Colombia announces halt on fossil fuel exploration for a greener economy

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Friday, January 20, 2023

The minister for mines, Irene Vélez, told world leaders the country will shift away from fossil fuels to begin a sustainable chapterColombia’s leftwing government has announced that it will not approve any new oil and gas exploration projects as it seeks to shift away from fossil fuels and toward a new sustainable economy.Irene Vélez, the minister for mines told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the time had come for the Andean nation to move away from its reliance on oil and gas and begin a new, greener chapter in the country’s history. Continue reading...

The minister for mines, Irene Vélez, told world leaders the country will shift away from fossil fuels to begin a sustainable chapterColombia’s leftwing government has announced that it will not approve any new oil and gas exploration projects as it seeks to shift away from fossil fuels and toward a new sustainable economy.Irene Vélez, the minister for mines told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the time had come for the Andean nation to move away from its reliance on oil and gas and begin a new, greener chapter in the country’s history. Continue reading...

The minister for mines, Irene Vélez, told world leaders the country will shift away from fossil fuels to begin a sustainable chapter

Colombia’s leftwing government has announced that it will not approve any new oil and gas exploration projects as it seeks to shift away from fossil fuels and toward a new sustainable economy.

Irene Vélez, the minister for mines told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the time had come for the Andean nation to move away from its reliance on oil and gas and begin a new, greener chapter in the country’s history.

Continue reading...
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Has Ontario’s housing ‘plan’ been built on a foundation of evidentiary sand?

By Mark Winfield The need for Ontario to build 1.5 million homes over the next decade forms the basis for the government's massive changes to land-use policy. But there has been little examination of how the province's housing affordability task force arrived at that figure

By Mark Winfield In late 2022, the Ontario government adopted Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act. The legislation made sweeping changes to the province’s land use planning system. The province also passed Bill 39 — Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022 — which allows the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to pass bylaws related to provincial “priorities” like housing with only a third of the support of their councils. Premier Doug Ford’s government justified the adoption of this sweeping housing legislation, as well as the opening of parts of Ontario’s Greenbelt for development, on the basis of the need to address “the housing supply crisis.” We’re breaking news in Ontario The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau is telling environment stories you won’t find anywhere else. Keep up with the scoops by signing up for a weekly dose of our independent journalism. We’re breaking news in Ontario The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau is telling environment stories you won’t find anywhere else. Keep up with the latest scoops by signing up for a weekly dose of our independent journalism. Specifically, the province pointed to a February 2022 provincial housing affordability task force report, which said that Ontario needed to build 1.5 million homes over the next decade to address the shortage of housing. The task force report provided the foundation for shredding of much of the province’s land-use planning and local governance structures, all in favour of development interests. But there has been very little serious examination of how the task force arrived at the 1.5 million homes figure. A report that doesn’t add up The provincial housing task force report stated that Ontario was 1.2 million houses short of the G7 average and needed to build 1.5 million new homes over the next 10 years. This would imply building 150,000 new dwellings per year. Ontario’s population grew by 10.7 per cent from 2011 to 2021, while the number of occupied dwellings grew by 12.5 per cent. This means that the number of dwellings has actually been growing faster than the population. Photo: Christopher Katsarov Luna / The Narwhal In order to reach this conclusion, the task force report claimed that Canada has the lowest number of houses per 1,000 people of any G7 nation. However, it has been observed that the number of dwellings per 1,000 people is not a very useful comparison because people live in households. In Ontario, because the average household size is 2.58 people per household, 1,000 people would only require 388 housing units, whereas in Germany, for example, 1,000 people would require 507 dwelling units because of an average household size of only 1.97. It has also been suggested that the task force report was over-aggressive in calling for 150,000 new dwellings per year. Ontario’s population grew by an average of 155,090 per year from 2016 to 2021. Applying the Ontario average household size to this population growth rate reveals that the need for housing is roughly 60,000 new households per year, not 150,000. The construction of 60,000 houses is actually lower than the 79,000 housing starts Ontario averaged per year between 2016 and 2021. What’s more, Ontario’s population grew by 10.7 per cent from 2011 to 2021, while the number of occupied dwellings grew by 12.5 per cent. This means that the number of dwellings has actually been growing faster than the population. The need for land to build housing was a key justification in the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to remove protections from some greenspace and agricultural land in the Greenbelt. But its own task force confirmed there is plenty of land available in existing urban areas. Photo: Christopher Katsarov Luna / The Narwhal Unnecessary Greenbelt developments Ontario’s construction industry is already working at capacity. Toronto is reported as having the largest number of active construction cranes in North America and has recorded high numbers of condominium completions. With respect to the supply of land — which was a key justification for the government’s decision to remove lands from the Greenbelt — the task force report itself confirmed that there is plenty of land available in existing urban areas. This includes at least 250,000 new homes and apartments that were approved in 2019 or earlier but have not yet been built. Research undertaken for the environmental organization Environmental Defence revealed that the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Areas have 88,000 acres of already designated new (or greenfield or undeveloped) development lands within existing settlement area boundaries. That is more than three time the amount of greenfield land (26,000 acres) used for development over the preceding two decades. Building a sustainable and liveable province All of this evidence suggests that there was neither a shortage of already authorized housing starts to accommodate Ontario’s growing population, nor a shortage of already designated land on which to build homes. Simply put, the province’s sweeping housing strategy has been built on a foundation of sand. The reality is that the region is already in the midst of a major development boom. The problem is that it has been a boom that has done little to improve housing affordability, particularly for those at the lower end of the income scale who need it the most. The housing “crisis” has had less to do with housing supply, and far more to do with the nature and location of what is being built. At least 250,000 new homes and apartments that were approved in 2019 or earlier have not yet been built. Photo: Christopher Katsarov Luna / The Narwhal The draconian measures in Bills 23 and 39, and the province’s accompanying moves to remove lands from the Greenbelt and allow development in the Duffins-Rouge Agricultural Reserve, seem likely to make these problems worse than ever. The regressive changes being made under the province’s housing legislation will accelerate urban sprawl and the accompanying losses of prime agricultural and natural heritage lands. They would undermine efforts to build and protect real affordable housing and liveable communities, respond to a changing climate and ensure democratic governance at the local level. The questions of housing and development in the Greater Toronto Area are far more complicated than a need to simply build more and faster. Increased federal immigration targets put additional stress on the housing market. But if anything, that reinforces the need for a vision for a sustainable, liveable and affordable region and not one focused on maximizing the development industry’s returns on investment. The debates prompted by the Ford government’s housing strategy may mark the beginning of a conversation about what that future might look like. They cannot be its end. Joe Castrilli, Counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, contributed to this article.

