Next decade could see key decisions in Robinson-Huron Treaty case

First Nations now awaiting court decision to determine amount of compensation owing

Mike Restoule is the chair of the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. (Waubgeshig Rice/CBC)

Ontario First Nations under the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850 are awaiting the next phase of a court case that could have a major impact on the economies of dozens of First Nations and neighbouring communities into the next decade.

The 21 First Nations are seeking to raise a $4-per-year annuity, a number that hasn’t increased since 1874, despite the revenues generated by the territories through industries like mining and forestry.

They took both governments to court, and in 2018 a judge ruled that the annuity was not a one-time transaction, but represented an ongoing relationship between First Nations and the federal and provincial governments.

Mike Restoule, chair of the Robinson-Huron Treaty Litigation Fund, said in the treaty, the original annuity was to be 600 pounds of provincial Crown currency, starting in 1850.

“I’ve always said that our First Nations have subsidized Canada and Ontario since the 1800s and even before,” Restoule said. “Our territories have given a lot of revenue to Canada and Ontario over those years and we never had our fair share.”

“So it’s time for us to get our fair share of the revenue so that our communities would not have to live in poverty the way they do today.”

The next step in the case, Restoule said, is for the courts to determine the amount of compensation owing.

“If we are successful at negotiating a fair annuity it will bring revenue into the First Nations, and that revenue will be spent in the territory,” Restoule said.

“We’re not going to be going to the moon to spend this money. We’ll be spending it in our territories and it’ll generate a better economy, especially for our people.” SOURCE

Ban on foam cups and containers in Vancouver goes into effect on Jan. 1

Violators won’t go unpunished down the road, but for now city will focus on education, outreach and support

Just four of 30 food stalls Postmedia looked at in downtown food courts were still using styrofoam cups and containers. A bylaw takes effect on Jan. 1 banning styrofoam at takeout stalls. PNG

Don’t expect to sip your takeout caffeinated hangover cure from a foam cup on the morning of Jan. 1.

Come New Year’s Day, food and beverages in foam cups and foam take-out containers will be banned from Vancouver’s restaurants and takeout stalls, part of the city’s single-use-item reduction strategy.

The strategy “gets to the heart of our throwaway society,” said Monica Kosmak, its senior project manager. “And it’s one of the first actions in the city of Vancouver’s 2040 strategy, which is to send zero waste to landfills or incinerators by then.”

The city has sent outreach workers to restaurants and takeout venues, and have been told by those still using foam cups and containers they are using up old stock before the ban comes into effect, Kosmak said.

“But many of them are aware and are prepared for the ban.”

A quick survey of 30 food stalls at two big downtown food courts in mid-December revealed just four still using foam.

Food courts at lunch time turn out to be packed with harried diners who don’t want to be quoted or have their photo taken, but one gentleman eating a Vietnamese lunch let us take a photo of the foam container his food came in.

“Of course (the ban) is a good idea,” he said. “Any single-use plastic or styrofoam that is kept out of a landfill is obviously a good thing.”

There are still lots of plastic utensils being used, but come April 22 there will be a “by request” bylaw for them, meaning customers will have to ask for them instead of automatically having them provided.

As well come April 22, there will be a requirement for businesses to stock and provide bendable plastic straws for people with disabilities, but a ban on all other plastic straws.

Come Jan. 1, 2021, there will be a ban on plastic shopping bags and a 25-cent fee on disposable cups.

Clear plastic bowls are not being targeted for now.

“The only bylaw that targets containers for bowls is the foam ban,” Kosmak said. “We’re not banning plastic bowls at this time, what we’re doing is asking (food venues) to choose reusable if they can.

“If they have to use a single-use item, they can choose something that can be recycled in the Recycle B.C. residential recycling program … or the city’s green-bin program for compost.”

That would include plastic and plastic-lined paper for recycling, and fibre-pulp paper, moulded-pulp paper, even pressed leaves.

Vancouver will become one of 100 cities in North America to ban foam, and the first in Canada, Kosmak said.

“There are other cities in Canada that have bylaws dealing with shopping bags, 14 of them I think, and about four for plastic straws, two of which are already in place.

“But Vancouver has the most comprehensive strategy for dealing with a wide range of single-use items in Canada.”

There is information online offering reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging alternatives and other helpful hints in English, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Punjabi, Vietnamese and Tagalog at vancouver.ca/foam.  SOURCE

Documentary filmmaker counters RCMP’s attempt to discredit Guardian story about Gidimt’en raid

The RCMP continues coming under criticism from people appalled by its decision to employ “lethal overwatch” on a raid on an Indigenous blockade on January 7.

