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Why oil and gas heating bans for new homes are a growing trend – CBC News

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Vancouver and Quebec recently banned certain kinds of fossil fuel-based heating in new home construction. Similar — and, in some cases more extensive — bans are happening around the world, from Norway to New York City. The goal? To cut CO2 emissions from buildings by replacing fossil fuel burning with electric heating. But are such bans necessary? And what impact will they have on people who live in those cities? Here’s a closer look.

Where are fossil fuel heating bans happening in Canada so far?

At least two jurisdictions have implemented recent restrictions on fossil fuel heating:

This map shows the energy sources used for heating in different provinces in 2015. (CER/Statistics Canada)

Why are fossil fuels for heating being banned now?

It’s happening now because of attempts to: 

Reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 is a key goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Canada itself has also committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

During the recent United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Canada and more than 80 other countries signed a Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions of methane — a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide — by at least 30 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030.

WATCH | Joe Biden promises major global cut to methane: 

Biden promises major global cut to methane

3 months ago

Duration 4:55

U.S. President Joe Biden pledged a 30 per cent global cut in methane by 2030, an effort to reduce a huge source of greenhouse gases. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press) 4:55

How would banning fossil fuel heating help Canada and the world reach net zero?

In 2019, buildings were the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, after oil and gas and transport.

Space and water heating represent about 85 per cent of residential greenhouse gas emissions and 68 per cent of commercial emissions.

A 2021 report from the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices on different ways to get Canada to net zero said its modelling consistently shows “electrification of heating as a necessary part of the transition to net zero in Canada’s building sector.”

It’s a strategy endorsed by the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental organization affiliated with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that’s focused on secure and sustainable energy.

The IEA recommended in May that bans on new fossil fuel boilers need to start being introduced globally in 2025 and that most old buildings and all new ones must comply with zero-carbon-ready building energy codes. That’s because the lifetime of heating equipment can be a couple of decades.

Local/municipal gas bans and state laws prohibiting restrictions on gas in the U.S. as of Jan. 29, 2022. (S&P Global Market Intelligence)

How would banning fossil fuel heating help to cut methane emissions?

Methane is emitted in the production of all fossil fuels, including coal and heavy oil, even if it isn’t collected for use in the process.

It’s also the main component — 95 per cent — of natural gas, the source of 52 per cent of the energy used to heat Canadian homes in 2018.

LISTEN | Cooking without gas: Why cities are cutting methane from homes: 

What On Earth29:58Cooking without gas: why cities are cutting methane from homes

Some municipalities are taking natural gas out of buildings in a shift to a greener future. Laura Lynch checks in on two towns on either side of Lake Ontario, both leading the way. 29:58

Chris Bataille is an associate researcher with the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), a think-tank based in Paris, and an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who researches decarbonization of the economy.

Bataille said the entire system is leaky right from the production wells to consumers’ stoves and furnaces. Eliminating methane from people’s homes would reduce leaks throughout the system.

WATCH | The first step in cutting methane emissions is better ways of measuring them: 

The first step in reducing methane emissions are better ways of measuring them, researchers say

10 months ago

Duration 1:57

The federal government has made big investments in reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, but researchers say you can’t reduce what you can’t measure, and there are better ways to measure methane. 1:57

What is replacing fossil fuel heating?

In most cases, fossil fuel combustion is being replaced with electric heating. That can include more traditional but less efficient options, such as baseboard heaters and electric furnaces. However, there has been a big push to instead choose more efficient heat pumps. The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices report found that to drive deeper emissions cuts, the switch to heat pumps “would play an essential and growing role.”

Are similar bans being implemented in other parts of the world?

Yes. They’re most widespread in Europe, which imports 90 per cent of its gas, mostly from Russia, representing a strategic vulnerability beyond climate change itself.

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Some of the leaders include Denmark, which banned installation of oil-fired boilers and natural gas heating in new buildings in 2013, and is now subsidizing the electrification of older buildings, and Norway, which banned the use of oil heating in 2020 and has almost completely electrified its building heating.

Meanwhile, in the United States, there are bans in dozens of municipalities. The largest is in New York City. It passed legislation in December that bans fuel-burning systems in new buildings and major renovations. The ban includes heating, hot water and cooking appliances, although there are exceptions for laundromats and commercial kitchens. It goes into effect on Dec. 31, 2023, for buildings fewer than seven storeys, and on July 1, 2027 for taller buildings.

