Can a Whole City Go Green? Yes!

A future based on renewables isn’t some far-off utopia. This northern Finnish community is almost there.

Ice Swimming

Leena Vuotovesi and her team at Micropolis green energy development company go ice swimming once a week. ‘This makes us feel that we can change the world — and it is so much fun.’ Photo courtesy of Leena Vuotovesi.

he Finnish community of Ii (pronounced ee) is unusual for more than its name. It stands on the Gulf of Bothnia (the northern end of the Baltic Sea) at the mouth of the Iijoki River. The population is 10,000, about that of Quesnel, British Columbia. At 65 degrees 19 minutes north, Ii’s latitude is a little north of Dawson City, Yukon (population 1,400). The nearest big city is Oulu (population 200,000), a 25-minute drive south.

Starting around 2012, Ii decided to take climate change and renewable energy seriously and began adopting measures to move away from fossil fuels.

“We do not use fossil fuels for heating our houses and premises any more in town facilities,” Ii’s Mayor Ari Alatossova told The Tyee in an email. “Instead, we heat by using ground heat pumps, solar panels and wood chips. All the technology and knowledge needed to do that already exist. And it’s profitable compared to oil. Electricity and wood chips are produced by companies located in our town. So it’s also good for the local businesses.”

By 2019, the town had its own development company, Micropolis, had won a European Innovation Politics Award “for Europe’s boldest and most creative climate policy,” and had cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent between 2007 and 2015. Ii’s success as a green community has also drawn the attention of the BBC.

To try to get a better sense of how Ii runs, The Tyee interviewed Micropolis managing director Leena Vuotovesi by email. Here’s a condensed and edited version: MORE

 

ANTI-SOLAR PANEL CAN GENERATE ELECTRICITY AT NIGHT, RESEARCHERS SAY

Image result for solarpanels

One of the problems with solar panels is that they don’t generate electricity at night, so we have to store the electricity they generate during the day to power things during the evening. That works fine, but what if we could develop solar panels that did generate electricity at night? It’s possible, and the way it works is pretty surprising.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis explain in a new paper that was just published in the journal ACS Photonics that if you want to create a solar panel that generates electricity at night, then you just have to create one that operates the exact opposite way solar panels work during the day. It’s being referred to as the “anti-solar panel.”

Solar panels are cold compared to the Sun, so they absorb the Sun’s light and turn it into energy. Space is very cold, so if you point a panel on Earth that is comparatively warm toward it, it will radiate heat as invisible infrared light. This allows you to generate electricity by capturing that power. The paper claims such a device could generate about a quarter of the electricity at night that a normal solar panel generates during the day.

Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis who is an author of the paper, tells Inverse that whether it’s a solar panel or this anti-solar panel, these things are essentially just “heat engines.”

“You have heat energy coming from the Sun towards the Earth and that normal solar cell picks off that energy as it’s transmitted from the Sun to the Earth, so basically you need these two different temperature bodies and some way of converting that power,” Munday says. “What this nighttime device does is a similar sort of thing—where it’s just taking a hot body and a cold body—but now the relatively hot body is the Earth and space is the cold body. As this heat is flowing from the Earth to outer space, it’s picking that off and converting that into power.”

This kind of device uses what is called a thermoradiative cell to generate electricity, as opposed to the photovoltaic cell used by a conventional solar panel. Where a solar panel is typically made of silicon, which is good at capturing light that’s largely in the visible spectrum, this device has to be made of something that can capture extremely long wavelength light. Munday is currently looking at mercury alloys that would be good for this.

Munday and his team are currently working on developing prototypes to see how well they can make this concept work.

Other researchers are also looking into how to make solar panels, or “anti-solar panels,” that generate electricity at night. Researchers at Stanford published a paper in the journal Jouele in November showing how a thermoelectric generator that radiates heat to the sky can generate electricity.

“Unlike traditional thermoelectric generators, our device couples the cold side of the thermoelectric module to a sky-facing surface that radiates heat to the cold of space and has its warm side heated by the surrounding air, enabling electricity generation at night,” the paper reads.

Our batteries have been slowly getting better for years, and so have our solar panels, so we don’t necessarily need solar panels that can generate electricity at night to meet our energy needs. However, if we can devise a system that can generate clean energy 24 hours a day, we could possibly produce more energy than we need and store it for various purposes, such as an emergency. It’s better to have too much energy than to come up short.

