Time to Think About Rio+20

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – the Earth Summit – held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The 10th anniversary was marked by the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg. The 20th anniversary will be marked by a three day conference back in Rio from 4th to 6th of June, 2012.

The Secretary-General of the 20th anniversay event, Mr. Sha Zukang, recently shared his hopes for Rio:. He said:

I hope that Rio will produce a blueprint for a coherent pursuit of sustainable development, including:

  • Renewed political commitment for sustainable development.
  • Mobilization of the entire UN system in support of sustainable development. This requires strengthening of the three pillars – including social and economic, not just environmental.
  • A strengthened Commission on Sustainable Development
  • A strengthened UNEP.
  • Guidelines on the Green Economy.
  • Actionable commitments in financing and technology cooperation.

Mr. Zukang’s statement also included:

  • It’s not that countries think these issues are any less important. In fact they believe there is more urgency to implementing sustainable development.
  • They need to see their efforts going toward implementation. So Rio + 20 itself will be an example of a sharper focus on implementation – and we believe we can achieve tangible results.
  • So, given the natural limits on the Earth’s resources, we need to do things differently, not to live poorer, but to live smarter in terms of our use of the Earth’s resources.
  • Finding ways to reduce waste and use resources more efficiently is a major goal of this Conference.
  • The simple answer is this: a green economy should not raise trade barriers or be a justification for “green protectionism”.
  • The simple answer is this: a green economy should not raise trade barriers or be a justification for “green protectionism”.
  • On the contrary, countries should work to provide increased market access for green products from developing countries. Rio Principle 12 says it all: “Trade policy measures for environmental purposes should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. …”
  • At Rio + 20, in the context of renewing commitment to sustainable development, countries should reaffirm commitment to the Rio Principles.
  • So, any agreement on a green economy in Rio next year should adhere to the Rio Principles. There are areas of possible disagreement which will need clarification of WTO rules, including how they relate to subsidies for renewable energy.
  • Developing countries also have concerns that the trade policy rules not unduly restrict policy space to develop their own domestic green industries.
There is much more in Mr. Sha Zukang’s preview of the Rio+20 conference objectives and hoped-for outcomes. For a full text visit http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/index.php?page=view&nr=176&type=8&menu=41&template=356
More details about the conference can be found at http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/

Ontario PC Platform

For many years the Ontario government has been among the environmental leaders in Canada.  With a provincial election coming in October Gallon Letter will be monitoring the election promises of all four main parties (OK – we recognize that the Green Party may not be a ‘main’ party in Ontario but we will be interested in their platform as well). First out of the gate was the Progressive Conservative Party, currently the official opposition, which released its election platform yesterday. The platform contains little detail on how a PC government would fulfill its environmental commitments.

The PC platform for the environment opens with some generalities, including a commitment to make enhancing and protecting the environment one of the top four priorities, but barely moves to any specifics:

– closure of coal fired power plants by 2014 and use of the sites for biomass and natural gas power generation.

– protect all programs that protect water quality.

– improve provincial parks with a new investment of $10 million.

– offer fair and reasonable incentives to encourage protection of environmentally sensitive land.

– take steps to make government buildings more energy efficient.

– work with others to ensure Ontario is doing its part to combat climate change.

– eliminate eco taxes on everyday items like lightbulbs and batteries, ipods and laptops.

The PC platform is available at http://www.ontariopc.com/news-releases/changebook/

G8 Statement on Climate Change

The G8 meeting of the Heads of State of Major Industrial Democracies wrapped up in Deauville, France, just a few hours ago. A very long, 93 paragraph, final communiqué included the following texts which may be of particular interest to Gallon Daily readers:

31. We firmly believe that green growth is an essential element to ensuring sustainable global growth, notably to promote resource efficiency and sound water management, fight climate change and conserve biodiversity, and that it contributes to sustainable development. Green growth represents a promising source of job creation for our societies and offers significant prospects for innovators and exporters of all economies. Green growth dynamic needs to be shared: sustainable development is a reachable objective if efforts are made by all economies. We are committed to continuing to play a major role in this field. We will work within all relevant fora and agencies to promote green growth.

