Strengthen worldwide climate commitments to improve economy, study finds

Global economy could lose out by $600tn by end of century on current emissions targets

The study’s authors call their findings a ‘self-preservation strategy’ for government. Photograph: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Every country in the world would be economically better off if all could agree to strengthen their commitments on the climate crisis through international cooperation, new research has found.

But if countries go no further than their current CO2 pledges – which are too weak to meet the goals of the Paris agreement, and would lead to dangerous levels of global heating – then they face steep economic losses.

The global economy would lose out by as much as $600tn (£476tn) by the end of the century, on current emissions targets, compared with its likely growth if countries meet the Paris goals, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

If countries fail even to implement their current plans – which would lead to an estimated 3C (5.4F) of heating, far beyond the 2C or 1.5C settled on as the limit of safety in the 2015 Paris agreement – then the outlook is even worse, with losses of up to $800tn by 2100, according to the report from a group of scientists from the Beijing Institute of Technology and other mainly Chinese institutions.

The study’s authors call their findings a “self-preservation strategy” for governments. They calculated the potential benefits by including the social welfare aspects of cutting emissions and of economic growth, which gives more weight than some other models to developing countries with large populations of poor and vulnerable people. They found that better international cooperation on emission would lead to better outcomes for such people, who are likely to be worst affected by climate breakdown.

However, their findings also show such a strategy has greater benefits for developing countries with high emissions, such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria and China, than for developed countries such as the US and the EU in the medium term, though all benefit in the longer term.

Their findings come at a critical time for governments around the world grappling with the coronavirus crisis, and its dire economic impacts. Many are under pressure to ignore or roll back previous commitments on the climate, and some stricken industries with high emissions – such as airlines and carmakers – have lobbied for a weakening of green measures. Oil producers have called a truce in their price war.

But reneging on green commitments now only stores up future problems, and will hasten climate breakdown, scientists have warned, and any respite from rising emissions caused by the crisis will be only temporary. All countries are supposed to come forward with improved national plans on curbing greenhouse gas emissions this year, before vital UN climate talks aimed at keeping the Paris agreement on track.

The UN and the UK government have been forced to delay the talks, called Cop26, until next year. That gives governments more time to improve their national plans, called nationally determined contributions in the UN jargon, but so far there is little sign they are doing so. Only Japan and Chile, the host of last year’s talks, among major countries have so far submitted fresh plans, and while Chile agreed to step up climate action, Japan’s plan showed no improvement.

A UK government spokesperson for Cop26 told the Guardian: “We welcome Chile’s climate leadership as Cop25 president in submitting a strengthened emissions reduction target, and hope to see all countries following their lead.”

Current climate plans showed that the rich world must do more, said Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Budgets should be rebalanced to provide emergency finance and help poorer nations – it’s the fair and right thing to do. If we don’t pay now, this is the kind of bill that, like a person ignoring a credit card statement, will only multiply in time.

“And it’s the kind of expenditure that repays multiple benefits and should really be seen as a smart investment. As if stopping climate change isn’t enough, it will deliver a better quality of life for more people around the world, faster.”

The economic benefits of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, compared with the high costs of reneging, should spur governments to act on the climate, according to the Nature study’s authors. However, investments are needed to realise these gains, particularly from developed countries. The outlay would amount to between $5tn and $33tn for the US, and between $16tn and $105tn for the G20 countries as a whole.

The study said: “Early and quick action will provide a better chance to close the widening emissions gap, even though a large amount of abatement cost would occur in the short term.”



Born to rewild: why now is the perfect time to make your lawn an eco-paradise

This spring, we’re in a collective moment of questioning priorities and trying new things – so why not question our commitment to traditional front lawns?

Chances are, your lawn isn’t natural, environmentally healthy, or necessary.’ Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty Image

Chances are, your lawn isn’t natural, environmentally healthy, or necessary – but it is part of a prevalent national standard. Americans spend an estimated $36bn on lawn care annually, and the amount of lawns we maintain could roughly cover the state of Florida. Lawns, not edible agriculture, are the biggest irrigated crop in America – and they are partly to blame for the decline in bees, insects and songbirds.

