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Updated: 21 hours 46 min ago

David Suzuki Foundation reaction to BC Green Party climate change platform

Tue, 2017/04/04 - 3:47pm

VANCOUVER -- The David Suzuki Foundation is encouraged by the release of the BC Green Party's climate change platform, which includes numerous proposals to help B.C. regain its status as a climate leader. The platform includes ideas that the David Suzuki Foundation has long advocated for, such as:

• Reinstating annual increases to the provincial carbon tax incentive
• Applying the provincial carbon tax to include fugitive emissions from oil and gas companies
• Increasing provincial government investment in public transit and cycling infrastructure
• Legislating a zero-emission vehicle standard to increase the availability of non-emitting vehicles
• Supporting energy efficiency improvements to buildings across the province

"The BC Green Party platform makes several key pledges to restore B.C.'s reputation as a climate action leader," Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce said. "This is the first platform we've seen from a major B.C. party that goes beyond the minimum standard for carbon pricing set by the federal government."

The BC Green Party has committed to a range of policies to put B.C. back on track to reach its target of 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030. With current provincial policies, B.C.'s emissions are projected to rise.

The platform includes a pledge to raise the province's carbon tax by $10 per year for four years beginning in 2018, surpassing the federal government's requirement for provincial carbon pricing policies to achieve a price of $50 per tonne of emissions by 2022.

"It's promising to see the Climate Leadership Team recommend a commitment to mid-term emissions reductions targets," Bruce said. "B.C. has a real opportunity to prosper in the emerging clean energy economy, but we need to take action immediately if we don't want to be left behind."

Missing from this announcement are details of a funding framework for public transit infrastructure investment and a firm commitment to expand the use of low-impact renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and tidal power to achieve the province's energy needs.

The Foundation's 2016 report Breaking Gridlock: B.C.'s transit investment deficit and what can be done to fix it recommends that the provincial government live up to its 2008 pledge to provide 43 per cent of the funding for new transit projects, reducing the burden on local governments by empowering municipalities to raise new sources of revenues.

"Expanding public transit through reliable provincial funding and expanding the use of low-impact renewable energy in B.C. are two things we can't afford to overlook," Bruce said. "Excluding job-creating industries like wind and solar power in favour of big hydro projects fails to recognize the potential of these rapidly growing industries.

"We look forward to hearing more details about all parties' climate action strategies as the election unfolds."

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Media contact:
Emily Fister, Climate Change & Clean Energy Communications Specialist
David Suzuki Foundation
604-440-5470

Ontario decision to end hunt of at-risk snapping turtle is a necessary move

Mon, 2017/04/03 - 6:51am

TORONTO -- Ontario's decision to end hunting of snapping turtles is a welcome move, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Herpetological Society and Ontario Nature. Ontario lists the snapping turtle as a species of "special concern," which means that although it is not yet endangered or threatened, a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats could endanger or threaten it.

In December 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry proposed to limit but not end the hunt. In response, thousands of Ontarians submitted comments through the Environmental Registry, asking the government to close the hunt completely.

Science clearly shows the hunt is unsustainable. Snapping turtle populations will decline with even minor increases in adult deaths. Hunting adds to the cumulative adverse impacts of other significant threats to the species, making recovery more difficult and expensive.

"Snapping turtles mature at a very late age," says Scott Gillingwater, past president of the Canadian Herpetological Society. "It generally takes 17 to 20 years before a female can lay her first clutch of eggs, making populations of this species exceptionally vulnerable to increased mortality of adults. Ending hunting of snapping turtles is an important and necessary first step in the recovery of this species, an outcome that all groups that value nature and the outdoors should support."

"At a local scale, the hunt can have disastrous impacts on some populations," says David Suzuki Foundation Ontario science projects manager Rachel Plotkin. "Ending the hunt is important not only at the local scale but also on the global stage, as turtles are in decline across the planet."

"I commend the government for embracing a precautionary approach and heeding the science," says Ontario Nature conservation and education director Anne Bell. "Ending the hunt helps to give snapping turtles a fighting chance and frees us up to focus attention on dealing with other threats such as wetland loss and road kills."

