Canada and US governments disagree on polar bear review

In November 2011 a US based ngo, the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a petition with the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) claiming that Canada is not doing enough to protect its polar bear populations from global warming. Articles 14 and 15 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), the NAFTA environmental “side deal”, provide that the CEC Secretariat may consider a submission from members of the public and nongovernmental organizations concerning the effective enforcement of environmental law.

The Secretariat of the CEC recommended that the petition should move to the first stage of the review process – the preparation by Secretariat staff of a factual record. By a two thirds majority the Board of the CEC rejected this advice and rejected the CBD petition. The CEC Board is made up entire of representatives of the three member governments. The US government supported the CBD petition, stating that ‘its decision to vote in support of the preparation of a factual record in this instance is based on a long-standing U.S. policy that favors the preparation of factual records by the CEC Secretariat as an important means of promoting public participation, transparency and openness on issues related to enforcement of environmental law in the United States, Canada and Mexico’. The US government also stated that ‘The United States wishes to stress that its vote in this instance does not reflect any judgment on the part of the United States as to whether Canada is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law, nor does it constitute or reflect a decision on the part of the United States concerning whether, or under what circumstances, potential climate change impacts on species or habitat in the United States must be assessed under U.S. law’.

Despite the US caveat, the difference of opinion between Canada, Mexico and the US is another significant policy difference between Canada and the US that further threatens Canada’s past reputation as a global environmental leader. Given that Canada is still negotiating a comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union that apparently includes langauge and a dispute resolution mechanism similar to that contained in NAAEC, it might have been expected that the Canadian government would want to show that these processes can be successful. When the Canada-EU agreement comes before EU legislators it seems increasingly likely that Canada’s environmental performance not only on oil sands but also on polar bears will be one of the topics of debate.

The CBD submission may be viewed at http://www.cec.org/Storage/145/17115_11-3-SUB_en.pdf. The views of the Canadian and Mexican governments are contained in the document at http://www.cec.org/Storage/158/18630_11-3-Council_Vote_Explanation_en.pdf. The views of the US government are at http://www.cec.org/Storage/158/18633_11-3-US_Explanation_for_FR_vote_en.pdf

Lifecycle assessment of US egg production

Few research studies have applied the approach known as lifecycle assessment (LCA) to food production but one of the more interesting and readable studies of this type was published last Fall by researchers at the Egg Industry Center of Iowa State University. The report demonstrates. within certain limitations, that the egg production sector achieved significant environmental performance gains over the 50 years between 1960 and 2010.

The report shows that the biggest environmental impact associated with egg production stems from feed production. Reported environmental improvements in the egg industry over the 50 year period include:

  • 30% lighter body weight at onset of lay (1.2 vs. 1.7 kg)
  • 48% less feed use over pullet-rearing period (5.3 vs. 10.2 kg)
  • 70% lower mortality over pullet-rearing period (3.5% vs. 11.7%)
  • 26% less daily feed use (9.03 vs. 12.23 kg/100 hens)
  • 42% better feed conversion (1.98 vs. 3.44 kg per kg of egg)
  • 32% less direct water use per dozen eggs produced (4.5 vs. 3.1 L)
  • 65% lower acidifying emissions (70 vs. 200 g SO2-e) per kg egg
  • 71% lower eutrophying emissions (20 vs. 70 g PO4-e) per kg egg
  • 71% lower GHG emissions (2.1 vs. 7.2 kg CO2-e) per kg egg
  • 31% lower Cumulative Energy Demand (12.3 vs. 17.7 MJ).

Some of the limitations of the research include:

  • LCA did not exist in 1960 so the data used have had to be derived from sources that may not be as reliable as today’s data sources
  • LCA does not provide robust tools for measuring animal welfare and, in GallonDaily’s opinion, may not, in this regard, differentiate sufficiently between the inputs and outputs of machines and those of living organisms
  • the research does not include the environmental impacts of egg distribution systems.

