Brokenhagen - So Let’s Try Something New

December 21, 2009

In the wake of Copenhagen, what are we to make of all the confusion and mutual blaming?

Der Spiegel’s editorial said “What a disaster. The climate summit in Copenhagen has failed because of the hardball politicking of the United States, China and several other countries - and because people just can't seem to fathom how catastrophic climate change will be.”

But let’s step back a minute, and consider the difficulty of obtaining a binding consensus from the leaders of 193 fractious nations, each of whom has to answer to his or her own voters, on a change so enormous that it calls for nothing less than retrofitting the entire planet for zero carbon operations within 40 years. There’s not a nation on Earth that manages to govern itself by consensus.

Can you imagine any kind of consensus agreement coming out of the USA, where very few Democrats deny the science of climate change, and very Republicans accept it?

Even if they had agreed, UN data published during the conference shows that the commitments on offer would have caused global temperatures to rise by 3°C, not the 2°C limit everyone agrees is needed, or the 1.5°C demanded by the Maldives and other vulnerable nations. And that’s bad news. The last time the world was 3°C warmer, the sea level was 25 metres higher.

So maybe it’s good news that the US, China, India, Brazil and other large nations that are responsible for 85% of the world’s carbon emissions got together and thrashed out their own agreement, without waiting for Saudi Arabia and a host of small nations to sign on. As Michael Levi points out in Slate, the 100 smallest emitters are producing less than 3% of the problem.

Ever since I started writing my new book on climate solutions I’ve also been thinking that the whole Kyoto process is steeped in the negative. It is framed in the mindset of limiting a problem, not winning a victory. If the 193 Kyoto nations were a football team, they’d all be playing defence, and losing 96-3 at half-time, with only the tiny Maldive Islands scoring 3 points for its commitment to build a 100% carbon neutral society by 2020.

If something’s broke, you’ve either have to fix it, or find a better way to design it. We’ve got to reframe the climate problem not only as reducing our emissions, complaining every tonne of the way, but also as building a zero carbon world that is so attractive and sustainable that why would we want to do otherwise? The oil’s about to hit its global production peak anyway, so the sooner we make the transition, the better.

Getting back to the football metaphor, no coach would last long who took such a negative approach. You’ve got to play offense as well as defense, and that means being able to visualize victory so clearly that it becomes a determined and resolute result long before it has been achieved - and that means visualizing a world powered and transported by 100% renewable energy, with green cities, zero waste, carbon-storing forestry, farming and ranching, and then going flat-out to score some goals.

So let’s have solar treaties, in which nations agree to aggressively ramp up the amount of solar PV that’s installed every year, driving down the price. Let’s have electric vehicle, wind energy, and bus rapid transit treaties, signaling to investors that they should press ahead and build new factories. Let’s have bicycling treaties, biochar treaties, and zero-net energy building treaties. If we depended on market forces to bring victory, Winston Churchill would have had to announce in World War II that “I’m afraid we can’t fight Hitler and his Nazis, because we’ve go to wait for the price of warships to fall.”

And while playing defense, where we’re doing such a lousy job, let’s try breaking out the various greenhouse gases instead of bundling them together, and find ways to tackle them separately. There are some aggressive players there who keep scoring touchdowns against us, and they’ve got to be targetted individually if we’re going to take them out.

This would allow us to create a specific plan to tackle black carbon, or soot, which comes from dirty diesel vehicles, traditional biofuel cooking stoves, residential coal fires, and open forest and savanna fires. It’s not a gas, so it’s not even on the Kyoto/Copenhagen table, but it’s scoring 21% of the global warming goals, and we urgently need to eliminate it. Since it only stays in the atmosphere for a few days or weeks, the response to our success would be immediate, which is precisely what we need.

We’ve also got to tackle methane, which is scoring 13% of the goals against us. Methane traps far more heat than CO2, but its life in the atmosphere is only 8.4 years, after which it breaks down into CO2 and other gases. Its official global warming potential (GWP) over 100 years is 25, but over its short life it traps 100 times more heat - and it’s the short term that’s so critical now. A deal to tackle methane would apply an urgent focus to fugitive emissions from fossil fuel extraction, livestock digestion, rice paddies, landfills, animal feedlot slurry, and open biomass burning.

And then there are the F gases, which are scoring goals against us while no-one’s even watching. The worst, HFC-134a, used in air conditioning, traps 5,000 times more heat than CO2 does over its short 14 years’ life in the atmosphere. Perfectly good CO2-based alternatives exist, so a side-deal to push it out of the game is urgently needed.

