Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 15, No. 11, February 23, 2011
Honoured Reader Edition
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Industry associations in Canada are increasingly expressing support for carbon pricing. As usual, our politicians are well behind the parade and even environmental groups seem reluctant to address the subject. We bring you the latest from Sustainable Prosperity. We share key points from their analysis, express the hope that they are correct, and wonder, along with Stéphane Dion, what it will take to convince our federal government to bring out a climate change plan.

The Ontario government appears to be slowly backing away from its green energy commitments. In a pair of articles we look at why and suggest that one cause may be that the government followed too closely the advice it was getting from environmental groups. At the federal level, Environment Canada seems inclined to ignore the technical advice of their own biodiesel experts, or is it just electioneering?

One of our ongoing bugaboos is the damage that one irresponsible company can do to an entire industry. In this issue we look at the fallout from the German dioxin issue. Food companies are likely to be hit with a large number of new regulations, some of which may be very onerous for smaller companies, yet adding dioxin to food is already illegal in Germany. Why must governments always rush to new laws and regulations rather than showing their commitment by throwing existing offenders into prison?

Holland is implementing a major project of "building with nature". The approach is great - it was implemented in a Canadian situation in the mid-1970's but Holland intends to market the technology around the world. Why isn't Canada already a world leader in "building with nature" technologies?

We don't often address current major news topics in Gallon Environment Letter but the situation in Cairo drew our attention to some interesting sustainability aspects of that mega-city. We report on the results of research about Cairo. There's something about the 'two-hat problem' that rings eerily truly in the context of Canada's environmental challenges.

The Canada-EU trade agreement may impact on Canada-first procurement by governments at all levels and Canada says that adding species to the Endangered Species list does not cost much. Both initiatives could cost the private sector. We explain why.

We have two book reviews in this issue: Pollution Probe's new Primer on Energy Systems and a British book which we could not resist: Climate Change for Football Fans. We are enthusiastic about the latter, even though we are not football fans, but less so about the former.

The UK has introduced a new labelling guide for products making green claims and we think they have done a better job of this necessary than Canada. Britain wants to encourage green products, Canada apparently wants to regulate them. We encourage Canada to adopt the British Guide. In the same league, the US has introduced a Biopreferred Products label, which by its own admission is not a green label for the environment but is hoped to be a green label for farmers. In our next issue, GL will focus on sustainable agricultural production and the question Is Our Quest for Bioproducts Sustainable When We Have Only One Planet?

Finally, if you have ever dropped your cellphone down the toilet, you may be able to contribute feedback to our question Why Don't We Finance Toilets the Way We Finance Cell Phones?
We hope you find items of interest in this issue. Whether you do or don't, please send us your comments on any item of interest to We'll print a selection of letters received.


Jack McGinnis, one of the pioneers of recycling in Canada, passed away on January 29th. He was 64.

A member of the development team for the first Blue Box program in Ontario in the early 1980's, Jack devoted almost his entire career to designing and implementing recycling programs. GL's editor had the pleasure of working with him on several projects, including one in which he designed and was within a couple of weeks of being ready to roll out the first national retail recycling program for McDonald's Restaurants of Canada when the Company's US Head Office decided to scrap the iconic polystyrene clamshell and replace it with a new package that was in practice not recyclable.

Jack developed recycling programs for municipalities and organizations in many countries and across Canada. He was quite a bear of a man but always kindly and forever eager to relate stories about recycling and to help those who were interested in developing programs. One time, most likely in the late 1970's or early 1980's, he was in New Jersey meeting with state government officials about the possibility of implementing a Blue Box type program in that jurisdiction. Jack related to me later that very late at night there had been a knock at his hotel room door. He answered to find two even bigger men in black coats and black suits standing there. "We don't want you here", they said, before turning and walking away. Wisely, Jack heeded the message and abandoned his thoughts of doing business with the State of New Jersey.
In recent years, Jack moved to Brougham in Durham Region, on the eastern edge of the Greater Toronto Area, and become very involved not only in recycling and waste management but also, with a group called Durham Sustain Ability, in planning for and designing a green economy in the area. He was also an active opponent of the burning of garbage, which he saw as wasteful, and in particular opposed the building of a garbage incinerator in Durham. The Ontario Minister of the Environment gave approval for construction of the incinerator on November 19, 2010.

