For several months, through my work at Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada, I have been compiling Clean Energy Review, a weekly digest of 10 clean energy transition updates from across Canada and around the world. I am going to attempt to cross-post this digest here each week.
This week, a major accounting and consulting firm goes deep, the Canada Green Building Council extends a welcome hand to charities, and Mark Jaccard gives Alberta an earful over its carbon pricing policy.
1. A KPMG TREASURE TROVE: In a comprehensive new report, the consulting firmdeclared that this will be a busy year for clean energy investors and developers. We learned quite a bit reading this. So will you.
2. IT PAYS TO CUT CO2: The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions askedClimateSmart to assess the impacts of carbon-cutting measures undertaken by nearly a dozen B.C. companies. No surprise: They slashed costs and rapidly recouped investments.
3. TORONTO TAKES KYOTO: Ottawa pulled out of the Kyoto Accord last year, having once pronounced the target “impossible.” We presume nobody told the City of Toronto, which just cut more than twice as much carbon as Kyoto required.
4. ALBERTA RIPE FOR WIND: Canada could have as much as 22,500 megawatts of installed wind capacity by 2021, with Ontario leading the pack. Alberta is poised to steal the second-place spot from Quebec, a new forecast concluded.
6. ENERGY-ENVIRO CROSS-BORDER COMBO: Canadians and Americans think their respective governments should combine environmental and energy departments, star pollster Nik Nanos said, flagging potential for an “energy strategy for the continent.”
7. BIOENERGY SUCCESS OUT WEST: The B.C. Bioenergy Network awarded itselftop marks for creating revenue and jobs. Since 2008, some $16.6 million of project funding has leveraged about $123.5 million worth of clean investments in the province.
9. RETURN OF THE ACCIDENTAL ACTIVIST: Economist Marc Jaccard roastedAlberta’s carbon-pricing regime: “One way for climate policy to fail is by having none. Another is to have… policy that looks to have more effect than it actually does.”Caution: Contains ultra-wonky content.
10. GREEN FOR ALL: The Canada Green Building Council said it would make affordable green buildings even more so by waiving the LEED certification and registration fees that it normally charges charitable projects.
If you would like to like to subscribe to Clean Energy Review, please do so here.
“Part of my practice is silk-screening into other books,” Miller wrote. “I recently completed a transformation of Almost Green. There are some sample pages below. I can assure you that in this effort you are in good company such as the Nobel Laureates Al Gore and James Watson.”
And then this, with these captions:
Amazon Land clearing seen from a satellite, offered to me by Woods Hole Research.
Palm tree on the edge of the Atlantic rain forest in Bahia.
Plant from the Atlantic rain forest in Bahia with computer code.
Electrical wires from Rocinha in Rio.
Electrical wires from the favela Rocinha in Rio.
Amazing, right? It gets better: “When I make these books I silk screen print on every page of the book, and this can take a year to do. In your case two years.”
Wait. Two years?
As it turns out, for the past 24 months, while I’ve been going about my life, on the other side of the continent, Steve has been quietly transforming my work into something truly spectacular. His email explained that he’s done similar treatments with Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance and James Watson’s The Double Helix.
I called Steve up to thank him for the tremendous honor, and ask a few questions, starting with, why me? Why this?
“You know The Strand bookshop? I came across your book there one day,” Miller said. “Your book caught my attention because I liked the premise, this idea of how its not easy being green, it takes a conscious effort, and its a dialogue that we aspire to, but getting down to it is another thing. I knew I had a lot of the imagery that could go with that, and so I said, ‘this works for me.’”
Miller called the transformations “absurdist exercises that I do, that are completely financially futile.”
This also describes the Eco-Shed I built in my front yard, the writing studio that became an obsession and a curse—the building that is at the heart of Almost Green.
My book “embodies the dialogue we are all a part of , the contractions, the impossibility of it, the need to do it,” said Miller. “I hope that is implied in this object.”
“It is about doing something that doesn’t make any sense, it embodies all the absurdity of everyday reality.”
Miller is an accomplished artist. He has held 35 solo shows, all over the world. Currently, he is showing in a traveling museum show in Mexico and his next solo show opens January 9th in Bern, Switzerland. In August 2013, he will have a solo museum show at the National Academy Of Sciences in Washington, DC. That work is about a collaboration with the 2003 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Rod McKinnon.
Miller does not yet have a name for this new work, but he is shipping it to me to check out first-hand, and sign, before sending back.
I can’t wait to see it.
Postscript, January 24 2013:
I don’t have the book yet, but Steve has sent along two additional images, including the dust jacket.
How would you spend $125 million to make your community stronger, healthier, and more prosperous and liveable? That’s the question the new Better Future Fund project asks.
The project is a collaboration between Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada (where I work), the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, and the David Suzuki Foundation. It’s an experiment to engage British Columbians on the carbon tax review. It’s based on the idea that British Columbia’s carbon tax is a good policy that is working as designed — it is starting to reduce fossil fuel use in the province. But it could be made stronger.
How so? As the policy is currently designed, so-called “process” and “fugitive” emissions are not subject to the carbon tax. This is climate pollution that is leaked or released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels like natural gas are processed and transported, or as a byproduct of certain industrial processes.
If industry took responsibility for these emissions and paid the carbon tax on them, the province would have another $125 million in public coffers. Local B.C. communities could theoretically access these funds to secure a stronger future. Bike lanes? Neighbourhood heating systems? Energy retrofits for homes and schools? You name it.
So how about it? How would you invest $125 million? Swing on over to the site, it uses a cool SayZu word cloud to display all of the suggestions for how the money that is currently left on the table might best be invested to fight climate change and help secure a better future for British Columbians.
