Monday, April 20, 2015

BP's Legal Wrangling Five Years After the Gulf Oil Spill

BP has a lengthy criminal rap sheet that culminated in the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite BP's long criminal history they are anything but repentant. Rather than accept the penalties levied against them for the 2010 spill they are doing everything in their power to minimize their legal and financial responsibilities.

US District Court judge Carl Barbier found that BP was guilty of "gross negligence" and "willful misconduct." Although the trial concluded earlier this year, the final settlement has yet to be announced.

The Toll on Wildlife from the Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Spill

A number of wildlife species have been devastated by the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This includes seabirds, turtles, fish, and vegetation.

Between 800,000 and one million sea birds have died from oil exposure in the Gulf of Mexico since 2010. Entire seabird populations have suffered from major die-offs. Oil related deaths include 12 percent of brown pelicans (over 200,000 have been exposed to oil),  almost one third (32 percent) of northern gulf laughing birds and 13 percent of royal turns. A total of 20,000 Kemp's turtles and 60,000 Ridley turtles died in 2010.

Five times the normal rate of lung disease have been observed in bottlenose dolphins and a total of 1000 dolphins have been found stranded between 2010 and 2015.

BP's Gulf Oil Spill: Summary of Research Evidence Five Years Later

A number of studies indicate that the environmental impacts of the BP's 2010 oil spill in the gulf is anything but over. Huge amounts of oil are still on the ocean floor and this is finding its way into the food chain. Other studies show fish that spawn in these oil contaminated waters in the Gulf are suffering from a wide range of lethal deformities.

A study published earlier this year suggested that the oil that lingers in the Gulf of Mexico continues to pose a threat to local ecosystems. The study by Florida researchers indicates that About 3,243 sq miles (8,400 square km) of the sea floor is still covered with oil from the disaster.

The BP Oil Spill in the Gulf Five Years Later

Exactly five years ago (April 20, 2010), BP's Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico killing 11 people and injuring 17 more. The explosion unleashed one of the worst environmental disasters in human history. For 87 days (April 20 and July 15, 2010) the oil spewed from the well and by the time it was finally contained at least 3.2 million barrels (134 million gallons) of crude oil had contaminated the Gulf of Mexico and 1,100 miles of coastline.

The worst marine disaster ever damaged bird sanctuaries, marine and wildlife habitats. It also soiled beaches, killed wildlife and devastated local economies. The ecologically vital marsh lands of the gulf coast have not recovered and wildlife is still suffering.

The Gulf may look clean but it is not. Even after a five year $28 billion clean-up operation the repercussions from the spill continue to this day. While much of the oil has evaporated or dissolved, up to 10 million gallons of oil remain on the sea floor. About 3,243 sq miles of the sea floor is still covered with oil from the disaster. Oil can also be found in marshes along the coast and deposits still wash up on shore.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Connect the Blue Dots National Day of Action

On Sunday, April 19 there will be a national day of action in support of environmental rights. This includes fresh air, clean water and healthy food.  As part of the Blue Dot movement people are coming together all across the country.

So far more than 70,000 Canadians have signed up to participate in events that are planned in more than 60 communities from coast to coast (the actual turn out is expected to far exceed this number).

Big and small events will take place in living rooms and community spaces, parks and outdoor places. All of these events are intended to protect the people and places that we love.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Blue Dot Movement Advocating for a Healthy Environment

Rather than just address individual environmental insults, the Blue Dot movement seeks to entrench a legal framework that will protect Canada's environment from coast to coast. A growing number of Canadians are demanding the right to a healthy environment. Historically Canadians have been at the forefront of environmental issues, but in recent years these issues have been ignored by Canada's federal government. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Renewable Energy in Africa and the Middle East

Africa and the middle east have vast untapped renewable energy potential particularly with regard to solar power. Renewable energy projects from large to small scale are popping up across the region. An example of small scale projects can be found in the sparsely populated island of El Hierro in the Canary Islands. This island has employed water and wind power to become the world’s first energy self-sufficient island. There are a number of large scale projects in the Middle East and Africa.

Only around a third of Africa’s population has access to energy. Across Africa renewable energy projects, whether utilities-level or small and widely distributed can bring power and electricity to areas that are currently off the grid. This would replace emissions intensive diesel power and help to electrify the continent.

The ABCs of Latin American Renewable Energy (Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica)

Throughout Latin America renewable energy is growing and there is huge untapped potential. From tiny island states like Bonaire to large countries like Brazil renewable energy is reshaping the energy map of the region. In Latin America there are five primary sources of renewable energy: Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass.