More information about Jack and about Durham Sustain Ability is available at


Many farmers here in Haldimand County, where GL originates, have signed up to have wind turbines on their farms. Close to Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) Nanticoke Coal-Fired Generating Plant, extensive swathes of land apparently are already signed up. GL isn't sure why the decisions were taken to disperse the turbines so widely instead of concentrating them in a relatively smaller area. Even the setback requirements could be met without building turbines so widely dispersed that more people can complain they are exposed to the "blight" which may end up being about 100 turbines distributed on lands within a few kilometres of the Lake Erie shore. Concentrating the turbines might also lessen the environmental impact of road building to access the turbines. Haldimand County is an area of heavy clay extremely sticky when wet so road building to access those wind mills in the back fields will have to be very sturdy. Those who aren't benefiting from turbine fees are expressing a lot of opposition to the plans. On Saturday GL's editor was at Hewitt's Dairy, a relatively small local bulk food store. On the cash desk, was a petition to be sent to the Ontario Legislature protesting wind turbines in Haldimand and asking for a ban of turbines until the public has had meaningful input. And there was a couple there where one of them said that he was also circulating the same petition at work. Council members and economic development staff in Haldimand County see wind as key to making Haldimand a green energy hub.

GL is not altogether sure what is behind the public concern but certainly one factor that is being used to advantage is that those objecting say they get little input into the matter. Whether that is the real reason is unknown to us. There are huge high-tension transmission towers and lines running across the county to OPG. If marring the landscape and using agricultural land for energy supply are objections, these should be considered intrusive too but the public seem to be used to those towers. However, without environmental assessment, the decision-makers have undermined their own ability to respond to wind critics.


On February 11, 2011, the Ontario provincial government announced that it is not proceeding with proposed offshore wind projects. The release says that offshore wind in freshwater lakes has had little scientific research while the "the science concerning land based wind is extensive." The press release says that " Ontario's Renewable Energy Approvals regulation requires extensive environmental reports, public, municipal and Aboriginal consultation, as well as noise assessments."

Both wind industry and environmental groups have criticized the backtrack. The wind industry threatens that investors will be much more cautious due to the change in direction.

The Canadian Environmental Law Association strongly criticized the provincial announcement to cancel offshore wind development especially Ontario Minister of the Environment John Wilkinson due to risk to water. CELA's press release says the group is "not aware of any serious or credible evidence of risks to drinking water from off-shore wind turbines” while there are known hazards due to nuclear power plants, contaminant and emerging chemicals such as endocrine disruptors flowing into the Great Lakes.

Two of CELA's staff lawyers wrote in the Journal of Environmental Law and Practice published in October 2010 about environmental assessment. They quoted extensively from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's Annual Reports to the Legislature about how important an effective EA process is for protecting the environment. ECO and the authors of the article deplore the erosion of EA including increasing number of exemptions of projects. Public scrutiny, measures to ensure equitable access to information, consultation and open and fair decision-making are seen as essential to provide remedies for environmental harm and more importantly to prevent harm in the first place.

While there are some public meetings and some environmental documentation for renewable energy, the process under the Green Energy Act is less than adequate. In the August 18, 2009 issue of the GL, we wrote "We also provide a brief overview of the new Ontario Green Energy Act, legislation which removes citizen freedom of information and right to environmental assessment. It is amazing how ready some governments and some energy and environmental activists are to remove hard won environmental assessment and public participation programs." and "GL is not sure what problems the Ontario government is trying to solve by setting up yet another system, no doubt costly in administration, for project approvals which purports to speed up the approval process so much that it basically minimizes public oversight and puts an inordinate amount of power in the hands of the minister. If the Environmental Assessment process is too slow, there are many environmentally and socially important projects which are held up not just green energy so fixing the EA process would be a better approach. The green energy area is still relatively new and there is still much that we don't know about what its impact are. Environmental assessments is a good mechanism for analysing and learning both what the impacts are and how to monitor and mitigate them."

In response, David Chernushenko, elected in 2010 to Ottawa City Council, wrote in a letter to the GL editor "I am thrilled with many aspects of Ontario's Green Energy Act, but very concerned by the perceived need to run roughshod over established environmental and social safeguard mechanisms for the sake of green energy. What I call the "bully" approach is never the best one, whether for nuclear, fossil or renewable energy."

GL sides with Chernushenko. During development of the Green Energy Act, many Ontario environmental groups sought to convince the Ontario government that there was such strong support for renewable energy projects that it could do away with environmental assessment and municipal approvals for such projects. The Ontario government accepted that advice. Much of the public backlash against green energy is a result of that decision. Conclusion: when environmental groups come bearing strategies more fit for dictators than democracies, decision makers should think twice about that advice.
Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Canada's Renewable Fuels Regulations, published in September 2010, required an average ethanol content of 5% in gasoline beginning in December 2010. The regulations included a similar requirement for biodiesel with an average of 2% for diesel fuel and home heating oil but did not specify an implementation date for the biodiesel mandate. Environment Canada's website dated October 12, 2010 says that the government intended to regulate the biodiesel requirement in 2011, subject to successful demonstration of technical feasibility under the range of Canadian conditions.