And ps while you’re there, be sure to use the form provided to send a quick email to the finance minister. He wants to know what you think of the carbon tax. He needs to hear from those who support the policy before August 31, when the current review of the policy, now underway, wraps up.
Well worth seven minutes of your time: Ivan Thompson of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation appeared on CBC’s As It Happens last night to respond to ongoing misinformation about the role of charities in civil society, and why U.S. foundations are supporting Canadian conservation work.
Here is the link. The interview with Thompson begins at about 8:25. You may need to enable pop-ups to make it work.
Here’s a sample:
Jeff Douglas: Why do you think the government is focusing so much attention on environmental charities?
Ivan Thompson: “It is hard not to draw some conclusions when you look at the behaviour and background of oil industry front groups like Ethical Oil and those who echo their assertions….”
“The focus on international donations to environmental groups appears to be a diversionary tactic to silence voices that question key development decisions. In particular, decisions like, is it in the best interests of Canada to have supertankers throughout the waters of the Great Bear Rainforest? Pipelines through some of the world’s last functioning wild salmon watersheds? Or the degree to which our economy becomes more dependent on the oil industry that is influenced heavily by foreign interests, such as the Chinese government. These are legitimate questions and it appears that the interest appears to be in silencing voices that are trying to raise them.”
“The real casualty here, is the capacity of Canadians to have a say in how their natural resources are developed for the benefit of future generations.”
“The truth is, Charities can provide more than band-aids. They want to help solve the problems. Research, education, dealing with crises are important functions of charities, no question, but ultimately these groups want to see their efforts work their way into good public policy so the crises can be avoided in the first place.”
I reached out to my network the other day, seeking suggestions for interesting non-fiction. The results appear below, with some minor curating from me. The ink is still drying on some of these titles, while others have been around for some time. (One book is almost 70!)
It looks like a solid list of interesting and eclectic stuff, so I thought I’d share it here. Thanks for all the recos, friends, and feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve read something lately that isn’t here, but that you feel needs to be.
This recent Mark Jaccard column articulates so much of what I want to say, and what I am feeling these days, that I want to reproduce all of it here until someone asks me to take it down. Original article appears here.
Is the new Van Dusen Botanical Gardens visitors’ center “the greenest building in Vancouver,” as the headline on my new article on the place claims? That depends on how you slice it. Van Dusen’s architecture team, Perkins + Will, also designed the incredible CIRS Building across town at UBC, which goes a level or so beyond LEED Platinum.
But the new Van Dusen center is easily a contender for the title. It’s aiming for a Living Building certification from the International Living Building Institute, the most rigorous green-building standard in the world. To meet the spec, the place must address a truly daunting series of imperatives and prerequisites, including being mostly free of PVC plastic and a variety of other nasty chemical cocktails, making all its own energy, treating all its own wastewater, and more. (Read the standard here.)
Jim Huffman, associate principal for Busby, Perkins + Will, and Rebecca McDiarmid, project manager for Ledcor Construction (the builder)—showed me around the site late last summer. Here’s a snip from the article.
When the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association decided it was time for a new visitor centre, in 2000, the idea that the building should be the greenest in the city—one of the greenest in the country—did not even make it onto the whiteboard. They had enough to deal with just raising the facilities to the level of adequate. “The existing buildings were built in the 1970s,” explains John Ross, project manager for the Vancouver park board. “They were small, not very efficient, with single-glazed windows and not much insulation, so they were expensive to run.” There was also little on hand for families—mums and dads couldn’t even get a cup of soup for their kids on a rainy day—and the library and educational program facilities were inadequate.
The garden, on 22 city-owned hectares off Oak Street, is managed jointly by the nonprofit VanDusen garden association and the park board. An early design for a new visitor centre proved useful for fundraising purposes, and when the partners sent out an expression of interest for architects, Peter Busby was among the respondents. “They brought energy and enthusiasm,” recalls Ross of the Busby Perkins + Will presentation. “They were quite interested in green buildings. That was an aspect the committee hadn’t considered.”
All the more surprising, then, that the recently opened $21.9-million centre should turn out to be a green overachiever. Early on, Busby’s team decided LEED Platinum just wouldn’t cut it. Instead of merely shrinking the building’s footprint, they set out to build something revolutionary. The centre’s water-harvesting roof, which evokes a series of giant orchid petals, is crowned in part with a glittering array of solar-thermal tubes. (The building is broadly modelled after a flower.) Below, a gently curving rammed-earth wall—a massive and sensual structure that will likely endure for centuries—beckons visitors.
According to an open letter to Bowen Island customers published in the local paper this week, in late 2012, B. C. Ferries will be converting the Queen of Capilano—our car ferry—to liquified natural gas fuel. This conversation, which will begin in October, will be the first such switch in the whole B.C. Ferries fleet.
This is good news on a number of levels. First—unlike bunker diesel fuel—in the event of a collision or fuel spill, natural gas will quickly evaporate. Second, burning bunker diesel fuel makes smog, while natural gas will produce a fraction of these particulates and compounds. But the best news in my opinion is that natural gas burns a fraction 27 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than diesel.
The Queen of Capilano is our second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the 2003 Bowen Island Community Energy Planning Options Report, the boat kicks about 7,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions up to the atmosphere every year. However, this figure is likely low; in 2007 the company installed a less-efficient—albeit more robust— propulsion system.
Given that we have done virtually nothing as a community to reduce our share of heat-trapping pollution in almost a decade, it is encouraging to see B.C. Ferries showing leadership. Obviously, the company is making the move because the business case makes sense; gas is cheaper. It’s is far from perfect, of course. The process of extracting (“fracking”) and processing gas produces a tremendous amount of pollution.