The report has been published in a slightly revised form in a peer-reviewed journal and there is no reason to think that the limitations will have a major impact on the overall conclusions. To GallonDaily’s knowledge there is no similar study relevant to egg production in Canada.

The full 25 page report and a summary in the form of a press release are available at http://www.ans.iastate.edu/EIC/News.dwt. The methodology and overall findings are likely to be relevant to GallonDaily readers interested in the environmental impact of food production systems.

Singapore acknowledged as green building leader

Singapore, a city state with a population of just over 5 million people, consists of a fairly typical urban Asian mix of new and old buildings. What is not so typical is its leadership in green construction and green renovation, especially in the institutional and commercial sectors. The Building and Construction Authority of Singapore recently won the International award for energy efficiency from the US-based alliance to Save Energy for its commitment to achieve a national target of greening at least 80% of the buildings in Singapore by 2030. From no green buildings in 2004 Singapore has achieved green standards for 21.9% of its buildings by 2014. As those knowing about Singapore’s strict regulatory frameworks might expect, the green building targets are being achieved through a combination of voluntary industry action and regulations.

Green buildings implemented so far cover many uses in the commercial and institutional sector. Two examples:

A new 204,000 square feet shopping mall described as ‘ultra-hip’, J-Cube, lists the following green attributes:

  • Air-conditioning system with an efficiency of 0.66 kW/ton
  • Permanent measurement and verification instrumentation for the monitoring of chilled-water plant efficiency
  • Use of energy efficient lighting
  • Photovoltaic panels on rooftop with system capacity of about 50 kWp (Kilowatt peak – the output power achieved under full solar radiation)
  • Rainwater harvesting system for landscape irrigation
  • Recycling of waste heat and air handling unit condensates
  • Green demolition
  • Green leases for tenants

The green features produce estimated energy savings of 8,793,984 kWh/year and estimated water savings of 3,419 m3/year.

A new Pan Pacific ParkRoyal hotel in Singapore has implemented:

  • High efficiency air-conditioning system
  • Extensive/vertical greenery
  • Sky gardens and lush landscaping, including solar-powered features that power landscape lighting, constituting more than 200 percent of the total land area
  • Rainwater harvesting and use of NEWater (reclaimed water from sewage produced by Singapore’s Public Utilities Board).
  • Extensive use of natural light
  • Use of natural ventilation in spaces such as external hotel corridors
  • Use of energy efficient LED and T5 type fluorescent lamps
  • Renewable energy
  • Dual refuse chutes separating recyclable from non-recyclable waste
  • Water efficient fittings
  • Automatic sensors to regulate energy and water usage
  • Green Leases for both office tenants and hotel operators

 

These have achieved estimated energy savings of 3,117,212 kWh/year and estimated water savings of 6,900 m3/year.

Lots of information on Singapore’s green building initiatives, including policies, manuals, and building achievements, can be found on the website of the Building and construction Authority at http://www.bca.gov.sg/

What is a farm question causes lost revenue to municipalities

Generally, in Canada, provincial legislation requires municipalities to provide a substantial reduction in property taxes to lands considered to be used for farming. However those same laws often avoid the question of the definition of a farm. In Ontario:

  • raising of horses for racing,
  • growing of crops for energy,
  • raising of grapes and grains for alcoholic beverages, and
  • raising of crops for medicinal ingredients, including medical marijuana,

are all considered agricultural activities and qualify the landowner or tenant for reduced property taxes. Forested lands are covered until a different regulation but also qualify for reduced property taxes. Every property that receives a farm property tax reduction means that other taxpayers in the municipality pay higher taxes in order to contribute towards the municipality’s budget.

This issue has recently come to the forefront in Metro Vancouver because of the concern of some council members about granting property tax reductions to legal medical marijuana production facilities.