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For more information, contact:

John Hassell, Director of Communications and Engagement, Ontario Nature johnh@ontarionature.org, (416) 444-8419 ext. 269, cell (416) 786-2171
Rachel Plotkin, Manager, Ontario Science Projects, rplotkin@davidsuzuki.org, cell (416) 799-8435
Scott Gillingwater, Canadian Herpetological Society, cell (519) 495 0400

Transit funding announcement moves us in the right direction, but B.C. government must act to secure deal

Fri, 2017/03/31 - 3:04pm

VANCOUVER -- The David Suzuki Foundation is encouraged by the recent attention being paid to increasing public transit funding in the lead-up to the May 9 B.C. election.

"Alleviating B.C. and Metro Vancouver's traffic and transit congestion crisis and enhancing our environmental leadership must be a top priority for B.C.'s next government," said David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce. "It's reassuring to see that all political parties are now talking about increasing the province's investment to expand transit infrastructure and provide better service for British Columbians."

The Metro Vancouver Mayors' Council 10-year transportation improvement plan got a step closer to being realized today with a commitment from the B.C. government to match, dollar for dollar, the federal government's $2.2 billion commitment for two new rapid transit lines in the region. Although significant work is still needed to reach a final agreement to fund these transit projects and the region's broader transportation plan, the B.C. government has promised a larger financial investment with the provincial election approaching.

The David Suzuki Foundation sees the need for two key ingredients to secure a successful deal to improve transportation and alleviate congestion in Metro Vancouver.

First, B.C.'s next government will need to commit to increasing provincial investments so that the full $8 billion Metro Vancouver transportation plan (and a more extensive plan for B.C. overall) can move forward.

Second, B.C. must increase the provincial contribution to bring it closer to the 2008 transit plan framework of a 43 per cent provincial share.

B.C.'s next government will also need to change legislation to empower Metro Vancouver to raise new revenues to help pay for the local contribution from cash-strapped municipal governments. Only the province has the fiscal power and legislative authority to create the new revenue tools needed to close the gap. Without those tools, Metro Vancouver's transportation and transit plan is at risk and traffic congestion will worsen, affecting quality of life in the region.

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For more information, contact:
Ian Bruce, Science and Policy Director, David Suzuki Foundation
604-306-5095

Keystone XL approval hinders the growing global renewable energy economy

Fri, 2017/03/24 - 11:30am

VANCOUVER -- The U.S. government's decision to approve the Keystone XL construction permit puts the country behind in a global economy that is rapidly shifting to renewable energy -- and could slow the necessary transition from fossil fuels, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

"This is not just a U.S. issue," Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce said. "This is also a Canadian issue and represents an international threat to climate stability."

The permit approval marks the beginning of a lengthy process, which includes awaiting approval from Nebraska regulators and TransCanada's filing of its pipeline route plans. Those plans must then go through the state's Public Service Commission and public hearings.

Although the pipeline still faces some hurdles, Bruce stressed that the permit approval is a major step backwards.

"A fossilized past threatens a renewable future," Bruce said. "The global rush for clean energy is on. At this rate, renewable energy will boost the world economy by $19 trillion. There is no need to go backwards as the market for fossil fuels continues to shrink."

Canada's recently announced 2017 federal budget marked a commitment to powering the country with renewable energy. To move forward on Keystone XL would be inconsistent and irresponsible in light of this commitment, Bruce said.

"Promising billions for a green economy while planning for oilsands expansion and increased oil production and exports is a contradiction," Bruce said. "This is Canada's opportunity to move from a dark future dependent on dirty fossil fuels to a bright, healthy future powered by renewables. Our government has a chance to change the course of this unfortunate U.S. decision. We need to honour our international commitment to the Paris Agreement, follow through on federal funding of clean technology, and show the world that leaders innovate -- and do not build pipelines."

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Media contact:

Emily Fister, Climate & Clean Energy Communications Specialist
604-440-5470

Budget 2017 moves towards a clean energy economy, misses nature protection

Thu, 2017/03/23 - 9:50am

VANCOUVER -- The David Suzuki Foundation is encouraged to see the federal government following through on its commitments to invest in clean energy and transit in the 2017 budget. However, the budget misses crucial protection for nature -- the backbone for a healthy environment and thriving economy.

On funding Canada's clean energy economy:

The Foundation applauds the ongoing support for national programs to support the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
"We welcome this budget as a step forward for all communities that want to transition to renewable energy, especially in the North," Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce said.

Following the $1 billion commitment to clean technology in the 2016 budget, the 2017 budget made a commitment of $2.37 billion over four years to Canada's clean technology industry. As well, the government outlines its plan to invest $21.9 billion over 11 years in green infrastructure.

"Investment in renewables will help stimulate jobs and economic growth -- far more so than supporting a fossil fuel economy," Bruce said.