The Guardian reported on December 24 that “gold and silver commanders” from RCMP E division participated in a strategy session one day before heavily armed Mounties arrested 14 people on traditional, unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

The demonstrators were at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint in opposition to a 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline.

It’s being built to deliver fracked natural gas to the yet-to-be-constructed LNG Canada plant near Kitimat.

“The meeting notes, stamped with the name of RCMP Bronze Commander Robert Pikola of the ‘E’ Division, include the reference to ‘lethal overwatch’,” the Guardian stated.

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

PSA – RCMP are still occupying Wet’suwet’en territory with a semi-permanent police detachment under the leadership of the same cops that authorized “lethal overwatch” for the Jan 7 raid on Gidimt’en. Cops are with “CIRG”, the same unit that undertook the raid.

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That prompted the following Twitter thread by Michael Toledano, a filmmaker who took pictures of the raid in January.

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

New Guardian story on the Guardian’s “lethal overwatch” documents identifies notes from RCMP Bronze Commander Rob Pikola and Tactical Team Commander Kevin Bracewell. They reference discussions that involved Gold Commander and Silver Commander ranks. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/24/indigenous-people-outraged-at-canada-polices-possible-use-of-lethal-force 

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Michael Toledano@M_Tol

Here’s a photo of Rob Pikola, who commanded the raid on Jan 7. He was the last of the RCMP to engage with Gidimt’en before the gate was broken down. He was told by the Gidimt’en spokesperson that she would open the gate if he had consent from the chiefs. https://twitter.com/M_Tol/status/1084254368038187008 

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

Rob Pikola commanded the raid on Gidimt’en territory this Monday. Today he marched into #unistoten territory without seeking consent, with about 7 other RCMP, to escort Coastal Gaslink’s equipment. Photo by @CrystalDawnGee #Wetsuwetenstrong

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Michael Toledano@M_Tol

The new reporting should defuse the RCMP’s wildly defensive response to this story where, remarkably, they say they can’t find their own files.

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Michael Toledano@M_Tol

Here’s a photo of Dave Attfield (Gold Commander) and John Brewer (Silver Commander) at Unist’ot’en camp, who would have participated in these discussions. https://twitter.com/M_Tol/status/1094827801104936960 

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

RCMP Silver Command John Brewer and Gold Command Dave Attfield, who oversaw the raid on Gidumt’en, walked into #Unistoten today to demand a key to Unist’ot’en’s gate and the removal of their guard shed to increase access for man camp trailers. The Unist’ot’en matriarchs said no.

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20 people are talking about this

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

RCMP Gold Commander Dave Attfield wrote days earlier to mayors across BC, requesting additional police resources and QRT officers.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

Here’s an email exchange with Brewer and Attfield pre-approving the press response to the Jan 7 RCMP enforcement, and the framing around “exclusion zones” for media and the public. Also approved for the release was a political reading of Delgamuukw, which RCMP apologized for.

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Michael Toledano@M_Tol

RCMP Gold Commander Dave Attfield wrote days earlier to mayors across BC, requesting additional police resources and QRT officers.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

Here’s an email exchange with Brewer and Attfield pre-approving the press response to the Jan 7 RCMP enforcement, and the framing around “exclusion zones” for media and the public. Also approved for the release was a political reading of Delgamuukw, which RCMP apologized for.

View image on Twitter

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

Despite the RCMP’s flailing, accusatory messaging that Guardian has damaged relationships that have been “years in the making,” cops have no one to blame but themselves.

Responding to unarmed people with assault and sniper rifles is clearly excessive and unwarranted.

View image on Twitter

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

It is dismal that is still flailing with this story and reproducing RCMP lines about “lethal overwatch” being an “observational” position, rather than, you know, an observational position with the potential for lethal force to be used. The Guardian’s take:

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Vulnerable Nations Call for Ecocide to Be Recognized As an International Crime

The nations of Vanuatu and Maldives are spearheading an effort for the International Criminal Court to consider wide-scale environmental damage a global crime. Photo credit: Stop Ecocide

The Pacific island of Vanuatu has called for ecocide— wide-scale, long-term environmental damage—to be considered an international crime equivalent to genocide.

At a meeting of the International Criminal Court in the Hague on Tuesday, ambassador John Licht of Vanuatu said the court should consider an amendment to the Rome Statute, which sets the court’s legal framework, that would “criminalize acts that amount to ecocide. We believe this radical idea merits serious discussion.”