Before Copenhagen, bringing up new ideas like this would have been a troublesome distraction. But now that Copenhagen’s out of the way, and seen to have failed, we need to put everything on the table, and try to find a better approach.

There’s another new idea that concerns how we’re going to pay for the $100-$300 billion a year needed to help the world’s poorer nations deal with the impacts of climate change, and make their own journey to a zero-carbon future. Voluntary commitments won’t cut it, and a global carbon tax is unlikely to win support.

During Copenhagen, Ethiopia’s leader, Meles Zenawi, suggested raising the money by imposing new taxes on aviation and shipping, and on financial transactions (known as a "Tobin Tax"), which alone could raise up to $100bn a year. The idea has already won support from Britain, France, Brazil, and to some extent the whole European Union. The double merit of the proposal is that it can be targetted to foreign exchange and derivatives, where speculation has harmed the world’s economy so much over the past 30 years.

Copenhagen’s broken, and even if it had succeeded, with a temperature rise of 3°C it would still have guaranteed disaster, so let’s try something new.

Guy Dauncey is author of the newly released book The Climate Challenge - 101 Solutions to Global Warming (New Society Publishers, 2009). He is President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association.


The Twelve Days of Copenhagen

December 6, 2009

For singers everywhere!

The Twelve Days of Copenhagen

On the first day of Copenhagen, leaders gave to me, a really solid climate treaty.

On the second day of Copenhagen, leaders gave to me two turbines turning, and a really solid climate treaty.

Three transit choices

Four firm targets

No more dirty oil! (All sing)

Six solars sunning

Seven southern subsidies

Eight electric engines

Nine nations capping

Ten tides a-harnessed

Eleven leaders leading

Twelve coal-mines closing

With acknowledgements to the Canadian Youth Climate delegation.

Alternative words:

Six solar panels

Seven southern climate funds

Eight electric vehicles

Ten trains a-travelling


October 23, 2009

You are invited to the North American Launch of

The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions
to Global Warming

by Guy Dauncey

Tuesday November 3rd, 7:30pm

Vancouver Public Library, Alice McKay Room,
350 West Georgia St.

With an Introduction by Dr Mark Jaccard, Professor of Environmental Economics at Simon Fraser University; Presentation by Guy Dauncey; and a Special Honouring of 10 of Vancouver’s climate action heroes.

What an amazingly, insanely, comprehensive
and useful book.
This is a joyous, hope-filled manual for facing the greatest crisis humanity has ever encountered.

- Bill McKibben,

In his new book The Climate Challenge, Guy Dauncey shows how it is possible to reduce our global carbon footprint to almost zero by 2040, ushering in a new civilization that will be happier, healthier and more sustainable. Taken together, the Solutions represent an amazing blossoming of innovation that will change the world and create a host of new green collar jobs.

Guy Dauncey is an author, organizer and futurist who works to develop a positive vision of a sustainable future, and to translate that vision into action. He is President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association.

Signed copies of The Climate Challenge will be for sale at the event.

Organized by the Vancouver Chapter of the BC Sustainable Energy Association

and hosted by the Vancouver Public Library, with many thanks.

What people are saying about the book:

This is a terrific labor. Nowhere will readers find a more exhaustive, yet accessible, treatment of the climate challenge.
- Gary Gardner, Senior Researcher, Worldwatch Institute

Guy Dauncey has created something unique in the current literature - if you wish to grasp the mind-boggling complexity of the climate challenge, read this book.
- John Shellnhuber, Chief Sustainability Scientist for the German Government

A real cracker. Hugely informative, hard-hitting and very upbeat about the solutions.
- Sir Jonathon Porritt, past Chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission

If you are wondering what to do about climate change, here is the answer. The Climate Challenge is not only interesting and informative, it is also exciting.
– Lester R. Brown, author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

Very timely and persuasive - an essential owner’s manual for our planet.
- Terry Tamminen, former Secretary of California EPA

This book is marvelous! The Climate Challenge is an elegant, insightful and comprehensive examination of the dominant global challenge we face. This attractive work belongs on the desk of every investor, entrepreneur, citizen and policy maker.
- Paul R. Epstein, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Director, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School

It's as if Whole Earth Catalog had been reborn 40 years later. Guy Dauncey is deeply, urgently persuasive.
- Felix Kramer, founder of


This is our call to action

September 25, 2009

The message, so firmly, is – don’t give up. Don’t hang with the cynics, the angry-hearted, the whiners, the blamers, the negative minded. Hang with those who believe in love, hope, and beauty – and then work with them to make this a reality. This is our planet. This is our time. This is our call to action.
- Guy Dauncey


Blog Climate Action Day October 15th

September 16, 2009

Bill McKibben writes: October 24th will be a day unlike any other in history. But what about October 15th?

