- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 14 Feb 1991, p. 294-303
- Capobianco, Dr. Giacomo, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The readiness of Canada, the Government of Canada, and the people of Canada, for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, to be held 15 months from now, with 159 nations represented, in Rio de Janeiro. The purpose of that conference. The speaker's suggestion that the answer is "no." The level of knowledge and acknowledgement of the problems of emissions of carbon dioxide, and Canada's commitment to capping them at 1990 levels by the year 2000. Some background and history to this commitment. Some issues that will be addressed at the conference. Attaining sustainable development. Laying out the moral framework for the management of this planet. Ensuring the developing countries' rights to sustainable development, citizens' rights to clean water, clean air, etc. "Agenda 21," an environmental agenda and action plan for the next decade. The Canadian coal industry: impacts from these environmental issues. Canada's motivation in agreeing to cap its carbon dioxide emissions. A close examination of Canada's use of energy, and statistics which show us to be "energy pigs." Some facts about carbon dioxide emissions in Canada. An examination of the process that led to Canada's commitment with regard to emissions. A lack of understanding of the issue. Finding the right path in dealing with environmental challenges. The role and responsibility of industry. The costs of environment protection. Finding the most efficient, lowest cost path to achieving environmental protection and sustainable development. Ensuring that Canada's national associations and national sectoral associations have direct and effective influence in the formulation of realistically achievable Canadian environmental policies.
- Date of Original
- 14 Feb 1991
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- Dr. Giacomo Capobianco, President & CEO, The Coal Association of Canada
THE REORDERING OF PLANET EARTH: THE DEVELOPMENT OF RATIONAL POLICIES IN A SHRINKING WORLD
Chairman: Harold Roberts President
When I received a phone call last September from Ed Shiller to enquire whether or not The Empire Club might be interested in having an address from Dr. Giacomo Capobianco, President of the Canadian Coal Association, I must confess I was somewhat taken aback. Who in the world used coal any more? I was even more shocked to hear a suggested title for the address "Energy, the Economy and the Environment." Coal and clean environment just didn't seem to fit together.
Well, I did some enquiring and quickly discovered that, although it has been some time since the coalman delivered bags of coal and dumped them on a conveyor belt that carried it through a window in the side of the house to the coal bin, coal is still very much in use in energy production, steel production and in many other areas of heavy industry. It is still also one of our major resources.
Well, if I was so ill informed on the former aspect of coal use I might also be off base in my understanding of coal and the environment.
Coal, its production and use is still very much a national concern. It made sense to me to invite Dr. Capobianco to address our members.
Dr. Capobianco has spent his whole working life in the mining industry. He holds a B.A. in Applied Science from the University of Toronto and a Masters of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Capobianco joined Esso Resources Canada Ltd. in 1979 as Vice President Coal and President and Chief Executive Officer of Byron Creek Collieries, a unit of Esso. He held this position until early in 1990 when he assumed his present position as President and C.E.O. of the Coal Association of Canada.
Garnet Page, a past Coal Association President and now a Coal Consultant to the Alberta Government, describes Dr. Capobianco as a "good manager, a good delegator, and very bright."
Getting coal producers and coal consumers to pool resources and to work together for the sake of the industry is high on the agenda of the association.
Tamsin Carlisle of the Financial Post in July 1990 wrote: "It is an ambitious agenda and Page doubts it is practical. In particular, Canadian coal producers and coal consumers will not easily form a big happy family within the same industry associations. They are more likely to bicker endlessly over issues such as coal pricing.
But if anyone can pull off this ambitious dream, it is Capobianco, Page contends.
Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Giacomo Capobianco, President of the Coal Association of Canada.
Dr. Giacomo Capobianco:
Fifteen months from now 159 nations represented by their heads of government will gather in Rio de Janeiro at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Madame Gro Brundtland described the purpose of that conference as follows, "It must commit the governments and institutions of the world to a radical and far reaching overhaul of our management of this planet. It must reorder global scientific, economic and political priorities for the next century and beyond. It must recognize the urgency of our common crisis."
Beginning February 4th of this year, many of these same nations, represented by their negotiating teams, began two weeks of meetings in Washington, D.C., as the first of several such meetings designed to ensure that in June of 1992 agreements will have been prepared for signature by the 159 nations to achieve the conference's goals.
My question to you today is "Are you ready?" Perhaps the question might be more accurately phrased, "Is the Government of Canada ready?" Or perhaps the question should be "Are the people of Canada ready?"
I would suggest to you today that the answer to all of those questions is no. Let me use as an example what I have taken in the past to be a widely known fact in Canada--that this country has committed to capping its emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from man-made sources at the 1990 level by the year 2000. I have found however, that many of the people that I have spoken to are unaware of the cap and the commitment, let alone have any idea of what it might mean for Canada and Canadians. Most however, do identify CO2 as an important greenhouse gas which has been increasing in the earth's atmosphere.