Abstract: Photovoltaics possess significant potential due to the abundance of solar power incident on earth; however, they can only generate electricity during daylight hours. In order to produce electrical power after the sun has set, we consider an alternative photovoltaic concept that uses the earth as a heat source and the night sky as a heat sink, resulting in a “nighttime photovoltaic cell” that employs thermoradiative photovoltaics and concepts from the advancing field of radiative cooling. In this Perspective, we discuss the principles of thermoradiative photovoltaics, the theoretical limits of applying this concept to coupling with deep space, the potential of advanced radiative cooling techniques to enhance their performance, and a discussion of the practical limits, scalability, and integrability of this nighttime photovoltaic concept.

Japan Races to Build New Coal-Burning Power Plants, Despite the Climate Risks

Satsuki Kanno lives across the bay from a coal-burning power plant under construction in Yokosuka, Japan.

Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

Just beyond the windows of Satsuki Kanno’s apartment overlooking Tokyo Bay, a behemoth from a bygone era will soon rise: a coal-burning power plant, part of a buildup of coal power that is unheard-of for an advanced economy.

It is one unintended consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost a decade ago, which forced Japan to all but close its nuclear power program. Japan now plans to build as many as 22 new coal-burning power plants — one of the dirtiest sources of electricity — at 17 different sites in the next five years, just at a time when the world needs to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

“Why coal, why now?” said Ms. Kanno, a homemaker in Yokosuka, the site for two of the coal-burning units that will be built just several hundred feet from her home. “It’s the worst possible thing they could build.”

Together the 22 power plants would emit almost as much carbon dioxide annually as all the passenger cars sold each year in the United States. The construction stands in contrast with Japan’s effort to portray this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as one of the greenest ever.

The Yokosuka project has prompted unusual pushback in Japan, where environmental groups more typically focus their objections on nuclear power. But some local residents are suing the government over its approval of the new coal-burning plant in what supporters hope will jump-start opposition to coal in Japan.

The Japanese government, the plaintiffs say, rubber-stamped the project without a proper environmental assessment. The complaint is noteworthy because it argues that the plant will not only degrade local air quality, but will also endanger communities by contributing to climate change.

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the major driver of global warming, because it traps the sun’s heat. Coal burning is one of the biggest single sources of carbon dioxide emissions

A heat wave, intensified by climate change, killed more than 1,000 people in Japan in 2018.  
Credit…Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press
Workers checking drains at Fukushima in January.
Credit…Pool photo by Kimimasa Mayama/EPA, via Shutterstock 

Japan is already experiencing severe effects from climate change. Scientists have said that a heat wave in 2018 that killed more than 1,000 people could not have happened without climate change. Because of heat concerns, the International Olympic Committee was compelled to move the Tokyo Olympics’ marathon events to a cooler city almost 700 miles north.

Japan has used the Olympics to underscore its transition to a more climate-resilient economy, showing off innovations like roads that reflect heat. Organizers have said electricity for the Games will come from renewable sources.

Coal investments threaten to undermine that message.

Under the Paris accord, Japan committed to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2030 compared to 2013 levels, a target that has been criticized for being “highly insufficient” by climate groups.

“Japan touts a low-emissions Olympics, but in the very same year, it will start operating five new coal-fired power plants that will emit many times more carbon dioxide than anything the Olympics can offset,” said Kimiko Hirata, international director at the Kiko Network, a group that advocates climate action.

Japan’s policy sets it apart from other developed economies. Britain, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, is set to phase out coal power by 2025, and France has said it will shut down its coal power plants even earlier, by 2022. In the United States, utilities are rapidly retiring coal power and no new plants are actively under development.

Work is under way on the Yokosuka plant, one of 22 new coal-burning facilities expected in the next five years.
Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times 

But Japan relies on coal for more than a third of its power generation needs. And while older coal plants will start retiring, eventually reducing overall coal dependency, the country still expects to meet more than a quarter of its electricity needs from coal in 2030.

“Japan is an anomaly among developed economies,” said Yukari Takamura, an expert in climate policy at the Institute for Future Initiatives at the University of Tokyo. “The era of coal is ending, but for Japan, it’s proving very difficult to give up an energy source that it has relied on for so long.”

Japan’s appetite for coal doesn’t solely come down to Fukushima. Coal consumption has been rising for decades, as the energy-poor country, which is reliant on imports for the bulk of its energy needs, raced to wean itself from foreign oil following the oil shocks of the 1970s.

Fukushima, though, presented another type of energy crisis, and more reason to keep investing in coal. And even as the economics of coal have started to crumble — research has shown that as soon as 2025 it could become more cost-effective for Japanese operators to invest in renewable energy, such as wind or solar, than to run coal plants — the government has stood by the belief that the country’s utilities must keep investing in fossil fuels to maintain a diversified mix of energy sources.

