The material that built the modern world is also destroying it. Here’s a fix

With a price on carbon, cement manufacturers will be forced by economics to reduce emissions. But there are solutions for companies willing to adapt.

Image result for cement company prince edward county
Lehigh Cement Company, Prince Edward County

Remarkably, the material that built the first modern civilization remains key to building today’s global economy. The cement we use in 2017 is not so different from the stuff used to build the concrete dome of the Roman Pantheon in 125 AD.

What has changed is that today we use vastly greater quantities of the grey powder: more than 4.2 trillion kg annually. To put that in perspective, you could build 1,000 Hoover Dams each year with the amount of concrete that much cement would make.

That’d be all well and good except for the fact that 1 kg of cement releases more than 0.5 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a result, the cement industry is currently responsible for about 5% of global CO2 emissions—more than double the aviation industry. Worse still, unlike the electricity industry, which one day might be comprised of entirely clean, renewable energy, the chemistry of conventional cement dictates that the process will continue to produce huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

Unless, that is, Nicholas DeCristofaro’s plans work out. Since 2008, Solidia Technologies, where DeCristofaro is chief technology officer, has been quietly developing a new cement-making process that produces up to 70% fewer CO2 emissions at a cost that DeCristofaro claims is on par with or better than conventional cement. MORE


“We can still, as a society, choose to comply with the Paris Agreement. If we don’t, the subtext is clear: our future, the future of Canada’s young people, is worth less than that of the other generations. I prefer to choose hope. “

On April 2, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) tabled a report on Canada’s changing climate.

The effects of climate change can seem abstract and far off, but that is not the case in this country. Canada is already seeing its climate change. And according to the report, these changes are only unfortunately just beginning, and their effects will only become more pronounced over time.

The effects of climate change on Canada’s climate are irreversible, but we can still limit the amount of warming in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects. The report’s authors considered two scenarios: one where global emissions are kept below the 2°C temperature limit set by the Paris Agreement and the other one, the status quo.

Not considered in the report, was a scenario where the temperature increase would be limited to 1.5°C, the threshold for avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The ECCC report indicates that regardless of the scenario, Canada will warm twice as fast as the global average, an increase that will be felt particularly during winter. Since 1948, Canada’s average annual temperature has already climbed by 1.7°C.

How can we justify this disconnect between our scientific knowledge on the future of the planet and the absence of political leadership needed to effect a true energy transition?


This is why youth are mobilizing, week after week. They are following Greta Thunberg’s lead by walking out of school on Fridays and marching in the streets to demand action on climate change. On March 15, 150,000 young people and their allies flooded the streets of Montreal, asking: “Why should study when our future is uncertain?”; and “Why bother with an education when governments don’t listen to educated people?”.

Climate change is not simply an environmental issue; it also involves social and intergenerational justice. While the threat of climate change is starting to be felt in many of our lives, some communities have been dealing with it for centuries. It is essential that this debate forces society to reflect on the disproportionate burden the exposure to environmental risks has imposed on marginalized communities, including Indigenous and racialized peoples. That is why intersectional approaches, like those in the Green New Deal (proposed by the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots political youth group, and championed in Congress by the youngest Congressperson in history, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), are supported by a majority of millennial electors. MORE

Canada becomes first country to sign pledge for zero emission commercial vehicles

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the transportation sector is Canada’s second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions at 24 per cent in 2017.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Equiterre co-founder Steven Guilbeault attend an announcement at global Clean Energy Ministerial meetings in Vancouver on May 29, 2019. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier

Canada has become the first country to sign on to the Drive to Zero Pledge, an international initiative aimed at increasing the number of zero and low emission vehicles in the medium- and heavy-duty transportation sector.

By signing the pledge, Canada is joining other partners, including municipal governments, in committing to eliminate barriers and implement mechanisms that accelerate the viability and growth of zero emission technology for these commercial vehicles.

“It’s so important that we look at our medium- and heavy-duty vehicles … our buses and trucks. We can be doing a lot better,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, who announced Canada’s commitment in Vancouver on Tuesday during a global clean energy summit hosted by Natural Resources Canada.

The Clean Energy Ministerial event brought government officials, clean energy experts and private sector stakeholders from more than 25 countries together to exchange ideas for advancing the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

“This is a huge opportunity,” McKenna added. “It’s the excitement about seeing [Canadian] companies … that are really moving the dial.”

The Drive to Zero Pledge is spearheaded by CALSTART, a California-based non-profit and broker for the clean transportation technology industry. The goal of the campaign is to make zero emission technology commercially viable in “beachhead” or smaller markets by 2025, building up to the domination of zero emission technology in commercial vehicle sales globally by 2040. These medium- and heavy-duty vehicles range from box trucks to school buses to eighteen wheelers.

Drive to Zero partners include cities, manufacturers, fleets, fuel suppliers, and now, Canada. The B.C. government and the City of Vancouver have also signed on. MORE

Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science

“…the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.”

