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Canada’s panicky tar sands response should signal UK’s abstention

An open letter delivered by a Canadian minister has further highlighted the need for the UK to pull out of the country’s tar sands projects. With the help of a UK campaign group, Alex Blackburne explains why.

The Average Joe probably isn’t aware of tar sands. Certainly, before the Keystone XL pipeline was announced, the vast majority of people would arguably meet the phrase with a shrug of confusion.

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An open letter delivered by a Canadian minister has further highlighted the need for the UK to pull out of the country’s tar sands projects. With the help of a UK campaign group, Alex Blackburne explains why.

The Average Joe probably isn’t aware of tar sands. Certainly, before the Keystone XL pipeline was announced, the vast majority of people would arguably meet the phrase with a shrug of confusion.

But as the oil extraction method becomes increasingly talked about, the dangers behind it become abundantly clear.

Tar sands, or oil sands as they’re often called, is the process of turning bitumen into oil by digging it out of the ground through a complicated, highly-carbon intensive and toxic process. Canada is the unopposed world leader in it, boasting the biggest tar sands deposit in the world. And contrary to many people’s thoughts, it’s the biggest supplier of oil to the US.

[Canada has] transformed a vast area of pristine ancient forest into a post-apocalyptic moonscape of huge craters in the earth that are hundreds of metres deep”, said Jess Worth, co-founder of the campaign group, the UK Tar Sands Network.

The entire ecosystem has just been completely removed in order to dig down and get this sticky bitumen stuff out of the ground, so it can then go through this highly-toxic, very energy-intensive process of upgrading and refining to get to the point where it’s usable oil, and then the vast majority of it is currently exported to the US”.

Following the realisation that conventional oil is running out, oil companies have turned to unconventional oil – capitalising on Canada’s rich tar sand supplies.

But this comes at a cost.

Compared to conventional oil, tar sands is much more dangerous for the climate, because of the extra energy that is used to extract the oil”, said Worth. “Its emissions are three to five times more carbon intensive per barrel than conventional oil.”

NASA scientist James Hanson said that if all the tar sands were extracted, it’d be game over for the climate. Yet progress in the sector doesn’t look like slowing.

The amount of carbon emissions locked up in the tar sands would tip us over the edge into runaway climate change, without a doubt”, continued Worth.

As a global community, we cannot afford to continue to extract the tar sands. We have to leave them in the ground and find alternative sources of energy”.

Canada’s incredible natural geography means that it could potentially become a world leader in renewable energy, mirroring the progress made by the likes of Denmark and Germany.

But instead, it chooses to pollute our atmosphere with harmful gases and transform itself into a so-called “petrostate”.

The UK appears to be fully supportive of the projects, singing from exactly the same hymn sheet as Canada. In an era of sustainability-centred revolutions and advancements, this is impossible to fathom.

Canada and the UK’s continued support of the tar sands projects have been met with significant protest from all around the globe.

The UK Tar Sands Network is just one of many campaign groups set up in order to challenge the Canadian Government, which through its minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, released an open letter on the Financial Post website last week.

In it, Oliver takes swipes at “environmental and other radical groups” who he says are doing all they can to “stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth” – a ridiculous statement.

The groups that are opposing to Canada’s projects do so because of the massive environmental consequences of undertaking them. The minister of natural resources is writing as if there are no alternatives to tar sands, which there obviously is, in the form of clean energy.

In response to Oliver’s letter, The Guardian’s Kelly Rigg wrote that, “The letter was so far off the mark, one can only conclude that the government is becoming unhinged over the growing opposition to tar sands development. This should be a cue for Britain to reconsider its unfailing support for Canada on this issue in the European context”.

Bill McKibben, renowned author and environmentalist, labelled the UK Government “idiotic” in a Guardian article last year.

He told Blue & Green Tomorrow that the UK’s backing of the tar sands projects in Canada is undoing all the good work being done to tackle climate change.

Whatever the UK Government is doing internally to combat global warming will be outweighed by the carbon that will flow from a fully exploited tar sands complex in Canada”, he said.

This is the second biggest pool of carbon on Earth; just as Governments work with Brazil to help keep the rainforest intact for planetary reasons, so they should be working with Canada to keep that carbon in the ground.”

But the UK pulling out of such a deal looks unlikely, with David Cameron and the coalition Government acting as Canada’s “henchmen in Europe” according to the UK Tar Sands Network’s Worth.

Colin Baines, campaigns manager at The Co-operative, predicted a bleak future if something isn’t done now to decrease the currently increasing fashionableness of unconventional oil supplies.

If the alarming global trend of developing high carbon unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, is allowed to continue we run the risk of triggering runaway climate change”, he said.

The business case for the oil industry’s massive expansion plans for tar sands is based on an International Energy Agency demand scenario which would lead to six degrees of warming and catastrophic climate change – this is grossly irresponsible to put it mildly“.

It’s both baffling and frightening that tar sands are being exploited and even more so why the UK is seemingly behind any plans.

Green campaigners have accused the UK Government – the “greenest Government ever”, remember – of disregard for the environment before. It won’t come as a surprise to many that this seemingly bold claim is starting to appear slightly throwaway.

Have a look at the UK Tar Sands Network’s ‘What can I do?’ page for more information about how you can make a difference.

These oil companies in Canada wouldn’t have the dominance they have without investment, so putting your money in sustainable places can go a long way to stopping more tyrannical behaviour.

Ask your financial adviser or fill in our online form and we’ll connect you with a specialist ethical adviser who will be able to help.

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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