Together with natural gas and oil, fossil fuels account for about four-fifths of Japan’s electricity needs, while renewable sources of energy, led by hydropower, make up about 16 percent. Reliance on nuclear energy, which once provided up to a third of Japan’s power generation, plummeted to 3 percent in 2017.

The Japanese government’s policy of financing coal power in developing nations, alongside China and South Korea, has also come under scrutiny. The country is second only to China in the financing of coal plants overseas.

At the United Nations climate talks late last year in Madrid, attended by a sizable Japanese contingent, activists in yellow “Pikachu” outfits unfurled “No Coal” signs and chanted “Sayonara coal!”

A target of the activists’ wrath has been Japan’s new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, a charismatic son of a former prime minister who is seen as a possible future candidate for prime minister himself. But Mr. Koizumi has fallen short of his predecessor, Yoshiaki Harada, who had declared that the Environment Ministry would not approve the construction of any more new large coal-fired power plants, but lasted less than a year as minister.

Protesters in Pikachu suits criticized Japan’s shift to coal at the United Nations climate meetings in Madrid in December.
Credit…Susana Vera/Reuters
Shinjiro Koizumi, Japan’s new environmental minister, has spoken only generally about eventually moving away from coal.
Credit…Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press 

Mr. Koizumi has shied away from such explicit promises in favor of more general assurances that Japan will eventually roll back coal use. “While we can’t declare an exit from coal straight away,” Mr. Koizumi said at a briefing in Tokyo last month, the nation “had made it clear that it will move steadily toward making renewables its main source of energy.”

The Yokosuka project has special significance for Mr. Koizumi, who hails from the port city, an industrial hub and the site of an American naval base. The coal units are planned at the site of an oil-powered power station, operated by Tokyo Electric Power, that shuttered in 2009, to the relief of local residents.

But that shutdown proved to be short-lived.

Just two years later, the Fukushima disaster struck, when an earthquake and tsunami badly damaged a seaside nuclear facility also owned by Tokyo Electric. The resulting meltdown sent the utility racing to start up two of the eight Yokosuka oil-powered units as an emergency measure. They were finally shut down only in 2017.

What Tokyo Electric proposed next — the two new coal-powered units — has left many in the community bewildered. To make matters worse, Tokyo Electric declared that the units did not need a full environmental review, because they were being built on the same site as the oil-burning facilities.

The central government agreed. The residents’ lawsuit challenges that decision.

Some new coal projects have faced hiccups. Last year, a consortium of energy companies canceled plans for two coal-burning plants, saying they were no longer economical. Meanwhile, Japan has said it will invest in carbon capture and storage technology to clean up emissions from coal generation, but that technology is not yet commercially available.

Coal’s fate in Japan may reside with the country’s Ministry of Trade, which pulls considerable weight in Tokyo’s halls of power. In a response to questions about the coal-plant construction, the ministry said it had issued guidance to the nation’s operators to wind down their least-efficient coal plants and to aim for carbon-emissions reductions overall. But the decision on whether to go ahead with plans rested with the operators, it said.

“The most responsible policy,” the ministry said, “is to forge a concrete path that allows for both energy security, and a battle against climate change.”

Tetsuya Komatsubara, a fisherman in Yokosuka and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the plant. Regarding rising temperatures, he said, “It’s time to do something about that.”
Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times 

Local residents say the ministry’s position falls short. Tetsuya Komatsubara, 77, has operated a pair of small fishing boats out of Yokosuka for six decades, diving for giant clams, once abundant in waters off Tokyo.

Scientists have registered a rise in the temperature of waters off Tokyo of more than 1 degree Celsius over the past decade, which is wreaking havoc with fish stocks there.

Mr. Komatsubara can feel the rise in water temperatures on his skin, he said, and was worried the new plants would be another blow to a fishing business already on the decline. “They say temperatures are rising. We’ve known that for a long time,” Mr. Komatsubara said. “It’s time to do something about that.” SOURCE

‘All-Electric’ Movement Picks Up Speed, Catching Some Off Guard

As cities across the nation embrace electric power as a cleaner alternative to natural gas, developers are scrambling to keep up.

Five new, all-electric townhomes built by Green Canopy near the Ballard Locks in Seattle. Some developers are establishing their own goals to reduce carbon emissions. 

Credit…Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

When Berkeley, Calif., became the first city in the country to ban natural gas hookups in new construction last July, no one knew the effects would ripple out so far and so fast.

The Berkeley ban was part of an effort to wean developers off buildings that consume fossil fuels, a cause of global warming, and promote cleaner electric power. And it spurred other communities in the state to enact ordinances to encourage all-electric construction.

The effort has spread to other parts of the country. The Massachusetts town of Brookline passed a prohibition on new gas connections, and municipalities near it are poised to do the same.