The International Criminal Court is currently responsible for prosecuting four internationally recognized crimes against peace: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. A fifth could be included through an amendment to the Rome Statute.

The court’s authority extends only to the 122 nations that have ratified the Rome Statute, a list that does not include the United States, China, India and Israel.

Vanuatu, which is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, has been an advocate of climate justice at international forums for many years, but has been more vocal since 2015, when Cyclone Pam devastated the island, an example of a major storm whose impact was made significantly worse by climate change.

Vanuatu’s statement is a major victory for the Stop Ecocide campaign, which was launched by British lawyer Polly Higgins two years ago. The organization wants any agreed-upon criminal definition of ecocide to include the impacts of climate change as well as other forms of environmental harm.

Until now, Vanuatu was the only state to have formally announced it was working with the campaign, which provides diplomatic and practical help for countries to get to the negotiation table. The Republic of Maldives announced on Thursday that it was adding its support as well.

Ahmed Saleem, member of the Maldives parliament and chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environment, said in a statement the “time is ripe” to consider an ecocide amendment, emphasizing how serious a threat climate change posed to his nation.

“We see little or no concrete action at multilateral level to bring about transformative changes necessary to prevent the repercussions of climate change,” Saleem said. “It is time justice for climate change victims be recognised as part and parcel of the international criminal justice system.”

To change the Rome Statute, the head of a state that is party to the International Criminal Court must submit a formal amendment. If a two-thirds majority approve the change, it can be adopted into the Rome Statute and countries can formally ratify it.

The idea of ecocide has been around for nearly 50 years and had been under serious consideration in early drafts of the Rome Statute. But it was dropped due to resistance from a few countries including the United States and the United Kingdom.

According to the Stop Ecocide campaign, it is the first time since 1972 that a state representative has formally called for ecocide to be recognized at this kind of international forum.

Jojo Mehta, spokesperson for Stop Ecocide and co-ordinator of its international diplomatic and campaign teams, said she is optimistic that a formal amendment could be submitted as early as next year, although others believe it is unlikely to happen until at least 2021.

“This is an idea whose time has not only come, it’s long overdue,” said Mehta. “It’s committed and courageous of Vanuatu to take the step of openly calling for consideration of a crime of ecocide, and it was clear from the response today that they will not be alone. The political climate is changing, in recognition of the changing climate.  This initiative is only going to grow – all we are doing is helping to accelerate a much-needed legal inevitability.”

Pope Francis has lent his support to the idea of making ecocide a crime, proposing in November that ‘sins against ecology’ be added to the teachings of the Catholic Church. SOURCE

World’s bird species face much higher risk of extinction than previously known, study says

Conservation efforts targeting most vulnerable birds cut extinction rate by 40%, according to scientists

A red-winged blackbird lands on the outstretched hand of 16-year-old Ayu Ito at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta, B.C. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Bird species may be going extinct up to six times faster than previously thought, but the numbers would be much worse without conservation efforts over the last three decades, according to new research from a B.C. scientist.

The study suggests conservation projects targeting critically endangered species have reduced the rate of bird extinctions by about 40 per cent over the last 28 years.

“When we care about a species, we can invest a lot, but the problem is that a lot of species are slowly deteriorating in front of us, and we’re not taking notice,” Simon Fraser University biology professor Arne Mooers told CBC.

Mooers was part of an international team that conducted the study, published this month in the journal Biology Letters.

The researchers used the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a global inventory of biodiversity, to trace the status of each of the approximately 10,000 known bird species over the last 28 years.

They found a risk of extinction that’s about six times higher than previous estimates, which were based on simple counts of species that have been lost.

Humans are the biggest problem facing the world’s birds, according to Mooers.

“It’s mostly habitat loss,” he said. “For instance, in Canada a lot of the species that live on the Prairies aren’t doing very well because all of the Prairies have been turned into agriculture where they can’t raise babies.”

He points out that humans have been successful at bringing species like the whooping crane and peregrine falcon back from the brink of extinction. He believes what’s needed now is action to prevent other species from reaching that point.

“One of the major things we can do is to set aside more land and manage the land in a way that bird species can do well,” Mooers said.

SOURCE

 

 

Nearly Half a Billion Animals Feared Dead From Australia’s Fires, Including 8,000 Koalas

Ecologists from the University of Sydney estimate that 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been killed.

Koalas Dead Australia Fires

(TMU) — Nearly half a billion animals are feared to have died as historic bushfires continue to devastate vast regions of Australia, including almost a third of koalas in their main habitat in New South Wales (NSW).

