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Environment

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.

A New Marine Regulatory Regime on BC’s North and Central Coast?

This issue of the Environment and Energy Bulletin reviews recent and prospective developments on the north and central coast, and considers some implications for the flow of goods and resources that underpin the regional and provincial economy. It also sets out a few key principles that we believe should underpin a stable coastal regulatory regime that supports sustainable economic growth.

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An Overview of Canada’s Environmental Assessment Regime

As the Liberal government takes up the reins in Ottawa, it has signalled a shift in its approach to energy, environment and natural resource development, particularly in the context of resetting relations with Aboriginal peoples.  As it sets out to review Canada’s EA processes, several key principles should be top of mind:

    • The integrity of the regulatory process and institutions are best maintained when they are at arms-length from the political realm.
    • A core purpose of a regulatory body is to evaluate technical matters in an impartial way, free from undue political or stakeholder influence.
    • Regulatory reviews that set (and adhere to) timelines promote certainty for proponents and contribute to a favourable setting for investors.

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Alberta Announces a New Approach to Managing Greenhouse Gases

Our high level summary of the Alberta government’s just announced framework for addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Submission: Climate Leadership Plan Discussion Paper

The Business Council's response to the Province of BC's July 2015 Discussion Paper - Climate Leadership Plan.

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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.   

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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