Now major cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, are in various stages of considering pro-electric legislation as part of the “electrify everything” movement.

As interest quickly blossoms, real estate and construction industries are scrambling to keep up. Some national organizations that represent builders and developers have yet to formulate a position.

Their members are not of one mind, however. Some developers and builders are already heading down the all-electric path in an effort to meet their own goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, even if not legally required to do so. But others are balking at the fast rollout, saying they want to retain the option of using gas or simply believe the new rules are being put into action too quickly.

“Builders call up asking: ‘Is this legal? What are the costs? What do I have to do?’” said Robert Raymer, technical director of the California Building Industry Association, a trade group with 3,100 members.

And for residential developers, there’s the question of whether the homes they build will appeal to buyers if they are not equipped with gas stoves. In the Southeast, nearly 45 percent of homes use only electricity, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, so people there are accustomed to electric stoves. But in many parts of the country, Americans have a choice, and more of them prefer cooking with gas, according to recent data from the National Multifamily Housing Council.

Credit…Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

 

It’s a major sticking point,” said Aaron Fairchild, the chief executive of Green Canopy, which installs induction stoves, which are high-tech ranges that use magnetic waves for cooking, in the all-electric houses it builds in Seattle and Portland, Ore. Mr. Fairchild has hired chefs to do cooking demonstrations at open houses to introduce the appliances.

The emergence of legislation that bans natural gas hookups or promotes all-electric construction is not hard to understand. In the absence of a federal commitment to addressing climate change, states and local communities have adopted their own carbon goals, which often cannot be reached unless emissions decline in the building sector.

Globally, buildings generate nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, but in densely developed American cities, the rate can be substantially higher.

For years, natural gas has been promoted as a cleaner alternative to coal-fired electricity, and its use has surged. But carbon emissions from natural gas use have also grown.

The Global Carbon Project, a climate science group, estimates that carbon dioxide emissions added nearly 37 billion metric tons of emissions to the atmosphere last year, driven by increased use of oil and natural gas.

Experts say gas must be phased out and electric power increased in development, especially now that the electric power system, known as the grid, is becoming cleaner, thanks to the addition of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

Credit…Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

Kate Harrison, the councilwoman who introduced the Berkeley ban, said that dozens of public officials from around the country had contacted her for advice about how to enact similar legislation.

The 22 other California cities and counties that followed Berkeley’s lead, including San Jose, the country’s 10th-largest city, have done so with building codes that encourage electric wiring and appliances rather than ban gas outright.

Brookline’s ban, which applies to new construction and gut renovations but makes some exemptions for buildings like research laboratories, awaits review by the Massachusetts attorney general before it can become law.

In nearby Cambridge, Mass., city officials have already held hearings on an ordinance that would block natural gas connections in new buildings and those being substantially renovated.

But the ordinances are facing some pushback.

The Massachusetts chapter of NAIOP, a commercial real estate association, for instance, has joined groups that represent the gas and restaurant industries in opposing the measure. Tamara Small, the organization’s chief executive, said the new legislation was premature, and she predicted that the Cambridge ban would be challenged in court if it was passed because of conflicts with state legislation.

“We’re not saying it’s not possible at some point,” she added. “But we’re moving too quickly.”

Some real estate companies, however, are already experimenting with all-electric construction, prompted by their own environmental goals or goaded by investors who “want to know what they are doing to address climate risk in their portfolios,” said Billy Grayson, executive director of the Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance at the Urban Land Institute, a real estate think tank.

Kilroy Realty, a large commercial developer in Los Angeles, has a portfolio that includes 17 percent all-electric buildings, said Sara Neff, the company’s senior vice president for sustainability. Ms. Neff expects that figure to grow.

“We want to reduce the carbon footprint of our portfolio,” she said, “and we recognize that, especially as the grid gets cleaner, moving toward all-electric is an impactful way to get there.”

Prominent all-electric projects are in the works:

Adobe, the software company, is erecting an 18-story all-electric office building at its headquarters in San Jose, Calif.

A rendering of Adobe's 18-story all-electric office building being built in San Jose, Calif.
Credit…Gensler 

Alloy Development plans to break ground this summer on a 38-story all-electric mixed-use tower as part of a five-building project in Downtown Brooklyn.

And a massive development under review in Toronto was proposed by Sidewalks Labs, an Alphabet company, and Waterfront Toronto, a public agency. It will be an all-electric project, averting the need for any gas infrastructure.

“In Toronto, it makes sense to design for electricity because the grid is so green, from hydro and nuclear power,” said Charlotte Matthews, director of sustainability for Sidewalk Labs. “The trick is how to do it and not increase utility costs, and part of this is educating the market and showing that it can be done affordably.”