Nine days before the 350 Day of International Climate Action, thousands of bloggers will be spreading one message across the internet to millions of people as part of Blog Action Day 2009. That message will be…

...well, it's not decided yet, and that's what this is all about. We need YOU to vote for 'climate change' to be the issue those bloggers talk about on Blog Action Day, October 15th.

[The link is at the bottom of this message if you want to skip ahead and vote already]

Blog Action Day is a global internet campaign for change - their tagline is "Changing the global conversation every year on October 15." Sound familiar? In 2008 Blog Action Day reached 13,498,280 people and this year will be even bigger. Imagine all those people being energized to support 350!

With your help it will be a creative, 21st-century invitation to participate in the 350 International Day of Climate Action in October -- an invitation to help build a movement united by three digits that can change the world.

1) Go to the Blog Action Day survey (the deadline is Friday!)
2) Vote for "Climate Change" to be the topic of Blog Action Day 2009
3) In the comments section, leave a message about 350 and the International Day of Action on October 24th.
4) Send this to your friends and ask them to vote as well

That's it! Show your support for 350 and vote. Last year Blog Action Day mobilized 12,800 Bloggers to write 14,053 Blog Posts that were read by 13,498,280 Readers.


The Seven Wonders of the 21st Century

July 7, 2009

by Guy Dauncey

Common Ground Magazine, July 2009

THE NEW CENTURY is only nine years old and already our prospects for the future have become a full-blown montage of hopelessness and despair. It is true that if we continue with business-as-usual we face a worse-than-dire future. I follow the climate science, so I know. But enough already! The human spirit is perennially strong and our global immune system is fighting back by creating new thought forms to fight the virus of negativity.

In previous centuries, we replaced ignorance with widespread literacy. We opened new horizons through science, technology and exploration. We ended slavery, created democracy and overthrew fascism. We organized labour, liberated women and won civil rights for all. What might we achieve in this century? Here are seven possibilities that are totally within our reach if we have the vision and courage of our ancestors.

First Wonder
: 100% renewable energy. Energy efficiency, solar PV, solar thermal in the world’s deserts, wind, geothermal, tidal, wave, hydropower and bio-energy offer us far more energy than we need, and once we have made the shift, this energy will be available forever. No more wars over oil. No more air pollution. And much less climate chaos.

Second Wonder
: A global economy that respects Nature. In Canada’s last federal election, if only those younger than 25 had voted, the Green Party would now be running the country. There is a growing recognition that we can no longer treat Earth’s myriad ecosystems as "negative externalities," following the blind stupidity of mainstream economics. If our younger people have their way, this century will see a sweeping green revolution that uses legislation, green taxation and global treaties to liberate Nature from oppression.

Third Wonder
: The end of poverty. Muhammad Yunus, who created the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, has shown how microlending can lift the world’s poorest out of poverty, while Peru’s Hernando de Soto has demonstrated how granting legal title can enable them to turn their assets into liquid capital and participate with their enterprise. This will take a prolonged effort, but the dream that future generations will have to visit a museum to learn what poverty was is still very much alive.

Fourth Wonder
: The end of war. This is not a fantasy. By removing oil from the equation of global conflict, we remove the major cause of war. The second major cause – nationalism – is already dying, as more and more people find a solid identity as citizens of our shared planet, rather than of their nation alone. Global peacemaking, peacekeeping and conflict resolution are expanding their reach every year. After millennia of bloodshed, we can finally eliminate war.

Fifth Wonder
: The end of cruelty to animals. This may be the hardest wonder to achieve, yet all that’s needed is widespread understanding of the atrocious ways we treat animals in factory farms, puppy mills, veal crates, bear bile cages, and so on. We already know from our love of pets that the bond with animals can be enormously strong. With persistence, we can end the suffering we cause.

Sixth Wonder
: World government. Can any advanced planet operate without world government? It is only the dying embers of national pride that prevent us from embracing workable global treaties and a democratically elected global assembly. Future generations will wonder what the fuss was all about.

Seventh Wonder
: One spirituality. When the world’s religions were created, it was out of a realization that one supreme God would end the bloodshed between followers of rival tribal gods. Today, the same thing is happening as more and more people realize that they can draw on the deep spirituality of any religion without embracing its fundamentalist trappings. Science itself is on the verge of a breakthrough to a unified field theory that will merge matter and consciousness.