NRCAN's Technical Feasibility Study

Natural Resources Canada prepared a technical feasibility study about the annual average 2% renewable diesel in October 2010. The technical feasibility assessed four factors:
While provincial ethanol mandates in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia have given Canadian refineries and marketers experience in blending ethanol into gasoline making it likely they could cope with an average 5% renewable content in the gasoline pool, experience in biodiesel is more recent and limited. Mandates began in Manitoba (November 1, 2009), British Columbia (January 1, 2010) and Alberta (July 1, 2010). The flexibility of the provincial regulations on biodiesel is said to mean there haven't yet been many lessons learned.

One of the key factors identified as not yet technically feasible relates to the upgrades needed at terminal and refinery sites which could take from one to three years. The report stated that accelerating lead times to meet the regulatory start dates could increase costs significantly and may not be possible in some cases.

Regulation for Biodiesel In Force July 1, 2011

On February 10, 2011, Canada's Minister of the Environment said that regulatory implementation for the biodiesel mandate would be July 1, 2011. A proposed regulatory amendment is to be published in the Canada Gazette Part 1 subject to a 60 day public comment period. The Minister is quoted in the press release as saying, "When we announced our Renewable Fuels Strategy, we were clear that the 2 per cent requirement would be implemented subject to technical feasibility. After positive results, we are moving forward with this requirement which will result in further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately in cleaner air for all Canadians.''

If NRCAN's report is the basis for the technical feasibility, as it appears to be, then from GL's reading, that report did not say what the Minister said. Canadian Petroleum Products Institute is already objecting to the July 1st implementation.

Surely it could not be that the Minister is expecting an election to be held before July 1st? Surely he is not announcing an implementation date now that he knows will later be postponed? Surely the Minister of the Environment would not force Canada's oil industry to do something that even the experts at NRCAN say is technically not possible? Is Peter Kent Minister of the Environment or Minister of Environmental Politics?

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment claimed that he had a plan to fight climate change.
Could he table it?

The Speaker:
It appears that the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville may have to wait for the return of the minister but I am sure he will note the hon. member's request for tabling in due course.

Canada. Parliament. Hansard. Official Report * Table of Contents * Number 126 (Official Version). February 8, 2011.

[For those not so familiar with parliamentary procedure, we note that a Minister has to be in the House when an MP rises to ask a question of that Minister.]


A policy brief produced for Sustainable Prosperity, an academic research group based at the University of Ottawa (see below), states that a survey of positions of major industry associations in energy and fossil fuel-based sectors in Canada indicates support for pricing carbon. That and three other key messages are identified in the brief:
Among the risks identified are:
Reducing the risk may be as or more important as minimizing the cost. The brief concludes,
"The current tone of uncertainty surrounding federal climate policy in Canada creates risk for the business community, as companies and investors need to be able to make predictions about the future for sound risk management and planning. As such, there is wide support in the energy and carbon intensive industries for the implementation of a carbon pricing policy in Canada."

The subsidies mentioned are not the ones the fossil-fuel intensive sectors receive as direct and indirect subsidies supporting fossil fuel use but are subsidies which government could in the future give to industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We certainly hope that industry finally has indeed shifted to recognize the need for action on climate change but think that when policies are developed, heavy industry users of fossil fuels are still likely to say "That costs too much" or "That isn't how we want it done" or any number of other positioning which pose as barriers to climate action even if the policy is technically feasible. However, it is still good to see at least positive statements on the need for carbon pricing. GL has said before that industry which fails to support economic instruments for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions takes the risk of being faced with regulations which lead to more inflexible and costly impacts on them or competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace. However, the kind of vague positioning outlined in this report is unlikely to convince many that Canadian industry is supporting serious action on climate change.

Sustainable Prosperity says it is "a national research and policy network, based at the University of Ottawa. SP focuses on market-based approaches to build a stronger, greener economy. It brings together business, policy and academic leaders to help innovative ideas inform policy development." Sustainable Prosperity c/o University of Ottawa 555 King Edward Avenue Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5 613-562-5800 x3342

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


A major food scandal in January in Germany involving dioxin-contaminated feed affecting farms and farm products such as eggs, meat, and milk has shaken consumer confidence in food safety.