Members of the real estate industry are not the only ones stunned by how rapidly the all-electric movement has caught on.

Even environmentalists are surprised, said Rob Jackson, a professor at Stanford University who leads the Global Carbon Project. He said that “dozens for sure, likely hundreds” of jurisdictions would pass gas bans and pro-electric legislation this year, though lawsuits challenging them may also proliferate.

And at any rate, keeping gas out of new building construction is one thing; dealing with the 70 million structures already standing in the United States is quite another, said Bruce Nilles, director of the building electrification program at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy research organization.

“We’ve barely started,” Mr. Nilles said. SOURCE

Church of England Devises an Index for Climate-Conscious Investing

The church’s pension fund will invest 600 million pounds in companies ranked according to their efforts to meet the 2015 Paris agreement.

Royal Dutch Shell has worked closely with the Church of England in developing ambitious targets for reducing its carbon dioxide emissions.

Credit…Toru Hanai/Reuters

Many investors would like to use their money to help tackle climate change, but figuring out how has not always been easy. Now a fund that benefits 38,000 current and retired clergy and other employees of the Church of England could offer a potential solution.

The Church of England Pensions Board, which manages 2.8 billion pounds (or $3.7 billion), this week announced an index that rewards companies working to curb their carbon-dioxide emissions in line with the targets of the 2015 Paris agreement, and bars companies that are perceived as environmental laggards.

The church’s pension board is transferring £600 million to the new index, which it helped design with FTSE Russell, an index provider.

Companies that rate well under a series of metrics developed for the pension fund receive more weight in the index, meaning more of their shares will be purchased, while those that don’t score well will either receive reduced weight or be excluded.

Oil producers are not excluded from the index. Europe’s largest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, which has worked closely with the Church of England in developing ambitious targets for reducing its carbon dioxide emissions, is included, as is Repsol, the Spanish oil company, which has also announced far-reaching goals.

Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP, which have been less ambitious according to the index’s metrics, are at this point excluded.

Adam Matthews, the church fund’s director of ethics and engagement and a prominent activist on climate matters, has worked with companies like Shell to set targets for reducing emissions.

Companies face a choice to put “in place targets and strategies aligned to Paris” or “work against the long-term interests of beneficiaries and wider society and be excluded,” he said in a statement.

Exxon and other companies not included in the index could win their way back into the fold by setting appropriate targets, the church fund says.

Large investment firms are showing increasing interest in the risks and rewards of climate and other environmental issues. Enormous sums could potentially be used to influence corporate behavior. Laurence D. Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, which has nearly $7 trillion under management, recently vowed to put sustainability at the core of the firm’s investment approach.

Mr. Matthews is among those investment professionals who say it is incumbent on fund managers to understand the risks that climate change can pose to investors’ portfolios. The earnings and value of oil companies, for example, could plummet if climate-change concerns result in less consumption of these emissions-producing fuels.

Pension managers need to assess the risks of climate change to their investments to ensure they can provide for their beneficiaries in the future, Mr. Matthews said in an interview.

To remain invested in companies without “understanding how they are positioned in climate transition poses a real risk,” he said.

Mr. Matthews acknowledges that it will take time for oil companies to shift their investments away from fossil fuels to clean energy. Along these lines, he has helped set up a unit at the London School of Economics called the Transition Pathway Initiative. The initiative evaluates oil companies and other large emitters of carbon, such as steel producers and electric utilities, on the basis of their commitments to reduce their carbon output and the quality of their strategies for doing so.

The Church of England’s new index, which is currently for institutional investors, is trying to use the London School of Economics data to give investors exposure to companies that are positioned to perform well in the future on climate matters. Earlier generations of indexes relied on static information like fossil fuel reserves or emissions measurements.

“You have got forward-looking information, and that is quite groundbreaking,” said Faith Ward, chief responsible investment officer for the Brunel Pension Partnership, which manages around £30 billion for British government agencies and municipalities. SOURCE

 

Our House is on Fire: Join Jane Fonda’s Fire Drill Fridays

After 14 weeks of climate protests in Washington, D.C., Fire Drill Fridays are moving to California to continue to demand urgent climate action — and we want YOU to join us by launching your very own Fire Drill Fridays in your community!

Jane Fonda and the Fire Drill Fridays team will be holding monthly Fire Drills in different cities in CA, so stay tuned: http://bit.ly/311XKxs

Working with Jane, Greenpeace is partnering with allies across California and beyond to push for a Green New Deal, no new fossil fuels, and a rapid and just transition off of fossil fuels and toward a renewable energy economy.