The objective of farm property tax reduction seems to be to provide a subsidy to farmers. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador expresses it as:

  • Encourage owners of idle land to put it into farm production.
  • Provides some tax relief to farmers who have high assessments due to the relatively large amount of land that they require to operate effectively.

The first objective is clearly in conflict with protection of species at risk legislation. Such species as monarch butterflies and bobolinks require open areas of land for their survival. The idea that every square metre of land should be in ‘productive’ use is absurd if we also consider protection of open space loving species to be a valid objective. Landowners should be encouraged to maintain open areas of land populated with a multitude of unharvested native species in order to support habitat for species at risk, or at risk of becoming ‘at risk’.

The second objective would surely suggest that farm property tax relief is for farmers that produce food. Why should landowners who produce alcoholic beverages, crops for fuel ethanol for vehicles, or medical marijuana receive a tax subsidy from all other taxpayers while landowners who maintain habitat for species at risk or passive parks for recreation pay full property taxes.

Metro Vancouver council members are exploring the medical marijuana property tax break. It seems they might be on to something much bigger. A national dialogue about who pays property taxes and who gets an exemption, full or partial, appears to GallonDaily to be long overdue.

Relevant reports, with more details relevant to the BC situation, are available at http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/development/AgricultureAndFood/Documents/Property_Tax_Scenario_Analysis_for_Agricultural_and_Industrial_Lands.pdf  and

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1183969-rpa-june-6-2014-agenda.html select page 114.

Did you know that . . . .

this week is Canadian Environment Week. The Canadian Environment Week Act requires that “Throughout Canada, in every year, the week that includes June 5 shall be kept and observed under the name of Canadian Environment Week.” That’s all the Act states. No description of what ‘keeping and observing shall require’ and no penalties for not keeping and observing Canadian Environment Week. The Canadian Environment Week Act is one of the shortest pieces of legislation on Canada’s books.

But at least it was enough to prompt the Minister of the Environment, The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, to put out a press release, something that happens rarely these days. The press release stated:

Government of Canada taking strong action today for a more sustainable tomorrow
June 2, 2014 – Ottawa, Ontario – Environment Canada

Today, Minister Aglukkaq marked the beginning of Canadian Environment Week 2014 by inviting Canadians to reflect on the importance of protecting and preserving their rich, natural heritage.

Canadian Environment Week is observed annually during the first full week of June, and is a time to celebrate the achievements and hard work of all Canadians who are taking action every day to improve our environment at home, at work and in our communities.

A number of important activities and events are held throughout and around the week such as the Commuter Challenge, Clean Air Day on June 4, World Environment Day on June 5 and World Oceans Day on June 8.

Through its recent announcements of a National Conservation Plan (NCP) and the 2013-2016 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, the Government of Canada is committed to protecting the environment and ensuring that Canada’s ecosystems are part of healthy, connected and sustainably managed landscapes.

The NCP will provide a more coordinated approach to conservation efforts across the country with an emphasis on enabling Canadians to conserve and restore lands and waters in and around their communities, and making it easier for citizens living in cities to connect with nature. The NCP includes significant new investments over five years to secure ecologically sensitive lands, support voluntary conservation and restoration actions, and strengthen marine and coastal conservation. In addition, it will contain new initiatives designed to restore wetlands and to encourage Canadians to connect with nature close to home through protected areas and green spaces located in or near urban areas.

Quick Facts

Since 2006, the federal government has taken significant action to protect Canada’s natural areas. In addition to adding an area nearly twice the size of Vancouver Island to the network of federal protected areas (including work to create the first National Urban Park), and designating three additional Marine Protected Areas (totaling an area of 7,837 km²), we have secured more than 4,000 km² of ecologically sensitive private lands.

The Government has also supported partners in the delivery of hundreds of local projects to protect species at risk and their habitats, improved water quality in the Great Lakes, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Winnipeg, rehabilitated recreational fisheries habitat, and cleaned up contaminated sites.