The Huntington Canyon coal-fired power plant in Utah. The White House, already pursuing major rollbacks of greenhouse-gas emission restrictions, is amplifying its attack on fundamental climate-science conclusions. CreditCreditBrandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis.

Now, after two years spent unraveling the policies of his predecessors, Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.

In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests. MORE

How can Canada’s politicians and parties take up the fight for a Green New Deal, and work with communities to translate its bold vision into policy?

Svend Robinson in a recent photo. Robinson says he has decided to try to return to federal politics by running in Burnaby North—Seymour, he hopes it helps the candidate in the neighbouring riding: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. (Svend Robinson)

The NDP has already started using the phrase “Green New Deal” to frame their new climate platform. Avi and Maya talk to maverick NDP candidate Svend Robinson about how the party is doing on climate so far, and whether it’s capable of getting the Green New Deal right.

The NDP’s history of opening itself to the creativity and energy of social movements hasn’t always been an inspiring one. But the good news is, there’s a growing group of radical candidates across the country — and they’re putting transformational change on the table in Canada.

Check out Change Everything’s new episode and subscribe to the podcast here.

As Avi puts it, recording this episode with Svend “was a great chance to explore the movement-electoral interface with someone who has been through it all a few times before.” We can’t wait for you to hear the result. HERE

Council votes to declare climate emergency, re-establish EAC

“We are not talking about state of emergency, a civil emergency or any sort of emergency that’s going to bind our hands, force us to buy only hybrids or install electric charge stations on every street corner. It’s going to recognize there’s a very serious problem that requires consideration.”
— Picton Councillor Kate McNaughton 

Councillor Andreas Bolik: “In an climate emergency, climate becomes the first priority and everything becomes secondary”

County latest on list of municipalities to make such declaration

What it will mean to current municipal operations, future policy changes and large and small scale decisions at Shire Hall will remain to be seen but the County of Prince Edward has joined in with hundreds of other municipalities across Canada and declared a climate emergency.

After a lengthy debate, three recorded votes involving an amendment, an attempted deferral and finally the motion, Prince Edward County Council approved a motion that reinstated language originally included in a motion tabled by Picton Councillor Kate McNaughton at the May 16 Committee of the whole (COTW) meeting.

At that meeting, the term climate emergency was altered to climate urgency, a committee amendment that didn’t sit will with the councillor or a number of deputants speaking in support of more veracious verbiage Tuesday evening.

The motion that passed at Tuesday’s council meeting said whereas Prince Edward County is experiencing the early effects of climate change including increasing weather volatility: wind storms; increasingly frequent polar vortices and ice storms; hotter, longer droughts; unpredictable thaws and extraordinary flooding events that to support other communities that have elected to ‘name and frame’ this global crisis by officially declaring a climate emergency and that council request the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) be re-established as a Council priority.

In supporting a return to the spirit of the motion as she intended and that matched up more synchronous with other municipal governments, McNaughton said she understood the terms climate change and climate emergency have been pointed to as potential triggers for those who don’t embrace the concept that the global mean temperatures are rising due to man-made emissions and, with that, escalation will come catastrophic results.

“There’s an enormous amount of support for action relating for the specific terms- they do have relevance here and have a larger relevance beyond Prince Edward County,” McNaughton said. “I know there was talk about tailoring this motion to fit Prince Edward County but Prince Edward County is part of the planet and what happens throughout the globe is affecting us currently which is why some of the wording is very specific.” MORE

Green New Deal Discussed in Belleville

“I think there are a lot of people in the County who are very much concerned about the state of the environment. And I think a lot of us feel that there are things the municipality can do to protect ourselves from the disasters that are going to happen if we don’t get our CO2 levels down.”
— Lynne Rochon, Council of Canadians

County residents take part in Green New Deal talks

GETTING GREEN-Community members discuss the Green New Deal in Belleville Monday Night (Sarah de Jonge for the Gazette)

On Monday, Belleville was host to a town hall meeting as part of the non-partisan coalition called the Pact for a Green New Deal.

Approximately 75 people attended this event along with several Prince Edward County residents concerned about climate change and its effects on the human race.

According to the United Nations (UN) there are only 11 years to cut our carbon emissions by half in order to avoid unprecedented environmental catastrophes caused by warming global temperatures.

Cutting emissions in half within the next decade, while protecting jobs, is only one of the Green New Deal’s mandates. Many of the concerns highlight the relationship between environmental and social justice issues.

The Green New Deal is a an idea perpetrated by a group of people and organizations devoted to changing the conversation from one that revolves around whether or not climate change is happening to what can be done to mitigate the effects of climate change and stop it from progressing.

With over 70 organizations involved and over 60 notable endorsements, such as that from environmental activist David Suzuki and musician Dan Mangan, the movement is quickly gaining momentum.

Environmental issues from coast to coast may vary in their scope and definition but what many people in each region of this country have in common is concern with increasing environmental disasters.

In an aptly named “town hall” event, one of many that is an organized group of events taking place across the country, a local group of citizens met to voice their concerns and write down what they believe needs to change in order to effectively reverse and/or mitigate the effects of climate change.