Why should you care? Recent studies reveal that insect numbers are remarkably low – monarch and rusty-patched bumblebee populations are both down nearly 90% in the last 20 years. Scientists estimate the arthropod population on Earth is down 45% from pre-industrial numbers. Plummeting insect populations affect everything: birds and fish can’t eat; portions of our food supply go unpollinated; entire ecosystems are at risk.

Why are we so fond of lawns? Social scientists have traced our affection for lawns to “savanna syndrome”: an affinity for the short-grasses of east Africa where humans evolved. Though short grasses may please us and register visually as “safe”, ornamental lawns became a phenomenon in the late 1800s after authors Andrew Jackson Downing and Frank J Scott prescribed them as standards of beauty.

 An illustration of the front of what was seen as an ideal American home in 1936. Photograph: GraphicaArtis/Getty Images


Americans were lured by an age-old marketing approach, one utilized by razor and makeup entrepreneurs: convince consumers your products will transform their lives, and elevate an unkempt and slovenly appearance to a prosperous one. Lawn maintenance – once accomplished by slave labor for elites attempting to mimic the landscapes of European estates – is a hallmark of wealth, the opposite of swept-dirt lawns dotted with grazing livestock.

A manicured lawn hints at patriotism, too. In 1914, the New York Times showed a photograph of Roosevelt mowing his lawn. After the second world war and white flight from city to suburb, the lawn became an aspirational symbol of white middle-class homeownership. In a 1989 opinion piece, Michael Pollan questioned the “unmistakable odor of virtue that hovers in this country over a scrupulously maintained lawn”.

But what is virtuous about a habit that uses 7bn gallons of water a day, dumps an estimated 59m pounds of pesticides in residential areas each year, and bears responsibility for the deaths of millions of songbirds and bees?

A better alternative exists, and not just for elites. The novelist and gardener Jeff VanderMeer feels that “benign neglect” is superior to traditional lawn care. “Not spending any money at all on fertilizers, or raking leaves,” he says, “is preferable, and doable on any budget.”

‘Lawn monocultures don’t support life’

When it comes to lawns and pesticide use, there’s a gulf between what we know, and the decisions we make. I ask the author Benjamin Vogt about the moment he changed his own approach to gardening.

“I was working in my yard and saw a bug eating my milkweed,” he says. “I thought: ‘I need to save my plant!’ I ran inside to get poison, but on my way back, I became curious, and after some research realized that it was a monarch caterpillar eating the milkweed.”

Jeff VanderMeer

I know we’re very fortunate in so many ways to be here during this surreal time. I hope it’s of use to y’all. We had having college classes over re the rewilding and native plants part and I hope after this over we can resume making the yard a useful tool for eco causes.

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Vogt now runs a business installing prairie ecosystems in place of lawns. “It’s not just about individual plants,” he explains, “but the life they support. Lawn monocultures don’t support life.”

VanderMeer’s conversion moment happened after returning to his home state of Florida after a stint in New York, and feeling as though he had taken wilderness for granted. “When we moved to the new house on the edge of a wooded ravine,” he tells me, “I didn’t expect to become obsessed with rewilding, but I soon had to because the lovely jungle behind the house turned out to be invasive [non-native] air potato vine, invasive ferns, invasive spiderwort and invasive nandina bushes as well as invasive coral ardisia. Once I learned this, I was horrified, because there were 30-year-old box turtles down there and other wildlife that was severely compromised.”

The invasive species on VanderMeer’s property were reducing the native species that insects, birds and herbivores relied on for food and habitat. Without intervention, the life that had previously called his part of Florida home would eventually die or move in search of food.

Rewilding lawn space doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For some, simply giving up heavy pesticide treatments is a beginning. VanderMeer focuses on his backyard and the ravine, while Vogt suggests people begin with one square foot.

“Imagine if everyone started creating even a little rewilded space,” he says. “Eventually, those square feet become acres of important habitat, maybe even a few corridors for wildlife.”