Central America possesses a wealth of renewable energy potential particularly in electricity generation. Renewable energy development is becoming a central part of the economic, development and poverty alleviation strategies of all Central American countries.

A 2012 report suggests that interconnected and integrated renewable energy infrastructure in Central America can decrease reliance on fossil fuels, increase energy security, grow the green economy and minimize poverty.

Asian Renewable Energy (China, India Japan, South Korea)

Led by China and India Asia is an economic powerhouse that is expected to continue to experience major growth. Here are four Asian nations (China, India, Japan and South Korea) on the forefront of the renewable energy expansion around the world.


China is at the leading edge of renewable energy growth. The nation leads the world in installed renewable energy capacity (both including and excluding hydro). Currently renewables provide more than a quarter of China’s electricity generating capacity and that number is expected to reach 50 percent by 2050. The government has previously set installed generating capacity targets for 2010 and now 2020. The three main sources of renewable energy for China are hydropower, wind and solar.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Australia Can Dump Coal and Adopt Renewables

Although the current ruling government in Australia has doubled down on coal, the nation is capable of getting all of its electricity needs from renewable sources of energy. After a brief political leadership focused on combating climate change, Australia reverted back to the coal focused political leadership of Tony Abbott.

Australia ranks among the highest nations in the world for per capita greenhouse gas emissions; its energy capacity is mostly made up of fossil fuels, and it is one of the world's largest exporters of coal. However, the nation's coal expansion plans may be undermined by shrinking markets in particular China's efforts to reduce its coal use.

Canada Could Get All of Its Electricity from Renewables

Canada may be a fossil fuel superpower, but the nation could easily derive all of its electrical energy needs from renewables. Mayor Gregor Robertson and the City Council have pledged to make Vancouver Canada's first 100 percent renewable city. The rest of the country could also adopt a 100 percent renewable energy development plan. New research reveals that we already have the technology all that is missing is committed political leadership.

According to a new study, Canada could become 100 percent reliant on low-carbon electricity in just 20 years and reduce its emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Europe Moving Towards 100 percent Renewable Energy

Renewable energy has seen steady growth in renewable energy installations in Europe. Here is a summary of the past, present of future of renewable energy in in five leading European nations (Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and the UK):


Denmark already got almost 23 percent of its power from renewables and 41 percent of its electricity needs in 2012 and in 2013 the nation derived 30 percent of its electricity needs from renewables. The Danish government has a strategy that includes a long term target of 100% renewable energy by 2050. The nation's power and heat supply to be based on 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2035. Coal will be completely phased out by 2030.

Denmark expects a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 in relation to 1990 (about 34% will come from the energy sector, and 6% from agriculture and transport).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Canada Needs Carbon Pricing but Harper Says No

Canada needs a carbon pricing scheme to reduce its climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions and help renewable energy to grow. However, the ruling federal Conservatives are strong allies of the fossil fuel industry and they are staunchly opposed to putting a price on carbon.

As reported in the Globe and Mail, a recently released policy document supports carbon pricing in Canada.  The report by scientists, engineers and economists claims that this would enable the nation to wean itself off of fossil fuels and get all of its electricity from renewables by 2035. Most importantly it would substantially reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. The report's authors said that the most significant barrier is not technical or economic, but a lack of political will from the federal government.

Pepe's Bistro: Small Scale Sustainability

Here is a review of how one small business is engaging sustainability on a shoestring budget.

Not all of the companies engaging sustainability are big corporates. Some small mom and pop operations see real value in reducing energy costs and appealing to a public drawn towards more responsible business practices.

Pepe's Bistro is a vegetarian food truck owned by Pepito "Pepe" Fierro. His experience is a model for small businesses that are striving to find a way to engage sustainability with very limited budgets.

Allstate is a Leader in Environmental Social and Governance Disclosures

When it comes to environmental and social disclosures in the insurance industry Allstate is a leader. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures (sometimes called goodwill or reputation), include everything from climate change to gender diversity. ESG disclosures are commonly part of corporate sustainability reporting.

A growing number of investors focus on key corporate ESG metrics to make more informed investment and business decisions. Stakeholders are increasingly demanding ESG metrics in 2015.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Low Oil Prices Hurt Recycling More than Renewables

It has been widely reported that low oil prices hurt renewable energy while this point may be overstated it appears clear that falling fossil fuel prices are wreaking havoc on the recycling industry.

