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B.C. forests contribute ‘hidden’ carbon emissions that dwarf official numbers, report says

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“Uncounted forest emissions” represent a major hole in B.C.’s climate plan and show the need for a provincial forest emissions-reduction strategy, according to a new report by an environmental group.

Climate-warming carbon emissions released from B.C. forests in both 2017 and 2018 were more than three times higher than emissions from all other sources combined in 2016, the report from Sierra Club B.C. estimates.

The vast majority of the estimated 237 million tonnes emitted by B.C.’s forests resulted from another record-breaking wildfire season that burned more than 13,000 square kilometres of land. 

“Our forests are not helping in the fight against climate change right now,” said Jens Wieting, a campaigner with the group.

“We need immediate steps to make sure that forests can help in the fight against climate change, and not make it worse.”

In 2016, the province pegged its carbon footprint from non-forestry sources at 61.3 million tonnes.

B.C. forests net emitters

Forests can act as either a “carbon sink” that absorbs excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, or a source of carbon emissions if it releases more carbon than it absorbs.

The Sierra Club estimates that B.C. forests absorbed about 28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2016. 

But the group’s report says B.C.’s forests started emitting more carbon than they could take in in the early 2000s.

The emissions result from logging practices such as clear-cutting of old-growth forests and slash burning, as well as the increasing impact of climate change including pine-beetle outbreaks and wildfires, the report says.

The Sierra Club report projected a net total of around 209 million tonnes of forest-related carbon emissions were released in both 2017 and 2018.

The projection is based on provincial data on non-wildfire forest emissions and initial estimates from the federal government on B.C.’s 2017 wildfire emissions.

In 2017, CBC reported wildfires alone accounted for 190 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

An aerial view of an old-growth clearcut in the Nahmint Valley on Vancouver Island from May 2018. The Sierra Club report calls for reducing logging of old-growth forests, which are effective at capturing carbon. (TJ Watt)

Clean B.C. Plan

Last month, the B.C. government introduced the Clean B.C. plan, part of the province’s goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050. The plan redirects revenue from the carbon tax into incentives like rebates for the province’s biggest industries to move to cleaner operations.

But the Sierra Club report says the climate action plan lacks specific measures to reduce forest carbon emissions. 

A major challenge, Wieting says, is that forestry emissions are not counted toward the province’s official greenhouse gas inventory

“There’s no action in place to reduce these emissions,” said Wieting. “Forest emissions are not counted and that’s the reason why they are largely ignored.”

The group is calling on the province to produce an annual report measuring emissions from forests and to take steps to reduce forest carbon emissions, including banning slash burning, protecting old-growth forests and ramping efforts to remove dry brush and dead logs on the forest floor.

Stephen Sheppard, a forestry professor at the University of British Columbia, said there has to be a “multi-pronged approach” involving industry and government to reduce the impact of forest fires on carbon emissions — and it’s going to be expensive.

“The budgets that we’ve had in the past to manage fires, which really meant suppressing fires, is probably very inadequate now,” said Sheppard.

The B.C. government has spent at least $842 million responding to wildfires since 2017.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development was unavailable for comment.

With files from Jon Hernandez

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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