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David Suzuki Foundation news release: B.C. hesitates when it should lead on climate action

August 19, 2016

VANCOUVER — The first phase of the B.C. government's updated climate action plan, released today, fails to put the province on track to meet its emissions targets or commitments under the Paris Agreement.

"B.C. had a chance to show real leadership on climate action, so we are disappointed to see the province hesitate with a partial plan that relies largely on forestry offsets instead of actual reductions," said David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson. "Instead of putting B.C. on track to reduce emissions, this plan prioritizes the incompatible goal of expanding the liquefied natural gas industry."

Jay Ritchlin, the Foundation's director for Western Canada, said, "With the Paris Agreement and the Canadian government setting the tone for bolder climate action, the province has released a plan that is underwhelming and will not get us the emissions reductions we need. While B.C. was once a North American climate leader, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta recently introduced stronger plans that are much closer to meeting climate targets. Jurisdictions that show leadership now in reducing emissions will benefit from job opportunities, not to mention better health and cost savings in years to come."

B.C.'s updated climate action plan doesn't mention or meet legislated 2020 emissions targets, nor does it include a provision to increase the carbon tax, one of the most effective emissions-reduction policies.

"This is a huge missed opportunity for B.C. to take positive steps to shift to clean technology and renewable energy solutions to build a strong and competitive economy," Ritchlin said.

Despite its flaws, the plan contains some publicly supported initiatives that will help cut emissions. Increasing low-carbon fuel standards, a crackdown on methane emissions from shale gas and natural gas production and additional financial incentives for electric and low-carbon vehicles are steps in the right direction. "While some of these initiatives will have an impact on emissions, we're still missing crucial dedicated provincial funding commitments to tackle emissions in transportation, one of the most polluting sectors in British Columbia," Robinson said.

Instead of relying heavily on forestry management, initiatives that would make the action plan stronger include:

  • Legislated greenhouse gas targets for B.C.'s key sectors, including a target for 2030.
  • Increased carbon tax applied to all emissions to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
  • Joining California and other U.S. states to mandate a zero-emissions vehicle standard that requires a percentage of new vehicle sales in the province to be electric or hybrid.
  • Increased provincial transit funding in the 2017 budget to leverage federal funds and/or enable additional revenue tools. B.C.'s current three-year fiscal plan (2016 budget) proposes a decline in provincial transit funding, while the federal government prepares to invest billions in a second funding phase for provinces and regions that are prepared to match the funds. Only 10 per cent of Metro Vancouver's 10-year Transit and Transportation Plan has been funded.
  • Revisions to the building code that require new buildings to meet energy needs through onsite renewable energy within 10 years.

A Climate Leadership Team with representatives from government, academia, business, environmental sectors and First Nations brought forward 32 recommendations, only a fraction of which were included in this first phase of the plan. Nine years ago, B.C. introduced a climate action plan that included North America's first revenue-neutral carbon tax, earning the province accolades and demonstrating that leading climate policy can be accompanied by economic growth. B.C. is now slipping from that leadership position.

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Media contact:
Theresa Beer
778-874-3396

35,000 signatures calling for Grassy Narrows mercury cleanup delivered by canoe to Queen's Park

July 7, 2016

Environmental and labour leaders echo calls from Grassy Narrows First Nation for immediate river cleanup

TORONTO, ONTARIO — (Marketwired — July 7, 2016) — Prominent labour and environmental leaders delivered a canoe filled with more than 35,000 letters and petitions calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to immediately commit to clean up Grassy Narrows' mercury-contaminated river.

"Last month Grassy Narrows youth and elders travelled 1,700 kilometers to call on Premier Wynne to clean up the mercury in their river. Today we carry the voices of 35,000 people who echo Grassy Narrows' cry for justice. Clean the river, clean it now," said Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Projects Manager, David Suzuki Foundation.

The signatures delivered today were collected from petitions and online actions from Leadnow.ca, the David Suzuki Foundation, Amnesty International, and the Council of Canadians.

"Premier Wynne has said cleaning up the mercury is too risky, but her government has failed to produce any evidence showing the methods proposed by scientists are unsafe. It's time for Ontario to stop making excuses and commit to cleaning the river," said Amara Possian, Leadnow.ca Campaign Manager.
On Monday, the Toronto Star reported that the government could provide no evidence to suggest that a "clean clay suspension" remediation effort would be unsafe, despite repeated comments from the Premier and senior government officials citing concerns about the safety of a cleanup as the reason for the province's inaction.

"Indigenous people deserve to live and work in safe communities. If non-Aboriginal people and families were being poisoned, there is no doubt there would have been action a long time ago. The decades of inaction by successive governments is a stain on Canada's human rights and environmental record," said Marie Clarke Walker, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress.

Decades ago, 9,000 kg of mercury was dumped into the English-Wabigoon River system, which flows into the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The poisoning destroyed a local economy based on fishing, and caused an ongoing health crisis.

"People are dying and getting sick, and scientists tell us it's possible to make the river safe again. So why is it taking so long for the government to commit to a full river clean-up?" said Mark Calzavara, Ontario-Quebec Organizer, Council of Canadians.