Fire Drill Fridays is inspired by the global movement of youth climate strikers, who have helped reshape the narrative around climate urgency. Greta Thunberg and others put a call-out to adults to show up in a bigger way — and we’re answering that call.

Featured in the video, chronologically:

Jerome Foster II is the Executive Director & Founder of OneMillionOfUs, the National US Co-Coordinator of Greta Thunberg’s FridaysForFuture movement, and a Harvard University Dual Enrollment High School Student.

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger is a Dënesųłiné woman (ts’ékui), member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action.

Reverend William J Barber is an American Protestant minister and political activist. He is a member of the national board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the chair of its Legislative Political Action Committee.

Dolores Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, with Cesar Chavez, is a co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers.

Naomi Klein is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of capitalism.

Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, an independent environmental organization which uses research, creative communication, non violent direct action, and people-power to advance environmental solutions.

Jane Fonda is an American actress, writer and activist, and the founder of and spokesperson for Fire Drill Fridays. SOURCE

OPG needs to respect request of Pickering City Council

Pickering Nuclear Generating Station

It will take four decades until the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station will be fully decommissioned. – Ryan Pfeiffer/Torstar

Last Friday the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, whose traditional territory includes the site of the Bruce Nuclear station, voted overwhelming against Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) plan to bury nuclear waste next to the station.

OPG CEO Ken HartwickOPG’s CEO, Ken Hartwick, immediately announced that OPG will respect the Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s request and not proceed with its plan to build a Deep Geological Repository on the shores of Lake Huron. This sets an excellent precedent.

Last week Pickering City Council voted unanimously to request that OPG dismantle the Pickering Nuclear Station “as expeditiously as possible in line with the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency” after it is shutdown in 2024.

We hope that OPG will respect the request of the Pickering City Council.

Immediate dismantling of the Pickering Nuclear Station after shut-down in 2024 will create multiple benefits for the City of Pickering including:

1. Permitting most of the Station’s 600-acre prime waterfront site to be returned to the local community for revitalization by 2034.

2. Permitting the people who currently work in the station to be involved in its dismantling.

3. Creating 16,000 person-years of employment in Pickering between 2024 and 2034.

4. Enabling the City of Pickering to become a world leader in nuclear dismantling and decommissioning.

When the Pickering Nuclear Station closes, the total radioactivity of its spent nuclear fuel, which is stored on-site in six conventional commercial storage buildings, will be 200 times greater than the total radiation released to the atmosphere by the Fukushima accident in 2011.

Given that it may be many decades before an off-site location for Pickering’s nuclear wastes will be in service, we hope that OPG will move as expeditiously as possible to build above-ground, attack-resistant, reinforced-concrete vaults for safer on-site storage of Pickering’s spent nuclear fuel until an off-site facility is in service.

Please contact OPG CEO, Ken Hartwick, [ken.hartwick@opg.com and cc angela@cleanairalliance.org] and ask him to respect the wishes of Pickering City Council and dismantle the Pickering Nuclear Station as expeditiously as possible after it is shutdown in 2024; and to create above-ground, attack-resistant, reinforced-concrete vaults for safer interim storage of Pickering’s spent nuclear fuel. SOURCE

RELATED:

It will take 40 years for Pickering Nuclear site to return to normal

True test of reconciliation: respect the Indigenous right to say No

Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

Conflict is coming. There is no getting around that fact. Anyone who believes that reconciliation will be about blanket exercises, cultural awareness training, visiting a native exhibit at a museum or hanging native artwork in public office buildings doesn’t understand how we got here. Reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples has never been about multiculturalism, diversity or inclusion. Reconciliation is not an affirmative-action program, nor is it about adding token Indigenous peoples to committees, advisory groups or board rooms. We cannot tokenize our way out of this mess that Canada created. Real reconciliation requires truth be exposed, justice be done to make amends and then Canada’s discriminatory laws, policies, practices and societal norms be reconciled with Indigenous rights, title, treaties, laws and jurisdiction. That process of truth, justice and reconciliation will be painful. It requires a radical change. Nothing less than the transfer of land, wealth and power to Indigenous peoples will set things right. The true test of reconciliation will be whether Canada respects the Indigenous right to say ‘no.’