Mike Henchen is the principal of the carbon-free buildings program at RMI, a U.S.-based think-tank focused on the clean energy transition. He said such policies are popular at the municipal level in the U.S. because cities want to take climate change action, and building codes are something over which they have jurisdiction.

Why is new construction being targeted?

New construction is being targeted largely because electrification of a new home is cheap and relatively simple, Bataille said. He estimates it would add between $5,000 and $20,000 to the cost of a home, which is “virtually nothing” on the scale of the total average Canadian home price of $720,850.

In comparison, retrofitting an older home could cost up to $100,000, he estimates.

Henchen said targeting new buildings also stops the emissions problem from getting worse by preventing the installation of new fossil fuel infrastructure. And it helps to expand the market and industry expertise for solutions such as heat pumps.

What is the natural gas industry’s response to bans?

The industry has lobbied hard against them. There are now state laws pre-emptively outlawing municipal gas bans in close to 20 U.S. states, eliminating one option for local climate action, Henchen said.

“These are certainly backed and encouraged by the gas industry, which is concerned about losing some of their market and especially some of their growth with new customers,” he added.

The Canadian Gas Association says it disagrees with bans on energy sources “because they take away customers’ ability to choose what is best for them, based on their needs and circumstances.” It told CBC’s What On Earth that they also kill opportunities for developing solutions such as renewable natural gas (RNG), hydrogen and carbon capture. RNG is derived from biological sources such as food waste from plants that absorbed carbon as they grew and therefore can be theoretically carbon-neutral.

LISTEN | FortisBC is proposing renewable natural gas for every home connected to the gas system: 

5:23FortisBC is proposing “renewable natural gas” for every new home connected to the gas system

FortisBC is proposing “renewable natural gas” for every new home connected to the gas system. But what would that mean for carbon emissions? And is it in line with Vancouver’s emissions targets? 5:23

Enbridge Inc. says the company sees itself as a “bridge to a cleaner energy future,” and its approach is “to continue to provide people with the energy they need while taking steps to reduce the carbon content of the natural gas we distribute” through technologies such as RNG and hydrogen.

FortisBC, which delivers natural gas and electricity to customers in British Columbia, successfully lobbied for Vancouver to allow an exception for renewable natural gas in its new regulations. Doug Slater, the utility’s vice-president of external and Indigenous relations, said that will allow customers to gradually decarbonize using existing gas infrastructure. It aims to have 15 per cent of its gas supply from renewable sources by 2030.

Are these gas bans working? And are they enough?

“They definitely work in eliminating the burning of fossil fuels in new buildings,” Henchen said.

But both he and Bataille acknowledged that they’re not enough to decarbonize cities.

Henchen said governments also need to stop allowing gas companies to subsidize the expansion of gas infrastructure and the connection of new customers through existing customers’ bills (something that’s happening in Ontario). He said there are already proposals in Colorado and California that will require customers to pay the full cost of new gas connections.

Policies are also needed to electrify existing buildings, and gas bans alone aren’t the right solution, given the cost of retrofits, Bataille said. “We do need some sort of federal and provincial support for people to switch,” he said.

Some municipalities, such as Halton Hills, Ont., and Ithaca, N.Y., are already offering support in the form of zero-interest loans for retrofits.

In the meantime, Bataille urges homeowners to think ahead about decarbonization of their heating systems. He suggests they look at hybrid gas and electric heat pump systems now and take the option to use renewable natural gas if the option is offered.

“Those kinds of things really do help — and they help build the market in the long run.”

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The U.S. wants to ban Juul. Where is Canada on regulating e-cigarettes? – CBC News

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Earlier this week, regulators in the United States ordered Juul to pull its vaping products from the market, dealing a major blow to one of the most powerful players in the industry.

The company is appealing the decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking a federal court to block a government order to stop selling its electronic cigarettes.

While the attempted ban in the U.S. doesn’t directly affect Canada, some health advocates say it raises questions about the slow pace of regulation in this country.

Here’s a closer look at the FDA’s decision and what’s happening in Canada. 

Why was Juul banned?

As part of the FDA’s review process, companies had to demonstrate that their e-cigarettes benefit public health. In practice, that means proving that adult smokers who use them are likely to quit or reduce their smoking, while teens are unlikely to get hooked on them.