Many of these concerns highlight the relationship between environmental and social justice issues.

Once the data from the town hall events across the country has been collected, it will be collated into a pact which can then be distributed to political parties who will, hopefully, incorporate some of the concerns into their agenda.  MORE


Council votes to declare climate emergency, re-establish EAC

A new study says there are ‘strikingly high’ rates of cancer in some Ontario industrial cities

“Recent federal air monitoring data released to Global News by Environment and Climate Change Canada shows that benzene levels in Aamjiwnaang First Nation, on the south side of Sarnia, were three times the regulated annual limit in 2017.”

Dermatologist Ivan Litvinov speaks about new scientific research in an interview with National Observer and Global News in Montreal on May 10, 2019. Photo by Global News

For years, residents in some of Canada’s largest industrial cities have wondered whether toxins from petrochemical plants and other manufacturers are making them sick.

A new peer-reviewed study has found “strikingly high” rates of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in Canadian border towns, including Sarnia, Ont., a city whose manufacturing sector is referred to as Canada’s Chemical Valley.

The study reviewed 18,085 Canadian cases of AML between 1992 and 2010. It found hot spots for this type of leukemia in several Canadian cities, including Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sarnia and St. Catharines.

Sarnia was at the top of the list.

VIDEO: Journalist Megan Robinson reports on a new study about elevated levels of a type of leukemia in several industrial cities. Video by Global News

Local residents in Sarnia have long been raising public health concerns about the impacts of industrial pollution. The city is surrounded by 57 companies which are registered to emit pollutants, including oil refineries and other chemical plants on either side of the U.S.-Canada border. MORE

Cutting fossil fuels could save Canadians $24 billion a year by 2050

“We are still seeing efficiency standards for many buildings either weak or nonexistent.”

IEA executive director Fatih Birol speaks with attendees at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver on May 29, 2019 before he gave opening remarks to the gathering of 25 countries. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier

Canadians could save as much as $24 billion annually by 2050 by scaling back the use of fossil fuels to heat and cool their buildings and deploying a range of low-carbon and energy efficient technologies, according to a new joint study by a federal regulator and an international agency.

These tens of billions of dollars a year in savings would come on top of cutting energy demand by as much as 35 per cent and could be achieved through the use of existing technology, say the National Energy Board (NEB) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) in their new research.

But in order to deliver on “the energy savings potential and related emissions reduction,” Canada will need “additional policy signals” like carbon pricing and tightened energy performance requirements for buildings, they say.

That’s in part because abundant and cheaply priced natural gas in Canada poses a “particular challenge” to cutting carbon pollution and reducing energy demand in homes and offices.

“Policy support is needed to encourage shifts to efficient heat pumps in regions where natural gas and electricity prices mean there may be little economic incentive to change equipment,” the report states.

The joint report was published the same day the IEA’s executive director delivered a sobering message in Vancouver about the state of the world’s clean energy transition, in remarks to a gathering of ministers from 25 countries. MORE

Premier Horgan walking a political tightrope on pipeline issue

“It has become quite clear the B.C. Greens will never take down this government.”

John Horgan

Absolutely no one should be surprised that Attorney General David Eby was quick to declare the B.C. government will appeal the decisive court ruling against it over who controls what can flow through an interprovincial pipeline.

But the lack of emotion attached to his pronouncement was telling, another indication perhaps of the B.C. NDP’s chief desire that this issue just goes away, even with that pending appeal.

The NDP continues to walk a political tightrope on the pipeline expansion issue as it tries to placate environmental anti-pipeline activists within the party while at the same time declaring support for the resource industry.

The party has long said it would use “every tool in the toolbox” to fight the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but as I have noted here before, the toolbox turned out to be a very small one containing a rather weak and tepid “tool.”

That tool was this court case, considered a bit of a Hail Mary pass pretty much from the start. The government provided no legal evidence that a province could control what is a federally regulated entity, i.e. an inter-provincial pipeline.

Nevertheless, the NDP had to do something – anything – to make it look like it was trying to block the pipeline. Environment Minister George Heyman sheepishly admitted early on upon taking office that there was absolutely nothing “legally” the government could do to stop its construction.

Hence, the rather novel court argument about jurisdiction over something the government had to live with. As expected, the B.C. Court of Appeal made short work of it, giving the argument a 5-0 drubbing.

Nevertheless, the NDP has to exhaust its legal options no matter how dim the prospects of ultimate victory are. It may all be a waste of tax dollars, but it is political capital that the NDP is more concerned about.

And an appeal will allow B.C. Premier John Horgan to be able to say, “I did what I could” to stop the pipeline and that will be the end of things.

Some environmental groups will be upset, but they were upset with the decisions to finish the Site C dam and woo the LNG industry into this province and that opposition mattered little at the end of the day.

Some have mistakenly thought that launching the appeal was designed to keep the B.C. Green Party in check to ensure it continues keeping the NDP in power. That is a misread of the reality that has emerged about the relationship between the two parties (for all their criticism and complaining, it has become quite clear the B.C. Greens will never take down this government). MORE