Canadian courts have been issuing decisions about Aboriginal rights and title and treaty rights, sending the strong message to governments that they must obtain the consent of Indigenous peoples before taking actions or making decisions that will impact our lives. Governments have not listened. Canada’s failure to listen is one of the reasons why Indigenous peoples spent more than 25 years negotiating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which guarantees the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent. Article 19 of UNDRIP provides:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

Consent is a legal concept which can be defined as the voluntary acquiescence of one person to the proposal of another. In general, it is the right to say yes or no to something and/or put conditions on an agreement. Consent must be free from misrepresentations, deceptions, fraud or duress. This is a very basic right, but one which has been denied to Indigenous peoples since contact. Take for example, the actions of Indian agents and police, who used food rations to extort sex from Indigenous women and girls. In the context of being forced to live on reserves, not being allowed to leave the reserve and being dependent on food rations, what real choice would a young girl have? Similarly, when police officers or judges detain Indigenous women and girls, drive them to secluded locations and force them to perform sexual acts — there is no real consent when the threat of lethal force or arrest on false charges is ever-present. This is especially so given our knowledge of the number of assaults and deaths of our people in police custody. There was no consent when they stole our children and put them into residential schools, nor was there any consent when priests, nuns and others raped those children. There was no consent when doctors forcibly sterilized Indigenous women and girls — sometimes without their knowledge.

Feb. 25, 2018: Justice for Colton and Tina rally, Edmonton. The woman at centre holding up sign is Colten Boushie’s cousin Jade Tootoosis. Photo by Paula E. Kirman/ RadicalCitizenMedia .com.Today, the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent has become the central issue in Canada’s reconciliation agenda. Justin Trudeau campaigned on the promise of implementing UNDRIP into law and respecting the right of Indigenous peoples to say no. When asked by APTN host Cheryl McKenzie whether no would mean no under his government, he responded “absolutely.” Another way of putting this is that Indigenous peoples could exercise their legal right to refuse to approve or authorize a project. This veto right stems from various sources, but primarily our inherent rights as Indigenous governments with our own laws and rules which govern our traditional territories. They may also come from specific Aboriginal rights, treaty rights and Aboriginal title. These rights are not only protected within our own Indigenous laws, but also section 35 of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982 and various international human rights laws, including UNDRIP. Yet, after Trudeau announced his latest idea to create a legislative framework to recognize Indigenous rights and avoid litigation, Justice Minister Raybould stated clearly that “consent doesn’t mean a veto” for Indigenous peoples.

So, we are now back where we started. Canada has not yet reconciled its laws, policies or political positions to the fact that Indigenous peoples have the right to say no to development projects on our lands. This means that conflict will continue to grow over mining, forestry, hydraulic fracking and pipelines on Indigenous lands. The true test of reconciliation will inevitably play out on the ground, like it did in Oka, Ipperwash, Gustafsen Lake, Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church) and Elsipogtog. Will Canada force the Kinder Morgan pipeline to go ahead against the will of British Columbia and First Nations? Will Canada isolate and exclude First Nations who do not subscribe to the extinguishment requirements of Canada’s land-claims process? What will happen to First Nations who stop provincial social workers and police officers from entering their reserves to steal more children into foster care? This will be the real test of our inherent right to say no.

Canada will only truly give effect to reconciliation when Indigenous peoples have the right to say no — no to discriminatory government laws and policies; no to federal and provincial control over our Nations; no to racism from society, industry and government; no to sexualized violence, abuse and trafficking; no to theft of our children into foster care and the imprisonment of our peoples; no to the ongoing theft of our lands and resources; and no to the contamination and destruction of our lands, waters, plants, animals, birds and fish. The right to say no is the core of any future relationship with the Canadian state and its citizens. It’s a basic right — one which is grounded in our sovereignty as individuals and Nations to decide for ourselves the life we wish to live. Canada has made it clear we have no right to say no, only an obligation to say yes. First Nations leaders and citizens should not wait to see how this plays out in court – they should assert and defend their right to say no now. SOURCE

Breaking: Talks break down between B.C. and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs over pipeline impasse

Wet'suwet'en protestors at Unist'ot'en camp and healing centre on the Morice Forest Service Road.

Wet’suwet’en protestors at Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre on the Morice Forest Service Road. UNIST’OT’EN CAMP

Talks between the B.C. government and Indigenous leaders intended to de-escalate the conflict over the Coastal GasLink pipeline project have broken down two days before their planned finish.

The discussions, announced by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on January 30 and scheduled for seven days, were in response to ongoing conflict over a road blockade that prevented Coastal GasLink crews from proceeding with construction on the 670-kilometre pipeline from northeast B.C. to coastal Kitimat.

According to an unusually timed news release issued Tuesday (February 4) evening by Scott Fraser, minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation, both sides “made a committed effort to find a peaceful resolution to the situation”.

Fraser went on to say: “While we were not successful in finding a resolution to the current situation, we continue to remain open to dialogue with the Wet’suwet’en leadership on this issue.”