A facility where both food grade and industrial oils were processed shipped about 206 tonnes of a mixture of fatty acids between November 11 and December 16, 2010. It appears that the industrial oils may have been mixed with the food grade oils, leading to dioxin contamination of the food grade product. These mixtures were delivered in 8 deliveries to a feed fat producer in Germany and in turn were used to produce an estimated 2,256 tonnes of feed fat and delivered to feed production facilities. Feed was produced and sold to agricultural operations of laying hens, meat poultry, beef, and pigs. The German government said that no contaminated feed fat was shipped outside of Germany.

Initially 4,760 farms were barred from shipping any meat or egg product out. By January 19, the number of farms barred from shipments numbered 677. The shutdown was a serious financial blow from which some operators said they could not recover. The regulatory authorities said they only reopened shipment of products once batches of feed and farm products did not test high for dioxin or some other proof was provided that the products were not contaminated. By February 16, 2011 there were still 65 farms in various states barred from shipping product.

Consumers were assured that even if the contamination had occurred over a period of months, at the highest level measured in food, it was not expected to pose danger to human health. Some of the retailers complained that they were unable to answer questions from consumers about whether they carried food products of concern because the authorities shut down information to the supply chain. The scare occurred during Green Week Berlin in Germany, a 10-day agricultural fair in Berlin attended by 400,000 consumers, government representatives and food and agriculture buyers and traders. German regional specialities including pork sausages are featured. Deutsche Welle, the German international broadcaster, reported that the food court in the organic and fair trade section saw an increase in business with barely a seat available.

Action Plan to Protect Consumers

The German Federal Government has now proposed a 14 point Action Plan which included:
The Cabinet approved some parts of the plan such as the requirement for laboratories to report their findings in the future if alarming measurements for hazardous substances are found.

Food and feed business operators will be required to report on dioxins and other problem substances to the authorities. The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety will compile, evaluate and report on the data quarterly to implement counter-measures. The question about enforcement will also consider whether infringement of the Food and Feed Code should be a criminal or regulatory offence.

GL thinks that the political fallout from such a scandal is very real and this rush for more regulations to ensure food safety follows like eggs are produced by chickens. In some cases, regulations can be beneficial. For example, the mandatory requirement to report poor results in testing has been a requirement in Ontario for municipal water testing after citizens died in Walkerton due to contaminated drinking water. Public health officials say that pig farmers test for infectious diseases and if it were mandatory to make those lab results public in cases of swine flu, the public interest would be better served.

On the other hand, enacting more laws that aren't enforced isn't all that helpful. GL may be exaggerating but every time we have a consumer product or food crisis, the same governments which tell consumers that the consumer and food protection system is the best and the safest in the world, end up saying that they can't do much of anything about this crisis but with more legislation will be able to do something next time. And then the next crisis happens and somehow just the right regulations aren't on the statute books yet and it starts over again. More regulations because of the failure of enforcement in the first place puts more burden on those companies who do comply with the law and often so much burden on small companies that they can't compete. Not to be facetious but when small companies operate illegally in the same way as big companies, the small companies represent the least risk to society because the hazard extent of the damage is less because their volume is lower. The shipment of dioxin-contaminated fat for animal feed use is already illegal. Not only that, but the company has filed for bankruptcy (always a convenient outlet for those companies willing to operate outside the law). GL would have liked to hear a lot more about what Germany did to deal with the non-compliance of this particular company.

Council of the European Union. Agriculture and Fisheries. Note from the German delegation to Council. Information on the present dioxin situation in Germany - Initiatives at European level to improve consumer protection in the animal feed chain. Brussels, Belgium: 20 January 2011.
Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


The Province of South Holland in The Netherlands is below sea level and with climate change is facing rising sea level and stronger storm surges. The Netherlands Department of Public Works awarded a contract to Dutch contractors Van Oord and Boskalis for the "Sand Engine" a massive but still a pilot project to protect the province's Delfland coast. The Delfland coast is located between The Hague and Rotterdam in the southwest part of the Holland coast. The contract is valued at EUR 50 million. The contractors have committed to supplying 21.5 million cubic metres of sand. The national government will contribute Euro 58 million and the province E12 million funding the contract as well as contributing to other parts of the project.