VanderMeer, who has spent several years undertaking a significant rewilding project, shared the following steps for replicating his efforts:

  1. Evaluate what you have that’s beneficial and already readily growing, and encourage those plants. In his case, those included elderberry bushes, beautyberry bushes, pokeweed, native oak, pine and sweet gum.
  2. Evaluate what invasive species you have (as opposed to native) and prioritize – relative to your ability to remove it – which species need to be eradicated first. (You can research the best native plants for your garden zone here and find out what species of bug and butterfly they host.)
  3. Evaluate prior land use and institute immediate benign neglect. Discontinue pesticide and herbicide use; stop raking leaves, stop mowing wherever possible; mitigate prior damage if simple neglect is insufficient.
  4. Observe and evaluate practices by neighbors. If neighbors have outdoor cats or use lawn poisons, this might change your desire to attract birds.
  5. Make immediate improvements in some small area to attract pollinators and birds. (In VanderMeer’s case, they planted wildflowers in two locations and put up bird feeders, with the understanding they would decommission some bird feeders once more native plants that could feed them were in the yard)
  6. Direct most efforts to eradication (through natural means) of the foremost invasives to allow the native seedbank to recover.
  7. Continue to plant native plants while removing invasives and studying “volunteers” – new plants that sprout because the invasives have been removed.
  8. Evaluate results at the end of every season and recalibrate efforts accordingly.

Not all non-native species are equally problematic. When prioritizing which non-native plants to remove from your property, think about the food value they provide to wildlife, and what native plants they are crowding out.

Even if you don’t rewild entirely, consider aiming for a restorative practice; the goal is to support more life.

You can expect some challenges (including from neighbors)
 An aerial view of Menifee neighborhood, a residential subdivision vila in Riverside county, California. Photograph: Bonandbon/Alamy Stock Photo


Rewilding a lawn will probably invite curiosity, admiration, confusion and disapproval. Vogt recalls a client who said: “Look, I know we’re going to have issues with neighbors. But I’m OK with that. We’ll talk it out. I know we need more examples of healthy lawns.”

Homeowner associations (HOAs) and neighbors are notorious for policing each other’s attention – or inattention – to lawn care. Some HOAs fine homeowners daily for unmowed grass over 6in high. If you live in such a neighborhood, it’s important to find out what rules are in place, and the process for challenging them.

Vogt is less concerned about what the neighbors might say. “We need to be less afraid of outdated standards,” he says, “and more afraid of not implementing these changes.”

VanderMeer has generated what he considers a much healthier life in his backyard for possums, box turtles and migratory birds. His native plants provide more food sources and sanctuary for exhausted flocks en route to Latin America.

The VanderMeer lawn now hosts endangered plant species including Chapman’s azalea, of which there are only 4,000 in the world; a torreya tree; and royal flycatcher. Vandermeer notes that these plants are endangered because of contemporary development and landscape practices that clearcut native species for new housing, and then landscape using exotic species.

Vogt talks about how beneficial the change can be on spirit and wallet. “You’ll see fertilizer ads that suggest fertilizing your lawn four times a year. That’s unnecessary, because most of it ends up as runoff in a storm drain. Plus,” he adds, “a 3in blade of grass can’t clean our air the way a tree or meadow garden can.”

Be part of changing collective taste for the better
 ‘If we’re able to create attractive and sustainable landscapes in public spaces, the aesthetic may inform personal taste.’ Photograph: Ken Ross/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


What would it take for a nation to admit that its devotion to growing monocultures doused in non-organic chemical compounds is a harmful and outdated practice? Changing taste is difficult, especially where perceived beauty and prosperity are concerned. I turn to the renowned landscape architect and Harvard professor Gary Hilderbrand for his thoughts.

Contrary to belief, one doesn’t have to sacrifice visual narrative entirely to improve environmental outcomes. “Meadows are a culturally important form, but people worry they look unkempt,” Hilderbrand tells me. “But if you mow a narrow strip along the edge, suddenly it all begins to look cared for – like you’ve intentionally let it grow long.”

Hilderbrand believes that cultural values are expressed through landscape, even at an institutional level. He points out that many lawns have cultural importance and intention, but can still incorporate sustainable methods like stormwater storage, improved soil ecology, drought-tolerant landscaping and native meadows.