Many predicted that the gravitational pull of fossil fuels will drag down renewables. There does appear to be some merit to this prediction as renewable energy stocks have declined alongside oil prices.

Innovations in Sustainability Can Meet the Climate Challenges we Face

Innovation is key to making the most of sustainability. We will need to develop creative solutions to meet the challenges we face. Innovations in sustainability both lowers costs and increases revenues.

We have seen how innovations in renewable energy have radically increased efficiency while driving down costs. Such innovations are evident in thin film photovoltaics and giant solar concentrators. Other solar innovations include solar paint, solar windows and solar curtains. Wind energy and electric vehicle technology has also been improved by a number of innovations.

As revealed in an Ethical Corp Survey sustainable innovation is among the top three priorities for business executives in 2015. The survey further indicated that they perceive an even greater role for sustainable innovation in the future. A total of 30 percent of respondents said that sustainable innovation is the most exciting opportunity for organizations over the next five years.

Global Consistency in Sustainability

The ongoing growth of sustainability demands more coherence. Sustainability is now a mainstay of forward looking businesses. There is still so much that remains to be done, we are seeing progress in sustainable business. Companies are reducing their negative impacts and increasing their positive contributions.

From circular economies to dematerializations, business models are evolving quickly and it is hard to keep up with the rapid changes. While there are a number of guidelines, codes, standards and best practices they are anything but universal. Consequently, the focus of sustainability efforts vary widely from company to company.

In its simplest essence sustainability is about good business that functions in harmony with people, society and the environment. While the morality of good business is a driving concern, the key to successfully engaging sustainability is real and quantifiable business returns. A business cannot sustain itself if it is not profitable. Balancing all of these often contradictory issues can be both complex and daunting.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marine Oil Spill in Vancouver Adds to Pipeline Concerns

On the afternoon of Wednesday April 8th there was an oil spill in Vancouver's English Bay and Stanley Park. Approximately 2,700 litres of toxic bunker oil leaked from a the vessel M/V Marathassa and fowled Vancouver's beaches.

International shipping expert Joe Spears called the incident a wake-up call saying that the clean up effort was anything but world class. "We've got to do better," he said. We're Canada's largest port. We've lost our way. Response to the spill was slow and inadequate.

Canada's Largest Ever Climate March

On Saturday, April 11th people from all walks of life came together in Quebec City for the largest climate themed protest in Canadian history. The Act on Climate March was timed to take place just ahead of a premiers' summit planned for Quebec City on April 14. At the summit provincial and territorial leaders are expected to discuss the role the provinces can play leading up to the COP 21 climate summit scheduled for Paris at the end of the year.

A total of 25,000 people including a number of families peacefully marched to tell Canada's provincial and territorial leaders demanding immediate action on climate change. Protestors encouraged Canada's leadership to adopt green policies, including more renewable energy and less pipelines.

Ontario and Quebec Sign Cap-and-Trade Deal

On Monday April 13th, the Canadian province of Ontario will join Quebec and participate in a cap-and-trade scheme designed to use market forces to reduce climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions. Ontario's involvement will put a price on carbon emissions that exceed current government-set limits. Under the cap-and-trade deal companies can either limit their greenhouse gas emissions or buy credits from companies who have come in under the cap.

Ontario will join Quebec's cap-and-trade system which functions in consort with California. If Ontario signs an agreement with California, the three jurisdictions could trade emissions.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Harvard Heat Week Launch: Fossil Fuel Divestment Event

On April 12th, 2015 at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Cambridge Massachusetts hundreds of people will come together to launch Harvard Heat Week. This is an important start to a round of divestment campaigning focusing on New England.

Harvard Heat Week commences on April 12 and runs until April 17. A number of climate justice activists will be present at the April 12th event alongside labor organizers, faith communities, students, alumni, and many others.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Harvard Heat Week: Background and Rationale

From April 12th to April 17th, Harvard Heat Week will spearhead the next round of divestment campaigning. This peaceful initiative is an important part of the ongoing movement to divest from fossil fuels. The event may be taking place at one of the most high profile schools in the world but its influence will extend far beyond Harvard. All across New England there will be events urging colleges, governments and faith communities to divest from fossil fuels. Harvard students, faculty, alumni, and community members will come together on the Harvard campus to speak out for climate justice, learn from one another, and take principled action.