The huge amount of sand will be deposited in a hook shape. Over the next 20 years, the wind, waves and ocean currents will sweep the sand further into the land, fill in the hook and catch natural sand as supplement in what is described as "building with nature" to supplement and protect the coastline. The Netherlands hopes that this pilot will demonstrate innovation in Dutch marine engineering, which can be applied globally for building sustainable, natural coastal defences. The 100 hectares added also increase recreation and dune habitat. The pressures of population, industrialization, and roads have reduced the extent of natural area.

One of the components is monitoring of beach and dune vegetation as well as effects on sea life. Currently, sand is deposited on the beaches every five years to protect the coast. The longer term sand deposits are said to have less transport compared to the every five year beach applications. Environmental impacts include extraction of sand from the North Sea for embankments and other constructions The sand spraying is expected to be completed by October 2011. Sand dredging releases silt which harms phytoplankton which rely on light and provide food for other animals in the food chain. The sand engine is only one of among other disturbances due to wind turbines, oil platforms, dumping and dredgings for various purposes.

Though the Dutch "Sand Engine" approach is on a large scale, smaller scale projects of this kind have been employed around the world for some years. On a small scale, an approach to encourage the water to deposit sand and to rebuild the shoreline was implemented on the south shore of Lake Ontario in the mid-1970's when GL's Editor was a member of council in the Town of Stoney Creek. The constructed landform is still in place and the rebuilt shore area provides significant value to Fifty Point Conservation Area.

The Netherlands. Dutch coastline reinforced by innovative 'Sand Engine, Hollandtrade |

Van Oord. Start Sand Engine. January 17, 2011.


Cairo's Tahrir Square protestors are proud of what many called a "clean" revolution. Although over 300 people died, the protestors themselves were relatively restrained in violence. They followed through on the symbolic view of reclaiming ownership of their country and cleaning up corruption by taking brooms and sweeping the streets to collect garbage, cleaning up the mess they made themselves. But aside from the direct challenges of population growth, unemployment, food prices, lack of affordable housing, traffic congestion and other problems, Egypt and Cairo has systems which have supported extraction of public funds for private purposes with no accountability. Cleaning up those systems will take longer than sweeping the streets.

Cairo: a Megacity Crisis*

In Cairo, the urban crisis became identified with even more rapid population growth due not only to increased birth rate but also migration from rural areas, the spread of development onto very limited farmland, the spread of slums and squatters some of whom lived in places such as cemeteries, and land development known as informal settlement which included big housing complexes often of substandard quality built without approval but obviously with tacit acceptance by housing authorities.

From the 1950 to 2010, the population in Egypt population increased from 21 million to 84 million. The total population of the Greater Cairo Region in 2006 was 14 million with 1.2 million in the eight new cities (see below). The GCR population is almost a quarter to the total population in the country and almost a half of the total urban population in Egypt. Officials say that more than 90% of households are said to have some access to utilities.

Over half of the households in the GCR live in informal settlements, of which 82% have been built on agricultural land (2006). Egypt lost 300,000 acres of prime agricultural land between 1952-2002. In 1950, GCR covered 120 sq km and by 2000, 524 sq. km. There is a shortage of affordable housing in the country even though there were 6 million vacant units in 2006. Unemployment nationally in 2006 was 11% and even higher amongst the young and the educated.

The urban crisis led to development of an urban policy in the 1990s for resettlement of the poor into outlying vast new cities in the Desert. Thanassis Cambanis wrote in 2010 in the New York Times, "Only a country with a seemingly endless supply of open desert land — and an authoritarian government free to ignore public opinion — could contemplate such a gargantuan undertaking. The government already has moved a few thousand of the city’s poorest residents against their will from illegal slums in central Cairo to housing projects on the periphery." The poor often didn't want to leave the city because they were part of their community, didn't have cars or foresee a way to make even a subsistence living in the middle of the desert.

*The United Nations defines a megacity as one with a population greater than 10 million.

Mobility in the Megacity

The streets of Cairo are home to traffic chaos and pollution, partly because many of the cars are often over 10 years old and in poor condition. Although transport in Cairo is crowded, often unsafe and unreliable and too expensive for many, there is transit including what one tourist advisor described as the cheapest but most uncomfortable ride, the MicroBus. The Cairo Metro is the only underground subway in Africa and the Middle East. The underground line was connected to existing railway lines at either end. Line-1 built between 1982-1989 is the main line passing through major residential and business districts of the city. The whole line is 44 kilometres long with 35 stations. The underground section is 4.5 km long with 5 underground stations. The line carries 1.4 million passengers a day with 46 trains. Line-2 was completed in 2000 with interchanges to Line-1 and covers 19 km and 21 stations. It carries 0.7 million passengers a day using 35 trains. Trains include cars for women only but women can choose to use any of the cars. Some of the protesters arrived by transit.