"There are 107 MPP elected to Queen's Park. Do you think they would ignore it if people in their home towns were being poisoned?" asked CUPE Ontario Aboriginal Council chair Dawn Bellerose. "How can the Premier apologize for the past while turning a blind eye to the atrocities happening under her own watch? It's time to bring an end to government sanctioned abuses of First Nations people. It is time for Premier Wynne to deliver more than pretty words."

Media Contact: Jolan Bailey — National Organizer, Leadnow.ca — jolan@leadnow.ca — 604-441-6916

Environmental groups head to court over pollinator-killing pesticides

July 6, 2016

Neonicotinoid pesticides have been linked to mass bee die-offs and declining pollinator populations.

TORONTO, July 6, 2016 — Environmental groups are headed to court in a bid to protect pollinators from a harmful class of pesticides.

The David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ontario Nature and the Wilderness Committee have been tracking the scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinator deaths. Now, they say it's time for Canada to stop ignoring the risks.

Ecojustice lawyers representing the groups argue that a number of pesticides containing two neonicotinoid active ingredients (Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam) are unlawfully registered in Canada.

They allege that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) failed to live up to its legal responsibilities as a regulator. Specifically, the Agency failed to ensure for more than a decade that it had the scientific information necessary to determine the pesticides' environmental risks, in particular risks to pollinators. The federal Pest Control Products Act requires the PMRA have "reasonable certainty" that a pesticide will cause no harm to the environment before registering it.

They also point to a number of Thiamethoxam-based pesticides that have been registered for years in Canada without ever being subject to public consultation required by the Act.

The environmental groups are asking the court to declare the registrations of these Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam-based pesticides invalid. Only validly registered pesticides can be used in Canada.

Ecojustice lawyer, Charles Hatt, said: "The PMRA has taken a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil approach by repeatedly registering these neonicotinoid pesticides without important scientific information on their risks to pollinators."

Anne Bell, Director of Conservation and Education at Ontario Nature, said: "Pollinators are key players in our ecosystems, and their declines are extremely concerning. A stunning variety of plants — including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and 90 per cent of flowering plants — need pollinators to reproduce and thrive."

Gwen Barlee, National Policy Director at the Wilderness Committee, said: "Pollinator populations are plummeting and the science tells us that neonicotinoids play a big role in that decline. So why is the PMRA continuing to allow their use and sale? We need to get these bee-killing pesticides out of Canadian agriculture."

Beatrice Olivastri, Chief Executive Officer at Friends of the Earth, said: "Decision-makers in the European Union, France, and even Ontario have already opted to heavily restrict the use of neonicotinoids. It's time for Canada to join this push to protect pollinators."

Dr. Faisal Moola, PhD, Director General of Ontario and Northern Canada at the David Suzuki Foundation, said: "The Province of Ontario recently brought in strong restrictions on the use of dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture. We're hoping that our court case will compel the federal government to take similar action in response to widespread public concern over the fate of pollinators in Canada."

About neonicotinoids:
• Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are the most-widely used class of insecticides worldwide.
• Neonics are systemic pesticides. Once applied to a plant they spread throughout its tissues — from roots, to leaves, to pollen. Neonics cannot be washed or peeled off of crops.
• Research suggests neonics have played a role in mass bee die-offs, and that the pesticides harm bees' metabolic, immune, and reproductive functions, and negatively affect bees' foraging and homing behaviour.
• Neonics can leach into the soil and water, where they can persist in the environment, exposing a wide range of land and water animals to toxic effects.

Find a Q&A here

Notices of Application
Clothianidin
Thiamethoxam

For media inquiries, please contact:

Charles Hatt, lawyer | Ecojustice
416 368 7533 × 524 | chatt@ecojustice.ca

Anne Bell, Director of Conservation and Education, Ontario Nature
416 444 8419 × 239 (o) | 416-659-2339 (cell) | anneb@ontarionature.org

Dr. Faisal Moola, PhD, Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada, David Suzuki Foundation
647 993 5788 (cell)

Beatrice Olivastri, Chief Executive Officer, Friends of the Earth Canada
613 724 8690 (cell)

Gwen Barlee, National Policy Director, Wilderness Committee
604-202-0322 (cell) | gbarlee@gmail.com

David Suzuki Foundation statement: Environmental reviews welcome

June 21, 2016

The David Suzuki Foundation welcomes the federal government's announcement yesterday that it will review key pieces of environmental legislation, including returning provisions stripped away in 2012's omnibus budget bill.

Strengthening legislation such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act provides an opportunity for the federal government to make Canada the environmental and climate action leader that Canadians want. "This is Canada's chance to be an international leader and build a credible assessment process that shifts us away from oil, coal and natural gas by 2050 as committed to in the Paris Agreement," said David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce.

David Suzuki Foundation encouraged by new transit investment in Metro Vancouver

June 16, 2016

VANCOUVER — Today's transit-funding announcement by the federal and B.C. governments and Metro Vancouver mayors is a positive step on the road to securing long-term investment in transit. Although the Phase 1 funds only ensure funding for the first three years of the 10-year plan developed by the region's mayors, they are enough to guarantee that key infrastructure projects can begin to move forward.