According to one report from the the Sunday Times, ecologists from the University of Sydney estimate that roughly 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been killed either directly or indirectly by the horrific inferno that has been sweeping across the country since September.

The number includes about 8,000 koalas that were burnt to death along the mid-north coast of the state, which lies 240 miles north of Sydney.

On Friday, federal environment minister Sussan Ley told ABC radio that up to 30 percent of the koalas in the region had been killed, a number equivalent with the amount of their habitat that had been consumed by the fires. So far, about 12.35 million acres (five million hectares) has burned throughout the crisis. The official noted that she’s been hard at work trying to establish corridors and plans to release hospitalized animals. She added:

“We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made.”

While numerous scientists have sought to debunk earlier suggestions that koalas have been rendered “functionally extinct” as sensationalistic and exaggerated, the species is still faced with a grave threat by the unprecedented fires stoked by strong winds and a brutal heatwave.

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We Spoke To 5 Climate Experts About What Gives Them Hope

Image result for huffpost: We Spoke To 5 Climate Experts About What Gives Them Hope

Illustration by George Wylesol

I have a tenuous relationship with hope these days, but I am certainly bolstered by the fact that we already have all the solutions we need.

This year comes to a close after an onslaught of bleak and terrifying revelations about the state of our planet. Glaciers are melting, species are dying, forests are burning and climate tipping points ― thresholds which, if breached, will usher in uncontrollable warming ― are about to be crossed. The climate is clearly in crisis.

The world has just lived through what is expected to be the warmest decade ever recorded, and the United Nations recently warned that heat-trapping fossil fuel pollution must drop by more than 7% each year if there’s any chance of averting the worst effects. The scale of action required is unprecedented and daunting.

Confronted with this information, it’s easy to feel hopeless and anxious. This anxiety is so pervasive that in November psychologists from more than 40 countries signed a resolution acknowledging that climate-related events, like wildfires and flooding, can have major mental health effects and pledging to increase the availability of mental health services to help people cope.

GEORGE WYLESOL FOR HUFFPOST

But in the midst of all of this, momentum is building. Scientists are speaking out, children are protesting and politicians are drafting proposals. For the first time, climate change has been a leading election issue in the United States, and for more than a year now, youth climate activists around the world have been taking to the streets demanding change.

We spoke to experts on the front line, those who have dedicated their time to tackling the science and developing solutions, to better understand what they hope for ― and what gives them hope.

Gina McCarthy, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says young people’s passion and energy remind her of her responsibility to act on climate change.  ROSE LINCOLN/HARVARD STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Gina McCarthy, the 13th administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama. Currently a public health professor at Harvard’s Department of Environmental Health and recently appointed head of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Generally, I am hopeful. I do recognize that the data is disturbing. Honestly, I think for the most part, most of my hopeful energy comes from young people. I just think their understanding of the issue and the challenge is remarkable, and they’re embracing it.

“They’re making demands on people my age and younger who have treated this as if it was a routine issue, just a science discussion, just about the planet instead of understanding we are fundamentally looking at a challenge that could rob our young people of the opportunity to have a full and rich life.

“I also am hoping at the same time we don’t just rely on young people but we embrace their energy and we stay as active as humanly possible in addressing this issue. So, I’m glad about youth, it brings me hope, but it doesn’t mean I’m relinquishing my responsibility to them. I’m using them to remind me every day that it is my responsibility….

“If you’re a person my age and wonder what all the hullabaloo is about with young people, ask them at the dinner table. Ask them why they’re upset, why they’re worried, why they’re protesting, why they’re concerned that we’re not doing more. And maybe that will build bridges across generations that will have an impact on how well we all respond to the climate crisis.”

Marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson says we’re witnessing an exciting “feminist climate renaissance.”  VIOLETTA MARKELOU

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist. Founder and chief executive of Ocean Collectiv, a consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice, and founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for coastal cities. 

“I have a tenuous relationship with hope these days, but I am certainly bolstered by the fact that we already have all the solutions we need. From renewable energy, to replanting ecosystems, to regenerative farming, to retrofitting buildings, to electrifying transportation, to reducing waste — we don’t need to wait for new technologies, we just need to get to work. Plus, much of that doesn’t require the federal government, and there is so much beautiful and creative work happening at local levels just waiting to be replicated and spread.