MINISTER OF INDIGENOUS RELATIONS AND RECONCILIATION SCOTT FRASER.
The four-term MLA for the Vancouver Island electoral district of Mid Island-Pacific Rim added, in an apparent reference to previous conflict between the RCMP and Indigenous protestors on the Morice Forest Service Road in north-central B.C.: “We hope that the paramount need for safety stays the top priority for all parties.”

Chief Smogelgem, one of the hereditary chiefs, tweeted that the province has refused to revoke permits that it had issued to Coastal GasLink.

Smogelgem@smogelgem

Talks have broken down between the Province and the Wet’suwet’en. Efforts to de-escalate the situation on the territories were severed when the Province refused to pull the permits they issued to CGL. CGL felt that further talks with the Province was not enough.

View image on Twitter

B.C. premier John Horgan announced on January 27 that Skeena-Bulkley Valley MLA Nathan Cullen would be the intermediary in talks between the province, the RCMP, hereditary chiefs, and Coastal GasLink, among others.

Multiple eco-crises could trigger ‘systemic collapse’: scientists

Scientists worry especially that rising temperatures could tip the planet's climate system into a self-perpetuating spiral of gl

Scientists worry especially that rising temperatures could tip the planet’s climate system into a self-perpetuating spiral of global warming 

Overlapping environmental crises could tip the planet into “global systemic collapse,” more than 200 top scientists warned Wednesday.

Climate change, extreme weather events from hurricanes to heatwaves, the decline of life-sustaining ecosystems,  and dwindling stores of fresh water—each poses a monumental challenge to humanity in the 21st century.

Out of 30 global-scale risks, these five topped the list both in terms of likelihood and impact, according to scientists surveyed by Future Earth, an international research organisation.

In combination, they “have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse,” a team led by Maria Ivanova, a professor at the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts, said in a 50-page report.

Extreme heat waves, for example, speed  by releasing planet-warming gases from , even as they intensify water crises and food scarcity.

Biodiversity loss, meanwhile, weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, also putting food supplies at risk.

Scientists worry especially that rising temperatures could tip the planet’s climate system into a self-perpetuating spiral of global warming.

As it is, humanity is struggling—so far unsuccessfully—to cap CO2 and , mostly from burning fossil fuels.

If at the same time a warming Earth also begins to emit large amounts of these gases from, say, thawing permafrost, such efforts could be overwhelmed.

Heat waves are a direct threat to human live and can cause food shortages as well
Heat waves are a direct threat to human live and can cause food shortages as well

“Many scientists and policymakers are embedded in institutions that are used to thinking and acting on isolated risks, one at a time,” the report said.

“We call on the world’s academics, business leaders and  to pay attention to these five global risks and ensure they are treated as interacting systems.”

Nearly 1,000 decision makers and top CEOs highlighted the same threats in a similar survey last month ahead of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

“2020 is a critical time to look at these issues,” said Amy Luers, Executive Director of Future Earth.

“Our actions in the next decade will determine our collective future.”

Far West free-for-all

In October, the world’s nations are set to gather for a major United Nations meeting in Kunming, China to try to stanch the destruction of ecosystems and the decline of biodiversity.

Scientists agree that Earth is at the outset of a mass extinction event—only the 6th in half-a-billion years—which could drive a million species, or one-in-eight, into oblivion over the coming decades or centuries.

The following month, a critical UN climate summit in Glasgow will reveal whether the world’s major economies are willing to ramp up carbon cutting pledges that fall far short of what is needed to keep the planet hospitable for our species.

In the future, humanity will face the devastating combined impacts of multiple interacting climate hazards
In the future, humanity will face the devastating combined impacts of multiple interacting climate hazards

2020 is also a critical year in ongoing negotiations over the high seas, where a Far West free-for-all has led to overfishing and unrestrained resource extraction.

Some scientists have begun to look at the likelihood and impacts of cascading environmental crises.

Recent research has shown, for example, that some parts of the world may soon be coping with up to six  at once, ranging from heat waves and wildfires to diluvian rains and deadly storm surges.

“Human society will be faced with the devastating combined impacts of multiple interacting climate hazards,” Erik Franklin, a researcher at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology and co-author of a key study in late 2018, told AFP.

“They are happening now and will continue to get worse.”

That is true even in optimistic emissions reduction scenarios.

If, for example, humanity caps global warming at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, New York City will likely face one major climate hazard every year, on average, by 2100.

The 2015 Paris climate treaty calls for holding the rise in temperature to “well below” 2C.

If, however, carbon pollution continues unabated, the Big Apple could be hit by up to four such calamities at once, including extreme rain, sea level rise and storm surges.

In all such scenarios, tropical coastal areas suffer the most. SOURCE