Planned Tar Sands Expansion Negates Global Carbon Reduction Efforts

There are plans underway to dramatically increase the amount of tar sands oil being shipped to international markets. If these plans proceed they would undermine efforts to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Tar sands oil is some of the most carbon intensive oil on earth. The extraction process of the tar sands alone is three times as carbon intensive as the extraction of conventional oil.

Expanding the tar sands is antithetical to the global climate agreement that is being sought at COP 21 in Paris later this year.  As former NASA scientist James Hansen has said, radical increases in the amount of tar sands oil that goes to market would mean "game over" for efforts to combat climate change.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Green Electricity in Eastern Canada: A Letter to the Premiers of Quebec and Ontario

Here is an open letter to the premiers of both Quebec and Ontario urging them to work together to reduce greenhouse gases and save $14 billion by forging a green electricity deal.

Dear Premiers Couillard and Wynne:

On November 21, 2014 in Toronto you agreed to investigate “long-term opportunities to expand electricity trade” between Quebec and Ontario.

Climate Change Kills People Animals Trees and Plants

Far from just warming the planet, climate change is deadly, it kills people, plants, trees and entire forests. It is also decimating some wildlife species and destroying entire aquatic ecosystems.

Climate change is killing the western prairie fringed orchid and the Quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma). Climate change is even putting entire forests at risk. One prominent example involves the pine and aspen forests of the Rocky Mountains. Climate change is making them more susceptible to insect infestations and wildfires.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Energy Efficiency Industry Leaders: Energy Star Award Winners for 2015

Here are the recently announced Energy Star award winners for 2015. For 23 years the Energy Star program has helped American businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through investments in energy efficiency.

The EPA's Energy Star program is a voluntary effort that is designed to assist businesses (and individuals) increase energy efficiency to both save money and reduce climate change causing emissions.

US GHG Reductions Ahead of COP 21 Give Reason for Hope

The US is showing real climate leadership with a series of bold government initiatives designed to lower the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. The combination of historic and current emissions as well as the nation's unparallelled economic might make it essential that the US lead emissions reduction efforts. The US has a global presence that resonates all around the world which makes their participation in a comprehensive effort to combat climate change absolutely essential.

The US is an economic powerhouse without peer, their world leading GDP is $17.4 trillion (2014), this is almost equivalent to the combined GDPs of the next three highest ranking countries (China, Japan and Germany).  The US is the world’s biggest economy and the globe's largest per capita polluter with a carbon footprint of around 7 billion metric tons per year.

It is no secret that our current emissions trajectory is perilous. A wide variety of sources tell us that we must drastically reduce carbon emissions if we are to have a chance of staving off the worst impacts of climate change.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Climate Change Makes us Sick both Physically and Mentally

Climate change has far reaching health impacts on human beings. People in developing countries tend to suffer the most from climate impacts however, people in wealthy countries are also vulnerable. Whether as a consequence of extreme weather events, food and water scarcity, economic impacts, social tensions, conflict or stress, we all suffer from climate change. No one is immune, it is interesting to note that climate scientists also suffer from a wide range of psychological disorders related to their research.

Why Climate Scientists Suffer from Psychological Disorders

Scientists who are on the front lines of climate research are sometimes afflicted with psychological maladies. While it is increasingly understood that climate change causes physical illnesses it is less well known that it can also cause a wide range of psychological disturbances. This is particularly true for those who are studying climate change. Climate researchers are both scared by their own findings and frustrated by the absence of a coordinated response. These scientists are afflicted by a host of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Health Organizations Combating Climate Change

Climate change is a health issue and the health care sector is increasingly leading the charge to do something about it.

Climate change causing emissions compromise our health and the health of those we love both now an in the future. These concerns are prompting a number of health organizations to act on climate change and these efforts include divestment from fossil fuels.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Energy East Concerns In Ontario and National Action

In January the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) organized seven public meetings on the Energy East pipeline. These meetings helped to inform the Ontario Government's position as intervener in the the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the Energy East pipeline.

In addition to concerns about the impact on beluga whales in Quebec, people in Ontario are concerned about water risks from spills and greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts.

The Importance of INDCs on the Road to COP 21

The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or "INDC," is a post 2020 national plan for action on climate change. Each country has already submitted or will soon submit its INDC in advance of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris scheduled for December 2015.

The informal deadline for INDC submission was March 31 although many nations extend this deadline. The European Union, the United States, Russia and Mexico have already submitted their INDCs while others are expected to communicate their INDCs prior to the June 2015 UNFCCC session in Bonn, Germany.