50. We reaffirm our willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognising that this implies that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter. We are cooperating to that end. As part of this effort, we also support a goal of developed countries reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050, compared to 1990 or more recent years. Consistent with this ambitious long-term objective, we will undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions, taking into account that baselines may vary and that efforts need to be comparable. [continues]

53. [extract] We need to operationalise the Cancun Agreements and deal with unresolved issues. We are determined to deliver on our commitments as listed in Copenhagen, and confirmed in Cancun, and call on all countries, including all major economies, to deliver on their listed commitments as well.

The full text of the communiqué is available at http://www.g20-g8.com/g8-g20/g8/english/live/news/renewed-commitment-for-freedom-and-democracy.1314.html

New GHG labelling for cars in US

Yesterday the US government announced that new fuel economy labels, incorporating greenhouse gas emissions data, will become mandatory beginning with the 2013 model year for all new vehicles being offered for sale in dealerships. The new labels replace a style presenting only fuel economy data that has been in use for many years. Although climate change impact labelling is being introduced by some retailers and brandowners in Europe, this program is believed to be the first large-scale greenhouse gas emissions labelling for any consumer product category in North America. There is as yet no indication that the Canadian government plans to introduce a similar label.

The new label provides a Greenhouse Gas Rating, from 1 (worst) to 10 (best), based on the vehicle’s tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions only. Although the label does not provide upstream GHG emissions for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles the US Department of Energy provides an online calculator for upstream emissions associated with these vehicles based on the zip code in which you reside. The press release from the US Environmental Protection Agency claims that the new labels provide:

· New ways to compare energy use and cost between new-technology cars that use electricity and conventional cars that are gasoline-powered.
· Useful estimates on how much consumers will save or spend on fuel over the next five years compared to the average new vehicle.
· Easy-to-read ratings of how a model compares to all others for smog emissions and emissions of pollution that contribute to climate change.
· An estimate of how much fuel or electricity it takes to drive 100 miles.
· Information on the driving range and charging time of an electric vehicle.

More information on the new program is available at http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/names/hq_2011-5-25_fueleconomylabel

The Critical Decade: An Analysis of Climate Change by an Australian Commission

The Climate Commission of Australia is an independent body set up to provide a reliable and authoritative source of information on climate change, and help inform the debate on this issue. The Commission is made up of experts from a range of fields relevant to climate change and is not subject to Government direction.

Yesterday the Climate Commission released a report entitled The Critical Decade. The Report makes a strong case that decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change for decades into the future.

Other key messages in the report include:

1. There is no doubt that the climate is changing. The evidence is overwhelming and clear.

2. We are already seeing the social, economic and environmental impacts of a changing climate.

3. Human activities – the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation – are triggering the changes we are witnessing in the global climate.

The report focuses primarily on the science of climate change and provides a very readable analysis of some of the implications as well as an overview of a carbon budget approach to dealing with climate change which the authors claim is preferred within the scientific community to the targets and timetables approach which has so far been more popular with developed country governments.

The full report and the key messages summary are available at http://climatecommission.gov.au/topics/the-critical-decade/

Short biographies of the members of the Commission, chaired by Prof. Tim Flannery, are available at http://climatecommission.govspace.gov.au/about/commissioners/

British Government Climate Plan

Nick Clegg, UK Deputy Prime Minister, yesterday updated the Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition government’s plans for addressing climate change.

Key elements of the announcement include:
– householders, businesses and landlords will be able to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and buildings at no up-front cost. Householders will be able to access up to £10,000 ($16,000 CDN) investment and repay it through the expected energy bill savings they enjoy as a result.
– Legally binding targets to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions.
– A cut to carbon emissions of 50% of 1990 levels by 2025.
– A Green Investment Bank to manage capital funds that want to invest in the green economy, and firms bursting to grow but desperate for funds. In addition to providing a link between green investors and green companies and projects, the Bank will also provide finance for low carbon infrastructure. The bank will invest in a range of different industries, including manufacturing, engineering, and energy. The benefits will be largely felt outside of London, and in sectors other than financial services. The Government has guaranteed £3 billion for the initial capitalization.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s speech, which contains more details, is available at http://www.dpm.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news/deputy-prime-minister-s-speech-green-growth-climate-change-capital

Permeable surfaces not so good near surface waters?

One of the ‘good ideas’ that has been widely adopted in developments by environmentally interested companies and municipalities is the ‘permeable surface’, often consisting of a brick or concrete pavement with perforations allowing surface water to permeate through to the underlying soil. In Toronto the municipality required a permeable parking area in one retail development in which Gallon Letter’s parent company, CIAL Group, had an environmental planning role.

