Time for transparency to meet our climate goals

  • National Newswatch

Canada cannot realize its climate change policy goals without addressing loopholes in its regulatory process. Laggard industry players have abused the essential permit process at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to delay investments in  innovative climate solutions.Foam insulating board products, a $250 million industry in Canada are used mainly to insulate homes and large office buildings, where heating and cooling accounts for half of all energy use.  For decades, nearly all of this foam insulation has contained hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), potent greenhouse gases that pack more than 1,000 times the heat-trapping punch of carbon dioxide.Over the past several years, driven by ECCC's regulations, many participants in the foam insulation industry have innovated new environmentally preferable products that have reduced climate impact by 99.9%. The regulations require a transition to these better options, but they are meaningless because of a giant loophole.Instead of rewarding industry innovators for bringing solutions to the table, ECCC can issue “essential purpose permits” in a non-public process under existing regulations, allowing continued production and import of high climate impact HFC foam insulation products in Canada.Indeed, permits were recently issued, offering special treatment to companies whose products are warming our climate despite Canada's thriving domestic industry producing these better environmentally preferable products and a large pipeline of similar imported products.By approving exemptions that allow continued production of climate-harming products despite the wide availability of better alternatives, commitments under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol are also being undermined. That amendment binds nations to reduce the consumption and production of HFCs and could prevent a warming of up to nearly 0.5 degrees Celsius by century's end.In a 2017 news release celebrating 30 years of Canadian leadership in HFC reduction, the Government of Canada urged other “countries to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol as soon as possible to start implementing it and maximize its climate benefits. The amendment is an important step towards achieving the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming below two degrees Celsius by the end of the century.”Yet, without any transparent process, just months before the required transition to better alternatives took effect, essential purpose permits were issued to allow continued import and manufacturing of foam products using high climate impact HFCs.Other industry stakeholders who make and import products with a 99.9% reduction in climate impact discovered the permit through one company's own press release. When they complained to the government, providing extensive information about the availability of compliant alternatives, the solution was not to revoke the permit. Instead, additional permits were issued.These permits could increase the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 2 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent, more if other jurisdictions follow their lead.Meanwhile, companies like mine, which invested and innovated to create solutions that are better for the planet, are left behind.We are working at top speed to advance adoption of a new generation of products that reduce climate impact by up to 99.9%. We are proud of our investments in these better products that help Canada meet its climate goals.The essential purpose permit regulations should be reformed to require a public, transparent process so laggards are not rewarded, undermining innovators who invested in critical climate solutions to meet government regulations.Ken West is Vice President and general manager of Honeywell Fluorine Products.