As 2016 draws to a close, I am awed by how much we’ve accomplished together this past year.
When we started the year, we had an ambitious wish list of what we wanted to achieve. And thanks to you and your fellow Environmental Defence supporters, we achieved even more than what we thought was possible.
Whether you gave your time, lent your voice or donated, thank you for your support. Here is a look back at some of our biggest victories of the year:
Microbeads declared toxic and to be banned
For more than two years, we conducted outreach to government, worked with scientists and community groups and industry stakeholders, and mobilized tens of thousands of Canadians to write the federal government to get microbeads—harmful plastic bits found in personal care products—banned. This year, all of our hard work paid off. In June, the federal government declared microbeads to be toxic. Then, in November, there was an even bigger victory when the government announced a draft regulation to finally ban the sale of toiletries containing microbeads by July 1, 2018.
Tar sands expansion capped
Back in November 2015, the Alberta government announced its historic Climate Leadership Plan, which included a legislated cap on carbon emissions from the tar sands. As part of plan, this past summer, the province established a multi-sector Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG), comprised of oil industry representatives, Aboriginal people, community representatives and environmental groups, including Environmental Defence. The group works jointly on key issues critical to the plan’s success and recommends solutions to government.
Paris climate accord ratified
On the international scene, in November, the UN Paris Agreement became international law. The Paris Agreement commits the world’s governments to aim to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees and adopts the long-term goal of making the planet carbon neutral in as little as 35 years. In December 2015, a member of our team was on Canada’s official delegation at the UN Climate Conference in Paris, advising government and urging for an ambitious agreement.
National Climate Framework achieved
Another major climate announcement happened just this month, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government would adopt a new climate framework that contains the mechanisms that will be used to reach Canada’s 2030 emission reduction targets. The announcement includes nationwide carbon pricing, a coal phase out, a low carbon fuel standard, and a commitment to increase the building of net-zero buildings. Our climate team was key to pushing this new plan forward.
Highway 413 put on hold
During the year, we continued to shine a spotlight on the proposed Highway 413 (also called the GTA West), which threatens to destroy Ontario farmland, damage watersheds and worsen traffic in the Greater Toronto Area. Last December, the Ontario government announced a temporary suspension of the highway’s environmental assessment, putting the project on hold. Building on this announcement, we continued to educate the public about how this highway, if it went ahead, would impact their communities and our environment.
Stronger, larger Greenbelt
Also with regards to Ontario’s Greenbelt, the province looked at making changes to both the Greenbelt and Growth Plans in 2016. Together, the plans are the province’s roadmap to slowing and stopping sprawl, protecting Ontario’s remaining prime farmland and natural areas while building smarter greener urban communities. To help the government resist pressure from developers, we came up with an action checklist featuring 13 critical recommendations for how to improve the province’s amendments to the Greenbelt and Growth Plans.
New Blue Flag beaches and marinas
2016 saw more Blue Flags across Canada than ever before! A total of 26 beaches and seven marinas across Canada flew the flag this year, providing Canadians with more clean, safe, and sustainable places to enjoy water. Port Glasgow Beach (Port Glasgow, Ont.) and Victoria Beach (Cobourg, Ont.) were the latest beaches to receive the eco-certification. We also raised the Blue Flag for the first time in British Columbia, as Gibsons Marina in Gibsons, B.C. obtained the award.
All of this is only just a small glimpse of everything we accomplished in 2016. We have even bigger plans for the coming year to continue defending our environment, building a clean energy future and kicking out toxic chemicals.
Here’s our ambitious wish list for 2017:
Be part of our success story in 2017. This holiday season, please consider making a gift in support of our work. Our volunteer Board of Directors has generously offered to match your year-end donation—doubling your impact! Also, stay in touch and receive updates on our work and how you can get involved by subscribing to our monthly Defender News and by joining us on Facebook or Twitter.
I’m very excited about what’s ahead and hope you will help us keep the momentum going. On behalf of Environmental Defence, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season and all the best in the New Year.