Ecoholic roundup: the best and worst in enviro news this week


It’s music to climate activists’ ears. A report published last month by the Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) suggests that notorious climate science denier ExxonMobil may be facing “potentially irreversible decline.”

Revenues have plunged 45 per cent over the last five years, hitting a 17-year low, and the debt-saddled oil giant’s been downgraded by two credit agencies this year, losing its AAA credit rating for the first time in 67 years. Low oil prices are a major factor, but IEEFA notes that low-carbon initiatives are fostering “a realignment of global energy priorities and a capital-allocation shift away from fossil fuels.”

Right on cue, Exxon’s said it’s likely going to cut what it pumps out of the ground by 19 per cent, or some 4.6 billion barrels, if low oil prices persist. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ response: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that business as usual – the unabated extraction and burning of planet-warming fossil fuels – is a risky and dangerous path, not only for the planet, but for ExxonMobil’s own financial future.”

Enviro groups call on feds to ditch oil and gas subsidies

Last week, dozens of oil, gas, mining, forestry, banking and insurance companies (representing $300 billion of Canada’s GDP) wrote PM Justin Trudeau encouraging him to stay the course on his new national carbon pricing scheme – even if the U.S. president-elect ain’t likely to follow suit.

But while the feds may still be planning to charge polluters $10 to $50 for every ton of greenhouse gases they emit (via a carbon tax or cap and trade), a coalition of environmental groups says we’re essentially paying polluters through the $3.3 billion in oil and gas subsidies shelled out by the provincial and federal governments every year.

It’s like taxing consumers who buy cigarettes while giving breaks to tobacco companies to produce more cigarettes, says Oil Change International’s Alex Doukas. “It doesn’t make sense,” Doukas says. Which is why the group, along with Climate Action Network, Equiterre and Environmental Defence, is calling on Finance Minister Bill Morneau to announce a phase-out of “all remaining preferential tax treatment” to the oil and gas sector starting in budget 2017. The feds have said they’ll phase them out by 2025.

Feds’ triclosan ban fail 

After four years of foot-dragging, you’d think government action on antibacterial triclosan would be worthy of prime-time boasting. Alas, it was one of those late Friday afternoon government notices designed to get buried in weekend distractions that finally announced that the feds are designating antibacterial triclosan a toxin. Maybe they didn’t want anyone to read the fine print. 

Despite being labelled a danger to the environmenttriclosan will still be allowed in personal care products like hand soap, toothpaste and deodorant. The move looks particularly toothless compared to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s announcement of a full-on ban on triclosan and 18 other antibacterial chemicals in soaps earlier this fall.

Health Canada still maintains that the suspected endocrine disruptor isn’t harmful to humans and that while it may cause “immediate or long-term harmful effects on the environment” downstream from our drains, the feds will just be politely asking manufacturers to try to limit levels entering our waterways. 

But at least they’re banning a neonic 

Health Canada has completed its re-evaluation of a controversial neonicotinoid pesticide, Bayer-made imidacloprid, and has given farmers three to five years to phase it out.

The David Suzuki Foundation and Equiterre called the timeline “unacceptable,” particularly since the popular pesticide has been found lacing Canadian waterways and the aquatic insects that are important food sources for fish, birds and other animals. Stillconsidering the heavy lobbying by agri-biz, the move is being heralded as a step in the right direction. | @ecoholicnation



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