In its decision, the FDA said that some of the biggest e-cigarette sellers like Juul may have played a “disproportionate” role in the rise in teen vaping. The agency said that Juul’s application didn’t have enough evidence to show that marketing its products “would be appropriate for the protection of the public health.”

On Friday, the e-cigarette maker asked the court to pause what it called an “extraordinary and unlawful action” by the FDA that would require it to immediately halt its business. The company filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington as it prepares to appeal the FDA’s decision.

That dispute is far from over. 

Juul products are shown at a vaping store in New York in 2020. The FDA has ordered the company to halt the sale of its products. (Marshall Ritzel/Associated Press)

What about in Canada?

Juul’s vaping products, as well as those sold by other companies, remain available in Canada. 

Health Canada proposed a ban on flavoured vaping products last June. At the time, it cited research indicating that flavoured vaping products are “highly appealing to youth, and that youth are especially susceptible to the negative effects of nicotine – including altered brain development, which can cause challenges with memory and concentration.” 

But after a round of consultations last year, that proposed ban still hasn’t been put into effect. 

WATCH | P.E.I. now has toughest vaping, smoking laws in Canada: 

P.E.I. now has toughest vaping, smoking laws in Canada

2 years ago

Duration 2:06

As of March 1, people have to be 21 to buy vaping or tobacco products in P.E.I., giving the province the highest age limit in the country.

Several provinces and territories have put in place their own limits on flavoured vaping products, citing their appeal to teenagers.

(Juul voluntarily stopped selling many of its flavoured cartridges in 2020 following criticism they were designed to entice youth.)

David Hammond, a public health professor at the University of Waterloo who researches vaping in youth, said banning Juul products in the U.S. won’t necessarily have a significant impact on the industry as a whole, given its declining market share and the variety of products available.

“You know, it’s like a tube of toothpaste. If you press at one point, you just kind of squeeze it to a different spot,” he said.

What does Health Canada say?

“Health Canada has no plans to remove any vaping products from the Canadian market that comply with the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act,” the agency told CBC News in an email.

The government has recently put in place new restrictions on the sector, including limits on advertising for e-cigarettes and the amount of nicotine in the products. It’s also undergoing a review of the legislation for vaping products that went into effect in 2018.

On its website, Health Canada warns of the risks of e-cigarettes, saying “the potential long-term health effects of vaping remain unknown” and the government continues to investigate “severe pulmonary illness associated with vaping.”

Last week, Health Canada announced another set of proposed regulations that would require vaping companies to disclose information about “sales and ingredients used in vaping products,” to help the government “keep pace with the rapidly evolving vaping market.”

How popular is vaping?

Vaping is popular among young people, with 14 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 19 having vaped in the last month of 2020, up from six per cent from the same month in 2017, according to the results of the Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey.

Vaping is less popular for adults over the age of 25, with just three per cent reporting that they vaped within the last month in 2020.

Robert Schwartz, a senior scientist at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said the regulatory challenge is to strike a balance between making these products available to adults as an alternative to cigarettes, while at the same time limiting their appeal to younger non-smokers.

“We definitely are finding that young people who would not otherwise become cigarette smokers have started to use e-cigarettes and they fairly quickly develop a dependence on them,” said Schwartz.

“Our research is also demonstrating that some adults are able to quit by … using these cigarettes.”

What’s the holdup?

Like Schwartz, Hammond said vaping products could be a useful tool in helping wean smokers off cigarettes. He said it doesn’t make sense to put strict limits on vaping products if cigarettes, which are thought to be more harmful, are still available in corner stores. 

Dr. David Hammond is a public health professor at the University of Waterloo who researches vaping among younger people. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

“I don’t think the answer lies just with how they are regulated,” he said. “I think it lies with the industry and reframing these products as something that a 50-year-old uses to quit smoking and not a 15-year-old grabs on the way to a party.”

Hammond, who sits on Health Canada’s advisory board for vaping products, said the agency could stand to move more quickly given the stakes.

“There’s no doubt these are difficult questions and the market shifts rapidly. But it’s not an area where slow, plodding regulation is a good fit,” he said.

Cynthia Callard, executive director of the advocacy group Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, said that, while the context is different in Canada, the FDA decision “is a reminder that governments can and should bar market access to products which cannot be shown to benefit public health.”

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Inflation: Half of Canadians' finances worse than last year – CTV News

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As inflation rates soar to the highest they’ve been in Canada in forty years, nearly half of Canadians say that right now, they’re doing worse financially than they were at this time last year.

