Environment & Energy Bulletin
Each issue of the Bulletin features an in-depth look at a current topic affecting the energy industry or environmental policy and regulation.
The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part I
At the same time as China and Russia signed a massive 30 year, $400 billion natural gas trade agreement, the BC government continued its push to establish an LNG industry with a (successful) global LNG conference in Vancouver. The May event came on the heels of Premier Clark’s fifth trip to Asia promoting, in part or full, LNG opportunities in the province.
The China-Russia agreement is emblematic of the changing energy supply landscape; it also speaks to the size of the potential opportunity for jurisdictions like BC considering the contract constitutes only 29% of China’s future import requirement.
Closer to home, critics continue to question whether BC can develop the LNG sector in a responsible and economically sensible manner that will deliver the benefit set expected by government.
In this two part Energy and Environment Bulletin, we assess the validity of arguments suggesting BC is making a mistake in seeking to advance LNG and that the province would be wiser to halt, slow down or significantly change its approach to LNG development.
Should We "Green" Gross Domestic Product?
What exactly is GDP, or gross domestic product? Where did it come from? Why is it important? Does it measure what we want it to? How might it be improved to provide a more comprehensive measure of human well-being?
A Look at Some Environmental Indicators
Environmental indicators can do several things, including informing us about the state and extent of changes in environmental conditions as a result of the effects of both human activity and natural events. Indicators can also show how effective the actions taken by society have been in avoiding/mitigating environmental impacts, and shed light on what’s been done to restore the capacity of the natural environment to provide the services and materials essential for life and well-being.
On the Road to Emissions Reductions:
Environment and Energy Bulletin on BC's Low Carbon Fuel Standard
This edition of our Environment and Energy Bulletin was written by guest author Selina Lee-Andersen, Counsel, Environmental and Aboriginal Law, McCarthy Tétrault LLP.
As a major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the transportation sector has been identified by policy makers as a sector in which significant emission reductions can be achieved. One of the policy instruments designed to reduce GHG emissions is the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which is intended to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels measured on a life-cycle basis.
Transportation - The Way We Move Part II
This is part two of a two part Environment and Energy Bulletin that explores the topic of transportation. Part one focused on the context, statistics and some key issues that set the stage for part two, a high level discussion of policy options for managing transportation and related infrastructure issues going forward.
Transportation -- The Way We Move
This is part one of a two part Environment and Energy Bulletin that will explore the topic of transportation. In part one we focus on the context, statistics and some key issues that set the stage for part two, a discussion of policy options and possible directions for managing transportation and related infrastructure issues going forward.
Thinking About Conservation Policy
Some argue that the pace and scale of changes to the landscape to meet humanity's needs and wants is undermining the ability to sustain ourselves. On a global scale this may be true, but in Canada, with the second largest landmass in the world and only 3.85 people/km2, this is not necessarily the case (although one could argue the corollary, which is that this is exactly why we should set aside more land and protect more species, insects, microorganisms and ecosystems, generally).
Water - Blue Gold
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink – many will recall the famous musings of English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Mark Twain once remarked, "whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” Both statements are true.
This paper is more of a primer on water and water management than a discussion of policy issues or options, although at the end we touch briefly on the Business Council’s views on water policy in British Columbia, a topic which has been under discussion in connection with the ongoing Water Act reform process.
Cumulative Impact Assessment:
Is It Just a Fancy Way of Identifying and Managing Risk?
What is cumulative impact assessment?
Environment and Energy Bulletin
Air Quality Regulation: Canadian and BC Developments
Over the last 35 years, the issue of air quality has become a predominant global environmental concern as a result of increased urbanization, industrialization, a growing demand for energy in all forms, and the world’s reliance upon vehicles as the primary mode of transportation.
Governments in Europe and North America took the initial steps at understanding and eventually regulating air quality in the 1960’s and 1970’s, with Canada implementing a formal regulatory approach in 1999 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Since then, management of air quality has evolved in Canada and in British Columbia, which has its own provincial regulatory regime governing air pollution, including delegating responsibility to Metro Vancouver with respect to air quality in this region.
Changes to the Fisheries Act - The Sky is (Not) Falling
Recent changes to the Federal Fisheries Act had been the subject of considerable speculation until the Harper Government’s 2012 Omnibus Budget Bill was tabled earlier this year confirming the details of the proposed changes, some of which became law on June 29, 2012.