The only things that hold us distant from these wonders are negativity and hopelessness, the sad pillars of tired minds. We ourselves could be the Eighth Wonder of the 21st century, if we cooperate with others to realize the dream.

Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association (, which welcomes your membership, and the publisher of EcoNews (


World's first floating wind turbine

June 6, 2009

Right now, the world's first floating wind turbine is being towed out to sea off the coast of Norway. It's a 2.3 MW machine, the Hywind, made by Statoil Hydro, and it can be moored in waters up to 700 metres deep. 

Just imagine the global potential, if this works out well....

Here's the BBC story:


New Kyoto text includes Option for "below 350 ppm" and "more than 95% by 2050"

May 21, 2009

The UNFCCC has released the negotiating text for Copenhagen, which is the first time this has been done. 

It's a 52 page document, which is fully available here:


I have extracted some of the key text below, which shows the many options that are on the table. 

These include (Para 12, Option 2) "Stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere well below 350 ppm CO2eq and a temperature increase limited to below 1.5oC above the pre-industrial level. For for this purpose, the Parties {shall}{should} collectively reduce global emissions by {81-71}{more than 85} per cent from 1990 levels by 2050."

If this is what we collectively want to push for, we can now refer to our desire outcome as "Paragraph 12, Option 2" 

Paragraph 14 also opens the door to up to a 45% cut by 2020, and more than 95% by 2050. 

11. The shared vision includes a long-term aspirational global goal for emission reductions that is based on science and provides direction to long-term cooperative action, making it sufficiently effective  to bring about the deep cuts in global emissions required to achieve the ultimate objective of the  Convention {and minimize further climate change impacts on vulnerable developing countries}.

12. The long-term global goal for emission reductions {shall}{should} be set

Option 1 as a stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere at {400}{450 or lower}{not more than 450}{450} ppm carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) and a temperature increase limited to 2oC above the pre-industrial level. For this purpose, the Parties {shall}{should} collectively reduce global emissions by at least 50 per cent {from 1990} levels by 2050.

Option 2 as a stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere well below 350 ppm CO2eq and a temperature increase limited to below 1.5oC above the pre-industrial level. For for this purpose, the Parties {shall}{should} collectively reduce global emissions by {81-71}{more than 85} per cent from 1990 levels by 2050.

Option 3 as a global temperature increase limited to 2oC above the pre-industrial level.

Option 4 as a reduction in global average GHG emissions per capita to about 2 t CO2.

Option 5 on the basis of:
     Option 5.1 historical responsibility.
     Option 5.2 emissions debt.
     Option 5.3 per capita accumulative emission convergence.
     Option 5.4 an equitable allocation of the global atmospheric resources.

13. Emission pathways towards the long-term global goal for emission reductions require that global GHG emissions peak {between 2010 and 2013}{by 2015}{by 2020 at the latest}{in the next 10-15 years}{in the next 10-20 years} and decrease thereafter.

14. To this end, {developed country Parties} {Parties included in Annex I to the Convention (Annex I Parties)} {developed country Parties included in Annex II to the Convention (Annex II Parties)}, as a  group, {shall}{should} reduce their GHG emissions:

(a) {By at least 25-40}{By 25-40}{By more than 25-40}{In the order of 30}{By at least 40}{by 45}{by at least 45} per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, {with further reductions to be achieved through policies and measures that promote sustainable lifestyles};

(b) {And {by more than 95}{in the range of 75-85} per cent by 2050}.

15. Supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building from developed country Parties, the GHG emissions of {developing country Parties}{Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention (non-Annex I Parties)}, as a group, {shall}{should}:

(a) {{Significantly deviate from the baseline by 2020} {Deviate in the order of 15-30 per cent below the baseline by 2020}};
(b) {And be reduced by 25 per cent from 2000 levels by 2050}

16. Option 1 The Parties shall periodically review the overall progress towards the ultimate objective of the Convention and actions related to mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation, in the light of {the best available scientific information}{an assessment of climate change and its impacts} {intergovernmental scientific} as well as relevant technical, social and economic information, and taking account of observed impacts and efforts made to adapt to climate change, including a comprehensive review not later than 2016, incorporating consideration of future emission reduction requirements and targets in the light of the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC.

17. Option 2 (in the case of a long-term global goal as defined in para. 12, option 3, above) The long-term global goal for emission reductions {shall}{should} be updated to reflect progress in scientific knowledge. To allow for these updates, the 2oC goal {shall}{should} be broken down into partial targets: initially, a 0.2oC temperature increase per decade over 10 decades. Every 10 years, the partial target {shall}{should} be evaluated, with a view to possibly redefining it, taking into account  advances in scientific knowledge and the reduction of uncertainties.