A further third say they expect things to get even worse in the coming year, the largest number of people to answer this way in more than a decade.

The numbers come from a new Angus Reid Institute (ARI) survey released Friday, which surveyed more than 5,000 Canadian adults between June 7 and June 13 on their financial standing and struggles.

The results shed light on the plight Canadians are facing coast to coast.

Currently, inflation is at a staggering 7.7 per cent higher than last year, according to Statistics Canada. The inflation rate hasn’t been this high since 1983, the year that Canada Day replaced Dominion Day.

TRENDING DOWN

The percentage of Canadians answering that they are worse off financially now than a year ago has been increasing steadily over the last few years. In 2018, only 29 per cent of Canadians said they were doing worse than the previous year. That number climbed to 32 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, then to 45 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

It’s now the highest that it has been since ARI started tracking this specific question in 2010.

At the same time, the number of Canadians who said they were doing the same as a year ago plummeted, going from 54 per cent in 2018, to 44 per cent in 2020, to 36 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

Interestingly, the percentage of Canadians who say they are doing better than the previous year jumped to 23 per cent in 2020, after years of hovering around 13-14 per cent. That number is now at 17 per cent.

When these results are broken down into the household income of the respondents, those who are in the upper echelons of income, making more than $200,000 annually, were much more likely to report that they were doing better than last year financially, at 26 per cent, and the least likely to report that they were doing worse, at 30 per cent.

On the other end of the scale, those making less than $25,000 per year were more likely to say they were worse off this year, at 51 per cent, and less likely to say they were doing better than last year, at 15 per cent — underlining how the rich are hurt less by shifts such as inflation, and the poor keep getting poorer as rising costs hit their wallets.

Only one in five Canadians said they expected things to improve a year from now, while a third anticipated things to get even worse.

“Residents in Saskatchewan voice the most pessimism and least optimism on this question,” the report stated.

COST OF LIVING IS EXORBITANT FOR MANY

Concerns about the cost of simply living is the one that consumes the time and energy of most Canadians, with food, housing and bills driving a huge amount of financial worries across the country.

When asked what the top provincial issues were, with respondents being able to choose up to three options, “cost of living/inflation” was overwhelmingly the most popular selection, with 63 per cent of respondents selecting it as a major issue.

Health care and housing affordability took second and third place at 52 per cent and 31 per cent respectively, with climate change and the environment coming in at fourth with 26 per cent.

“Some regions of the country are under more economic stress than others,” the report stated. “In Atlantic Canada, the cost of living was already higher than most other parts of the country last year. And Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have experienced higher rates of inflation than other provinces, alongside Manitoba and British Columbia.”

When it comes to the country as a whole, more than half of those who rented said that it’s difficult to afford their rent.

For homeowners, monthly mortgage payments are on the rise after a series of interest rate increase by the Bank of Canada. One quarter of Canadians with a mortgage say prices have already gone up, while another half said they anticipate a price jump. Two thirds say that if their payments increased by $300 a month, they might not be able to afford it anymore.

“The challenge for many, as pandemic-era supports are removed, and some struggle with repayment of the CERB they received, is to avoid debt creation,” the report stated, noting that many Canadians are already struggling with debt.

Two in five Canadians said they had credit card debt.

Of those who scored high on the ARI Economic Stress Index and were classified as “struggling” on that index, 62 per cent had credit card debt, and three-in-five of this group said it would take them more than a year to pay it off.

The Economic Stress Index, created in January, looks at core costs related to quality of life, such as debt, housing and household food costs, as well as the respondents’ anxieties and assessments of their own finances, to map out who is having a harder time.

There are four categories: struggling, uncomfortable, comfortable, and thriving. The proportion of those who are “thriving” has dropped six points since May, while the number of those who “struggling” has risen three points in that time period. Some good news is that 29 per cent of Canadians fit into the “comfortable” category compared to 26 per cent in May.

“A majority in each of the Atlantic provinces fall under the Struggling or Uncomfortable categories,” the report stated, with 55 per cent in Nova Scotia and 64 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador falling into one of these two categories.

Across the country, in most provinces, more than half of the respondents fell into the one of the bottom two categories, with 64 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador, 59 per cent in Alberta, 62 per cent in Saskatchewan, 57 per cent in Manitoba, 55 per cent in Nova Scotia and 54 per cent in Ontario. Prince Edward Island was not included in the survey.

