New Report – Aggregate Extraction in Ontario: A Strategy for the Future

March 24th, 2011

CIELAP’s new report Aggregate Extraction in Ontario: A Strategy for the Future assesses key issues and makes recommendations that Ontario should address in a long-term management strategy for the extraction of aggregates (sand, gravel and stone). In 2007, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) told the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario that it was committed to contributing to such a strategy.

Substantial population growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario over the next two decades is expected to raise the demand for aggregates. Ontario has traditionally relied heavily on aggregates extracted from pits and quarries located close to where they are used in order to minimize transportation costs. However, urban growth and new restrictions on where new pits and quarries can be located (including the Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt plans) have made the approval of new operations increasingly challenging. Proposals for new pits and quarries are often met with public resistance.

CIELAP’s report, authored by Matt Binstock and Maureen Carter-Whitney, contains a number of recommendations on various aspects of aggregate resource management, from compliance issues to transportation. Highlights include:

• The need for MNR to hire additional field inspectors to enforce the Aggregate Resources Act. There is a current lack of adequate staff capacity dating back to staff cuts in the mid-1990s.

• The need to tighten requirements for the rehabilitation of former pits and quarries, and consider changes in how rehabilitation is funded.

• The need to increase the use of alternatives to aggregate in construction, such as recycled concrete and industrial by-products.

• The need for more detailed data on how aggregates are transported and used to help decision-makers ensure the use of better practices and more effective demand management in the future.

Download Aggregate Extraction in Ontario: A Strategy for the Future.

New – CIELAP’s Online Guide to Brownfield Redevelopment

March 24th, 2011

CIELAP has released its Online Guide to Brownfield Redevelopment

  • What are brownfields?
  • What are the benefits of brownfield redevelopment?
  • What are the risks to developing brownfields?
  • What are the barriers to developing brownfields?
  • What can be done with brownfield sites?
  • How is brownfield remediation regulated in Ontario?
  • How can members of the public get involved in local brownfield redevelopments?
  • How can I learn more about brownfield redevelopment?

Get your questions answered. Go to http://cielap.org/brownfields/.

A Green Economy for Canada? Contribute to a study and dialogue

December 7th, 2010

CIELAP is conducting a national research study to seek the perspectives of diverse stakeholders into what a Green Economy could mean for Canada, including how parties can contribute to the international dialogue that will take place at Rio+20 – the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) to be held in 2012. CIELAP’s completed research report, which will be finalized by the end of February 2011, will help inform national understandings and positions at this event.

One of the main themes of the Rio+20 conference will be “a Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development”. For the purposes of Rio+20, there is a consensus among Member States that a Green Economy must be considered in the context of sustainable development and so equitably entail environmental, social, and economic dimensions. Download CIELAP’s Background Document on Rio+20 and a Green Economy for more information about the issue.

To contribute to this study please fill out our survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CIELAPgreeneconomy.

The deadline for contributions is December 23, 2010.

Thank you for being a participant in this important study and dialogue.

Carolyn Webb


Programmes Manager and Chief Administrative Officer
Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy
416 923-3529
carolyn@cielap.org
www.cielap.org

CIELAP-edited CSD Policy Concept Paper

November 2nd, 2010

CIELAP is proud to announce that our Programmes Manager, Carolyn Webb, was recently selected by the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN) to edit a Policy Concept Paper related to the Commission for Sustainable Development and the Upcoming Rio+20 Conference.

For more background information on the paper please see here, and you can view the finished paper here.

Cancellation of Phase 2 of Stewardship Ontario’s MHSW Program a Major Step Backwards for EPR

October 26th, 2010

On October 12, Ontario’s Environment Minister John Wilkinson announced that the government was cancelling Phase 2 of Stewardship Ontario’s Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW) Program. This means that eco-fees will not be charged on products such as fire extinguishers, rechargeable batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs. This decision followed several months of consulting with stakeholders about the program.

The government has stated that eco-fees will not be allowed into the future and that the province will fund municipal governments to manage materials that were to have been part of the Phase 2 program.  Until when, you ask?  The answer is indefinitely – or until an alternative solution is found.

CIELAP is concerned about what has happened to the government’s commitment to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).  EPR makes producers and brand owners responsible for the management of the waste materials they put into the market in the first place.

The government’s move may sound as though it’s providing tax relief; however, it is simply shifting the costs of material management from the producers and consumers (those who produce, profit from and use the products) onto provincial taxpayers (who don’t necessarily have anything to do with the products).  This is in no way more fair and transparent.  The Minister’s recent decision is a major step backwards for EPR

Another challenge with this recent decision is that it leaves material management gaps.  While municipalities have had programs in place for some time to deal with wastes such as compact fluorescent lights, syringes, and toxic materials, they have no existing programs to handle materials such as pharmaceuticals.  This gap needs to be addressed quickly by working with municipalities and/or industry groups to develop appropriate programs.

