By The Canadian Press - Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Canada’s consumer-based society and laggardly approach to reducing energy consumption has cast…
TORONTO – Canada’s consumer-based society and laggardly approach to reducing energy consumption has cast a long shadow over the country’s green reputation, a prominent think tank said Thursday.
The Conference Board of Canada released its biannual report card of environmental performance, which ranks 17 developed countries across 14 indicators ranging from air quality to biodiversity.
Canada scored below average on nine of the categories and earned an overall grade of C, placing it 15th in the report’s rankings, the conference board said. Only the U.S. and Australia turned in a worse environmental performance, the board added.
France took top honours in the ranking, followed by Norway and Sweden.
Len Coad, Director of Energy, Environment and Technology Policy at the Conference Board, said Canada’s poor showing is due largely to the country’s comparatively low-key response to environmental challenges.
Policy-makers have made strides towards improving Canada’s record, but haven’t reacted as efficiently as many other international players, he said.
“Most of the challenges are being addressed, but given that we’re slipping in the ranking, we’re not addressing them strongly enough or quickly enough,” Coad said in a telephone interview from Calgary.
Canada’s performance on municipal waste was particularly alarming, Coad said.
Canadians threw out more trash per capita than any of their counterparts in the report, he said, adding waste disposal rates were sometimes more than double the numbers posted by much more densely populated countries such as Japan.
The vast majority of the country’s garbage found its way into landfills or incinerators, the report said, adding such activity does no favours for the water supply or air pollution levels.
Energy intensity emerged as another area of environmental concern, Coad said, citing Canada’s high consumption rates and prominent role as an oil and gas exporter.
Canada earned bottom marks for greenhouse gas emissions, registering an average emission rate of 20.3 tonnes per capita in 2010. That placed the country well above the 17-country average of 12.5 tonnes per capita and cemented Canada’s place as one of the world’s highest greenhouse gas emitters, the Conference Board said.
Coad said Canada’s per capita emissions have decreased five per cent between 1990 and 2010, but said the country has not kept pace with countries that have taken a more proactive approach to the issue.
“Every year we reduce the energy intensity of our economic output, but we are reducing it at a lower rate than other nations, and that’s what causes our overall ranking to fall,” he said.
Canada also turned in low scores on more specific air emissions, such as nitrogen, sulphur and volatile organic compounds, the report said.
Canada’s environmental woes also extended to the country’s water supply, the Conference Board said. While overall water quality earned a fourth place ranking, water consumption was much more problematic. Canada uses twice as much water as the average for countries taking part in the report and earned the second lowest score in that category, the Conference Board said.
Canada did manage to post some strong scores in areas related to use of forest resources and threatened species protection, but Coad said the results emphasize the need for Canadians to weigh the consequences of their environmental practices.
Economic growth must be balanced with environmental sustainability, he said, adding every facet of Canadian society has a role to play in establishing that balance.
“Each Canadian citizen, corporation, organization or government could place a high priority on the environmental effects of their activities than we do now,” he said.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 1:31 PM - 0 Comments
Federal scientists have concerns about the expansion of the Jackpine oil sands mine.
In their final submissions to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, several federal departments say they still have questions about Shell’s plans. They include how growth in the industry has outpaced the company’s assessment of cumulative effects, how changing flow in the Athabasca River will affect contaminant levels and how well Shell is able to control effluent from artificial lakes that will be used to store tailings …
Shell has failed to look at the overall picture of how total development has already affected wildlife habitat, let alone the impacts of further expansions, says Environment Canada. Its document goes on to say that where those impacts are measured, Shell’s assessment minimizes them. For example, Shell says the amount of high-quality caribou habitat destroyed is of “low magnitude,” even though the company acknowledges the amount of those losses total about 40 per cent. “It is unclear how Shell Canada defines a 40 per cent loss … as a low-magnitude effect,” Environment Canada says.
And a scientist with the Department of Fisheries, whose job might be eliminated, is concerned about Northern Gateway and Enbridge’s planning for a potential spill.