He asks me to consider the public realm: downtown blocks, city tree plans, communal greens. As citizens, we don’t just notice what we see in these spaces, but how they make us feel. If we’re able to create attractive and sustainable landscapes in public spaces, the aesthetic may inform personal taste. This is how lawn culture arose, and how it can shift again, ideally to a more sustainable practice.

Hilderbrand believes in sharing images of like situations elsewhere in order to raise someone’s appreciation for what a landscape can become. It is, he says, like giving people a new set of eyes.

And in this moment, where we’ve been forced by a pandemic to retreat to our private homes and gardens, perhaps we can challenge ourselves to reimagine them not as icons of individual prosperity, but as spaces that host and encourage living. SOURCE

Don’t forget about climate action

It can be hard to process any more bad news right now. But the climate fight won’t be over when this pandemic is. While you needn’t feel constantly productive in these stressful times, you might still be wondering how to stay environmentally engaged. If you’ve done what you can to support those affected by the coronavirus — and have the privilege of staying home with newfound time — why not tick a few items off your carbon-footprint-reduction checklist? Here are some ideas.


Program your thermostat: Although an estimated 41 percent of Americans have programmable thermostats, just 12 percent actually program them. By setting yours to automatically change with the time and season, Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said you could reduce “heating and cooling emissions by 15 percent.”

Get cleaner power: Research solar panels (some companies are promoting contact-free installations) and community solar. Or, if you live in a deregulated energy state, look into switching to a green provider.

Kill energy vampires: Nearly 5 percent of our total residential electricity usage comes from devices that stay plugged in when they’re not being used. So Dr. Ekwurzel suggested putting devices on a single power strip that you can easily switch off


Experiment with climate-friendly recipes: Going vegetarian could reduce your food-related footprint by a third — but even if you’re a devoted carnivore, Dr. Ekwurzel said simply eating less meat “makes a big difference over the long run.” To stay stocked on produce, search for farmers’ markets near you; many remain open or are offering online ordering. (GrowNYC has a list of area farmers with delivery or pickup.) Adding frozen veggies to your grocery list isn’t a bad idea, either.

Join a C.S.A.: As another way to avoid “buying agricultural products that have been flown around the world,” Laurel Hanscom, chief executive officer of the Global Footprint Network, recommended subscribing to a community supported agriculture program. (Just note that, if spring hasn’t yet sprung in your region, it may be a while before your first delivery!)

Compost: The Environmental Protection Agency says food is the biggest single contributor to our landfills, constituting an incredible “22 percent of discarded municipal solid waste.” Keep your scraps out of the landfill by (finally!) starting a compost pile.

And more

Go paperless: Spend 20 minutes registering for digital statements from all of your accounts. While you’re at it, reduce your unwanted junk mail, too.

Buy carbon offsets: Remember when traveling was a thing? Well now is the perfect opportunity to purchase offsets for prior adventures.

Get educated: Use your downtime to catch up on climate change booksdocumentaries and podcasts.

Make your voice heard: Ms. Hanscom urged readers to “encourage your representatives to fight for climate-forward policies in the bailouts and stimulus packages.” (Luckily, you can do that from the couch.)

However you spend these next few weeks and months, Ms. Hanscom said the coronavirus has shown us “how connected we all are in terms of our decisions.” So, moving forward, she said, it’s important to ask: “How can we take these lessons to thoughtfully bring ourselves, humanity and the planet, back into balance?”



One Thing You Can Do: Switch to a Green Energy Provider

In Canada considerBullfrog Power | Crunchbase

For the Wet’suwet’en nation, formal land rights may be on the horizon

If approved, a draft memorandum of understanding would pave the way, but there’s a catch—it would do nothing to stop the contentious pipeline construction already happening

Huson (left) and her sister Brenda Mitchell (Amber Bracken)

The old feast hall, with its high ceilings and large wood panels featuring traditional Indigenous drawings in bold red and black strokes—a beaver, a frog, a bear—was often empty and silent from disuse.

But on a sunny, brisk Friday in early March, at the edge of the Witset First Nation in northern British Columbia, the room, once a regular meeting place for a population that has since outgrown its capacity, was buzzing again.

