Peace and Eco Briefs, April–June 2012

Peace and Environment News — Insider, April–June 2012
by Mike Buckthought

Action for Clean Air

Starting this summer, Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and five other French cities will be taking action to restrict polluting motor vehicles. The cities will establish zones d’action prioritaires pour l’air (ZAPA) which will exclude vehicles that produce high levels of emissions. Restricted vehicles that enter a zone could face fines of 68 or 135 euros, depending on the size of the vehicle. Each community will determine the size and location of its zone, and the conditions of access. Vehicles will be rated on a scale of A to D, according to their emissions. Cities will use the classification scheme to determine which vehicles will be restricted. Road tolls will also be used to reduce levels of air pollution. In accordance with a new decree published on March 7, 2012, highway tolls will be lower for the cleanest vehicles. (Le Monde, March 13, 2012)

Québec Invests in Electric Buses

The Québec government has announced the launch of a $73-million project that will focus on the design and manufacture of electric buses. The development project will be coordinated by a non-profit organization, the Electric Bus Consortium. The first prototype will be unveiled in June 2014. Two models will be developed for use in cities: a standard-sized model, and a mini-bus. Québec has set an ambitious goal: by the year 2030, 95% of all public transport trips will be made in electric vehicles. Reducing the use of fossil fuels will lead to substantial reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. (Québec Le Soleil, March 8, 2012; 2011–2020 Action Plan for Electric Vehicles, April 7, 2011)

Mining Ban

The Ontario government has banned mining in a large area of land, in response to efforts to protect the traditional territory of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation. A total of 23,000 square kilometres of land will be protected from future mining claims. However, the new restrictions do not apply to an existing mining project. The gold mining corporation God’s Lake Resources plans to start drilling in the First Nation’s traditional territory. On March 6, 2012, members of the KI First Nation held a protest at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual conference in Toronto. (CBC News, March 5, 2012; KI Lands and Environment Unit

Don’t Water Down Fisheries Act

A former Progressive Conservative fisheries minister is speaking out against proposed changes to Canada’s Fisheries Act. In remarks published by Postmedia News, Tom Siddon says there is “no justifiable excuse” for removing provisions that protect the habitat of fishes. Siddon served as fisheries minister from 1985 to 1990, under the Mulroney government. Scientists are also speaking out against proposed changes to the Fisheries Act. The Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution sent a letter to Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, on behalf of the organization’s 1,000 ecologists and evolutionary biologists. The proposed changes will “severely impact” Canada’s ability to protect species and their habitats, says Jeffrey Hutchings, the organization’s president. (Postmedia News, March 16–19, 2012)

Climate Foundation Closes

On March 31, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences closed its doors for good. The foundation played an important role in supporting research into ozone depletion, climate change and air quality for over a decade. However, the Harper government cancelled funding. The foundation provided most of the $1.5-million annual budget for the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut. PEARL’s scientists monitored the ozone hole over the Arctic and studied climate change, providing important contributions to international research projects. Canadians have donated $10,000 to help support the continued operation of the research station. (Toronto Star, March 4, 2012; CBC News, February 28 and March 16, 2012)

Mike Buckthought writes about environmental issues.

Published in the Peace and Environment News Insider, Volume 27, Number 1, April–June 2012, page 6.