The Two-hat Problem

In a presentation to the World Bank in 2007, two officials of Egypt's Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development gave a good insight into the housing pressures in the cities. The officials wrote that the "Current mechanism of Public Land Tenure and Disposition is complex, contradictory and overlapping." The city has three different governing authorities which are different from the authority governing the new cities. Nine Ministries have direct or indirect control of land and there are many other different entities involved in land control. The system of laws, bylaws, and decrees is so complex that it becomes next to impossible to navigate through them without lining somebody's pockets (GL: the officials didn't directly mention bribery but implied it). All these complications add to what the officials call "The Two Hat problems: "Sectoral ministries act both as regulators & developers (sometimes through holding for profit companies)."

Satellite Cities

On many levels, the idea of planned communities which are cities in their own right with their own stores, jobs and housing sounds like a good idea. Of course, such cities require a big investment in infrastructure to supply water, electricity, housing and roads. While the original proposal was that the new cities would solve problems of those with marginal and low income housing, more sections of the new cities became focussed on larger and luxury housing often in gated communities on properties many times bigger than proposed. A paper from two professors from the Engineering Department at the University of Cairo said that "In the beginning, three proposed new settlements were aimed at providing low and medium levels of housing to solve the problems of "Marginality' and 'Squatters'....The new developments were characterized by villa lands and lands for investment companies in order to achieve the highest income to the state." Richer people could afford the long commute; they enjoyed the cleaner and often cooler air, cooler because of settlements at higher altitudes and away from the urban heat effect of the city conglomerate. Even so, the authors say, some of the new developments have become functioning cities with services, stores, and jobs rather than just being suburbs for the wealthy.

GL notes that while in dictator-run countries, the two-hat problem is particularly serious as leaders who are supposed to be looking to the well-being of their country's citizens funnel off millions and billions of dollars to private bank accounts and villas and torture dissenter, we in Canada and the industrial countries also have this two-hat problem. Governments at all levels finance and fail to enforce compliance for industries which represent significant economic benefits to their province, state or country. Regulations may never be developed for key environmental impacts for such companies. Secrecy and fraud can become the norm when the political success of a political party in power is at stake.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


The United Kingdom government has provided updated guidance on green claims. The guidance applies to products, services and claims regarding the company including what are called aspirational claims, promises the company makes about its targets and commitments. Among some of the elements are:

Effect on claims: claiming energy efficiency on the manufacture of a car may be true but still misleading if one of the major environmental impacts is the actual fuel use of the car e.g. it is a gas guzzler.

Effect on claim: A poor practice would be a hotel which features local food and claims that the hotel is thus environmentally friendly. The local food claim would be fine on the hotel's restaurant menu to inform customers there but most of the environmental impacts of the hotel are much greater than any benefits of local food.

Effect on claim: If a company says it is "carbon neutral" but doesn't include emissions from its transport, it is poor practice. Instead of implying the company is carbon neutral in all its processes and activities, it is better to specify where it has reduced carbon emissions and by how much.

Effect on claim: Use of forests, endangered animals and earth images should only be used if they are relevant to the product, business activity or environmental impact of the claim.

Effect on claim: For example, "We aim that all our milk products will be accredited carbon neutral by 2015" is a statement which should be backed up with a published report identifying the scope of products and emissions, the carbon footprint of these products and identification of specific actions to achieve carbon neutrality and how it would be accredited.

GL was delighted to see this guide. Finally, a government, even a Conservative-anchored coalition government, addresses green claims without insinuating to consumers that environmental claims are more likely to be scams than not. GL believes that governments should be encouraging products with less harmful impacts on the environment. The British Guide is reasonably up to date, taking the changes that have occurred in green claims since the 1990s into account, and is part of the government's Green Economy strategy rather than, as in Canada, being part of the misleading advertising rules. However, the UK version does link to the marketing and trading rules so it isn't as if businesses get off the regulatory hook. The UK guide requires any claim about endorsement by another organization to be true but doesn't, as in Canada, ban endorsement by groups (no environmental groups can legally endorse green products in Canada). The Canadian green guide, the Canadian Standard Association's Plus ISO 14021 is old-fashioned (discussing labels rarely seen and neglecting those more commonly used) and too proscriptive (requiring specific locations for recyclability claims) but the "thou shalt not" approach results in more precision and possibly more understanding of what is required to "substantiate" the claim..