An overarching frustration in all of this is that the problematic Waste Diversion Act and all the structures and processes it sets in place have not yet been replaced by a stronger mechanism for waste management in Ontario.

We urge Minister Wilkinson to think beyond eco-fees and to use this opportunity to get waste management right in the province by:

1)      Staying committed to the principles of EPR and requiring that producers pay for the management of waste materials rather than taxpayers.

2)      Putting in place timelines and processes to return to an industry-funded model and ensuring that material management gaps are addressed.

3)      Renewing its commitment to the review of the Waste Diversion Act and moving towards stronger waste management in the province in a timely manner.

Carolyn Webb

Programmes Manager

Clean Water and Sanitation a Human Right: Even in Canada

August 12th, 2010

Clean Water and Sanitation a Human Right: Even in Canada

In late July 2010 the UN’s general assembly voted in favor of the resolution that recognizes access to clean water and sanitization as a human right. This vote addressed the need for water issues to become the responsibility of governing states and the international community. 122 member states voted in favour of the resolution, with none opposing and 41 abstaining to vote. The representative from Canada was one of the 41 abstainers.

Human rights advocates see the passing of this resolution as a ‘historic’ decision towards improving the lives of many who are without adequate clean water and sanitization. Among those applauding this decision by the general assembly is Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. She sees this vote as a ‘step forward in the struggle for a just world’. The resolution calls on states and financial organizations to provide financial resources, build capacity, and transfer technology in order to facilitate clean drinking water access.

Despite their abstention from the vote the Canadian government will be expected to recognize this resolution as it moves closer to becoming a binding agreement. Canada has largely acknowledged water as a commercial good, with moves both domestically and internationally to privatize its use. This market-based approach to water distribution may need to be re-thought as the nations representing the majority of the Earth’s population (5.4 B people) voted in favour of water becoming a Universal Human Right. This means the onus will be placed on the national governments and international community to facilitate and maintain the access to clean water and sanitation.

The issues of clean water and sanitation do not only affect developing nations. At home, this resolution should help facilitate the improvement of water quality in many First Nation communities. Currently 80 First Nation communities are under ‘boil-water advisories’ as source water is contaminated and access to proper sanitation is not available. Many of these communities have been without adequate water supplies for upwards of 10 years. Barlow is now urging First Nations communities to start using this resolution to get the federal government to honour its international commitment domestically.

For a nation as water-rich as Canada it is shocking to see so many communities without adequate water access. As this human rights issue gains international attention it is important that Canadians address their domestic water issues quickly and effectively.

As CIELAP looks to a sustainable future it is important to understand the social and economic issues that face us, as they are inextricably linked to environmental degradation. CIELAP is currently working on a project to educate Southern Ontario communities about source water protection. Water quality and quantity issues still exist in Canada. This UN resolution should direct more attention towards Canadians who do not have adequate drinking water. As a developed nation with abundant supplies of fresh water Canada should become a leader, not a laggard, in helping facilitate the access of clean water for all people.

Josh Wise – CIELAP Intern

Neglected Waste: Is BC really serious about a zero waste future?

June 30th, 2010

Neglected Waste: Is BC really serious about a zero waste future?

British Colombia has adopted an overall waste management policy seeking to achieve a zero waste future. For this province to even reach its more modest near-term goal of 70%, it needs to establish policies promoting high levels of diversion for all components of the waste stream. Currently, BC lacks this type of policy for a significant sector of its solid waste stream: construction, renovation, and demolition (CR&D) waste. Although intentions and recommendations have been made by various arms of the government, legislation has yet to be written.

There are numerous reasons why CR&D waste is an ideal target for more comprehensive policy measures. In BC, 19% of the waste stream is CR&D waste (not including CR&D waste that was self-hauled). A Solid Waste Flow Summary Report prepared by BC Stats estimates that just 18% of this waste stream was diverted from landfills in 2006 (not including CR&D waste that was reused on-site). Despite this, the vast majority of CR&D waste is readily recyclable. Wood, concrete, drywall, and asphalt make up two-thirds of CR&D waste – private facilities capable of recycling these wastes already exist in BC. An “other” category accounts for most of the remainder, and half of that is most likely corrugated cardboard, a material that actually generates revenue when recycled.