On stable transit infrastructure:

As many areas of Canada experience increased gridlock, the Foundation welcomes the commitment of phase two public infrastructure funding -- $20.1 billion over 11 years -- to solve this problem.

"This is ongoing, stable funding needed across Canada," Foundation transportation policy analyst Gideon Forman said. "It will engage provinces on national solutions to climate change. Supporting transit is one of the most effective ways to cut down emissions, and improve both air quality and economic performance.

"We applaud the commitment to this, but hope to see an acceleration of the funding to meet these goals."

Missing protection for oceans:

While budget elements for climate are robust, nature protection falls short of our expectations.

The Foundation, along with 16 environmental non-profit partners, had advocated for $146 million a year for five years toward marine protected areas and fisheries conservation. Yet, there is no funding allocated in the budget to address this need.

With overwhelming support for ocean protections from Canadians, the Foundation is concerned that this budget falls short.

"Ocean conservation and climate change solutions need to go hand in hand. While developing a clean energy economy we must also make a concerted effort to conserve nature," Foundation Western Region science projects manager Bill Wareham said.

"Last year we applauded the federal government for confirming its mandate to establish new marine protected areas with a goal of protecting at least 10 per cent of our oceans by 2020. This commitment is admirable, but means little if there's no funding to do the work required to meet the goal.

"We're asking the federal government to provide more detail on the Oceans Protection Plan, and how it will help achieve the 10 per cent goal. With less than one per cent currently protected, there's a lot of work to do over the next three years," he said.

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Media contacts:

Climate, clean energy, and transit
Emily Fister
604-440-5470

Oceans
Theresa Beer
778-874-3396

House of Commons committee to open hearings on neonic pesticide with industry-biased panel

Mon, 2017/03/06 - 4:25pm

11th-hour invitation to testify issued to coalition of NGOs pressing government to proceed with proposed phase-out to protect biodiversity and long-term food security

OTTAWA - Leading environmental groups, health advocates and campaign movements are raising concerns about MPs' one-sided review of the proposed phase-out of pesticides formulated with imidacloprid, one of three controversial neonicotinoid insecticides ("neonics") in widespread use. Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has proposed to phase out the main uses of imidacloprid in three to five years, after an environmental assessment found dangerous levels of the chemical contaminating the environment.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food requested an extension to the comment period in order to study the proposal, with hearings beginning Tuesday. The notice posted on the committee website for Tuesday's meeting lists CropLife Canada (the pesticide industry trade association), along with Syngenta Canada and Bayer CropScience Inc. (manufacturers of neonic pesticides) as witnesses. Representatives of the PMRA and Agriculture Canada are also scheduled to appear. Environment and Climate Change Canada is not listed as a witness. None of the groups issuing this release were originally invited to testify before the committee. Approximately one hour after distribution of the original draft of this release, the David Suzuki Foundation received an invitation to testify.

"It appears the committee has given centre stage to industry lobby groups opposed to restrictions on pesticides. It is troubling that environmental concerns are clearly an afterthought," said Sidney Ribaux, executive director of Équiterre.

"Independent scientists warn that the widespread use of neonics threatens many species," said Lisa Gue, senior researcher and policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation. "We urge the PMRA to confirm its decision to phase out imidacloprid, tighten the timeline and take parallel action to ban other neonics."

"There has been an overwhelming flood of public support for Canada's proposal to ban one of the most harmful neonics," said Liz McDowell, campaign director with SumOfUs. "People understand that the routine use of these chemicals is not necessary or sustainable, and they don't want to see industry lobbyists weakening such an important measure."

More than five million people -- including hundreds of thousands of Canadians -- have signed Avaaz and SumOfUs petitions calling for neonics to be banned, and more than 110,000 Canadians and counting have submitted individual public comments to the PMRA in support of a ban on imidacloprid.

Mass die-offs of honeybees linked to the agricultural use of neonics prompted researchers and regulators around the world to re-examine the pesticides in recent years. In 2015, the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides -- an international group of independent scientists -- reviewed more than 1,000 scientific studies on neonics and found clear evidence of harm to honeybees and other pollinators, terrestrial invertebrates such as earthworms, aquatic invertebrates and birds. The Task Force sounded the alarm about these pesticides destroying ecological services, such as pollination, which are essential for long-term food security. Emerging research indicates that neonics and their residues may harm human health.