Does your business wear a Green Climate Logo?

May 20, 2009

It is the summer of 2010, and consumers across North America are on the lookout for a new green logo in shop windows and retailers’ catalogues. It’s a large 12 inch high circular sticker containing the words “Climate Change. YES - We’re Part of the Solution” – you can’t miss it, once you’ve seen it.

To win the right to display the sticker, a business must demonstrate that it has measured its carbon footprint; developed a strategy to reduce it; engaged its staff; informed its customers; and made measurable progress towards its goal.

The stickers include a small white circle that says “7%”, or “48%”, depending on the level of carbon reduction a business has achieved compared to its initial baseline. The race is on to reach 100%. Carbon offsets are not allowed – it must be a real reduction, including the transport used to ship goods.

Is this fantasy, or a realistic insight into what’s coming? My personal hunch is that it’s only a matter of time before it’s a reality.

In 2007, a business-supported initiative called Climate Counts launched a sophisticated scorecard that ranks 56 of the world’s top corporations for their contribution to climate change solutions, indicating whether they are Stuck, Starting, or Striding.

In the first year, Burger King and Wendy’s scored “Stuck”, with zero points out of 100. Amazon and CBS also scored absolute zeros. Levi Strauss managed just 1, while the best that Apple and eBay could muster was 2. Canon came top with 77, followed by Nike on 73, Unilever 71, and IBM 70. As well as actual carbon reduction, the scoring includes points for whether the companies have supported progressive climate legislation.

In the 2008 Scorecard, Burger King still scored 0, along with Wendy’s and the Jones Apparel Group (Anna Klein, Nine West, and many other brands). Amazon and eBay improved to 5, Apple to 11, CBS to 15, and Levi Strauss to 22. At the top end, Nike moved into the lead with a score of 82, followed by Stonyfield Farm 78, IBM 77, and Canon 74.

Overall, the corporations’ scores improved by an average of 22%, which speaks either to a deep commitment to change, or to the power of public shaming and reward, available for the whole world to see at

This begs the question - do consumers care whether a business is taking action on climate change, or are they just looking for a bargain?

In May, Havas Media asked this very question in a global market study with 11,000 participants in nine countries around the world. They found that 79% of those surveyed would rather spend their money with companies and brands that are working to reduce their environmental impact, and 89% would actively seek to do just this in the year ahead. Over 80% of the respondents said that they would buy more green goods if they were on offer, and 35% said they would be willing to pay more for them.

The big surprise in the survey, apart from the high level of consumer desire to see action, was that consumers in Brazil, Mexico, India and China were more alarmed by climate change, and more willing to pay more for climate-friendly products than consumers in the USA, Britain, and Germany. (Canada was not included in the survey). For any company with aspirations towards global trade, this should serve as a wake-up call.

The other surprise (or maybe not) was that only 11% of those surveyed thought their governments were doing enough to tackle climate change. The flipside of this is a strong desire for business to step up to the plate and show that it is taking the lead.

Most companies are still asleep at the switch, however. In Britain, in 2006, a survey by The Carbon Trust found that 74% of people thought businesses were not doing enough to cut their carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

What kind of initiative are companies taking?

  • In Vancouver, the courier company Novex has changed 30% of its fleet to ultra-low emission vehicles, and is aiming to reach 100% by 2012.

  • Small Potatoes Urban Delivery, Vancouver and Calgary’s organic food home delivery company, is sourcing over 50% of its products locally, and delivering by bicycle where possible. Since each delivery van carrying 100 orders saves 200 car trips, it is reducing overall fuel use by 40%.

  • In Britain, the telecoms giant BT has set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2016 – and has already achieved a 60% reduction. When they launched their company-wide initiative, their staff formed 28 carbon-busting clubs within three weeks.

  • The British retail giant M&S has pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80%, to double its regional food sourcing, and is running Carbon Challenge for its customers with the Women’s Institute.

  • Nike found a way to remove SF6 – a powerful greenhouse gas – from the process it uses to fill the air pockets in its running shoes.

  • Hyperion, a business management software company, is paying a $5,000 a year bonus to employees who drive a car that averages 45 mpg or more.

Smaller companies can contribute just as much as larger ones.  In Philadelphia, where the owner of the AOK Auto Body Shop changed light bulbs, installed motion sensors, put timers on equipment, switched to Energy Star appliances, and trained his staff to turn the lights off, he is reducing his emissions while saving $5,577 a year on a $7,832 investment.

