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Canadian Chamber of Commerce solidly backs carbon pricing

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The Canadian Chamber of Commerce says the business community in Canada is solidly backing carbon pricing as the way for it to “play its part in the fight against climate change” — and it wants governments to stop playing politics and waffling about it.

The group, which bills itself as “the voice of Canadian business” and represents 200,000 companies across the country, released a report this past week, as international climate talks were wrapping up in Katowice, Poland, arguing strongly in favour of carbon pricing such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems. It sees this as the most cost-effective way to transition Canada to a low-carbon economy and proposes how it would like to see carbon pricing implemented.

Canadian businesses of all sizes are prepared to accept carbon pricing as a cost of doing business.– Canadian Chamber of Commerce report

Business wants to play its part in the fight against climate change, but our public policy has to balance our climate objectives with the need to ensure Canada remains attractive to start or grow a business, and to invest,” said Perrin Beatty, the group’s president and CEO and a former Conservative MP, in a statement.

Aaron Henry, the group’s director of natural resources and environmental policy, and the author of the new report, said the group’s members believe “carbon pricing is probably the most effective mechanism of emissions reduction.”

Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government, led by Premier Doug Ford, recently scrapped its cap-and-trade carbon pricing system. The new report says businesses need stable carbon pricing legislation that survives changes of government. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

In a statement accompanying the release of the report, he added, “Canadian businesses of all sizes are prepared to accept carbon pricing as a cost of doing business, but remain very concerned that governments will continue to use it as a political bargaining chip instead of delivering a pricing policy that is simple and works well.”

The report cites “conclusive” evidence from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development about the high cost of climate change, including impacts like more intense floods, fires and storms, and for the need to reduce emissions.

‘Stable, predictable, straightforward’

Our need to transition to a low carbon economy is clear, but it is equally clear that businesses must have assurances that the regulatory regime guiding this transition will be stable, predictable, and straightforward,” the report said.

Ontario’s new Progressive Conservative government, led by Premier Doug Ford, recently scrapped its cap-and-trade carbon pricing system and replaced it with regulations that include a fund for specific emissions-reduction projects that companies can apply to.

Henry warned that such “U-turns” could be damaging.

He noted that there’s lots of evidence that “the predictability of policies, their durability from government to the next, is actually a huge indicator for the ability of companies to make emissions reductions.”

The report says carbon pricing should be accompanied by a reduction in other regulations targeting emissions, such as the federal government’s proposed phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation and clean fuel standards. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

He added that when the federal government, which backs carbon pricing, and provinces each go a different way, that leads to “fragmented islands” of climate policy across Canada. Earlier this year, the Chamber of Commerce released another report criticizing the burden of complex, inconsistent and overlapping rules from different levels of government.

Currently, Saskatchewan and Ontario are challenging the federal government’s right to impose a carbon tax on provinces that don’t comply with its climate change plan.

In a statement, the Chamber of Commerce appears to back the federal government: “Ottawa must continue working with provinces to implement carbon pricing as the main measure to reduce GHG emissions across Canada.”

The new report also suggests:

  • Carbon pricing should be accompanied by a reduction in other regulations targeting emissions, such as the federal government’s proposed phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation and clean fuels standard.

  • Carbon pricing should be revenue neutral, with any revenues collected going into investments in clean technologies, energy efficiency, and helping businesses, especially smaller businesses, survive the transition while reducing their emissions.

  • Governments should help businesses develop an export strategy for clean technologies and commodities to ensure they can reach global markets.

‘Consistent line’ from business

Canadian researchers who study climate policy and carbon pricing say the report is a good sign.

It’s pretty much the consistent line that the private sector is taking now on climate change across Canada,” said Jason Thistlewaite, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Environment, Enterprise and Development.

Businesses want to do their part to manage climate change risk and reduce greenhouse gas emissions but they want to be left alone to figure it out on their own how to do that.”

Businesses want to do their part to manage climate change risk and reduce greenhouse gas emissions but they want to be left alone to figure it out on their own how to do that.– Jason Thistlewaite, University of Waterloo

Jennifer Winter, scientific director of the Energy and Environmental Policy research division at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said the report sends a strong signal to the governments of Saskatchewan and Ontario that are fighting the federal carbon pricing policy.

It’s something we’re seeing increasingly in businesses in Canada. It’s fine to have these pricing policies, they just want certainty about what the business environment looks like and that means governments essentially getting on with it and deciding what they’re going to implement,” Winter said. 

Jitan Nathwani, Ontario Research Chair in Public Policy for Sustainable Energy and executive director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE), called the report “a welcome development.”

Nathwani supported some of its recommendations, such as re-investing carbon tax funds in low-carbon technologies and businesses solutions.

But he said one shortcoming of the report, which lists energy giants Enbridge and TransCanada as its major sponsors, is the lack of recommendations on how the transition to a low-carbon economy can be achieved without a diminished role for the oil and gas sector over time.

Stewart Elgie, director of the University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment, said he thinks the report is right in saying that Canadian businesses need help from government to be world leaders in exporting clean technologies and products and should promote that.

He disagreed that other emissions-reducing regulations, like the coal-power ban and fuel standards, should be reduced once carbon pricing comes in. He estimated that carbon pricing will only get Canada a third of the way to its emissions targets, and said other regulations are still needed.

However, he said, “It encourages me that most business leaders now recognize that we need carbon pricing and we’ve got to prepare Canada to compete in the low-carbon world. We need to make sure that all of our political leaders catch up to them.”

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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