White House Refuses to Say Whether Ukraine Will Receive Toxic Depleted Uranium Ammo

A Biden official wouldn’t disclose whether Bradley Fighting Vehicles will be equipped with the anti-tank rounds, linked to cancer and birth defects. The post White House Refuses to Say Whether Ukraine Will Receive Toxic Depleted Uranium Ammo appeared first on The Intercept.

The White House is unwilling to say whether the U.S. will provide depleted uranium anti-tank rounds to Ukraine, according to the transcript of a press briefing, despite decades of research suggesting the weapon causes cancer and birth defects long after the fighting ends. At a background briefing on January 25, an unnamed reporter asked the unnamed “senior administration officials” at the session whether the Bradley Fighting Vehicles now being sent to aid in Ukraine’s defense against Russia would come armed with the 25 mm armor-piercing depleted uranium rounds they’re capable of firing. As the reporter noted, firing these radioactive rounds “is part of what makes them the ‘tank killer’ that Pentagon officials called them.” The administration official who responded declined to answer, saying, “I’m not going to get into the technical specifics.” But the technical specifics of these weapons could have dire consequences for Ukrainians. Depleted uranium is a common byproduct of manufacturing nuclear fuel and weaponry, and, owing to its extreme density, ammunition made from the stuff is a fantastic way of punching through the thick armor of a tank and igniting everyone inside. But these anti-tank rounds also happen to be radioactive, extremely toxic, and have been linked with a variety of birth defects, cancers, and other illness, most dramatically in Iraq, where doctors reported a spike in birth defects and cancers since the Gulf War, when the U.S. fired nearly a million depleted uranium rounds, and the 2003 invasion of that country. “[Uranium] binds avidly to bio-molecules including DNA,” according to Keith Baverstock, a radiobiologist at the University of Eastern Finland, former World Health Organization researcher, and longtime scholar of depleted uranium arms and their effects. “Where [uranium] is used in munitions (bullets and bombs) to penetrate hardened targets (using its high density) the munition may shatter and since [uranium] is pyrophoric, catch fire and burn, producing oxide particles which are partially soluble and, thus, potentially a source of systemic [uranium] if inhaled.” Uranium particles may remain embedded in the land where these rounds were fired, too, presenting a possible environmental hazard years later. While research linking depleted uranium weapons to adverse health effects is disputed — and heavily politicized given who’s fired it and at whom — experts told The Intercept that the risk alone means White House owes the public transparency. “It’s been a concern since the start of the invasion,” said Doug Weir, research and policy director with the Conflict and Environment Observatory, particularly given that Russia claims to have its own depleted uranium arsenal, though it’s not clear whether any have been used in Ukraine. Were the U.S. to provide uranium rounds for Ukraine to deploy against Russia, the odds might increase of Russia using its arsenal too (if it hasn’t already). Generally speaking, Weir explained that “the most severe contamination incidents will occur where a vehicle with a full load of DU cooks off after being struck. This may be a tank, or a supply vehicle. Similarly, arms dumps containing large volumes of DU may create contamination incidents when destroyed or burned.” Weir added, “It is important that journalists pin down the U.S. government on its DU decision.” Despite our popular associations with uranium, “the biggest problem there is metal pollution, not radiation,” explained Nickolai Denisov, an environmental scientist who has closely monitored the health impacts of the Ukraine war. “Still, pollution by heavy metals is dangerous and long term, hence transparency in these matters is indeed important.” It can be uncomfortable to advocate against the use of a weapon that would no doubt be a near-term boon for Ukrainain resistance. As the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons put it at the onset of the Russian invasion, “When there is war, everything else is secondary compared to sheer survival. On the other hand, the outcry because of environmental destruction must not be omitted if the country is to be habitable again afterward.” If the Pentagon sends uranium rounds to Ukraine, it would surely have supporters: The ammo would be highly effective at destroying the armored vehicles Russia has poured into the country. As the White House faces — and bends to — growing pressure to share increasingly powerful arms with Ukraine, candid discussions about the unintended consequences of these arm transfers can become unpopular. But some scientists who’ve spent careers scrutinizing these weapons will likely remain opposed, despite the immense sympathy of the Ukrainian cause. Asked about the White House’s refusal to discuss uranium rounds in Ukraine, Baverstock, the Finnish scientist, replied simply, “I would certainly hope that there is no intention to use it.” The post White House Refuses to Say Whether Ukraine Will Receive Toxic Depleted Uranium Ammo appeared first on The Intercept.

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