For years now the link between weather and climate has been somewhat foggy and confusing. A recent paper from the UK Met Office and the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has explored the link between climate change the severe storms being experienced in many parts of the UK this winter. The conclusions:
- There is an increasing body of evidence that shows that extreme daily rainfall rates in the UK are becoming more intense.
- The rate of increase is consistent with what is expected from fundamental physics.
- Although formal attribution is still challenging, it is possible to identify a contribution from climate change for some major flooding events, there is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly heavy rain events.
- It is still not yet not possible to give a definitive answer on whether climate change has or has not been a contributor to this year’s winter storms.
- The attribution of changes in storminess and daily/hourly rain rates to anthropogenic global warming requires climate models of sufficient resolution to capture storms and their associated rainfall. Such models are now becoming available and should be deployed as soon as possible to provide a solid evidence base for future investments in flood and coastal defences.
Although the report is for the UK situation, it is interesting to the Canadian situation because it links the unusual weather in the UK to changes. specifically ocean warming, in the Pacific Ocean and tracks weather patterns from the Pacific across North America to the UK.
The report also notes that the sea level along the English Channel has already risen by about 12cm in the last 100 years. With the warming we are already committed to over the next few decades, a further 11-16cm of sea level rise is likely by 2030. This equates to 23-27cm (9-10½ inches) of total sea level rise since 1900.
GallonDaily suggests that the report provides support for the idea that the time for analysis of the impact of climate change on business operations is here.
A summary of the report and a link to the full document are available at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/news/2014/uk-storms-and-floods
The Met Office is the UK’s National Weather Service. It has a long history of weather forecasting and has been working in the area of climate change for more than two decades. It is a Trading Fund within the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, operating on a commercial basis under set targets. The Met Office claims to be a world leader in providing weather and climate services, employing more than 1,800 at 60 locations throughout the world.
In an indication of the overall direction being taken by some courts towards environmentally negligent companies, a court in South Africa has committed the managing director of a clay mining company to five years in jail, suspended for 5 years on condition that the damage done by the mining operations is rehabilitated within 3 months. Whether or not environmental rehabilitation sufficient to meet the court’s conditions is possible within 3 months is presently unknown.
According to the Centre for Environmental Rights, a non-profit company and law clinic based in Cape Town, this is the first case in the country where a sentence of direct imprisonment has been imposed on the director of a licensed mining company for mining-related environmental offences, without the option of a fine. Both Blue Platinum and its managing director pleaded guilty to contravention of section 24F of the National Environmental Management Act.
Blue Platinum Ventures 16 Pty Ltd has been mining clay for bricks in the province of Limpopo since 2007, causing widespread environmental degradation. Blue Platinum has undertaken none of the rehabilitation measures required by mining and environmental laws. The cost of rehabilitating the damage caused has been estimated at approximately R6.8 million ($CDN680,000).
After the government failed to take action against the company the community linked up with the Centre for Environmental Rights in a private prosecution of the Company.
One of the directors of the company is the wife of the former provincial premier. Local media have suggested that the Managing Director pleaded guilty in order to avoid any risk that the former premier’s wife would be found guilty and jailed. Charges against all of the directors except the Managing Director were dropped.
Some details of the court decision are at http://cer.org.za/news/breaking-news-mining-company-director-convicted-of-environmental-offences-suspended-sentence-linked-to-cleanup. A statement by the head of the national environment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, one of South Africa’s largest commercial law firms, is at http://www.polity.org.za/article/sa-statement-by-cliffe-dekker-hofmeyr-one-of-south-africas-largest-commercial-law-firms-court-imposes-prison-sentence-on-a-director-of-a-company-that-has-caused-environmental-harm-07022014-2014-02-07
The Network for Business Sustainability, housed within the Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ontario, convened a panel last Fall to identify the 8 Sustainability Challenges for Canadian Business in 2014. The results of the panel deliberations have just been published. According to this panel, the critical sustainability issues facing business in Canada this year are:
- How can businesses act for tomorrow today?
- How can companies design resilient sustainability programs that can survive leadership changes, economic downturns, political shifts and other setbacks?
- How can companies most effectively engage with activist groups and NGOs on controversial issues?
- How can companies combat consumer apathy to build active support for sustainability initiatives?
- How can firms create a pragmatic connection between sustainability and innovation?
- How can firms improve overall performance by embedding sustainability throughout their value chains?
- What are the appropriate metrics for sustainable development in a natural resource, export-based and growing economy such as Canada’s?
- What are the best ways for businesses to incorporate Aboriginal perspectives on sustainability, and include Aboriginal communities in discussion of projects that affect their interests?
The organizations participating in this NBS process are:
- BC Hydro
- Canadian Pacific
- the Co-operators
- Environment Canada
- Industry Canada
- International Institute for Sustainable Development
- Loyalty One
- the Pembina Institute
- Suncor Energy
- The Home Depot
- Tim Hortons
- Unilever, and
- Westport Innovations
GallonDaily finds some of the issues selected to be quite interesting and perhaps illustrative of other challenges within the Canadian business community. We will be providing our discussion of the NBS panel comments in the February 2014 issue of Gallon Environment Letter. Meanwhile we invite our readers’ comments by using the link below. Note that we may publish a selection of the comments from our readers that we find to be the most interesting.