The days of voluntary action may soon be over. In Britain, starting in 2010, all quoted companies will be obliged to disclose their carbon emissions in their annual reports, and their performances will be compared in an annual league table summarizing the best and worst performers. It is only a matter of time before this becomes normal practice – and before those bright green stickers begin appearing in shop windows.

Guy Dauncey is President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, and author of the award-winning book Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change. He lives in Victoria.


First Published in Business in Vancouver, June 2008


Cycling to Planetary Happiness

April 11, 2009

Two wheels on the road, the summer air in your face - it’s a wonderful way to travel!

When we look at the urgent need to eliminate our carbon emissions, plus the end of cheap oil and the benefits of being healthy and fit, cycling has to be one of the most important transport initiatives we should be investing in.

Coaches, transit, light rail, electric vehicles, ride-sharing, walking – these are all part of the answer.

But cycling should have a special place on the list, because it brings so many benefits. In Copenhagen, where 36% of the population commutes to work by bike, cycling has become such a style that they have invented a verb, “Copenhagenize”, to capture what’s happening. (

And just look at the economics of it. They know from their health statistics that physically active people live five years longer and have four fewer years of lengthy illness than those who are non-active.

They know that cycling for four hours a week – 10 km a day, a typical Copenhagen bike ride – makes a person physically active.

They know that if Copenhageners cycled 10% more kilometres each year, their health system would save $12 million a year, and their economy would benefit from $32 million a year of production not lost to illness. There would be 57,000 fewer sick days in the workplace each year, 61,000 more person-years enjoyed, and 46,000 fewer person-years lost to lengthy illness.

They know that each additional kilometre of bike lane attracts 170,000 more cycle-kilometres a year, 19% more bikes on that stretch of road, a 9-10% drop in the number of cars, accidents and injuries, $51,000 in saved health care costs, and $134,000 in saved production costs. For every dollar they invest in the bike lane, they save 5 dollars. Knowing this, Copenhagen has set a goal that 50% of all work trips should be by bicycle by 2015.

girl with bikeCopenhagen has a 36% rate of bicycle-commuting, while Victoria has a 6% rate - and we boast that we are the cycling capital of Canada. And yes, it rains just as much as in Victoria. They get 71 cm a year; we get 66.5 cm. So what would it take for Victoria – and other North American cities - to reach a 36% level of cycling, with all the multiple benefits it brings?

If I was the Premier – a game we all love to play – I would first ask all my Ministries to adopt integrated long-term co-budgeting, so that a $100 million investment in cycling that was known to generate long-term savings of $500 million in health care and business costs would win immediate approval from the Treasury Board mandarins.

Secondly, I would ask every municipality to prepare a long-term plan to increase the commuter cycling rate to 25% by 2020, drawing on the best examples from around the world.

What would such a future look like? Every major road would have a cycle lane, separated from traffic by a yellow rumble strip, like the ones that we have on highways to tell you when you’re veering off the road. Throughout the city, there would be a network of safe cycle routes where most traffic was not allowed, using a mixture of railway rights of way, back lanes, and quiet residential streets.

At every major intersection, cyclists would be allowed to gather in front of the traffic, and given 30 seconds to advance with all lights on red, before cars were allowed to go. All over the city, there would be safe, sheltered, bicycle parking places.

As in Paris, where 24,000 VeLib bikes were placed on the city streets last year, there would be city-bikes bikes for rent by the half-hour, using a smartcard. To guard against theft, you would lose a $150 deposit if you didn’t return the bike to a bike station after use.

Every community would hire bicycle planners. Davis, California, which has a 17% cycle-commute rate, has two full-time cycling staff for a population of 64,000. A region of 300,000 people would employ ten full-time cycling staff.

For those not fit enough yet, or who can’t make the hills, electric bikes would become the norm, costing only one cent per 20 kilometres.

Every school would have its Safe Routes to School, and all parents would be strongly encouraged to stop driving their kids to school.

The magic of this is that the more cycling there is, the safer it becomes, because – from Denmark’s experience - when more motorists are also cyclists, they are better able to understand the cyclist’s needs.

And not just here, but all over the planet. When such a simple technology already exists with so many benefits, how foolish could we be not to make the most of it?

First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.


Our Journey to Zero Carbon

April 9, 2009

March, 2020.

It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon, and all the better because BC’s annual progress report on The Road to Zero Carbon has just shown that we have achieved a 50% reduction in our carbon emissions since 2008.