Outside, pickup trucks were parked bumper-to-bumper on the otherwise quiet, narrow road, leading to Witset’s low bungalows, its RV park, its single gas station. Inside, fluorescent light rods and rays of sunshine from small, high windows lit a room of 70 people crammed into black chairs at folding tables. Almost a dozen more joined via video chat.

Those interviewed by Maclean’s after the closed Gitdumden clan meeting agreed they were transfixed by the forceful, echoing voice of the man at the front of the hall, but wouldn’t speak to specifics. What stuck with them was his tone. Speaking vigorously in Witsuwit’en, the traditional language of the Wet’suwet’en people, was Chief Woos—Frank Alec, by another name. He rose to national prominence during the winter as one of the most outspoken of the hereditary chiefs opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a natural gas project that will cross 670 km of northern B.C.—including 190 km of traditional Wet’suwet’en territory. The chiefs’ opposition inspired solidarity protests and blockades across the country that shut down entire rail systems.


Mining ramping up in Canada, but under restrictions that will add to costs and reduce productivity

Still not clear how gold mining, or exploration, are essential…

Troilus Gold finds new zone open at Quebec mine - MINING.COM

Troilus gold mine. Photo by Troilus Gold.

Mines in Quebec are ramping up after restrictions that kept operations to a minimum over the past three weeks were lifted, bringing the province in line with some other parts of the country that allowed mining to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 23, Quebec ordered all non-priority businesses to temporarily minimize operations to help reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. Under the directive, mining companies that operate in Quebec had to put their sites on care and maintenance. The province has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country.

Quebec stood out from several other mining-heavy jurisdictions in Canada, such as Ontario and British Columbia, which both deemed the sector an essential business. Those provinces allowed mining companies to continue to operate, albeit under tougher guidelines that raised the costs of doing business.

However, Quebec changed course on Monday, putting mining on its list of priority businesses. The province said in a release that the decision
was motivated in part by a realization that the sector is a necessary part of the supply chain for many essential products, including medical devices.

But the province was also under pressure from the industry, and it noted how important mining is to the province’s economy. Quebec says the sector employed 40,000 people last year and accounted for an average of $7.4 billion of provincial GDP over the past five years.

George Burns, chief executive officer of Eldorado Gold Corp., said mining companies, together with the Québec Mining Association, had been in steady dialogue with the provincial government over the past few weeks. The goal was to hammer out an agreement to reopen sites with the understanding that restrictions would be put in place to protect the health of workers.

“All that communication was effective in convincing the authorities that the mining industry does have the appropriate controls in place to manage the COVID-19 risk,” Mr. Burns said.

To limit travel, those controls include reducing the number of so-called “fly-in-fly-out” air shuttles and extending shift schedules so that workers stay longer at individual sites. Strict physical-distancing procedures are also being put in place to help reduce the chance of the virus spreading.

Eldorado has installed special thermal cameras at its Lamaque gold mine in Val-d’Or that automatically take the temperature of workers coming into its mine site. The company is also reducing the number of people who operate site vehicles and there are new rules about showering and the need to change clothing when exiting mines.

At Agnico Mines Ltd., which operates Canadian Malartic, the biggest gold mine in the country, the start and finish times for shifts will be staggered to reduce congestion. The number of people allowed to travel down in each cage that lowers workers into the company’s deep underground LaRonde mine in Quebec will be cut in half to aid physical distancing.

The recommendations from the province mean the cost of business will climb, and mines will be less productive than before. Agnico’s chief executive officer Sean Boyd acknowledged this is the “new reality,” but also a necessary step. Agnico will take two to three weeks to ramp up in Quebec.

“The worst thing we can do is rush this,” Mr. Boyd said. “This is about a measured steady ramp-up that protects our employees.”

Elsewhere in the country, even without explicit rulings to minimize operations, some mining companies had already shut down production or drastically scaled back operations in areas where the potential for a virus spread was elevated, or at sites that don’t have ready access to major hospitals.

Last month, to protect the health of its employees, Teck Resources Ltd. cut production by 50 per cent at its four mines in B.C. that extract steelmaking coal. Alamos Gold Inc. temporarily suspended production at a gold mine located in the small community of Dubreuilville, in northern  Ontario.