Nevertheless, much as we feel the UK guide is better that Canada's in many ways because of its supportive attitude towards green claims and leaving room for companies to adapt claims as long as explanations are provided, it might be more difficult to use if businesses are inexperienced in use of green claims.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


The US Department of Agriculture is expanding its BioPreferred program. The first part of the program began with the 2002 Farm Bill, enhanced in 2008 with a mandatory federal procurement preference for biobased products designated by the USDA.

Beginning February 21, 2011, the USDA is launching a voluntary biobased product certification and label. The USDA states that it has discussed with the Federal Trade Commission to ensure that the voluntary label is consistent with the green guides. Environmentalists have questioned the environmental benefits and impacts of bioproducts e.g. deleterious impacts on habitat, high energy use, etc. The USDA says the label isn't in itself a green label. The goal of the program is to promote development and adoption of new technologies and biobased products. There are about 50 categories with 5,100 products such as cafeteria ware, personal and institutional cleaning products, construction products, and greases.

Once certified by the USDA, the product can be marketed using the USDA Certified Biobased Product label.
Some of the issues include:
Note: The definition of ‘‘biobased products’’ found in the 2008 Farm Bill is as follows: ‘‘The term ‘biobased product’ means a product determined by the Secretary to be a commercial or industrial product (other than food or feed) that is—(A) composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products, including renewable domestic agricultural materials and forestry materials; or (B) an intermediate ingredient or feedstock.’’

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


On May 6, 2010, the Governor in Council (GIC) acknowledged receipt of the 17 species assessments from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). This committee reviews information about wildlife and determines whether they might be in danger of disappearing from Canada. On February 16, 2011, the government posted the amendment required to add, change or delete species on the Canada's endangered species list: one species is extirpated (gone), seven are endangered, four are threatened and four are of special concern. Only the status of one species improved from threatened to special concern.

The impact of adding the species to the Endangered Species list is stated in the Canada Gazette to have relatively little cost because the populations have been small in the past. For example, the newly listed California buttercup is restricted to a couple of islands near Victoria, British Columbia. The threats to this coastal meadow plant are mostly invasive species, the planned enlargement of a communication tower at one site and unauthorized recreational visitors.The federal Species at Risk Act applies only to federal land because provinces and territories have responsibility for non-federal land.
Some additions show that species many of us thought were part of the natural heritage forever may become unknown to future generations, like the night time call of the whip-poor-will. This nocturnal bird, more heard than seen because it blends so well into its habitat, is listed as threatened in its range from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The population has been reduced by a third in a decade.

The snapping turtle is still relatively common but they live a long time and produce relatively few young. Human activities are increasing mortality. They are now considered a species of Special Concern, a kind of watch list. Listing of a species as special concern does not prohibit "harvesting" of the species.

Another species described in some detail because it is designated as endangered is the Peary Caribou. Land claim agreements allow for aboriginal people to continue subsidence hunting. In some communities in Nunavut and Northwest Territories, native people have restricted hunting to help conserve the animals.

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Many readers will be familiar with Marbek Resource Consultants, an Ottawa-based consultancy including such high profile environment and energy consultants as George Matheson, Martin Adelaar, and Paul Robillard. Over the years since it was established in 1983 Marbek has been a Canadian leader in its field and has had significant influence on government energy policy in Canada. It has also undertaken many projects and initiatives in countries around the world.
Many of Canada's environmental and energy leaders, such as Roger Peters, David Brooks, and Bob Oliver have played significnt roles as members of the Marbek team.
In January, ICF International, a multinational consultancy based in the United States, announced that it has acquired Marbek Resource Consultants.


Details of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations are not transparent although a general framework dated 2007 is posted on the DFAIT web site. The whole range of goods and services is to be covered including raw materials with some emphasis on agricultural goods and fisheries. Public procurement is identified on the EU trade web site as "the largest trade sector sheltered from multilateral trade rules. Public procurement is today arguably the largest trade sector sheltered from multilateral trade rules. It is not covered by any multilateral WTO discipline and it is, for example, specifically exempted from the WTO obligation to treat foreign and domestic companies in the same way." The EU wants to eliminate restrictive procurement practices. Since the EU-Canada agreement would apply to provinces, it would also mean municipalities could be barred from economic development by preferring local contractors. The EU says it now includes public procurement in all its bilateral trade agreements which so far include Mexico Chile and Cariforum

Local food programs, one of the more positive benefits for farmers, could become a trade barrier as could other preferences for local businesses.
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Pollution Probe has written what it calls a primer intended to be an introduction on energy systems in Canada. The group's Chief Executive Officer Bob Oliver says the purpose is to show how "the production and use of energy are both elements of interconnected systems of technology and distribution infrastructure that respond to our demand for the services made possible by the supply of energy." Pollution Probe has the goal to use this text "to jump-start an essential conversation on energy in Canada." The 185 page book intends to describe the elements of Canada's energy system including descriptions of energy sources such as oilsands and nuclear energy described with their benefits and risks as well as wind, solar, biomass, hydro, run of river, and others. Pollution Probe doesn't take any positions on types of energy although of course, there are always positions in what is said and what is not. Funding for the primer is from RBC Foundation.

