Climate change, aboriginal treaty rights predicted to be the top Canadian environmental stories in 2015

Environmental Defence releases its predictions of the top 10 environmental issues for next year

Toronto, ON – As 2014 comes to a close, Environmental Defence, a national environmental charity, has released its predictions of the top 10 environmental news stories for 2015. Climate tops the list as citizens across Canada continue to demand a shift away from the burning of fossil fuels toward investment in a cleaner economy.

“This past year was an extremely active one for environmental issues, with stories such as the proposed Northern Gateway, Keystone XL and Energy East pipelines, algal blooms affecting drinking water in Lake Erie, and increased evidence linking toxic chemicals in household products to serious health concerns,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “2015 promises to see the environment become even more high profile as issues related to climate change, tar sands, and urban sprawl become key public priorities.”

Here are Environmental Defence’s predictions of the top 10 environmental news stories for 2015 (from bottom to top):

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.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.


By Jen Mayville from Environmental Defence on Dec. 19, 2014.

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