The European Union has a partial ban on three neonics, including imidacloprid, and France recently passed a law banning neonics altogether as of September 2018.

Canada's PMRA re-evaluated imidacloprid last year and concluded that its current use is not sustainable on the basis of risks to aquatic ecosystems. The environmental assessment found imidacloprid present in Canadian lakes and rivers at levels that are harmful to aquatic insects essential to the health of aquatic ecosystems. This assessment did not consider risks to pollinators, which the PMRA has been evaluating through a separate process with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 2012.

"We would prefer swifter action to stop imidacloprid from entering the environment," said John Bennett of Friends of the Earth Canada. "There is no scientific justification for another three to five years on the market."

Avaaz campaign director Danny Auron said, "This chemical is a threat to our delicate web of life, from aquatic insects to bees and birds. That's why millions of people are urging the government to put bees, people and the environment ahead of toxic corporate interests."

The PMRA will consult on the proposed phase-out of imidacloprid until March 23, 2017, and will issue a final decision later this year.

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Distributed on behalf of the following groups:

· David Suzuki Foundation

· Avaaz

· SumOfUs

· Équiterre

· Friends of the Earth

· Canadian Environmental Law Association

· Environmental Defence

· Prevent Cancer Now

· Alliance pour l'interdiction des pesticides systémiques

· Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation, 604-356-8829, bglauser@davidsuzuki.org

Ari Pottens, Avaaz, 647 209 9799, ari@avaaz.org

Liz McDowell, SumOfUs, 604-219-6337, liz@sumofus.org

Julie Tremblay, Équiterre, 514-522-2000 × 311 | 514-966-6992, jtremblay@equiterre.org

John Bennett, Friends of the Earth, 613-291-6888, johnbennett@foecanada.org

Kathleen Cooper, Canadian Environmental Law Association, 705-341-2488, kcooper@cela.ca

Muhannad Malas, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 241, mmalas@environmentaldefence.ca

Meg Sears, Prevent Cancer Now, 613 297-6042, meg@preventcancernow.ca

Kim Perrotta, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), 905-628-9437 kim@cape.ca

B.C. budget falls short on critical transit investment and climate action

Mon, 2017/03/06 - 3:35pm

VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government has failed to prioritize badly needed transit infrastructure investment in its latest budget. Based on details provided, investment over the next three years will continue to fall short of what Metro Vancouver and the province need to build and maintain fast, effective public transit.

"Anticipated budget surpluses over the next three years are dwarfed by the growing costs of congestion in B.C.," said David Suzuki Foundation policy analyst Steve Kux. "Traffic congestion costs Metro Vancouver alone over $1 billion a year -- and that's expected to balloon to $2 billion by 2045. Failing to commit to increased investment in transit is a missed opportunity no matter how you look at it."

Kux emphasized that this is a critical moment for the province to follow the federal government's lead on infrastructure improvement.

In November 2016, the federal government committed to provide $25.3 billion for public transit infrastructure projects across the country over the next 11 years, including up to 50 per cent of funds needed for specific projects. However, to secure this investment, provincial and municipal governments have to cooperate to produce the remaining 50 per cent.

"The B.C. government has only committed to a fraction of the funding needed to achieve the needed transit improvements across Metro Vancouver, the province's most congested region," Kux said. "Instead of pledging a fair share of investment, the B.C. government has prioritized tax cuts that will benefit the wealthiest British Columbians most and give financial protections to polluting industries like liquefied natural gas. This lack of investment will lead to costly delays in improvements that are needed today."

In Breaking gridlock, the Foundation's 2016 report on B.C.'s transit investment deficit, Kux and Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce found the government has underfunded transit since 2008. Eight years into the 12-year Provincial Transit Plan, only 23 per cent of the provincial contributions have been realized.

The budget also falls short on reducing carbon emissions. Although it provides a $40 million top-up to the Clean Energy Vehicle Program, it fails to strengthen the province's carbon tax and focuses more attention on financial incentives for fracked natural gas, which is a major contributor to climate change.

"The province continues to pin its hopes on LNG and new hydro projects at the expense of innovation and supporting job growth in areas like clean tech," Kux said. "Clean energy organizations are leaving this province, and we're falling behind the rest of the country and the world."

The Canadian Wind Energy Association shut down its B.C. operations last year, citing better opportunities in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Other low-carbon, job-creating industries could follow if B.C. does not commit to help transition the world off of fossil fuels.

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Media contact:
Emily Fister, Communications Specialist -- 604-440-5470