Regardless of the jurisdiction, the costs to keep workers safe are creeping up across the country.

“For sure it will cost more to produce in these conditions. There’s no doubt it will cost more,” said Josée Méthot, president of the Québec Mining Association.

“Each mining company will make their own decision, they’ll evaluate whether they accept the added costs and whether they are able to work under these new conditions,” she said.



COVID-19: First Nations concerned about Quebec mines reopening



Keeping a distance: How safe are running and cycling amid COVID-19 measures?

Last week’s article on the rise of cycling amid physical distancing measures generated some comments from readers who were worried, given the findings of a recent study by Dutch and Belgian engineers.

The study, which hasn’t yet been peer reviewed, did computer simulations of droplets coughed, sneezed or exhaled around someone walking quickly, jogging and cycling, based on wind tunnel measurements in a previous study.

It suggested people directly behind a runner or cyclist — but not beside — should leave extra space beyond the two-metre minimum recommended in physical distancing guidelines. That means 10 metres for a runner and even more for a cyclist.

However, in a Q & A on Medium, the researchers, Bert Blocken and Thierry Marchal, noted:

    • The study doesn’t draw any conclusions on the infection risk associated with particular distances or droplet exposure.
    • People shouldn’t stop exercising outside, as that’s important for mental and physical health.

In an interview about the study on CBC’s Toronto radio show Metro Morning on Tuesday, Dr. John Presvelos, a physician with the sports medicine clinic Athlete’s Care who wasn’t involved in the study, said the physics seemed interesting.

But does it mean the droplets shown in the study’s graphics could cause infection?

“I personally don’t think so,” Presvelos said, noting that particles tend to be more dispersed outside and subject to humidity, wind currents and temperatures that might hinder transmission.

Even so, he said, “Personally, I’d be more inclined to leave a larger amount of distance — 10 metres, if possible.”

Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne transmission of viral diseases and a professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech, told WIRED magazine that it’s still not known whether people can become infected from cyclists and runners. The magazine noted that so far, there are no published studies of person-to-person spread of COVID-19 outdoors.

Emmanuel Stamatakis, a professor of physical activity, lifestyle and population health at the University of Sydney, wrote in The Conversation on Wednesday that it would be “irresponsible” to give advice to the public about exercise outdoors “based on a computer simulation that has not been checked for even its theoretical scientific rigour.”

Stamatakis noted that maintaining a five- to 20-metre distance when walking, running or cycling outdoors would make it almost impossible to exercise in some cities. It could discourage some people from going out at all and could “generate conflict and friction between people who think others are not heeding the advice to stay safe.”

“Stick to official advice,” Stamatakis said, “and do not rush to make any new lifestyle decisions.”


World’s First: Zero Emission Electric Construction Site

electric excavator

Suncar electric excavator, via Suncar HK

Even in cities like Oslo, Norway, which is typically thought of as progressive and “green” here in the ‘States, more than 20% of the total CO2 emissions comes from heavy-duty construction equipment. That’s a huge number, and you can bet that older, less regulated machines in other major cities are even worse. That fact has motivated the authorities in Oslo to enact laws that say all new, public buildings must be built with “fossil-free” construction machinery. The jobsite you see here, featuring a ZE85 battery-powered electric excavator from Suncar HK, is just such a fossil-free site. What’s more, it’s believed to be the first zero emission, all-electric jobsite of its kind.

Norway’s new laws banning heavy polluters like diesel construction machines and even passenger cars from certain city centers are hardly unique. Cities like BarcelonaLondon, and Beijing have already passed similar laws that will go into effect in the coming years, and it’s hard to believe other countries won’t get in on the act soon, with the general public having seen how good things can get, and how quickly.

Those laws also explain why so many heavy equipment companies — including LiebherrCASE, and Volvo CE — are spending heavily on R&D to electrify their lineup.

You can see the Suncar ZE85 battery-powered excavators get to work in this surprisingly quiet video, below, and check out the official Suncar press release below that. Once you’ve gone through it, let us know what you think of this world’s first, and if you think we’ll see similar electrification in the US anytime soon.