“I’m also aglow about what I call the ‘feminist climate renaissance’ that we are witnessing. There have always been women leaders on climate issues, but they are now, finally, starting to get the resources and platforms they need to flourish. The youth climate movement is led primarily by girls and young women, and there are two older generations of women standing right beside them. The notable thing about these women leaders is how collaborative and generous they are. I’ve never seen anything like it in work or in a movement.

“As for 2020, I’m looking forward to having a new president, one who prioritizes climate action and puts us on a fast track to zero emissions. And my holiday wish is for every American to read the Green New Deal. The big secret is that it’s only 13 pages ― double-spaced and large font! So I hope you’ll cozy up with it this holiday season so that as a society we can all have an informed conversation about how to shape the policy changes we need to secure a livable climate.”

“We are seeing a genuine ‘ship-turning moment,” says Marshall Shepherd about the way we’re talking about climate change. UGA PHOTOGRAPHIC SERVICES

Marshall Shepherd, professor of geography and atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia. International expert in weather and climate, and past president of the American Meteorological Society. 

“I am most hopeful because, in spite of shortsighted actions like U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement or the occasional climate trolling on social media, we are seeing a genuine ship-turning moment. There is significant discussion and action on climate change at local, state, national and international levels.

“Fortune 500 companies, faith-based communities and the military recognize the ‘here and now’ threat and are acting. There are genuine bipartisan efforts now in our Congress and within states. And scientists are finally starting to convey with the appropriate sense of urgency why climate change matters to people’s lives and kitchen table issues now rather than polar bears or time periods 80 years from now.”

Leah Stokes notes that fossil fuel companies’ social license to operate is being “eroded.” ELAISHA STOKES

Leah Stokes, assistant professor in the department of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. An expert in energy, climate and environmental politics.

“What makes me hopeful? There’s been a lot more focus on environmental justice in the past year, and that’s really important because black and brown communities have disproportionately borne the costs of the dirty energy status quo.

“I’m really excited to see fossil fuel companies starting to be held accountable for the three decades of climate denial that they funded…. Fossil fuel companies are kind of on their heels now. They’re no longer controlling the discourse like they did for many decades. They’re starting to face risk, their social license to operate is being eroded… .

“Obviously the youth climate movement is very exciting…. I believe that before impeachment kicked up, climate change was the No. 1 news story. And that’s really amazing. I think that speaks to the power of Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and the Sunrise Movement. They’ve been very successful at shifting the dialogue.

“And I feel like with the presidential candidates, we have an arms race for who can spend the most and decarbonize the economy fast enough and do it with the most equity. And that is unprecedented in a presidential primary.

“[But] a lot of people are going to lose a lot of money, and that isn’t just shareholders or wealthy people. I think it’s a lot of poor people who own assets, houses, in floodplains and the wildland-urban interface where there’s going to be forest fires and people are going to lose their lives to hurricanes and you know, we’re not going to move fast enough.”

Michael Mann, a climate scientist, says, “There is great urgency, but there is also agency.” JOSHUA YOSPYN

Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State. Climate scientist behind the so-called hockey-stick graph.

“The good news is that the impacts of climate change are no longer deniable. The bad news is that the impacts of climate change are no longer deniable.

“On the one hand, the unprecedented superstorms, wildfires, drought and heatwaves have made it impossible for fossil fuel interests and their enablers to dismiss the threat of climate change. On the other hand, decades of policy inaction, thanks to their efforts, has ensured that we are now experiencing devastating climate impacts. The forces of inaction have moved away from hard denial and are instead engaged in a softer form of denial, i.e. deflecting attention away from the need for policy solutions by blaming the problem entirely on individual behavior… .

“Where I find optimism is in the energy behind the youth climate movement and the rising up of people around the world who are now demanding action on climate.

“We are now only one year away from a monumental election here in the U.S. where we have an opportunity to reassert leadership in the battle to avert dangerous climate change by voting in politicians who are willing to lead in this effort and voting out politicians who refuse to. There is great urgency, but there is also agency. It’s not too late for us to act.” SOURCE

Ontario losing energy efficiency leadership

Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends Question Period in Ontario Legislature on October 29, 2019. Photograph by The Canadian Press / Chris Young

Last week [Dec 4, 2019] the Auditor General of Ontario issued a critical assessment of the province’s Environment Plan. The report noted Ontario’s historical leadership in reducing emissions, and that policy cancellations will prevent the province from continuing to push emissions down.

We found a similar story in our comparative review of provincial energy efficiency policies in Efficiency Canada’s first Provincial Energy Efficiency Policy ScorecardOntario ranked third overall but would have scored higher, if the Ford government had not cancelled or diminished efficiency enhancing policies.