“Only in Quebec (61 per cent) and B.C. (52 per cent) do more than half fall into the top two categories on the ESI,” the report stated. “Notably, by Statistic Canada’s CPI, those provinces have the lowest cost of living of any province in the country.”

The province with the single highest percentage of Canadian respondents deemed to be “thriving” was Quebec, with a whopping 30 per cent.

Just over 75 per cent of Canadians said their province had done a poor job of handling inflation.

Around one in three Canadians said their costs due to purchasing gas had increased, while just under half stated that those costs had gone down for them because they were consciously avoiding driving and seeking out other forms of transportation to save money.

FOOD PRICES LEAVING SOME HUNGRY

The report noted that inflation affects some goods more harshly than others.

“Food inflation was 10 per cent in May, higher than the 7.7 per cent inflation rate overall,” the report said.

Just over half of Canadians surveyed reported struggling to make the grocery bill each month, with the report noting that this is seven points higher than last October.

And the lower your tax bracket, the harder it is to put food on the table. Seven out of ten Canadians making less than $25,000 a year said it is difficult to feed themselves and their family, while at least one third of all incomes reported finding it hard to budget for food.

One B.C. resident told The Canadian Press that her grocery bill has more than doubled. Food Banks Canada are concerned that more and more children — who make up a third of those who rely on food banks — could be going hungry this summer as school ends and access to school-based food programs is cut off.

Earlier this month, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called out MPs for laughing in the House of Commons after he spoke about Canadians being unable to afford groceries. In a video Singh posted of the incident, laughter can be heard after he states that one in four Canadians are going hungry.

“I just mentioned that Canadians are hungry and I hear laughter in the chambers,” Singh said after the Speaker asked him to repeat himself. “They should be ashamed of themselves. Absolutely ashamed.” He stated on social media that those who were laughing were Conservative MPs.

TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS

Amid rising inflation, the Bank of Canada is meant to keep the impact on Canadians to a minimum through policy adjustments, but Canadian trust in this institution is split, according to the survey. While 46 per cent said they trusted the Bank of Canada, 41 per cent said they did not.

When the political leanings of survey respondents were taken into account, the results became more stark: Past supporters of the Conservative party and the People’s Party of Canada were less likely to trust the Bank of Canada, with 59 per cent and 86 per cent indicating this respectively.

The Bank of Canada has admitted that it made missteps, and is now playing catch-up as Canada’s economy overheats.

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Disney, other companies vow to cover employees' out-of-state abortions – CBC News

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The Walt Disney Co., publishing giant Conde Nast and the investment firm JPMorgan Chase were among the major American companies that pledged on Friday to cover travel costs for employees seeking out-of-state abortions, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade

The ruling did away with the constitutional protection of abortion, leaving the matter to individual states, 13 of which were poised to immediately ban the procedure. 

Florida, home to Walt Disney World, currently prohibits abortions after 15 weeks. Disney’s employee benefits will cover costs for those who need to travel to get health-care, including abortions, a company spokesman said Friday. The company, which recently sparred with state lawmakers over the contentious “Don’t say gay” bill, had previously declined to comment on a potential overturn.

Other major media companies — Sony, Paramount, Comcast, Warner Bros. Discovery and Netflix — also said they will reimburse travel expenses for out-of-state abortions.

Airbnb, Dick’s Sporting GoodsPatagonia made similar pledges. The Gap, in a statement, noted its employee benefits cover abortion and other family planning services, but did not specify travel expenses. 

Top executives at other companies — Meta’s outgoing COO Sheryl Sandberg, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman — condemned the ruling as a step back for women’s rights. 

“Business leaders must step up to support the health and safety of their employees by speaking out against the wave of abortion bans that will be triggered as a result of this decision, and call on Congress to codify Roe into law,” Stoppelman wrote in a statement.

Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO of the dating app Bumble, said her company will continue supporting reproductive rights by donating to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. OkCupid encouraged people to contact their elected representatives, in a post on Instagram.

Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, Starbucks and Microsoft have all previously said that they would also cover travel costs for employees seeking out-of-state health-care. 

In September, Uber said it would cover legal fees for any drivers sued for dropping people off at abortion clinics. That same month, Salesforce offered to help Texas employees relocate, after that state, together with Mississippi, passed “heartbeat bills,” effectively banning early-pregnancy abortions.

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