The Arctic is still melting, the sea-level is set for an ominous rise by 2100, and the impact of climate change on agriculture and ecosystems gets worse each year, but it’s good to know we are on the path, and that BC is demonstrating how life is both possible and enjoyable in a low carbon world. At this rate, we’ll hit the 99% reduction by 2030 the climate scientists are insistent we achieve.

Throughout Victoria, people are busy in their gardens, harvesting winter vegetables and planting seeds that will bring bounteous crops this summer. With food prices so high, it’s Victory Gardens all over again, along with rooftop gardens, community gardens, and boulevards thick with nuts, fruits and berries.

The changes have brought a wave of excitement. The roads are thick with bicycles, and many quieter roads have been turned into car-free bicycle routes where grannies and children alike feel safe to ride. Small electric batteries have turned hills into music, eliminating one of the biggest barriers to cycling.

It was certainly a shock in 2010 when the BC government went into partnership with a small Vancouver electric vehicle company, raised $500 million in public shares and started to produce 100,000 electric vehicles a year. Being attractive, colourful, tax free, cheap to run and immune from the carbon taxes and road tolls other vehicles had to pay, they were an instant hit with the consumer. And so quiet! Combined with streetlights being turned off after midnight, the solar panels that people use to light their homes and charge their cars in summer, and the home delivery of local food by bicycle, they are adding a definite je ne sais quoi to our fast evolving cityscape.

The new ferries are smaller now, since more people travel by bus, and Victoria has an amazing holographic teleconference centre that brings us closer together across the country, without having to leave home.


Finding the electricity to run the cars was not a problem. Most owners charge up at night when the power is cheaper because there’s less demand on the grid, and BC’s rapidly expanding wind, solar, tidal and carefully selected number of small hydro projects produce far more power than we need, allowing us to sell the surplus to Alberta and California where it earns us good money, while enabling the important closure of coal-fired power plants.

BC’s first “deep rocks” geothermal power plant is due to open this summer in the Kootenays, drilling 8km down for the heat. They’re planning to develop 10,000 MW of capacity, enough to power an astonishing 80 million small electric vehicles, assuming each uses 1 MWh to drive 10,000 km a year, and a geothermal plant produces 8,000 MWh a year per MW.

The old habit of spending hours commuting to work has been quite transformed by carbon taxes and road tolls. With the income being poured into rapid transit and luxury commuter coaches, the journey to work has become a chance to catch up on emails and get a head start on the day’s work; some companies are even paying their staff for work done on the coach.

It’s the older, retired baby-boomers who have found it hardest to adjust. The global carbon taxes on international flights and shipping kicked in just when they were hoping to visit their “100 Places to See Before You Die”, causing the cost of flying to rise dramatically. As a result, close to home holidays have become more creative with bicycle and horseback tours substituting for Mexican beaches and Mayan ruins.

Some of BC’s industrial companies did a lot of complaining in the early years of carbon constraint. As the carbon taxes and cap and trade requirements went up, however, and incentives for green energy grew, their engineers found ways to be vastly more efficient, and to substitute with power from biomass, biogas, and air, earth, sewer and ocean heat exchange. As the prices of oil and gas increased, they watched their competitors struggle with rising costs, while congratulating themselves for being ahead of the curve.

And there is music in the air. When it began, I do not know. I think it was as people began to spend more time in their neighbourhoods, digging their gardens, upgrading their homes, and brewing their own beer and blackberry wine. Out of greater friendships came more music, and more song.

Some still complain, but most people realize that something very profound is taking place – and while we are all still very worried about the future, we are also deeply glad.

First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.


The Climate Solutions Dividend

April 3, 2009

Let me start at the beginning: the global climate crisis is far more serious than most people understand.

If we carry on with business as usual, our continued use of fossil fuels will destroy all human civilization as we know it, and take most species and ecosystems with it. As things stand, we are heading for a temperature rise of 4, 5, or 6 degrees by the end of the century. Today's Arctic meltdown and the current increase in forest fires, floods, and beetle infestations comes from a 0.7C increase.

"Do politicians understand just how difficult it could be, just how devastating rises of 4C, 5C or 6C could be? I think, not yet."
- Lord Nicholas Stern, Britain's top climate economist, March 2009.

"How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today which is what we expect later this century sea levels were 25 metres higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don't act soon."
- James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Feb 2006.

Business as usual is really grim, folks. We don't want to go there.

"The only certainty is that we have to act. How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew about this and I did nothing?"
- David Attenborough.

Next, let's look at the resistance. Some comes from elderly, well-educated men whose heads are firmly in the sand. Some comes from the coal and oil industry, which doesn't want to change what it's doing; and some comes from economists and bureaucrats who argue that we can't afford to act because it would harm the economy.