Fast charging on the construction site: Swiss BEV excavator on a zero-emission construction site in Oslo

The ZE85 battery-powered electric excavator, which was presented last May at the world’s largest construction trade fair, bauma19 in Munich, is now being successfully operated on a zero-emission construction site in Norway. It is the first electric excavator with an integrated CCS fast-charging interface as it is known from electric cars. This enables full charging in under an hour.

There is an enormous potential to reduce emissions on construction sites. In Oslo, for example, around 21% of CO2 emissions are emitted by construction machinery. Therefore, the authorities in Oslo have defined in their procurement strategy that all public buildings must be built with “fossil-free” construction machinery. The European Commission is also setting the trend, issuing guidelines in the areas of “Buying green” and “Green Public Procurement” and regulating emissions on construction sites. As a result, clean technologies such as battery-powered construction machinery are also finding their way into the construction industry.

In order to be able to tap into this rapidly growing market, more and more construction machinery manufacturers are electrifying their machines. At the R&D site of the Zurich-based start-up company SUNCARHK AG, excavators and other construction machines are electrified on behalf of major manufacturers such as Hitachi, Liebherr and others. The battery-powered vehicles and machines are successfully in use throughout Europe. The ZE85 electric excavator, developed together with SUNCAR, is in operation in Oslo on a zero-emission construction site, i.e. a construction site where only electrically driven construction machines are used. New and special to the battery-powered ZE85 excavator is the CCS fast charging interface, which is already standard on electric cars.

The electric excavators can be operated both in battery and cable mode. They have an onboard charger and can be charged at a worksite distribution board via a standard CEE three-phase power socket. The ZE85 excavator used in Oslo has a DC charging connection which reduces the charging time to three quarters of an hour.

With the vehicle-side modular DC charging system INTERFLOW, developed by SUNCAR, such a DC fast charging interface can be integrated into a vehicle or machine with little effort. The system enables the DC fast charging of high-voltage batteries up to 280 kW according to the CCS (Combined Charging System) protocol known from electric vehicles. This system can be integrated into any other battery-powered vehicle or machine with a system voltage of up to 800 VDC and a maximum charging current of 350 A and can be combined with an on-board charger


Elections Canada looking at how it could run an election during the pandemic

The next fixed election date is in 2023 — but the agency wants to be ready should the government fall early

An Elections Canada sign outside a polling place in downtown Ottawa Oct. 21, 2019. Elections Canada says it’s preparing for the possibility that the federal minority government could fall during the pandemic. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Elections Canada has assembled a working group to study how best to hold a general election in the event the federal minority government falls while the country is still in the grips of the pandemic.

The federal agency says the working group will offer options to adapt the current voting system to a pandemic or post-pandemic model to ensure the vote remains “accessible, safe and healthy” for electors and workers — by employing much more voting by mail.

The Canada Elections Act has the next election day already fixed — on or before Oct. 23, 2023 — but the agency said that, “given the current minority government situation, an election could take place at any time.”

While Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Thursday “nobody is talking about forcing an election at this time” and insisted he has no plan to bring down Liberal government in the midst of a health crisis, Elections Canada is still preparing for the possibility.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is proposing four in-person parliamentary sessions per week, with representatives from each party in the House of Commons. He was asked by CBC’s Julie Van Dusen whether he’s willing to compromise. 0:42

“As part of its ongoing readiness planning, the agency is working on a new operational approach to deliver an election in the context of a pandemic and post-pandemic,” Elections Canada said in a media statement on its website.

In other words, Elections Canada doesn’t want to see what happened in Wisconsin happen here. In that U.S. state, thousands of voters had to wait in long lines for hours to cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary race and to select a new state Supreme Court justice, despite public health concerns about holding a vote during the COVID-19 outbreak.

virus-outbreak-wisconsin-election.jpg (1180×772)

Ron Rosenberry Chase (left) and Jim O’Donnell protest while wearing masks outside the State Capitol during a special session regarding the spring election in Madison, Wis., Saturday, April 4, 2020. (The Associated Press/Amber Arnold)


Republicans in the state blocked a last-minute request to delay the April 7 election — a decision some critics called an attempt at voter suppression.

