moving production to different geographies, such as northern Europe, where warming and increased precipitation may increase agricultural output.


Junior exploration companies aim to de-risk the mining industry

Corporate Knights’ assistant editor Ashley Renders wrote today about a new generation of junior exploration companies that is trying fix the mining industry’s social license problem. By experimenting with profit-sharing schemes and engagement programs, junior companies are trying to make a good first impression on community members. In the event that they find a large deposit, juniors are banking on the assumption that majors will pay a premium for a pre-established relationship with the community. They are essentially aiming to “de-risk” the industry, which is crucial to the future financial success of the industry. But even though their intentions may be good, there are certain pitfalls that these companies will have to navigate if they want to redefine the way that the mining industry does business with local communities.

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