The Business Council’s latest Environment and Energy Bulletin clarifies some of the misconceptions about the changes to the original Act, which is nearly 100 years old, and outlines what these changes mean for the business community.
The Impact of Canadian Environmental Regulatory and Approval Regimes on Business Competitiveness
Environment and Energy Bulletin v4 n3
The global economic environment remains challenging, as Canadian firms and industries address the need to be competitive and maintain jobs and investment in the country. For Canada, one positive trend is the rise of Asia in the global economy. Today, Asia as a whole accounts for more than 35% of global output, and the figure is expected to approach one-half by 2025. Some analysts believe that sustained growth in China and other emerging economies in Asia (and elsewhere) will fuel a prolonged “up-cycle” for many internationally traded commodities, as rapidly expanding middle class populations in these nations enjoy steadily rising incomes and businesses and governments there invest to build infrastructure, factories, and other fixed assets.
British Columbia Perspectives on a National Energy Strategy (NES)
Environment and Energy Bulletin v4 n2
There was a time when the words “National Energy Plan” would have caused blood pressure to spike across much of Western Canada, which would then have been followed by colorful descriptions of the federal government. This may no longer be the case - and certainly not if many of the West’s leading think tanks, energy companies and provincial leaders have their way.
How Big (and What Is) the 'Green Economy'?
The Challenge of Counting 'Green Jobs' in BC
Environment and Energy Bulletin v4 n1
“Having announced the imminent arrival of the green economy, we’re scrambling to define exactly what that means…”
The above quote neatly sums up the current conundrum about what many people now refer to as the “green” or “clean” economy: although the idea is much celebrated, it is hard to pin down in a satisfactory way. Politicians, media commentators, and non-governmental organizations routinely laud the potential to create thousands of new “green jobs.” Shortly after taking office, US President Barak Obama proclaimed, “As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs - but only if we accelerate that transition.” Closer to home, former Premier Gordon Campbell championed the idea of BC as a North American leader in developing and selling clean (carbon-free) energy. British Columbia’s pioneering economy-wide carbon tax, the first of its kind in North America, was linked to an expectation of robust growth in “green” industries and related gains in employment. At the municipal level, political leaders in the City of Vancouver are convinced that the green sector is destined to drive the region’s economy and foster the development of tens of thousands of new, high-paying jobs.
The Natural Gas Story
Environment and Energy Bulletin v3 n2
Both globally and in North America, natural gas is poised to play a bigger role in meeting the energy needs of consumers, businesses and communities. Recent discoveries of large unconventional (shale) gas deposits in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe have heightened awareness that natural gas is an abundant, widely distributed and cost-effective energy source. Many analysts also see natural gas as a “foundation” fuel that can help to pave the way to a lower-carbon energy future. And with a number of countries – Japan, Germany, etc. – now looking at reducing their reliance on nuclear power, the global appetite for natural gas seems poised to increase markedly in the coming years.
Lessons Learned from the Prosperity Mine Decision:
Enhancing Project Certainty Through a Social Licence Strategy
Environment and Energy Bulletin v3 n1
Since the Federal Cabinet’s decision in November, 2010 to prohibit the proposed Prosperity Mine project from proceeding, questions have arisen about how this outcome came to pass, especially in circumstances where the project was previously approved through the British Columbia environmental assessment process and received strong words of support from the BC Government. One only has to consider the voluminous media coverage of this dilemma to understand the answer and to gain an appreciation of what now appears to be the most critical ingredient for success in any major resource project proposal. The critical ingredient? - “social licence” to develop and operate the project.
Good and Getting Better: Air Quality in the Lower Mainland
Today, urban air quality in Canada is subject to regular monitoring as the human health impacts of exposure to various contaminants are better understood. The sources of air contaminants and the interactions among them clearly affect local air quality, as do factors such as geographic location (coastal versus interior), seasonality and weather conditions, and the extent of trans-boundary pollution. In both Canada and the United States, national and provincial/state regulations exist to manage air quality and set standards for emissions. In British Columbia, Metro Vancouver (formerly the Greater Vancouver Regional District) is in a unique position within Canada because it has delegated authority from the provincial government to regulate air quality in the Lower Mainland. Recently, Metro Vancouver released the long-awaited summary of its 2005 air emissions inventory. This issue of the Business Council’s Environment Bulletin reviews the results of the inventory, examines the projections developed by Metro Vancouver staff, and considers some implications for regional and provincial policy on air quality going forward.