The scorecard focuses on how we use energy. We want energy systems to give us warmth, light, mobility, and productivity, and it makes sense to deliver these services in a way that avoids the economic and environmental consequences of wasting energy. If we save enough, we avoid more expensive and polluting energy production options, such as power plants, fuel burning, and energy distribution networks. While nuclear plants and wind turbines get a lot of attention, the energy we save is a large part of the climate solution that often flies under the political radar.

Competitive ranking undermined by policy backtracks

Our 190-page report benchmarked provinces on recent energy savings outcomes and energy efficiency policies in place from January 2018 to June 2019. This means our scorecard included Ontario’s Canadian-leading results from programs to upgrade buildings and industry and to ensure consumers buy the most efficient products on the market. In 2017, the Independent Electricity System Operator and local distribution companies saved 1.4% of annual sales, double the national average. Ontario also had the second highest natural gas savings relative to sales in 2016. These results were achieved under the Conservation First Framework, which the Ford government cancelled while also reducing the electricity savings program budget by half. Reducing electricity conservation could increase emissions from natural gas electricity generation, as detailed in the final Environmental Commissioner’s report, creating a new hole in the Ford government’s Environment Plan.

The indicators we used also show that Ontario has the standards, data, and people needed to make big cuts in energy waste. Ontario has some of the country’s highest performance building and equipment standards, the second highest number of certified energy managers per business in the country, and is the only province that requires large building owners to report energy usage. However, the Ford government now proposes to stop rolling out energy reporting and benchmarking for buildings under 100,000 square feet, which will lead to lost energy savings opportunities.

Many of the changes noted in the Auditor General’s report resulted in lower points in our scorecard. This includes repealing a building code provision to enable electric vehicle charging infrastructure in homes, canceling the cap-and-trade system, which had raised revenues to support efficiency programs, and the end of programs to encourage electric vehicle purchases and charging infrastructure.

New opportunities for energy efficiency leadership

However, the Ford government’s Environment Plan includes energy efficiency proposals that would see Ontario regain its leadership position. First, the plan includes an expansion of natural gas conservation programs. To implement this policy, the government needs to require the Ontario Energy Board to maximize energy savings potential. That means considering emission reductions and prioritizing energy savings over new natural gas infrastructure and more expensive supply side options.

Second, the Ontario plan also includes an Emission Reduction Fund (referred to as the Ontario Carbon Trust) to provide financing and spur greater private investment in energy efficiency. This idea was criticized for the “reverse auction” proposal that would pay industries to reduce pollution. However, $350 of the $400 million was earmarked for originating emission reduction projects and then co-investing in them with the private sector. “Green banks” in New York and Connecticut are demonstrating this can be a smart and effective way to upgrade buildings.

The Auditor General’s report and our scorecard shows there is more work to be done. Ontario could regain its lost energy efficiency leadership if it follows through on the plans noted above while recognizing the importance of energy efficiency in transportation, buildings, and industry to deliver emission reductions and a prosperous economy. SOURCE

Inspired by the Tissues of Living Organisms, Researchers Take One Step Closer to Harvesting “Blue Energy”

CREDIT: TONY HISGETT/FLICKR

Scientists have long recognized the potential to generate renewable energy from the world’s oceans by harnessing the power of tides and waves. These forms of energy are often more difficult to tap into than other renewable sources like wind or solar, but new research, recently published in the journal Joule, highlights the possibilities of harnessing osmotic, or “blue,” energy.

Osmotic energy, produced by the differences in pressure and salinity between freshwater and saltwater, can be used to generate electricity. However, the materials currently used in osmotic energy generators are not adequate to withstand ocean conditions long-term and tend to break down quickly in the water.

To address this challenge, a group of scientists from the U.S. and Australia looked to living organisms for inspiration to develop a better osmotic system. The researchers ultimately combined multiple materials to mimic the variety of “high-performance” membranes naturally found in the body tissues of organisms. In particular, they created a hybrid membrane that is made from aramid nanofibers (such as those typically used for Kevlar) and boron nitride. The final product provides both the flexibility of cartilage and the strength and stability of bone.

“We found a way to ‘marry’ these two types of materials to obtain both properties at the same time,” said Nicholas Kotov, the study’s lead scientist in the U.S.

The researchers believe that the low cost and high stability of their new hybrid membrane will enable it to succeed in volatile marine environments. They also expect the technology to be more efficient and easily scalable, which will be necessary to meet the rapidly increasing global demand for renewable energy. SOURCE