This commitment was first made by then Minister of the Environment, Mr. Bouchard, when he declared Canada's commitment to the so-called Bergen Declaration in 1990 and has been repeated many times since. Late last year in Geneva Minister de Cotret said, "Canada commits to a stabilization of CO2 emissions at the 1990 level by the year 2000." He further committed that we would examine the practicality and impacts of further reductions. Interestingly, by the time of publication of the Green Plan, this commitment was being referred to as a goal.
In the interim, some effort had been made by Energy, Mines and Resources and others to investigate how Canada would achieve the Bergen commitment, and it began to become apparent that this was no easy task There appears to be no known way to achieve such a reduction without significant disruption to Canada. Obviously, since we don't know how to achieve the commitment, we certainly have no idea of what the actual costs of achieving it may be, either socially, financially, regionally, or in terms of our international trading position. Isn't it amazing then that the Government of Canada would commit in the international arena to such an action without having answers to these questions?
Now I want to come back to the process of exactly how that happened, but first I will point out that I have used only one example of why I think the answer to whether we are prepared or not for Brazil '92 is no. The issue of climate change is only one of a host of such issues which will be considered in Brazil. Every one of them is of great importance, certainly some of more importance in other parts of the world than Canada, but they are issues which humanity must address in a thoughtful and practical fashion. For example: climate change, ozone depletion, trans-boundary air pollution, deforestation, desertification, soil loss, biodiversity, biotechnology, marine pollution, fresh water, disposable toxic waste, poverty and environmental degradation, the urban environment, environment and health, new and renewable sources of energy, and a host of others.
All of these issues must be addressed if we are to attain sustainable development, a phrase brought to us by Madame Brundtland in the now famous study "Our Common Future." If the conference is successful in dealing with all of these issues, the expectation is that there will be four international agreements signed, one on climate change, one on biodiversity, one on forests, and one on biotechnology.
An "earth charter" is expected, laying out the moral frame L , work for the management of this planet, and ensuring the ' developing countries' rights to sustainable development, citizens' rights to clean water, clean air, etc.
Another key output of the conference will be "Agenda 21," which is an environmental agenda and action plan for the next decade, built upon input from all sectors of society and impacting all sectors of society. As you can plainly see, the issue of C02 and potential climate change is but one of many. For the industry which I represent, the Canadian coal industry, it is of course an extremely important issue. Unfortunately, of all the issues related to environment and development, this highly emotional and widely publicized topic is based on the most unreliable scientific evidence of any.
Even the panel of some 700 distinguished world climatologists gathered under the United Nations Auspices in the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change stated that while they felt they could confirm that global warming is actually taking place, they stated unequivocally that there remains great doubt as to the magnitude of any possible change, the timing of such change, and the possible consequences. At times these doubts are frequently swept aside when the issue is under debate. Indeed in Canada any one brash enough to debate the science at this point in time is regarded as out of date, Neanderthal, and "not being helpful."
And so we come to Canada having agreed to cap its C02 emissions in order to limit the potential for climate change. Why would we do that? Why would we position ourselves as one of the countries on the leading edge of commitment on this issue? It appears that the motivation is to show that Canada is doing its part in taking precautionary measures in case the much-threatened climate change issue is a reality. But is it a wise move for Canada? Can we have been driven by guilt feelings because on a per capita basis Canadians are credited, or discredited, with using more energy than any other nation on the face of the earth? Is there a logical reason that we use so much energy? Does it mean that we are, as all too many unthinking arm-wavers would have us believe, "energy pigs."
I believe that Canada can be significantly more efficient in how it generates energy, be more conservation minded in how it is used, and be more mindful of how energy use impacts our environment. However, I recently read an amazing statement by a Vice President of the International Development Research Centre of Canada which said, "The average Canadian uses 40 times as much energy as the average resident of India." I think that beautifully encapsulates the unthinking flogging of the idea that Canadians are energy pigs. Surely two minutes of thought might lead one to question the comparability of the Canadian and Indian economies. Surely no one wishes to see the Canadian economy reduced to that of India.
Now we have seen the service sector grow and grow rapidly in Canada, but make no mistake, that service sector is built on the backbone of this country which is our raw materials and resource base. As I have said recently, a computer is a wonderful thing and certainly the information age is upon us but you have to be able to plug a computer in. The electricity to run that computer does not come out of thin air. It is but a micro-fraction of one of Canada's greatest strengths, its diverse, abundant and low cost supply of energy in all forms. And here I would like to explain the role of coal in the Canadian energy supply picture. Over 80 percent of our hydrocarbon reserves are coal, which means that at current levels of usage we have hundreds of years of reserves, compared to 50 or 60 for oil and gas. On a world-wide basis the situation is the same. So of the fossil fuels, coal is clearly our most sustainable choice until some form of totally environmentally benign energy can be found. And coal can be used cleanly. Control of particulate emissions was achieved some time ago, and the technology to control emissions of acid gases, the precursors of acid rain, is certainly proven and available, even though our U.S. neighbours have had some political delays in putting it in place.