Quotes

“We all have a role to play when it comes to protecting the environment. Through the NCP, our Government is taking tangible cooperative actions to help conserve and restore our lands and waters and connect Canadians with their environment. The NCP will enable Canadians actively participate in conservation and restoration while enhancing the connections between people and nature. I encourage all Canadians to use this week as an opportunity to get outside and do their part to conserve and enjoy the environment.”

– The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council

Environment Canada’s theme for Environment Week this year is “Strengthening Our Environment Today for Tomorrow”. For more information on what Environment Canada is doing for the week visit http://www.ec.gc.ca/sce-cew/Default.asp?lang=En&n=56886AF1-1  Just don’t get too exited about the program!

UK Food Save program should be emulated in Canada

According to the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme, a government funded not for profit organization, more than 1.3 billion meals are wasted annually in UK’s hospitality and food service sector. WRAP states that 920,000 tonnes of food is wasted at hospitality and food service outlets each year, 75% of which is avoidable and could have been eaten. There is no equivalent data for Canada but based on population that would equate to 710 million meals or more than 500 million kg of edible food going to waste from Canada’s restaurant and food service sector. The figures do not include wastage from processing and packaging of the uneaten food.

The UK is beginning to do something about this enormous level of waste. London’s Food Save scheme, supported by the Mayor of London, the European Regional Development Fund and the London Waste and Recycling Board, has helped 15 of the capital’s small food businesses save more than £100,000 a year and prevent a staggering 23 tonnes of food going to waste. One typical restaurant has worked with the Food Save program to identify precisely the areas where food was being wasted and the possible options for reducing wastage. That restaurant has changed the size of and ingredients for certain dishes and has created daily delicious specials with food that would historically have gone to waste. They say that the amount being saved is enough to help pay for another member of staff.

The Mayor of London is now appealing for 200 more restaurants to join the free Food Save program, which has as an objective to divert more than 1,000 tonnes of food waste from landfill, reduce over 150 tonnes of food waste and save restaurant and food service businesses over £350,000. The program is being delivered by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming.

More information about the Food Save program is at http://www.thesra.org/sra_news/mayors-food-scheme-saving-restaurants-pubs-hotels-70-stone-food-mountains/

and much more information about sustainable restaurant initiatives through the UK Sustainable Restaurant Association website at http://www.thesra.org

The future for sustainability in the food and beverage industry

A UK-based global consulting company in the food and beverage industry, Leatherhead Food Research, has published a brief ‘white paper’ discussing sustainability issues facing the food and beverage industry.

Key points in the white paper include:

  • in the last five to ten years, there has been a dramatic shift in how food and drink companies are addressing sustainability issues. It has moved from being an initiative which sits to one side of the business in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or philanthropic strategies to being a main stream business consideration.
  • many companies are beginning to realise that sustainability makes business sense, both from a financial point of view but also from the point of view of the longevity of their business
  • key environmental initiatives that companies are involved in broadly fall into the following categories:
    • reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and management of carbon footprint
    • switching to the use of renewable energy
    • waste reduction
    • reformulation and recycling of packaging
    • reduction of water usage in manufacturing
  • companies are becoming conscious of the need to understand the operations of their entire supply chain in order to mitigate any risks before they occur and to give them evidence for the good news stories about their products.
  • the food and drink industry is a long way from the scenario where they are addressing sustainability in a ‘pre-competitive’ environment – such an environment would require companies to agree not to compete on a sustainability platform but to work together to achieve sustainability goals.

GallonDaily believes the white paper may be useful to executives in this industry sector. Our only quibble with it is that we believe that sustainability must become a more competitive issue if companies are to achieve meaningful goals and significant economic benefits.

The two page white paper, which links to a more detailed report priced at £720, is available at no cost by providing contact information at http://www.foodanddrinkeurope.com/smartlead/view/920567/3/?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Newsletter%2BDaily&c=AM9QfACJmmQg6%2FLlNOfj9F8OjqLNe83j