One of the greatest challenges facing government and business leaders today is ensuring that our economic development is environmentally sustainable. There is a strong demand for public policies on a host of issues, such as water use, air quality, carbon emissions, environmental assessments, bio-diversity and at-risk species. The Council is committed to providing decision makers with responsible, evidence-based advice on how to promote economic development that meets the needs of environmental stewardship.
The Myth and Reality of a Clean Economy and Jobs
Clean Energy Canada (CEC) recently released a report which purports to show the BC economy will continue to thrive if the province’s carbon tax is steadily ramped up and a long list of additional regulations and other measures are introduced to further reduce carbon emissions in the province.
Finlayson, Ragan Op-Ed: We need a serious discussion about congestion pricing (Vancouver Sun)
In the past year, public debate in Metro Vancouver has focused heavily on how to pay for new transportation capacity. But there is a critical missing piece in this mobility puzzle. Improved transit services and more investment in roads are needed but they aren’t enough. Experience shows that we can’t just build our way out of gridlock. We won’t solve the problem of traffic congestion without also changing the underlying incentives. That’s why we need a serious discussion about congestion pricing.
This summer’s transit referendum was about how to pay for new transit investments. Its failure doesn’t signal that people are happy being stuck in traffic; nor does it signal that we are using our current infrastructure efficiently. There are several things that pretty much everyone agrees with regarding transportation in Metro Vancouver. First, traffic congestion is extremely costly: time lost in traffic costs people and businesses in the region at least $1.4 billion per year. Second, more and expanded public-transit options are necessary, as are maintenance, repairs and upgrading of existing roads and bridges. Third, those transportation investments somehow will have to be made, for neither businesses nor residents can afford to live without them indefinitely.
Another point of agreement is that traffic congestion is getting worse. Given that Metro Vancouver’s population is projected to grow by about million people over the next 25 years, one can easily imagine how bad things could get. As population and port activities increase, container truck traffic will also grow. Who pays for the time that trucks spend idling on backed-up highways and arterial roads? These time delays raise costs for businesses and increase prices for consumers. We all pay for traffic congestion.
Carbon Pricing, Fusion Style – Policy Issues to Consider When Carbon Taxes Meet Cap-and-Trade
While there appears to be a growing consensus on the need to price carbon, there is no consensus on the most effective means of doing so – either via taxes or trading schemes.
Is the Price Right? A Comparison of Carbon Pricing
There is no real mystery to understanding what a carbon tax is – an amount deemed to be the value, or cost, of a tonne of carbon dioxide, which is a by-product of burning fossil fuel. In BC, policy makers have decided that the cost is CDN$30/tonne carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), which is then translated into an amount per unit of fuel. The tax is applied broadly to all fossil fuel combustion in the province and, in practice, covers a large majority of the fossil fuels consumed by businesses and households.
Submission: Climate Leadership Plan Discussion Paper
The Business Council's response to the Province of BC's July 2015 Discussion Paper - Climate Leadership Plan.
Finlayson Op-Ed: Renewables, fossil fuels will share energy landscape (Business in Vancouver)
Is the world in the midst of an accelerating migration away from fossil fuels toward much greater reliance on carbon-free energy? If one takes seriously the speeches of many politicians or the content found on the web sites of environmental advocacy organizations, the temptation is to answer “yes.” The reality, however, is more complex.
Important shifts in energy production and use are under way, but the magnitude and timing of any overall global “energy transition” are apt to be less dramatic than many believe. Growing energy demand, the vast scale of the world’s existing energy system, and the tens of trillions of dollars of embedded capital that underpin it all stand in the way of rapid change.
That said, there is evidence of an incremental move away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, in favour of low/no-carbon forms of energy. Over time, natural gas and renewables will comprise rising proportions of the world’s energy supply, while the shares of oil and coal will decline. However, because energy demand will be increasing and natural gas use is expected to double by 2040, this does not necessarily equate to an absolute reduction in the quantity of fossil fuels in the global energy system in the short- to medium-term.
Some Reflections on the Global Energy Transition
Is the world in the midst of a rapidly accelerating migration away from fossil fuels, toward a much greater reliance on carbon-free sources of energy? If one takes seriously the speeches of Environment Ministers or the content found on the web sites of many well-known environmental advocacy organizations, the temptation is to answer “yes.” The reality, however, is more complex.
In this edition of Environment and Energy Bulletin, Jock Finlayson analyzes the recent projections of three well-respected sources - the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) and British Petroleum (BP). He concludes that for the world as a whole, there is certainly evidence of an incremental move away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, in favour of low/no-carbon forms of energy. However, looking out over the next two decades, the trend-lines point to a real, but far from revolutionary, energy transition, one that is unlikely to entail an absolute reduction in the quantity of fossil fuels produced and consumed globally by 2035 or 2040.