To reduce emissions even further, and to reduce CO2 by improving electrical generating efficiency, the Canadian coal industry, funded in part by Federal and Provincial Governments, is sponsoring a commercial scale demonstration project of a new technology called Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, which holds great promise. We expect the plant to be located in Alberta or Saskatchewan--but it could be built here in Ontario.
And it is important that we use coal in the cleanest, most efficient manner possible. Coal is an important source of low cost energy for Canada. Eighteen percent of Canada's electricity is generated with coal, and in the four major coal using provinces the average is over 60 percent. It is interesting to note that in Alberta, where over 90 percent of the power is coal-based, the most extensive study done anywhere on the subject found no indication of an acid precipitation problem. Here in Ontario 24.5 percent of your power is coal-based. Some two billion dollars of Canada's exports is coal, our largest single export to our second largest trading partner--Japan.
Unfortunately, whatever fossil fuel is burned, it generates C02. But in the case of Canada, which has been decried as an energy pig, and castigated for producing two percent of world C02 with only 0.5 percent of world population--whose C02 is it? On whose behalf does Canada generate this C02? Clearly we use energy in Canada for our own national needs.
But I must point out that roughly 75 percent of our industrial energy consumption is used by five basic industries--pulp and paper, iron and steel, mining, chemicals and non-ferrous metal processing. Because we have the resources to support these industries, and a high productivity work force, we are among the highest per capita producers of aluminium, nickel, copper, potash, gypsum, lead, uranium, zinc and coal, as well as wheat, oats, barley, and forest products. And I need hardly tell you that a high percentage of these products is exported to other countries so that clearly we are being "charged," as it were, for the C02 contained in our exported products. It should also come as no surprise that on a per capita basis Alberta produces more C02 than any other province in Canada, and is second only to Ontario in total C02 production. Why does Alberta produce so much C02? Of course the answer is that Alberta also produces much of Canada's energy. It is as illogical to charge Alberta with that C02 as it is to charge Canada with C02 generated in producing export materials. On a gross basis, it would appear that Canada is 70 percent more energy intensive than the average of the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and France. Adjusting for climate differences and the content of exported materials, along with what amounts to a bookkeeping adjustment in how electrical energy is accounted for, Canada's energy consumption is only 7 percent higher than the average of those countries and Canadians are spread out over much greater distances.
Thus, considering this fact, and the fact that Canada produces only 2 percent of the world's man-made C02, and recognising that Canada's well-being as a nation depends on its use of energy, it becomes difficult to understand why Canada should be at the forefront in limiting its C02 emissions.
Let's examine then the process that led us to this commitment. It is very clear that by whatever tactics, the environmental movement has been able to make global warming a major issue in the public mind. As a result, it has become a major issue in the minds of our politicians, and hence, for whatever reasons, we find the Minister of the Environment for Canada making international commitments on behalf of this country.
Now first of all I always understood that this was the role of the Minister of External Affairs. More importantly, were these commitments debated beforehand within the party?--I doubt it. Were these commitments debated in the House of Commons?--absolutely not. Were these commitments made after consultation with all the stakeholders?--certainly not with industry, certainly not with the provinces, certainly not with the key province of Alberta. As a result, there is a high level of dissatisfaction not only with the result but also with the process.
But, you may say, ever optimistic, I'm sure the Federal Government learned a great deal about how to follow the correct process. Not so! They have done it again. They have now committed Canada to a national cap on SO2, again without any understanding of costs, with no input whatsoever from consultation with industry, and no consultation with the key Western provinces. And, so far as we can see, no positive effect on the environment.
I submit that industry, as well as Canadians in general, should be challenging the Federal Government's process in seeking ways to protect the environment. The Green Plan calls for many extensive consultations. Will the approach be to react to whomever is most shrill or whichever group has the most voters? If we are to find the right path in dealing with our environmental challenges, industry has both a major role and a major responsibility. It seems all too rare that industry has a chance to deliver a pleasant message. In this case, I believe that once again it will not be a pleasant one as we evaluate the impact of new approaches to protecting the environment on our specific industries, our regions, and our nation.
Have no doubt that the cost of environmental protection will in many cases be very high, perhaps totally justified but still very high. Someone must quantify the costs. Clearly it is up to industry to ensure that the people of Canada know what costs are associated with whatever action they may choose, and that our nation's governments understand the cost impacts as well, so that we can take the most efficient, lowest cost path to achieving environmental protection and sustainable development.
We must somehow ensure that Canada does not find its international negotiators in a position where they feel they must commit our country to some inappropriate action due to pressure group tactics, without understanding the economic and social impacts on Canadian stakeholders. I remain deeply concerned that industry is not currently organized to carry out this responsibility effectively.
We need to ensure that our national associations such as the Business Council on National Issues, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian International Chamber of Commerce, and our national sectoral associations have direct and effective influence in the formulation of realistically achievable Canadian environmental policies. If you believe we have this responsibility, I urge you to examine how you can achieve an appropriate and effective input to the,' redesign of planet earth, coming to the world stage just fifteen months from now.
The appreciation of this meeting was expressed by Peter Hendrick, Vice President and Director, Wood Gundy and a Director of The Empire Club of Canada.