October 3, 2014

Life really sucked 200 years ago. That’s pretty much the conclusion of a new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report titled “How Was Life?” The organization describes the report as the “first systematic evidence on long-term trends in global wellbeing since 1820.” It looks at 25 major countries across eight regions of the world and how wellbeing has improved over the years. For example, back in 1880 worldwide life expectancy was less than 30 years, compared to 70 in 2000, and in 1820 less than 20 per cent of the world was literate. These days, we’re at around 80 per cent. The report is worth a read, and a neat interactive tool on the OECD site lets you pick a country and see how life has improved there since 1820 across a number of indicators.

One area where life has improved relates to gender and ethnic diversity in the corporate world. Mariette DiChristina, editor-in-chief of Scientific American, weighed into the issue in a commentary for Huffington Post, where she cited research supporting the benefits of diversity. For example, companies in Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 index that have women in senior management have been shown to be worth an average of $42 million more than companies with only men in management, and these same companies have a higher “innovation intensity” score. “When a team is trying to do something new that requires knowledge and experience surpassing what any one member can supply, a more challenging social situation leads to better outcomes,” DiChristina writes. “When we have to try harder to communicate with collaborators who are different from us, we better articulate our ideas.”

The International Organization for Standardization, otherwise known as the ISO, is in the process of revamping its greenhouse-gas standards “in response to climate change needs.” The standards were first published in 2006, and have become essential tools for organizations and programs that track and work to reduce GHG emissions. They are also relied on for emissions trading. But the world has changed significantly over the past nine years, so the ISO’s Technical Committee will be reviewing better ways to quantify and report emissions and make sure new market needs are addressed.

In Canada, a new report from the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association has found that British Columbia alone has “sufficient developable resource to meet the entire province’s power demands.” The most conservative estimate, according to the report, is that B.C. has a technical potential of between 5,500 and 6,600 megawatts of geothermal power resources, an amount considered achievable using current technology at relatively shallow depths (up to 2,500 metres deep). The data this estimate is based on, however, only covers 23 per cent of the province’s territory. Outside of that area, composed largely of volcanic and crystalline rock, there is even greater potential. “As such, an estimate of British Columbia’s full technical potential should be multiples of that.”

And Ontario finally launched its inaugural green bond this week, a first for a government in Canada, after announcing its intention to do so last month. The bonds have a four-year term, and while the issue was set at $500 million there were reportedly $2.5 billion in orders from over 80 investors, according to the Financial Post. Proceeds will be used for projects that carry defined environmental benefits. Sustainable transportation, clean energy, sustainable land management and climate adaption are some of the eligible project themes. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, CIBC World Markets, HSBC Securities and RBC Capital Markets joint-led management of the offering, which closes next week.

To date there have been nearly $30 billion worth of green bond issues worldwide in 2014, on track to achieve an estimated $40 billion by year-end, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative, which advocates for green bonds and tracks the market. In most cases, as in Ontario, green bond issues have been over-subscribed.

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