Environmental planners in British Columbia are now rethinking this idea for developments close to the ocean. In Sooke, on Vancouver Island, a liquid waste management plan that is being touted as cutting-edge actually limits the extent to which permeable surfaces can be used and also seeks to control the rate at which rainwater flows into rivers and streams. The goal is to improve water quality in the harbour in order to be able to lift a long-standing ban on the harvesting of shellfish.

Permeable surfaces make sense where the underlying soil can act as a focus for biodegradation of contaminants, for example from parked vehicles, that may be in the runoff water. Where the surface is close to surface waters the permeable surface may just be a fast-track through which contaminants can flow into the river, lake or ocean. Proper planning for storm and surface water management requires more than a cookie-cutter approach. Gallon Letter urges municipalities and developers to look at each development site as an individual ecosystem with regulations and technologies appropriate to the situation.

For more information about the Sooke plan visit http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2011ENV0021-000556.htm

Monthly Gallon Letter Distributed Today

Paid subscribers to the monthly Gallon Environment Letter should receive their copy of the May 2011 issue today. Honoured Readers should receive their copy tomorrow.

Among the articles in this issue:

Sustainability Applied: June 9-10 in Windsor, Ontario
Where Have All the Local Foods Gone?
Theme: Clean Technology: What Is it and Is it Enough?
Nova Scotia: New Clean Technology Fund
Intensity-based Ecoefficiency May Undermeasure the Environmental Impacts
Suncor: Technology Solution to Tailings Ponds
WWF-Netherlands: Cleantech Index
E. Ann Clark: the Future Is Organic but Organic Is Not Enough
IPCC: Special Report on Renewable Energy and Climate Mitigation
Ontario Centres of Excellence – Discovery 2011 May 18-19, 2011.
SDTC: Cleantech Report 2010
Batteries for Electric Vehicles
Book Review: How Bad Are Bananas?
Time to Eat the Dog: the Real Guide to Sustainable Living:
IDB: Annual Meeting in Calgary
Sustainable Emerging Cities
Wouldn’t You Know It!

The Honoured Reader edition will be posted at http://www.gallonletter.ca in about 10 days.

50km limit for local food

In this month’s issue of Gallon Environment Letter a lead editorial discusses how the federal regulatory agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, limits the claim of ‘local’ to food produced within 50km of the point of sale. As the editorial points out, while the rule states 50km, instead of the more widely recognized 100km, the interpretation of 50km is somewhat more complex.

The following is a summary of the responses on this subject from CFIA most recently received by Gallon Letter. The information is provided to assist our business readers to determine whether or not they are in compliance with CFIA requirements. The responses have not been edited except for length.

On 5 May 2011:

Gallon Letter: Can the CFIA provide us with information on why 50km or adjacent local government unit is rational policy? The key issue in this is 50km rather than some larger distance?

CFIA Answer:

The CFIA enforces the Food and Drugs Act and Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, as it relates to food. This legislation requires that information shown on food labels and advertisements must be truthful and not misleading to consumers.

The CFIA’s policy on the use of the term ‘local’ was developed a number of years ago and it is based on the definition of a “local food” in the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) as well as on a defined distance from origin.

The policy states, in part:

“Local,” “Locally Grown,” and any substantially similar term shall mean that the domestic goods being advertised originated within 50 km of the place where they are sold, measured directly, point to point, or meets the requirements of section B.01.012 FDR, whichever condition is least restrictive.

This means that a fruit or vegetable grown in the furthest corner of a large municipal area can be sold and advertised as a local food anywhere in that municipality, even if the distance between where the food is grown and where it is sold exceeds 50 km. The food may also be sold and advertised as “local” in any adjacent local government units.

In smaller municipalities, the food may be sold or advertised as “local” in any government unit within a 50 km radius, even if some of the government units are not adjacent.

This approach provides producers with flexibility and market access while providing consumers with information they need to make informed food choices.

The CFIA is aware that since this policy became effective, interest regarding claims about local food has grown tremendously. Interested consumers and stakeholders are always encouraged to share their feedback on CFIA policies. This feedback is taken seriously and will be taken into consideration in any future policy considerations.