The brief NBS report is available at http://nbs.net/knowledge/simplifying-complexity-the-8-sustainability-challenges-for-canadian-business-in-2014/
New regulations in the State of Massachusetts will prohibit some landfilling and incineration of food waste effective October 1st of this year. The rules will apply to supermarkets, colleges, universities, hotels, convention centres, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and food service and processing companies that dispose of more than one ton of organic material per week. Organizations will be required to donate or re-purpose an usable food and to send the inedible waste to animal feed, composting, or anaerobic digestion. The Mass Department of Environmental Protection will enforce the rule which will not apply to households. The regulations appear to make Massachusetts the first state or province in North America to implement a disposal ban on food waste.
The purpose of the ban is:
- to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Food waste and organics make up 20-25 percent of the current waste stream going to landfills and incinerators.
- to give impetus to production of biogas from anaerobic digestion facilities in the state. Also to give impetus to the construction of AD facilities and the resulting economic spin-offs.
- to reduce the State’s contribution to climate change. Food waste is one of the largest sources of high greenhouse gas potential methane from landfills.
For announcement of the new rules visit http://www.mass.gov/eea/pr-2014/food-waste-disposal.html . A link on that page connects to the regulations.
The Dow Chemical Company, reported to be the third largest chemical company in the world after BASF and DuPont, is seeking to make a splash over its contribution to making the Sochi games carbon neutral. Dow claims, and worldwide environmental consultancy ERM has verified, that the 2014 Olympic Winter Games is the first Games in history to mitigate the entire direct carbon footprint of its Organizing Committee prior to the Opening Ceremony. The footprint is said to includes emissions associated with the travel and accommodation of athletes, staff, and volunteers, the operation of the sports venues during Games time, and the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee’s activities from 2007 (when Russia received the right to host the 2014 Olympic Winter Games) until the Paralympic Games’ Closing Ceremony, on March 17, 2014.
Dow also claims that this will be the first Olympic Games to offset 100 percent of the estimated travel footprint associated with spectators and media, amounting to 160,000 metric tons (MT) of CO2 equivalent emissions. The travel footprint is one of the most significant contributors to the emissions of a world-class international event – such as the Olympic Games. The offsets are coming from energy efficient and low-carbon technologies in the areas of infrastructure, industry and agriculture throughout the Russian Federation and in Brazil and South Korea – countries that will host the next two Olympic Games. Dow is also including offsets from a landfill gas project which partially powers its own operations in Georgia, USA.
The International Olympic Committee appointed Dow as the Official Chemistry Company of the Olympic Games and the Official Carbon Partner of Sochi 2014 in March 2013. An appointment this late in the Games’ planning and construction cycle almost certainly meant that most of the zero carbon challenge would have to be met by offsets rather than by installed low carbon technologies. Although carbon offsets are widely used, and in this case meet the standards of the International Carbon Offset and Reduction Alliance Code of Practice, they are not without controversy. We will discuss carbon offsets and carbon offset projects in a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter.
Dow Chemical was one of the early adopters of the concept of Sustainable Development, back in the late 1980’s, and has maintained something of a leadership position since that time. Many Canadians will remember the legacy of David Buzzelli, CEO of Dow Chemical Canada, during this period. Today, having retired from Dow, he is a member of the Board of Directors of McLaren Health Care, an integrated health care company in Michigan.
Dow announcements about the carbon neutrality of the Sochi games can be found at http://www.dow.com/news/press-releases/article/?id=6346 and http://www.dow.com/news/press-releases/article/?id=6429
A website about Dow’s Olympic partnership is at http://olympicpartnership.dow.com/en/sochi-2014/carbon-partnership/our-sustainable-future
Yesterday was World Wetlands Day, established by one of the least well known international conventions, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, known familiarly as the Ramsar convention after the city in Iran where it was first agreed in 1971. Canada joined the Ramsar Convention in 1981, the USA followed in 1987. There are now 168 members of the Convention, the most recent being Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Kiribati, Oman, and South Sudan, all with ratifications in 2013. The Ramsar Convention is one of the few multilateral agreements that operates outside of the UN system, though it communicates extensively with relevant UN agencies. It maintains its headquarters at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Ramsar Convention operates on the “wise use” principle, which it defines as “the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development”. The Secretariat further states that “Wise use” has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind.
One of the Convention’s more significant aspects is the development and maintenance of an international network of wetlands that are important for the conservation of global biological diversity, including waterbird flyways and fish populations and for sustaining human life. There are 37 sites covering 13 million hectares designated as Ramsar sites in Canada. That contrasts with 35 Ramsar sites covering somewhat less than 2 million hectares in the United States. Canada has more land area designated as Ramsar sites than any other country except Bolivia (just under 15 million hectares). The lead agency for Canada’s participation in the Ramsar Convention is the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada.
The Convention Secretariat also maintains the Montreux Record, “a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur”. Canada currently has no sites on this list.
Lots of information about the Ramsar Convention, including the list of designated sites, can be found on the Convention secretariat website at http://www.ramsar.org/