Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Keeping Safe in Winter Weather

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 05, 2019

Even if the latest polar vortex has ended by the time you read this, employers in most parts of the continent should be worrying about protecting workers against winter weather. Occupational safety and health regulators include “environmental” hazards as those that may require employers to provide their employees with personal protective equipment (PPE), and employers also bear a “general duty” to protect workers against recognized hazards. These requirements cover potential harm from extreme temperatures including cold, as well as slippery surfaces and other hazards from frozen and melting snow or other precipitation.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, climate change

More Jurisdictions Targeting Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 11, 2018

Although carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common and most-discussed greenhouse gas (GHG), it is by no means the only one. And on a per-unit basis, it is by no means the most potent GHG either. Air quality agencies and climate change scientists also focus attention on so-called “short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP)” means an agent that has a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere, from a few days to a few decades, and a warming influence on the climate that is more potent than that of carbon dioxide. Individual jurisdictions have addressed individual SLCPs, but comprehensive approaches have been limited.In 2014, California legislation assigned that state’s Air Resources Board (ARB) to adopt a SCLP Reduction Strategy (I wrote about the legislation and 2016’s draft strategy here).

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, climate change

United States Government Quietly Releases Dramatic New Recommendations For Combating Climate Change

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 04, 2018

While domestic climate politics in the U.S. and Canada generate hot air about the reality and urgency of climate change, climate science proceeds largely on its own pathways, and climate policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are being proposed and developed by a wide variety of entities. On November 23 – often referred to as “Black Friday” by retailers and shoppers in the U.S., regardless of their attitudes about global warming – the U.S. government’s U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) delivered urgent recommendations for aggressive policies. This Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) builds on last year’s Climate Science Special Report (which I wrote about here).

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, climate change

Upcycling:  Creativity Reigns the Recycling Box

Posted by Jane Dunne on Thu, May 24, 2018

Many of the items that make their way into your home are designed with only one purpose in mind.  After you’ve opened up a bottle of champagne, the cage and cork become destined for the landfill.  Once you’ve eaten all of the fruit out of the colourful plastic mesh bag, it can’t be recycled and it’s pushed into the trash bin.  You can sit around getting blue about all the waste that abounds or you can do what I do and give those items a second chance at life.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, Hazcom, climate change, sustainability

Administration Proposes Massive Cuts in EPA for Fiscal Year 2019

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Mar 27, 2018

On February 12, the Trump Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 (October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019), subtitled “An American Budget”. The proposal included a 34% cut in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget, from $8.2 billion in FY 2016 (stable in FY 2017 and FY 2018 under a Continuing Budget Resolutions rather than a fully-new federal budget), to $5.4 billion for FY 2019, with corresponding personnel cuts from 15,408 full-time-equivalent employees (FTE) to 12,250. (these are numbers for EPA in the government-wide budget from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); the stand-alone budget document on EPA’s website cites $6.1 billion).

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, climate change

EPA Withdraws “Once in Always in” Policy For Major Air Toxics Sources

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Mar 06, 2018

The Clean Air Act (CAA) directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define “hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)” that may pose acute health hazards, and to impose regulations to reduce those hazards. Controls include permits for “major sources” of HAPs based on “Maximum Achievable Control Technologies (MACT),” and lesser controls for non-major “area sources.” Since 1995, EPA policy has been that every emission source that met major source criteria at the time a MACT became effective is “once in, always in” and cannot requalify as a less-regulated area source even if it accepts legally binding controls that reduce its “potential to emit.” On January 25, 2018 EPA reversed that decades-old policy.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, climate change, CAA, mact

New US Climate Science Special Report Documents Climate Change

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 28, 2017

Although many agencies and officials in the Trump administration downplay or deny human contributions to climate change, a major new government report accepts that proposition, and documents its extent. On November 5, the U.S. Global Change Research Program published its Climate Science Special Report, which will serve as Volume 1 of the U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4). The Program is a group of 13 federal agencies with relevant authority and expertise, with the development of the NCA4 overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Program was established by the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990, to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” As summarized in the Executive Summary to the Report:

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, climate change

Government Accountability Office Encourages Federal Consideration of Climate Change Costs

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 14, 2017

As I’ve discussed in recent blogs, President Trump’s executive agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are dramatically reducing federal attention to “climate change.” Obama-era initiatives are being terminated or reversed, and planning and communication are being reduced or eliminated. (For example, I noted in my recent discussion of EPA’s draft Strategic Plan, here, that the draft does not mention the phrases “climate change” or “greenhouse gas” even once).

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, climate change

Businesses Using “Science-Based Targets” to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Oct 26, 2017

In December 2015, representatives of 195 countries agreed to continue to expand global efforts to combat climate change. The new Paris Agreement broke a longstanding impasse with a clever mixture of binding but unenforceable commitments, contemporary agreements, and ongoing agreements-to-agree (I wrote about the Agreement here). Since then, analysts have estimated that full implementation of these national targets would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about half the amounts necessary to accomplish the Agreement’s stated goal by holding average global temperature increases below 2 o C. Incomplete national successes – President Trump’s decision to back off U.S. commitments is the first and most obvious example – would leave even more to be done.

The Paris Agreement anticipated that sub-national governments and private organizations would contribute to global progress, by meeting and often exceeding national requirements (I wrote about formal United Nations programmatic expectations here).

One of the non-governmental efforts is the Science Based Targets Initiative, through which individual companies can set GHG-reduction goals. At latest report, over 300 companies participate.

What is the Science Based Targets Initiative?

The Initiative is a multi-sector collaboration among the following international organizations: CDP (formerly called the Carbon Disclosure Project), World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF; formerly World Wildlife Fund), and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). Participation in the Initiative is also identified as one of the commitments under the We Mean Business Coalition, which is another international business initiative. The Initiative defines “science-based targets” by reference to the Initiative’s effort to support the 2o C target (which the Initiative refers to as the “2°C pathway”):

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Tags: Health & Safety, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, climate change

International Business Group Recommends Climate-Related Financial Disclosures

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Aug 15, 2017

As governments worldwide consider expanding requirements to manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and moderate climate change, private sector groups are mobilizing to craft voluntary reporting and management activities – which might shape or even avoid future governmental mandates. In May, the 32 international business leaders on the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB’s) Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure issued recommendations for climate-related financial disclosures by public companies worldwide. The Task Force reported these recommendations to the Group of 20 (G-20) leaders at last month’s meeting in Hamburg – the G-20 finance ministers and central bankers had asked FSB in 2015 to commission the Task Force.

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Tags: SEC, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, climate change