In addition, the CFIA takes fraudulent labelling seriously. Consumers with concerns about food labelling practices at a particular retail outlet should first contact the store manager. If their concerns are not addressed, or if they have knowledge about a fraudulent situation where produce is intentionally being mislabelled, they are encouraged to contact the CFIA. All complaints are thoroughly looked into.

Contact the CFIA:
Telephone: -800-442-2342
Email: cfiamaster@inspection.gc.ca

On 19 April 2011:

Gallon Letter: What is the actual CFIA regulation governing ‘local’ claims on food? Is this an actual regulation? Or a guideline that is not being strictly enforced?

CFIA Answer: “Local”, “locally Grown”, and any substantially similar term shall mean that the domestic goods being advertised originated within 50 km of the place where they are sold, measured directly, point to point, or meets the requirements of section B.01.012 of the Food and Drug Regulations, whichever condition is least restrictive.

B.01.012………..”local food” means a food that is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged in a local government unit and sold only in
a) the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed or packaged,
b) one or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged, or
c) the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged and in one or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged

The emphasis in interpreting the legislation is generally placed on “whichever condition is less restrictive” in defining local. A “local government unit” means a city, metropolitan area, town, village, municipality or other area of local government.

When the above requirements are met, the food can be considered compliant. Failure to meet these criteria could create a situation where the claim would be misleading and in possible non compliance with the Food and Drugs Act (section 5.1), and the CFIA could take enforcement action.

It should be noted that other terms such as “Product of Nova Scotia”, “Foodland Ontario”, ” Buy BC” or “Quebec Vrai,” etc. may be used to describe fresh produce which is produced and grown within a province but which does not meet the criteria for “local”.

For more information please see:
Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising: Decisions http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/decisions/compoe.shtml
Food and Drug Regulations (B.01.012)

Ban on Inefficient Lightbulbs Postponed

In April 2007 Federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn claimed  that “Making the switch to more efficient lighting is one of the easiest and most effective things we can do to reduce energy use and harmful emissions”.  “The environmental benefits are clear. By banning inefficient lighting, we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 6 million tonnes per year,” said Minister Lunn. “More than that, these new standards will help reduce the average household electricity bill by approximately $50 a year.”

In April 2011 the Federal Government quietly announced its intention to postpone the ban on inefficient lightbulbs for two years. The reasons: “to strengthen communication activities, to allow for technology innovations and to consider the concerns expressed about the availability of compliant technologies and perceived health and mercury issues, including safe disposal for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).” According to the Federal Government the increase in energy use resulting from the delay is 88 petajoules, or approaching 1% of Canada’s total energy use (including all sectors and all fuels). The delay will cause an estimated 12.8 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gas emissions. Rough calculations made by CIAL Group (Gallon Letter’s parent consultancy) a few years ago indicated that a ban on inefficient incandescent lightbulbs could reduce Ontario electricity consumption by as much as 5%.

The thinking that lies behind the delay is not clear to Gallon Letter. The United States is moving forward with its own energy efficient lighting legislation beginning in January 2012 for 100 watt (or equivalent) lightbulbs. The Canadian Government delay puts Canada a couple of years behind the actions of the United States government and way behind European initiatives. There is virtually no Canadian incandescent lightbulb industry to protect. The government itself admits that “minimum energy performance standards are one of the most cost effective means of achieving this priority” of “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution”.

One is left to wonder whether this is not yet another pander to the small population of climate skeptics that seem to hold much sway with the current Federal Government. British Columbia has already implemented regulations with similar objectives to the now postponed Federal program. Ontario has announced that it will do the same but so far there is no sign of any action.

The proposal to delay implementation of the ban on inefficient incandescent light bulbs is subject to a 75 day public consultation period which ends on June 30th 2011. Comments, which we encourage to be in opposition to the proposed delay, should be sent to John Cockburn, Director, Equipment Division, Office of Energy Efficiency, Department of Natural Resources, 930 Carling Avenue (CEF, Building 1, Observatory Crescent), 2nd Floor, Room 25, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0Y3 (tel.: 613-996-4359; email: equipment@nrcan.gc.ca).

An extensive and, by all appearances, balanced Regulatory Impact Analysis regarding the proposed delay to implementation of the regulations can be found at http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2011/2011-04-16/html/reg1-eng.html