Small Business Owners Support Action on Climate and Energy

The US small business community overwhelmingly believe in the veracity of climate change. They see this as a threat to their businesses and they endorse government regulatory efforts to reduce power plant emissions.

The views of the small business community on climate and energy issues is crucial because they are both a powerful economic engine and the primary source of job creation in America. The sheer size and scope of the small business community make their contributions to climate mitigation and adaptation absolutely essential.

These are the findings in a June 2014 American Sustainable Business Council poll of 555 small business owners. For the purposes of this study small business are defined as those with between 2 and 99 employees. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Belugas Slow Energy East Pipeline Project

The Energy East tar sands pipeline is off to a very rocky start. Concerns about the impacts on the local beluga whale population has forced the cancellation of a proposed terminal in Quebec. Further, plummeting oil prices call into question the financial viability of the project.

TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline project would ferry Alberta's tar sands to Saint John, New Brunswick. The 4,600 kilometre pipeline would carry 1.1 million barrels of oilsands crude each day for overseas export (that is a quarter million more barrels per day than the contentious Keystone XL pipeline).

What is Next for Sustainable Business Now that the Low Hanging Fruit has been Harvested (The State of Green Business 2015)

Business sustainability efforts appear to have plateaued due to the fact they harvested the low hanging fruit and they have not yet understood what it will take to move on to the next tier. This is a simplified summary of the eighth State of Green Business report for 2015. It offers an annual assessment of the environmental performance of companies around the world, along with the trends to watch in the year ahead. Greenbiz produces the report in conjunction with Trucost.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Event - National Conference on Ecocinema: Celebrating Landscapes and Waterscapes

The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani, K.K. Birla Goa Campus, Goa, is organising a National Conference on "Ecocinema: Celebrating Landscapes and Waterscapes” on 09 & 10, October 2015 at K.K. Birla Goa Campus.

The conference is organised as part of tiNai Ecofilm Festival 2015. tiNai Ecofilm Festival (TEFF) is an annual event of BITS Pilani, K.K. Birla Goa Campus organized in collaboration withKuala Lumpur Ecofilm Festival (KLEFF), Malaysia, School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, LILA Foundation for Translocal Activities, New Delhi, Bangalore Film Society (BFS), Bangalore, ASLE, USA and other organizations. TEFF will present a set of new ecological documentaries from across the globe.

The Ecological Symbolism of Easter

The egg is a prominent symbol of Easter and a fitting metaphor for the Earth. An egg symbolizes the promise of new life and at the same it is fragile and can be easily broken. As a festival celebrating the return of spring and as a Christian holiday, Easter calls us to remember the cycles of renewal and the interconnectedness of life and death.

Above all, Easter symbolizes rebirth, and renewal. From an ecological perspective this is precisely what is required as we engage the serious work of being better environmental stewards. A number of symbols have become part of the Easter tradition. Some are directly related to the life of Jesus Christ and other date back to pagan traditions.

For Christians, Easter is a celebration of Christ's resurrection, the ultimate symbol of rebirth. Easter's known pagan roots date back to the 8th century, specifically an Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess known as "Eostre," whose name may be derived from "eastre," meaning spring.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Video - Now is the Time to Invest in Sustainability (IFC)

There has never been a better time to make profitable investments in sustainable development. See what IFC is doing to support viable projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green buildings, sustainable agriculture and resource efficiency.

Videos - Sustainability is a Business Opportunity (Laszlo, Keeble and Kux)

Chris Laszlo is a partner and co-founder of Sustainable Value Partners, Inc., a firm helping companies create value for shareholders and stakeholders. He is the author of three books, including The Sustainable Company: How To Create Lasting Value Through Social And Environmental Performance (Island Press). Laszlo received his Ph.D. with distinction in Economics and Management Science from the University of Paris and has a Masters in Economics from Columbia University. He currently teaches a course on creating shareholder value through corporate responsibility in the CEDEP Executive Education program at INSEAD (Europe). For nearly ten years, he was a senior executive at Lafarge S.A., a world leader in materials, holding positions as head of strategy, general manager of a manufacturing subsidiary, and vice president of business development. Prior to that he was with Deloitte & Touche, where he consulted on strategy to global industry leaders such as Dupont, Toshiba, Avon Products and Renault. He speaks on creating shareholder value through social and environmental performance.