So let's look at the economy - the same one that the world's leaders are so desperate to revive so that we can get back to business as usual.

If we do nothing, the cost of future climate-caused floods, fires, droughts, hurricanes, and other disasters; the need to build sea walls two metres high around every port in the world; and the need to relocate 500 million refugees from low-lying lands will make today's recession look like a tea party. Not a pretty sight, by any accounting standard.

We also know that as soon as the economy gets back on its feet the global demand for oil will surge again, and prices will rise past $200 a barrel ($2 a litre, $6 a gallon) as we pass peak oil, with natural gas following. With the global oil supply in terminal decline, the speculative markets will drive the price ever higher.

Not a pretty sight either, from an economic perspective.

But now let us turn this around, and assume that we act on all the known solutions. Let's assume that we successfully eliminate all use of fossil fuels, and create a world in which:

  • All our buildings are super-efficient, and heated or cooled by solar, bioenergy, and heat-pump technologies;
  • All our transport uses electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, combined with far more walking, cycling, transit, ridesharing, and railways;
  • All trucking, shipping, and aviation is powered by algae-biofuel grown on marginal and desert lands;
  • All electricity is renewable and most come from efficiency, wind, solar PV, solar thermal, geothermal, and hydro;
  • All of the world's farms, grasslands, and forests are managed holistically and organically, without need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Our whole economy operates on the principle of zero waste, recycling and re-using 100% of the materials we use.

What would such a world look like, financially? Shockingly, no-one has done such a study, but some numbers are available for the US to give us a start:

  • By eliminating the need to buy oil from the Middle East, and defend the oil-exporting nations, the National Defence Council Foundation has calculated in its report The Hidden Cost of Imported Oil (2007) that the US will enjoy an annual dividend of $825 billion. This includes a $138 billion military saving.
  • By eliminating the air pollution and smog caused by fossil-fuelled vehicles and coal-fired power plants, Terry Tamminen, past Secretary of the California EPA, has shown in his book Lives per Gallon: The True Cost of our Oil Addiction that the US will save up to $690 billion a year.
  • By reducing energy use by 15%, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has calculated that the US will enjoy annual savings of $169 billion. If efficiency is increased to 30%, this could rise to $338 billion.

This comes to $1.7 trillion a year, which would arrive in the US economy every year as a free stimulus package, without needing approval by Congress.

It also stands to reason that since 80% of the worlds wars are fought over oil and gas supplies, if we no longer need them we could disarm 80% of the world's militaries. For the US, with a $1 trillion annual military budget, this allows a peace dividend of $680 billion a year (excluding the $138 billion counted above). If we include this, the annual stimulus rises to $2.38 trillion.

This is the annual Climate Solutions Dividend - which must be contrasted with a 20% loss of annual GDP if we fail to end our use of fossil fuels, which would cost the US $2.8 trillion a year.

Will someone now please stand up and tell me we can't afford to tackle global warming because it will hurt the economy? I don't think so.

Guy Dauncey

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No More Bottled Water

March 25, 2009

Don’t drink bottled water – and don’t let your children drink it. If you’re a city councillor or official, don’t waste taxpayers’ money buying it. If you‘re a restaurant, don’t serve it. If you work at a school or college, stop using it. Why?

#1: Using bottled water sends the totally false message that municipal tap water is unsafe. More than a quarter of bottled water comes from municipal sources, anyway.

#2: It takes oil to make those bottles. According to the California-based Pacific Institute, the energy required to make one bottle is the equivalent of filling it ¼ full of oil. In Canada, the 2.1 billion litres we bought in 2006 needed 1.1 million barrels of oil to make them.

#3: Most bottles are not recycled, and end up in the landfill.

#4: It takes more energy to ship and truck them around.

#5. It’s stupid. Why pay 1,000 times more for bottled water when it costs a penny a gallon from your tap, giving money to the water corporations as if it was Christmas?

#6. Drinking bottled water is making our children grow up with the habit.

#7. Can we really trust the bottles not to leach their chemicals?

The City of Los Angeles has not allowed the use of city funds to buy bottled water since 1987.
San Francisco and Seattle have just banned its purchase by city departments and agencies.
Chicago has placed a 5 cent tax on every bottle to discourage its use. All Illinois state agencies have been banned from buying it. Berkeley School District has stopped providing it. And now students on campuses across Canada are creating bottled-water-free zones – see

It’s OK for emergencies – but otherwise, let’s junk it.

First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.


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