Jock Finlayson Presentation
Does Canada have an Economic and Environmental Carbon Bubble?
Presented to the Eco-Pragmatism Summit, Vancouver, June 15, 2015
On June 15, 2015, Jock Finlayson participated in a panel debate with Jeff Rubin focused on energy and the economy. Jock's presentation included a review of the top global oil producers, Canada's place as an energy exporter and global energy consumption trends. He also looks at energy transitions and some implications of lower fossil fuel prices.
Rethinking Social Licence to Operate -- A Concept in Search of Definition and Boundaries
This edition of Environment and Energy Bulletin, guest authored by David Bursey, a partner with Bennett Jones LLP, examines the evolution of Social Licence to Operate (SLO) in the approval of resource development projects and its recent rise in popular use. It then considers how the concept relates to political governance and law. Finally, it assesses the implications of how SLO is being applied – for good and for bad, but most often without a proper context..
A Brief Look at the Environmental Goods and Services Sector in British Columbia
There are substantial challenges with establishing a coherent measure of the environmental goods and services (EGS) sector, not only in terms of definitions but also as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product, trade and employment in British Columbia.
For the most part there has always been an EGS sector. Its contribution to the economic activity is already embedded within the system of national accounts (SNA) used by statistical agencies in Canada and other countries. Two examples are water and wastewater treatment, whose contribution to economic activity is already counted as part of utilities or infrastructure spending. Other examples include technologies designed to improve vehicle fuel efficiency or to reduce emissions from power generation; these are captured in the existing data on manufacturing and utilities production and spending. Activities such as consulting and engineering services and hazardous waste management are also included in the SNA.
Risk: Perception, Reality and the Policy Process
Risk is a socially constructed, complex concept that humans have developed to deal with the fear of unknown events that may happen in their lives.
The Intersection of Environmental Policy and Economic Growth
The argument often goes: increased environmental regulation makes for a better society and facilitates economic growth. Some in the business community may disagree. To date there have been academic studies in support of both sides of the discussion but the answer has remained elusive. There is no doubt that much environmental regulation helps shape the conduct of individuals and firms by creating limits and articulating responsibility for actions and performance. But a proliferation of poorly designed and badly implemented regulations may have negative consequences for the economy, deterring investment and undercutting the competitive position of affected firms in trade-exposed industry sectors.
Getting a Handle on the Environmental Goods and Services Industry
Previous editions of the Environment and Energy Bulletin were concerned with the criteria and tools that can shed light on how green jobs and other environment-related activities contribute to the economy. This paper is another piece in the exploration of that topic. Here, we adopt a somewhat narrower focus by looking at “the environmental goods and services producing sector” of the economy.
Compliance and Enforcement
What exactly is compliance and enforcement (C&E)? One might think there is an easy answer. But despite the myriad of organizations with C&E policies and staff dedicated to this type of work in a broad range of areas such as taxation, crime, workplace health and safety, and the environment, it is challenging to identify an accessible literature on the theory, evolution and practice of C&E.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions - The Costs Vary By Industry
Policy-makers in a growing number of jurisdictions are committed to taking steps to reverse – or at least slow the growth of – greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming.
Climate Progress in BC
If you read the recently released 2014 Progress Report on Climate Action in BC and some of the related commentary, one would think BC is doing really well on meeting its climate objectives. It’s not surprising to see the government pat itself on the back, but the self-congratulation is overdone in the context of the 2020 33% legislated reduction target that was put in place in 2007. We have only run 2.4 km of a 40 km marathon race. It was clear in 2007 that the government of the day was too ambitious in adopting the 33% goal, and the latest data confirm this.
The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part II
In Part I of this two-part series, we reviewed the main economic critiques of LNG development in British Columbia, concluding that while there are risks and economic uncertainties with respect to LNG in the province, the critics are largely off base with their professed economic concerns. Here in Part II, we address the more analytically challenging environmental issues that have been identified by various commentators who doubt the benefits of LNG.
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.
Is New US Coal Law All About Smoke and Mirrors?
On June 2, 2014, the US EPA issued a proposed rule for reducing carbon dioxide emissions (incorrectly referred to as carbon by some which is a different element ). The goals for reductions are 25 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2030. The rule is solely focused on coal-fired generation plants.
Climate Assessment for the United States
The United States has been internally conflicted about climate change, until now, it seems. With the release of the Third National Climate Assessment, the Obama administration has drawn on a wide range of observations about weather, precipitation patterns, water quality and availability, health, infrastructure, agriculture and the oceans to arrive at firm conclusions about humanity’s responsibility for increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The arguments in the assessment report are bolstered by including descriptions of impacts and feedback loops that are specific to each region of the United States. There is nothing like examples to demonstrate concreteness. Overall, the conclusions echo those of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but with a uniquely American flavour. Despite its 800+ pages, it is written in a way that is accessible to general readers.