CLIMATE NEWS SCAN – 14 February 2012
- Climate damage to fisheries exceeding Canada’s response, report says
- Finding profit in low carbon supply chains
- Public looks to politicians for cues on climate change
The PICS News Scan is produced by ISIS at the Sauder School of Business and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). To be added to the News Scan distribution list or to provide content feedback and/or suggestions about interesting news items, please email: email@example.com.
RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
Renewable energy investment needs more than just a carbon tax
February 6, 2012. A carbon tax alone will not be enough to make Australia’s electricity system emissions-free, according to a new report entitled “No Easy Choices”, published by the Grattan Institute. The report argues that Australia’s goal to reduce emissions to 80% below 2000 levels by 2050 requires more support for renewable energy deployment: transmission connections, changes to regulatory frameworks and improved resource mapping. While the private sector has the capital to make the necessary investments, a combination of market limitations and transaction costs will keep them from happening. Based on academic and grey literature, the report outlines several suggestions for policy support.
BC has been lauded for its unique, escalating carbon tax and has similar emission targets to Australia (80% below 2007 by 2050), so it is interesting to compare the two jurisdictions. In British Columbia, BC Hydro provides high-level resource mapping for renewable energy developers and development of new transmission is guided by the Clean Energy Act. Nevertheless, in line with the Australian report, recent energy discussions hosted by the Canada West Foundation and the Vancouver Energy Roundtable indicated that industry still wants to see more clear support for renewable energy investment in the province. Although electricity is currently a low emissions source, last week’s policy changes are likely to see increased imports from fossil-fueled jurisdictions as provincial demand rises and the changing climate affects average availability of water for hydropower generation.
Finding profit in low carbon supply chains
February 1, 2012. Large companies such as Walmart and PepsiCo are reaping the benefits of climate change strategies in multiple ways, according to the most recent Supply Chain Report by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Emissions reductions along the supply chain are translating into clear cost savings and a previous CDP report found that companies with strong climate change strategies most often also demonstrate strong financial performance relative to competitors. Similar research found that stock prices rose slightly immediately after companies disclosed their carbon data. The data from the CDP show that companies taking a leading and assertive stance on climate change are benefiting financially.
The report notes that US and Canadian suppliers are at a disadvantage given their lack of maturity in areas of performance and climate change disclosure relative to Asian and European markets. For both governments and industry within BC and Canada, the CDP report makes it clear that we are behind the pack when it comes to cutting emissions and to establishing strong corporate strategies for emission reductions. While BC companies do operate in an environment where carbon is priced through a carbon tax, research suggests the tax is too low to create the behavior changes required to significantly reduce emissions. Another sign that carbon is not priced appropriately comes from the UK, where the Bank of England is being asked to consider the financial impact that overvalued carbon assets could have on market stability.
RESEARCH THEME II: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
New wireless power technology could accelerate electric vehicle adoption
February 1, 2012. A new study from Stanford University outlines the potential for wireless energy transfer to electric vehicles (EVs). The study’s research team designed a high-efficiency charging system that uses magnetic fields to transmit large electric currents wirelessly between metal coils placed several feet apart. This technology could enable EVs to charge while driving on the highway. Such a system would address the limited driving range of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), which is often raised as the major drawback of the new technology and the key hurdle to widespread adoption. This research builds on earlier research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where researchers used magnetic resonance to light a 60-watt bulb. During the MIT study, the magnetic field appeared to have no impact on people who stood between the coils.
Planning for PEV charging in BC focuses predominately on the home and work place, rather than in transit. BC Hydro is working to ensure the necessary electrical infrastructure is in place for an increased consumer uptake of EVs. BC already has over 10 public EV charging stations (predominately in Vancouver), with plans and incentives for further adoption. Should this new highway charging technology become a standard in the industry, it would significantly alter the planning and implementation of EV infrastructure in the province. Many questions remain about the technology and the most appropriate path to implementation, but as a region that likes to consider itself a North American leader in EV deployment, BC might consider exploring this new technology for promoting widespread EV adoption.