Enbridge Inc.’s response plan for a potential spill of Northern Gateway oil into the pristine waters off British Columbia doesn’t take into account the unique oil mixture the pipeline would actually carry, documents show … Kenneth Lee submitted a research proposal last December saying the matter requires further study because Enbridge’s plan had “strong limitations due to inaccurate inputs.” ”The Northern Gateway pipeline proposal lacks key information on the chemical composition of the reference oils used in the hypothetical spill models,” wrote Lee, head of DFO’s Centre for Offshore Oil Gas and Energy Research, or COOGER.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 24, 2012 at 9:18 AM - 0 Comments
Postmedia tallies nearly 3,000 cancelled environmental assessments.
Out of 2,970 project reviews that were stopped by the legislation that rewrote Canada’s environmental laws and weakened federal oversight on industrial development, 678 involved fossil fuel energy and 248 involved a pipeline, including proposals from Alberta-based energy companies, Enbridge and TransCanada. The numbers were calculated using the agency’s new online database that is still undergoing some revisions, additions and corrections.
“Federal environmental assessment is only one among many regulatory instruments aimed at ensuring that projects do not cause significant adverse environmental effects, and it is important to note that these smaller projects will still be subject to relevant federal and provincial laws, regulations and standards,” said Isabelle Perrault, a spokeswoman for the agency … Perrault was not immediately able to confirm whether all projects on the list would face a mandatory environmental review from another regulatory body.
The Citizen looks at assessments impacted around Ottawa.
See previously: The quiet cuts
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Changes to the Environmental Assessment Act mean nearly 500 fewer assessments in British Columbia.
The 492 wide-ranging projects include gravel extraction on the lower Fraser River, run-of-river hydro projects and wind farms, bridge construction as well as demolition of the old Port Mann Bridge, shellfish aquaculture operations, hazardous-waste facilities and liquid-waste disposal.
Ottawa is also walking away from conducting assessments on various agricultural and municipal drainage works, log-handling facilities, small-craft harbour and marina development and expansion, the sinking of ex-warships as artificial reefs, the disposal of dredged material, and a 73-hectare mixed-use development on Tsawwassen First Nation lands.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 12:22 PM - 0 Comments
Postmedia obtains documents that suggest the environmental assessment duplication that the budget bill is supposed to prevent is already being addressed.
“Amendments made in 2010 have made the CEA Agency responsible for most comprehensive studies; this change is yielding positive results as all agency-led comprehensive studies have started in alignment with provincial reviews, preventing process duplication,” said the presentation, dated Sept. 6, 2011 and released by Environment Canada through access to information legislation. “All provinces have EA (environmental assessment) processes; harmonization agreements and project-specific arrangements are intended to prevent duplication.”
Quebec Premier Jean Charest has already questioned the suggestion that the environmental assessment system isn’t working.
In other budget bill news, two former Progressive Conservative ministers have been joined by two former Liberal ministers and the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution in expressing concern about changes to the Fisheries Act.
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 1:25 PM - 13 Comments
The Honourable John Baird, Minister of the Environment today applauded 15 new graduates of Environment Canada’s Basic Enforcement Training course, hosted by Algonquin College in Ottawa. The Minister attended the ceremony and was on hand to give the new graduates their diplomas and offer his best wishes.
“I want to extend my sincere congratulations to this latest group of graduates ,” said Minister Baird. “Completing this course puts them on the road to a rewarding career as enforcement officers with Environment Canada. Canada’s New Government has made enforcement of environmental laws a priority, and today’s graduates will help protect our wildlife and ensure clean air, water and green spaces for the benefit of all Canadians.” (July 24, 2007)
Infrastructure Minister John Baird acknowledged in an interview yesterday that he is looking at removing redundant regulation.
“There’s a real hodge-podge of environmental assessment requirements – of overlap and duplication … Many of them are just duplicating what’s done at the provincial level.” [...]
[Baird] said streamlining environmental assessments is one of several changes Ottawa is mulling, adding that rewriting laws is another.
He said, for example, that the Navigable Waters Protection Act as currently written is an example of outdated legislation that can hamper public works.
“We got an earful wherever we went from British Columbia to Nova Scotia on that,” he said.
UPDATE: As several commenters have very reasonably pointed out, the two statements are not necessarily contradictory, particularly if the “streamlining” that is planned will result in assessments that apply the higher of the two standards, whichever that happens to be. I still find it a bit disorienting to see the man who spent the last year or so trying to convince Canadians that his government was really, truly serious about environmental protection taking such a casual approach to the assessment process, but I can see the merit of arguments to the contrary, and so I have added a question mark to the subject, and updated the post.