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2015 Environmental Defence Gala - Remarks By CAC President And CEO Michael McSweeney


FEBRUARY 18, 2015



Good evening Environmental Defence Champions, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As many of you know, this is the Cement Association of Canada's third year as the presenting sponsor of the Environmental Defence Gala. As I was reflecting on this milestone, it struck me how much the mood has changed over the past year. Last year this room felt defiant as ED and other environmental groups across the country continued to weather unprecedented attacks on their charitable status. I know for many in the room, including Environmental Defence, those threats remain very real. But, tonight at least, there is much room for optimism.

I am optimistic because last week Premier Wynne's government through Minister Murray, initiated the most important and overdue conversation we can be having right now in this Province.  Minister, you said it perfectly: we need an adult conversation about climate change. And I know I speak for the room when I commit to you that when it comes to leading that conversation over the next year– We’ve. Got. Your. Back!

Our environment -- and our economy -- needs a price on carbon. But this is just part of the solution. We need to think in entirely new and more integrated ways about how we plan, build, and power our communities. Innovations we have yet to imagine may be needed to keep our planet below 2 degrees of warming. At the same time, putting climate change at the forefront of political and policy decisions will allow us to see the environmental, innovative and economic opportunities that are hiding in plain sight, all the while maintaining our competitiveness, which is still in a fragile state and ensuring that we don't enact policies that will just leak GHGs to other jurisdictions with fewer environmental regulations.

Through innovation, our sector has reduced its GHG emissions by 15% since 1990 on a voluntary basis. To go further, we asked the Premier and her minister to help us reduce our coal use, and in recent months, they delivered, with a proposed new regulation to facilitate the use of low-carbon fuels in cement kilns. Once passed, this regulation, will help our sector further reduce GHGs by up to 400,000 tonnes per year and keep hundreds of thousands of tonnes of non-recyclable waste from going to landfill.

And we’re prepared to do so much more to help Ontario lead on climate change. Our new cement, Contempra, reduces GHGs by 10% compared to regular cement. In Ontario, replacing regular cement with Contempra could reduce GHGs in the province by almost 250,000 tonnes per year, at no additional expense.

One of the most cost-effective ways to reduce GHGs is to take into account the full life-cycle cost and environmental impacts of buildings and transportation infrastructure projects. When you use more durable materials, infrastructure doesn’t deteriorate as much and we don’t have to spend as much energy and money to repair it. MIT studies show that pairing concrete's thermal mass with good design and affordable technologies can reduce energy use in buildings by over 80%.  In the transportation sector, by using fewer fossil fuels like asphalt and more concrete pavements, we can improve fuel efficiency by up to 7%, lower the urban heat island effect and reduce lighting costs by 22%.

You know it's hard to make concrete sound sexy and these examples may sound self-serving (and shamelessly they are!) but they credibly demonstrate that industry, taxpayers, and our economy as a whole, can thrive in a carbon constrained world. We are all better off when we Build it once, Build it right and Build it to last.

2015 is an election year, an opportunity for everyone in this room to make a real difference for the environment. As we speak we have passionate individuals like Aaron Freeman, who has spent time with both Environmental Defence and Government, and who is establishing GreenPAC – a new, non-partisan movement that will build environmental leadership and awareness in Canadian politics.

This is the year we all need to step up our involvement, but I would be remiss if I didn't single out the tireless efforts and resilience of groups like Environmental Defence. Equally important, getting where we need to go, where the Province has said it wants to go, will not be possible without their support and hard work.

So please join me in a toast ? to Environmental Defense on their 30th anniversary and ? to what we all hope will be a turning point in Ontario’s journey to a low carbon, resilient and prosperous future.

To Environmental Defence



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