GL isn't sure of the intended audience for this book. Some parts in the primer are very simple e.g. a boiler uses water and a furnace uses air and e.g. trucks are used to transport oil where pipelines or tanker rail are unavailable. The complex issues are too complicated to discuss. For example, the entire issue of sour gas is covered by "DRIVERS & IMPACTS: SOUR GAS Like high-sulphur crude oil, natural gas deposits with a high percentage of hydrogen sulphide gas are described as sour. Environmental, health and safety concerns about the effects of sour gas production have sparked opposition in communities near sour gas wells in Alberta." In GL's view, complex issues such as environmental, health and safety concerns are certainly key to some of the important and recent conversation about energy in Canada. The book lacks the kind of critical edge that in our opinion would be more likely to kick start a conversation about energy than this 'balanced' and somewhat simplistic, somewhat overly technical, primer.

Some of the previous primers on more emerging topics such as bioproducts have definitely had an audience as GL's editor has heard people talk about them. The energy issue is a very complex and it will be interesting if we hear about insight gained by readers of this primer.

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Carbon trading is most often seen as an activity for the suits but at least one carbon trader, author James Atkins, seems to have a well-developed sense of humour and a love of football (soccer) that exceeds his well-developed interest in carbon markets.

Climate Change for Football Fans: A Matter of Life and Death is a model for the kind of book about serious environmental topics which should be much more common. The book is funny yet informative, a series of accounts of imagined conversations between Professor Igor Rowbotham, an elderly professor who had been living in Patagonia for forty years and who, after an exciting life, had a single remaining interest: how to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, and Joe, a younger man whose major interest in life is football. Joe seeks to educate the Professor about football while the Professor seeks to educate Joe and his friends about climate change.

The detail is impressive. The Professor discusses the economic, social and political aspects of climate change as well as the causes and the environmental effects. Even such technical concepts as Life Cycle Analysis get some significant attention. Fortunately, for this reader, the coverage of soccer is somewhat less detailed, though the strategies and, possibly, the players of some of the top British football teams are not in any way ignored.

The book does not spend a lot of pages supporting the science of climate change. To some extent the science is considered a given. But it does explain the consequences of climate change and it provides some well considered strategies for reducing our emissions. For example, the train company provides a special train service to get fans to the game and the stadium delays the start to accommodate fans from a delayed train. The consumer economy of consumerism is abandoned in favour of an economy built around home renovations, gardening, singing, and cycling. The biggest national project ever becomes building of environmentally efficient homes and rehabilitation of existing housing stock so that they hold heat. Such a project would address roughly a million homes every year. Homeowners would participate because it is 'cool' to own an energy efficient home just as it is cool to be a fan of a successful football team or, later in the scheme, because the government gives its citizens no choice. "Either we endure a few decades of authoritarianism and austerity to cut emissions . . . . or we go spiritual and replace our material needs with deeper purpose."

Canadian readers without knowledge of British soccer might find parts of the book to be somewhat arcane, but those who are well informed about climate change may find that this book turns them into a soccer fan. Those who are interested in learning about climate change in a somewhat light-hearted though essentially factual way should not be too distracted by the football. Though this particular version is primarily for a British audience, GL congratulates this author for a book that may well do more to build support for action on climate change than almost anything else that we have seen on this subject.

Climate Change for Football Fans: A Matter of Life and Death. James Atkins. UIT Cambridge Limited. 2011. An abstract is available at Available in Canada from or try your local bookseller.

According to The Register, a British website that specializes in information technology news from around the world, a recent report from the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, located at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, states that 545 million people in India own a mobile phone but only 366 million people have access to a proper toilet. In India, toilets cost about $300 while, just as in Canada, mobile phones are 'free'.

One is left to wonder whether governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector might not be able to apply the same kind of approach to toilets as is currently applied to cell phones - we will give you the toilet if you pay us when you use it! Come to think of it, coin operated toilets are still used in many parts of Europe and seem to be making a resurgence in Canada.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.
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