Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sustainable Canada Dialogues - People's Climate Forums at Universities Across Canada - Welcome to Toronto!

By Deborah de Lange

I would like to announce a new Canadian organization for academics that originates out of McGill University and that is inclusive of universities across Canada. We are developing a Canadian academic consensus on solutions for climate change. The following excerpts from our concept note explain the initiative.

Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD) aims to propose a range of science-based and viable policy options that could motivate change to help Canada in the necessary transition to more sustainable development. Through the mobilization of scientific expertise the initiative targets the identification of positive solutions to overcome obstacles to sustainability.

The recognition that the well-being of the Earth’s ecological systems is indispensable to human well-being has grown among scientific communities, and society in general. The time has come to focus on possible solutions to stimulate change and act upon threats to these systems.

Canada is currently building a sustainability deficit in comparison with other developed societies that have been more proactive in addressing environmental issues. In light of the upcoming Federal election and the Paris International Climate Conference, the year 2015 offers a historic opportunity for Canada to reorient its trajectory and to join the transition to sustainability. The Sustainable Canada Dialogues is our effort to meet this challenge.

Activities of the Sustainable Canada Dialogues include:

(1) Mobilizing scholarly expertise: The SCD mobilizes over 50 Canadian scholars of a wide range of expertise, from engineers to sociologists, to identify sustainability solutions, taking into account biodiversity protection, freshwater quality, climate change mitigation and social justice. A solutions blueprint will be published in the March/April issue 2015 of Alternatives Journal (

(2) Fostering public discussion: Using “visioning” to encourage reflection on the future and what will be left to the next generation. Canadians hopes for the future will be articulated, and will help to verify that proposed solutions coincide with the desires of Canadians.

(3) Communicating solutions of sustainable development: Reaching outside of the academic sphere through public outreach to contribute to the important debate on future development of Canada. SCD scholars aim to discuss and incite action with government and policy-makers, media, NGO’s and the public through a variety of public events.

The Sustainable Canada Dialogues is being developed through the support of the McGill-UNESCO Chair Dialogues on Sustainability, and of the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy.

Coordinator: Prof. Catherine Potvin (McGill University)
Facebook: Dialogues on Sustainability
Twitter: dialogSustainab / #dialogSustainab

We are running events across the country at universities to announce the "coming out" of Sustainable Canada Dialogues. As I am one of the organizers for the Ontario event, occurring in Toronto at Ryerson University, I would like to invite all Academy of Management scholars who are concerned about climate change, as we are, to join us. We have limited seating available so, sign up soon at the link below that also provides event information:
As we have more confirmed information, we will also add it to this registration site, so stay tuned!

We are running these events on September 21st to coincide the the People's Climate March in New York City: We expect that Toronto will have a similar march and we are trying to time our event to allow attendees to go to the march. These events are leading up to the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23rd

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Name and Shame Game

 By Joseph Sarkis
The US government, at least the executive branch of the US government, has decided that the best strategy to encourage the US and other countries to care about reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is to ‘shame’ them.  Stories in the New York Times and USA Today provide additional story background on this new policy. 
Naming and shaming is about identifying and publicizing information related to carbon emissions.  This approach is being recommended by the US administration because treaty ratification is unlikely in today’s US Congress.  So according to the New York Times:
American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.
Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.

These reporting obligations are an information-based mechanism meant to shame countries into acting.

Will this work? 

At least at the national US policy level information-based regulatory mechanisms have been utilized to encourage organizations to reduce hazardous wastes through the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) also known as the toxics releases inventory (TRI).  The TRI regulatory policy has, arguably, been successful.

The idea of utilizing a similar reporting mechanism as the TRI for carbon emissions has occurred with the introduction of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) implemented in 2010.  In January 2012, EPA publicized the first year of GHGRP reporting data Facility Level Information on GreenHouse gases Tool (FLIGHT). 

The figure below shows the summary of US GHG emissions data from 1990 to 2012. Since the implementation of the GHGRP the totals seem to have decreased.  It is not clear how the original data was determined before the mandatory reporting requirements, but a decrease in emissions can be seen since 2010, even after an improving economy.

Source: US EPA

Personally, I was only slightly and peripherally aware of the GHGRP.  My lack of awareness may be due to my focus on academic articles.  That is, I have yet to see many, if any, organizations and natural environmental researchers using this information for their research.

I would think that some courses have utilized this data as they would the TRI database.  Whereas the TRI was effectively publicized in the popular press, the data from GHRGP has yet to reach those popularity levels.  Effective shaming cannot occur without this publicity.  But, also shaming cannot occur if communities do not believe it is a shame to have GHG emissions.  The lack of immediate local concerns may be a detriment to making this an effective information regulatory rule.  We will have to wait to see.

The larger question, at this point, is whether the name and shame game can work on a global level.  Will other national norms allow this approach to work in similar ways as they might in the US?