Perhaps the most convincing argument to draw attention to this issue is the success of CR&D legislation in other countries. Japan is a world leader for its waste management practices. The Recycling Act of 1991 and the launch of its Recycle-based Society in 2000 laid the foundation on which a complex approach to dealing with CR&D waste would be built. Through this framework, Japan attained a recycling rate of 85% in 2002 with a target of 95% set to be reached this year. The multi-faceted nature of Japan’s CR&D waste management system and the total commitment of the Japanese government were critical to its success, allowing it to effectively address issues at every level of operation.

On top of proving that CR&D waste legislation can work, Japan also provides a model system for other jurisdictions to emulate. A report released in June, 2009 by the Recycling Council of BC (RCBC), “On the Road to Zero Waste: Priorities for Local Government”, outlined some general aspects of a management system for CR&D waste that loosely followed Japan’s example. On a fundamental level, however, they are quite different.

The Ministry of the Environment and RCBC have both stated their intention to include the management of CR&D in some form of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program. This would burden the producers of construction products with the cost of end-of-life management. Japan, on the other hand, assigns the extra cost of diverting CR&D waste to the contractor. This is advantageous for two reasons. The underlying goal of EPR is to provide incentive for companies to design for reuse or recycling. However, if the bulk of a product’s environmental impact happens during its use phase, as is the case with most construction products, this should take precedence. Also, the contractor is best positioned in the CR&D supply chain to benefit from the reduction and reuse of CR&D waste and should be encouraged to do so by being responsible for the cost of it.

Since the Recycling Council of BC’s outline for a potential CR&D waste management program is so vague, it is difficult to directly compare it to Japan’s. Even in its obscurity, it does seem to cover most of the same points; however, forthcoming details will ultimately reveal the government’s level of commitment to achieving a diversion rate comparable to Japan’s.

By Jake Gregory

CIELAP Intern

Is this time for an Oil Intervention?

June 24th, 2010

Is this time for an Oil Intervention?
Josh Wise CIELAP Intern
June 17, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

People just want to go on doing what they’re doing. They want business as usual. They say, ‘Oh yes, there’s going to be a problem up ahead,’ but they don’t want to change anything”
– James Lovelock (Carbon Shift, 2009)

The disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has provided a stark reminder of the lengths our society will go in order to feed our addiction to oil. The destruction caused by this spill should provide a reminder of the true environmental and social costs of oil extraction. The age of inexpensive, easily accessible and (relatively) clean oil extraction has come and gone. In order to meet the ever-increasing demand for energy we have drilled into our oceans, mined virgin ecosystems, and shipped oil halfway around the world and back. This practice has countless ecological and societal implications, which are most often overlooked and externalized.

In spite of numerous calls for change over the past decades, society remains dependant on oil and fossil fuels for its material basis and primary energy source. We must begin to rid ourselves of this dependence and use this disaster as motivation to prepare for a future with less access to petroleum based oil.

The Hubbert Peak Oil Theory –that petroleum supply will decline due to resource depletion– is beginning to come to fruition as new oil discoveries dwindle and extraction increases. Conventionally sourced oil has already peaked in North America with all new discoveries coming in the forms of tar sands and deepwater extraction.

The environmental and social consequences of these extraction methods are being felt throughout the Gulf Coast and Northern Alberta. Both have created enormous regions of contaminated ecosystems and poisoned local indigenous and societal groups; all in the name of short-term economic gains.

Our dependence on this finite resource is changing our climate, initiating wars, and destroying ecosystems. The impacts are being felt at all stages of the resource’s lifecycle, from extraction to consumption. It is time to truly address the need for alternatives.

The search for alternatives has resulted in two major schools of thought: techno-centric ideas, like Green Chemistry, including measures such as oil extraction from Micro-Algae, and theories on low-energy living that aim to reform societal expectations of growth. While approaching the issue from very different perspectives, both schools look to bring greater balance to the ecological, social and economic bottom lines. Maintaining this balance would ensure the true costs of oil extraction are understood and reflected in the financial price to the consumer.

This is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted solution. Our petroleum dependence is ingrained in our current unsustainable lifestyle and like any other addiction it will be difficult to kick the habit. The sustainability movement looks to help free us of this addiction through balanced living. This will involve a combination of techno-centric solutions and societal reforms.

This issue can only be addressed through strong leadership in governance, transparency within industry and awareness in civil society. The responsibility must be shared in order for positive change to occur. The reduction of oil dependence is a major step towards sustainable living where all dimensions of the triple bottom line are equally addressed.

CIELAP looks to advance sustainability ideas in order to help initiate a positive future where the economic, social and environmental bottom lines are in harmony.

