Updated January 5, 2015: Thank you to NOW Magazine for sharing this story!
As 2014 comes to a close, I thought it would be a good time to reflect back on the highlights of what has happened this past year and ponder on what we can expect will be key environmental issues looking forward into 2015.
While I don’t have a crystal ball, I have made some informed predictions for the environment in the year ahead.
Here’s the list of the Top 10 environmental issues (listed David Letterman style from bottom to top) that you might see in 2015:
10. Marine conservation: Canada will face pressure to improve its abysmal record on creating protected marine areas (currently 1.3 per cent of the oceans that are under Canada’s control are included in protected areas). This slow progress is despite the fact the Canadian government has committed to protecting 10 per cent by 2020.
9. Forests: Woodland Caribou are at risk across the boreal forest and the establishment of conservation plans has been lagging. Expect to see increased market place pressure and legal risk for forest and fossil fuel companies that do not move to conserve this species.
8. Water quality: Given weather patterns and climate trends over the last few years, Canada can expect more storms that normally happen once every century. These storms will overwhelm our cities’ infrastructure resulting in more flooding and property damage. Ontarians could see some positive action to address nutrient runoff and pollution in the Great Lakes when the provincial government introduces its long-promised Great Lakes Protection Act.
7. Park encroachment: The flawed Rouge National Park Act is widely opposed by conservationists and the Ontario government and will need to be rewritten. B.C. Parks Act changes will allow oil and gas exploration and pipelines in the parks which will create backlash from the public. Also, public concern will continue to rise over proposed developments in National Parks that would damage their ecology.
6. Pesticides that kill what they are not supposed to: Neonicitinoids are controversial because they are known to kill valuable insects like bees while doing little to increase crop yields. The public will be seeking action as Ontario considers new regulations to phase out some key neonics by 2017.
5. Toxic chemicals in consumer products: The federal government will make a decision on what to do about triclosan, which was declared toxic to the environment in 2012. Ontario has said it will consider providing more information to consumers about toxics in products and many will be looking for product labels, similar to California’s, that warn of carcinogens. Microbeads will be the focus of concern by scientists and the public because of their ability to concentrate toxics and pollute our waters, and a ban is possible.
4. Endangered species: The federal government has listed only a handful of new species under the Species at Risk Act since 2010, despite recommendations from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), so we will see increased expectations for action. Also, the Judicial Review of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s decision to provide sweeping exemptions from requirements under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act to industry will be finally be heard.
3. Sprawl and building better cities: In Ontario, Halifax, B.C. Lower Mainland and Calgary sprawl is eating farmland and natural areas alive. The public will be looking for action to encourage denser cities and better public transit to help reduce taxes and improve quality of life. This issue will be hotly contested in B.C.’s transit referendum and in Ontario’s review of its Greenbelt and Places to Grow legislation.
2. Aboriginal treaty rights: The Supreme Court has handed down several decisions that make it clear that federal and provincial governments and companies must respect Aboriginal treaty rights, many of which are related to protection of the environment in a manner that ensures ongoing ability to hunt, fish and trap. Our prediction is that government and companies that continue to ignore and trample these rights will have their projects blocked by the courts.
1. Climate: Proposed pipeline projects such as Energy East, Kinder Morgan, and Northern Gateway will face widespread and deep public opposition while Keystone XL will not go ahead in the U.S. The eyes of the world will be on Paris from November 30-December 11 for the UN Climate Change Conference, which is considered to be the last chance for the world to negotiate a legally binding treaty to keep the planet cool enough to avoid widespread ecosystem and civilization destruction. We also expect to see growing public and opinion leader support for carbon pricing and a demand from citizens that our governments invest in clean energy, urban transit, smarter urban design and clean economy technology and jobs.
As you can see, 2015 is set to be one of our busiest years yet as we continue our work to protect green spaces, reduce Canadians’ exposure to toxic chemicals, safeguard water, and build a clean economy. We cannot do this work without you. Because of your generous support, we have been able to successfully tackle environmental issues that affect communities across Canada, and with your help, we will do so in the New Year and for years to come.
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See you next year!