RESEARCH THEME III: RESILIENT ECOSYSTEMS
Climate damage to fisheries exceeding Canada’s response, report says
February 7, 2012. A new report from the Royal Society of Canada says that important marine laws and regulations, which could help address the climate change impacts on the marine environment, aren’t being implemented quickly enough. The report calls for updated laws in Canada to help protect species at risk from climate change. The researchers conclude that the focus should be on marine conservation and rebuilding depleted populations and, to this end, the expansion of marine protected areas. The authors place much of the blame on the outdated Fisheries Act of 1868, which puts Canada far behind countries like the US and Norway in terms of sustainable fishing practices, because there is no requirement to act in response to a species at risk.
One of the main challenges facing all marine jurisdictions in Canada is the dual role of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) responsible both for supporting the commercial fishing industry and for promoting conservation. In BC, this structure is mirrored by the Oceans and Marine Fisheries Branch (OMFB) of the Ministry of Environment, which is responsible for “the overall leadership of provincial government strategies and initiatives related to ocean resources and marine fisheries, as well as seafood industry development.” According to the OMFB, BC has been the most active province in establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), with a total of 148 MPAs, covering 21 percent of the province’s shoreline. One of the BC-specific areas covered by the new report was the province’s aquaculture industry with the researchers raising concerns about the impact of salmon farms as climate change continues to put pressure on the province’s fish stocks.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
Public looks to politicians for cues on climate change
February 6, 2012. A recent study in the journal Climatic Science highlights the volatility of public opinionabout climate change. The study noted that public perceptions were influenced not by extreme weather events or scientific literacy, but rather by economic indicators and “statements and actions from political leaders, celebrities, advocacy groups and the like”. When politicians highlighted concerns and the need for action on climate change, the public similarly increased its concern for these issues. Conversely, when environmental legislation was voted against, public perception about the seriousness of climate change was downgraded. Media coverage was also found to be a critical driver of perceptions, but the study noted that political discourse is the main content of many media channels.
In BC, a shift in political powers and policies may also lead to a lowered public perception about the risks posed by climate change to the province. The previous Liberal Government enacted legislation to factor in worst-case scenarios, energy self-sufficiency, and low carbon energy sources. More recent political announcements have retracted some of the bold green policies, which according to the study, will lead to decreased perceptions about the importance of climate change and action. In a quest for sustained action regardless of political cycles, advocacy for action on climate change should be encouraged by community leaders and political leaders at all levels of government who recognize the urgency of the issue.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
Carbon legislation an advantage for BC forestry
February 3, 2012. Newly published research has shed light on how carbon influences supply chains in the paper and print sector. The study, published in the Journal of Forest Products Business Research, was authored by researchers at the University of British Columbia and WWF Canada. They found that the forest sector in BC enjoys a unique advantage when it comes to carbon, because hydroelectric power and energy from biomass helps paper companies manufacture low carbon products. The ability to ship by barge and then by rail to the rest of North America further reduces the footprint. Beyond simply emissions, however, the research highlights the importance of carbon in developing relationships between supply chain partners. The need to comply with regulations fostered strong relations between companies in BC and their clients in the US. The research found that moving forward, supply chain partners that manage their collective carbon footprint may move beyond compliance towards a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
The research provides a perspective on the advantages of BC’s carbon regulatory schemes for the forestry sector. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act requires major emitters to measure, verify, and disclose their emissions. The Carbon Tax Act places a gradually increasing tax on fossil fuels. These pieces of legislation give companies like Catalyst Paper and BNSF Railway, a freight rail operator, strong incentives to manage and reduce their emissions, while at the same time preparing them for first mover advantage in a carbon-constrained world. The Zero Net Deforestation Act enhances the marketability of products from BC. Quebecor World, a major printing company, cited the transparency and data availability on paper products from BC as a selling point to clients in the US. This new research underlines the importance of progressive policy as a precondition for successfully managing carbon. With BC recently adopting a Forest Carbon Offset Protocol, the legislative underpinnings for managing forest carbon both on the ground and along the supply chain are strengthening.
ALSO IN THE NEWS:
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