Links to recent articles/blogs approaching this subject:

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2010/06/our-oil-addiction-has-always-been-messy/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/jeff-rubins-smaller-world/gulf-oil-disaster-doesnt-make-the-tar-sands-green/article1596265/

http://www.thestar.com/news/sciencetech/environment/article/823162–gulf-oil-spill-wake-up-call-for-ontario-groups-warn-mcguinty

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/world/africa/17nigeria.html?ref=science

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/01/us/20100501-oil-spill-tracker.html

Embracing Change – Moving Offices in a Digital Age

June 3rd, 2010

Dear Friends,

While CIELAP is reaching its 40th year this 2010, our organisation continues to believe that age is no barrier to embracing change.

The internet and other technologies have altered the nature of work and for some time now CIELAP’s researchers have been advising that the quiet of a home office would enhance their work. We’ve decided to embrace the 21st century trend of going semi-virtual. We also see this model as a way to reduce fixed overhead costs so that even more of the financial resources of CIELAP’s supporters are directed to CIELAP’s critical research on issues of sustainability, land use, extended producer responsibility, and the impact of climate change on water resources.

As of June 8th, 2010 CIELAP is moving. We’ve secured an adaptable location at 729 St. Clair West, Suite 13, Toronto, M6C 1B2, which will be our office base for our transition in to our semi-virtual operational model.

Future contact points

Into the future, you’ll be able to reach us at the same e-mail addresses and at our phone number 416-923-3529. We do, however, ask for your patience next week as we move the telephone and internet lines over to our new office space and set up our equipment. Any physical mail that you send to our Spadina address will be forwarded by Canada Post to the new address.

Thanks for all of your support over the years and please do wish us luck with the move!

Yours sincerely,

The CIELAP Team

CIELAP Board of Directors:
Grant Caven, President
Christopher Benedetti, Vice-President
Paul Bottero, Secretary-Treasurer
Richard Ballhorn
Jackie Campbell
Nicole Geneau
Richard King
Alex Matan
David Powell

Staff and Associates:
Matt Binstock (Policy Researcher)(matt@cielp.org)
Maureen Carter-Whitney (Research Director)(maureen@cielap.org)
Thomas Esakin (Executive Director)(thomas@cielap.org)
Praan Misir (Youth Engagement Programme Co-ordinator)(praan@cielap.org)
Satya Mohapatra, Ph.D. (Senior Research Scientist)(satya@cielap.org)
Raul Pacheco-Vega, Ph.D. (Regional Director, Western Canada and Lead Researcher,Climate Change and Water)(raul@cielap.org)
Kate Skipton (National & International Relationships Co-ordinator)(kate@cielap.org)
Romila Verma, Ph.D. (Research Associate)(Romila@cielap.org)
Carolyn Webb (Programmes Manager)(carolyn@cielap.org)

Should we drill in the Arctic?

May 19th, 2010

Delay Arctic Drilling Hearings, Energy Board Urged

CBC, 4 May 2010

Melting Ice Feeds Warming Trend: Report

Montreal Gazette, 29 April 2010

According to an April 29 report published in the journal Nature, as more sea ice melts, more heat is released into the atmosphere, and climate warming is exacerbated. Alarmingly, arctic temperature increases in the last decade have been twice as high as the global average. The large amounts of thin ice covering the artic this year will likely melt quickly, leading to a large thaw. Additionally, a general trend of decreasing winter sea ice has been observed. This will dramatically impact arctic ecosystems, and threaten the lifestyles of those living in the region.

The fragility of the arctic ecosystem is underscored by oil extraction activity in the region. The recent explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico highlights the potentially doubly negative impact of arctic oil extraction. Not only are greenhouse gases emitted via the extraction and use of fossil fuels, but the technology used to extract these fuels may have catastrophic environmental impacts in the event of a malfunction. The National Energy Board is currently holding hearings on Beaufort Sea drilling. Despite being asked by oil companies to postpone these hearings, the long term result of the hearings may result in a policy that addresses the long-term safety and management of arctic drilling. Many environmental groups have argued that drilling in the arctic should not take place until sound policy regulating it has been implemented.

CIELAP has a strong interest in arctic environmental issues, and has partnered with the National Film Board to hold screenings of films related to arctic issues, among other topics. These films include Arctic Circle, This Land, The Great Adventure, Being Caribou, and Weather Report. The firms depict the unique vulnerability of the artic, and the environmental and social impacts of climate change in the region, and globally. They also present an imperative for policy that addresses the causes and impacts of arctic climate change.

Article 1 link: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/north/story/2010/05/04/neb-beaufort-drilling.html

Article 2 link: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Melting+feeds+warming+trend+report/2963542/story.html

Information about past and upcoming CIELAP events: http://cielap.org/events.php