While the current Canadian system allows for mail-in ballots, the agency said the system isn’t equipped to handle a national vote conducted entirely through the postal service.

“A viable election where all electors vote by mail would require fundamental changes to the Canada Elections Act,” the agency said. Elections Canada also said it will look into whether the system can be tweaked in the meantime to allow for more ballots sent through the mail to reduce traffic at polling places.

Some 34,000 ballots were mailed in by eligible Canadian voters living abroad in the last election — a small fraction of the 18.3 million votes cast in October 2019.

Five U.S. states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

All registered voters in those states receive a ballot in the mail. The voter marks the ballot, puts it in a “secrecy” envelope and then a separate mailing envelope, signs an affidavit on the mailing envelope and returns the package through the mail or by dropping it off.

Elections Canada also is looking at how best to implement social distancing measures at polling places. The agency will give the list of past polling station requirements a second look and identify alternatives to locations that may become unavailable due to COVID-19 concerns.

It is reviewing its procurement policy to ensure “the availability and capacity of its many suppliers of goods and services before and during elections.”

Elections Canada bought some 257,000 pencils (about 45 km of them, if laid end-to-end), printed some 35,000,000 ballots and purchased 240,000 voting signs for polling places for the last election. These items may be more difficult to track down with businesses closed during a pandemic.


 50 Years of Earth Days…..What Now?

Sky Woman is the Iroquois mother goddess. Waterbirds carried her down to the sea and set her on the back of a turtle, which became her home (Turtle Island.)

We know it’s impossible to roll back time to the year 1970 and start over again. As much as we wish it were so,  there are no do-overs in the real world. We can only change the present moment. We can take actions today that show we’ve learned from the mistakes of the past in order to have some beneficial impact on the future.

Will humanity  be around long enough to celebrate another 50 years of Earth Days? This is dependent on the daily choices that you and I and all 7.8 billion of us make, along with a great deal of luck and some major forgiveness by Mother Nature. If the best time to have planted a tree was 50 years ago, the next best time is now.

I have no time or interest in pointing fingers. Looking into the mirror is the only thing that will change our world. I have no time or interest in being around people who say something can’t be done, then stand in the way of the very people doing the necessary work. I have no time or interest in cynics, skeptics and pessimists since they will never be part of creating the changes required to keep our Earth habitable for the next 50 years.

Being 65 years old, I take my share of  responsibility for what has taken place over these past 50 years of Earth Days. My carbon footprint and lifestyle is very small compared to the average for our part of the world, yet I know it’s still higher than is sustainable for the years to come if we are to create a better world for our descendants. Not a day passes that I don’t consider this fact and actively try to do something about it.

Our generation has known since the 1960’s that infinite growth on a finite planet is not sustainable, yet western societies have lived as though the laws of physics didn’t apply to us. The majority of the harm to our planet has happened “ On Our Watch “ and now it’s our responsibility to reverse this damage. Our children and grand children will be asking “ What did you do once you knew ? “ I know what I will be telling mine… you know what you’ll tell yours?

Right now, at this critical time in human history, changes and challenges are coming at us so fast that it is difficult to confront them. But rising to challenges is what has defined the human race since our first steps were taken on Earth. Our forefathers & mothers all had more than their share of adversity to deal with and they met every challenge, for us.

We have a small window of opportunity right now to impact the future of life on our planet in a positive way. We have the power to do everything differently, smarter, cleaner, and more fairly. We can live more simply, generously, healthier and happier. We can make every decision with the welfare in mind of the 7 generations to follow us. We can protect and respect our Mother Earth as we would our very own mothers who have given us life.

Don’t look back with regrets for what hasn’t been done. Instead, look ahead to what can and must be done. Then on April 22nd, Earth Day # 50, take a long silent look up into the night sky and truly become aware, in the depth of your soul, of this precious blue planet your feet are planted on. Pledge to yourself that you will do everything in your power to protect our world so that human civilization and all life forms on Earth will thrive long after we are gone. Happy Earth Day 2020.

By Don Ross for County Sustainability Group