Montreal, Cycling to Prosperity!

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24,000 Montrealers bike to work every day. In North America, only New York, with a population four times greater, has more daily commuters (36,000) according to the latest report of Vélo Quebec.

Montreal, cycling capital of North America

One reason for this success is that over 30 years ago Montreal started investing in segregated bike lanes to make cycling safe and enjoyable. In downtown, 4% of all commutes are by bike. In Plateau Mont-Royal 10.8%! a level comparable with Vienna, Stockholm and Berlin.

A great potential

With every third Montrealer living within 5km from work, a study by the mobility school of Ecole Polytechnique assessed that 22% of all car trips in the city could easily be biked. A huge potential for more cyclists in the Metropole.

Investing $150 million for cyclists!

As part of its sustainable mobility strategy, Montreal is thus planning additional investment that could reach $150 million (with $15 million this year) to grow its already impressive bike lane network from 730km to 1,280km – to the joy of cyclists and the rage of some drivers… But is it worth it?

A wise investment

A recent Lund University (Sweden) study of cycling in Copenhagen concluded that cars impose costs on society from air pollution, climate change, noise, road wear, health and congestion. In economic terms this represents a negatively impact from cars of EUR 0.50 per kilometer vs. only EUR 0.08 for bikes…

When the impact for society as a whole is considered, every kilometer driven costs the community EUR 0.15. Meanwhile, society benefits EUR 0.16 per kilometer cycled! 

Conclusion: Bike for prosperity!

Related links: 

Tour de l’ile de Montreal

Montreal Go for it by night Festival

Montreal biking investments 2016-17

Velo Quebec Report on Biking in Montreal 2015

Road safety: rage agains cyclists

Congrats Montreal! Host of the 2018 ICLEI World Congress!

mtl_vert_375ICLEI, the largest association of local governments for sustainability, just announced that Montréal will host their next world congress in 2018.

With over 54% of the world population already living in cities (UN 2014), including 82% in North America, and other regions including Africa urbanizing rapidly, two-thirds will live in cities by 2050.

Cities are also where 75% of all carbon emissions are generated. Faced with a growing world population and continued migration to urban areas, cities and local governments are the key actors that can drive the course for “globalizing urban sustainability”.

Montreal and sustainability

Montreal was selected for its leadership in driving sustainability policy and commitment to scale-up its initiatives, including planting over 300,000 trees and new sustainable mobility solutions such as bicycle paths, public bike sharing and the electrification of transportation.

Leading congress location in the Americas

Palais_des_congrès

With its famous “Palais des Congrès” located in the heart of its lively downtown, meters away from the historic old town and the arts and entertainment district, Montreal ranks  as the premier location in the Americas for large-scale international events and also reflects Montreal’s commitment to sustainabilty. The “greening” of the PCM’s 13,416 m2 (144,386 sq. ft.) roof that is currently in development is a practical example of climate action to   reduce the urban heat island effect.

Capital of the “Vivre Ensemble”

Montreal is the city that welcomed us when my family immigrated to Canada in the early 1970s. Today still, Montreal is one of the most multi-ethnic and multicultural cities in the world – a capital of the “Vivre Ensemble” (Living Together) and a vibrant platform for culture, education and innovation.

Congratulations to Montreal for this brilliant success!

Related links:

ICLEI

Palais des Congrès

Montreal International 

Migrants, Refugees and the Promise of Diversity

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In the current migration crisis, people are fleeing to escape disaster, violence, poverty and hunger in  numbers unknown since World War II. But their desperate search for a better life is not always met with understanding and compassion. Hungary has set up a four meter-high barbwire fence along its Serbian border, Donald Trump is calling Mexican immigrants dangerous criminals, and Australia has implemented the world’s harshest policy by turning back boats of asylum-seekers, or forcing them to detainee centers on distant Pacific Islands and making sure they will never enter the country.

In the face of such hostility, it is refreshing to find a book with a different narrative. One where a country that promotes multiculturalism and social cohesion can enjoy the immense benefits of a more diverse society, where migrants truly become agents of progress and development. This was certainly our experience when my family immigrated to Montreal (Canada) in the early 1970s to escape the communist regime in Poland. Today still, Montreal is one of the most multi-ethnic and multicultural cities in the world – a vibrant platform for culture, education and business innovation.

An Unlikely War Hero

diversity_0“The Promise of Diversity” by John Hartwell Williams and John Bond, tells the unlikely story of Jerzy Zubryzcki (1920-2009), a Polish intellectual turned cadet officer in the Polish Army when the Second World War broke. Forced to surrender to the German forces, Zubrzycki escaped imprisonment thanks to a Jewish shopkeeper who may have saved his life. He served with distinction in the Polish Army, the Polish underground resistance and with the British  forces. Thanks to his good English, which he learnt at the Krakow YMCA, he was selected to join a top secret elite team that was tasked by Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”, he underwent intense training in parachuting, explosives, sabotage, intelligence work and extreme survival skills. He even became an expert in the art of silent killing. In a “James Bond”-like adventure, he brought a captured V2 rocket from Poland to Britain, providing crucial intelligence to the allied forces.

Championing Diversity and Multiculturalism

Unable to return to Poland after the war, he became a refugee and decided to study sociology at the London School of Economics. He then joined the Australian National University where he became Professor of Sociology. Having experienced the horrors of Nazi occupation, he dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the integration of Australia’s increasing ethnic diversity. Australia, whose population was 7.4 million at the end of the war, received more then 2 million Europeans in the following two decades. Today still, it is home to one of the largest Greek communities outside Greece (particularly around Melbourne). Later came waves of refugees from Vietnam.

Thanks to his distinguished war record and contacts in the upper echelons of British society, he was able to access and influence the closed circles of Australian government, and successive Prime Ministers, helping them realize that the ethnic diversity is not a liability but an asset and that by enabling these values we enrich society as a whole. Through his influence he managed to “steer Australia towards multiculturalist settlement policies” (The Australian) for which he as been credited as the “father of Australian multiculturalism”.

The Stolen Generation Apology

Zubrzycki also helped in initiatives towards reconciling Australia’s Aboriginal population  with the wider community, initiatives which caught international attention in 2008 when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd led a national apology to the Aboriginal community. His moving address can be viewed here:

As Secretary of the Australian Institute of Polish Affairs, John Williams developed a friendship with Zubrzyzcki, which led him to start writing this biography. John Bond, an author who has helped several Australian public figures write their memoirs, completed the book and is now organizing a Polish translation and promoting the Zubrzycki story in Poland.

John Bond is no stranger to diversity and multiculturalism. Since 1969, he has been a member of “Initiatives of Change” in Australia, the Swiss-based organization that facilitated the German-French reconciliation process following the Second World War. John was elected Secretary of the “National Sorry Day Committee” whose work led to the apology from the Australian government. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Australian community.

The book provides a wonderful account of how Zubrzycki’s early life experience of being rescued by a Jewish family shaped his belief in the value of diversity and turned him into a  champion of multiculturalism.

If Zubrzycki’s approach to multiculturalism were more widely understood, many of the troubles with migration and asylum seekers could be avoided. But given the unfortunate turn that policies towards foreigners are taking around the world, now more then ever, the Zubrzycki story is worth spreading.

It is high-time to dust-off the historical heroes of the Polish diaspora whose expertise and achievements have been recognized and admired by the world

Related Links:

Ordering “The Promise of Diversity” LINK

Jerzy Zubrzycki Biography in Polish

Transcript of ABC Interview with Jerzy Zubrzycki

Jerzy Zubrzycki Obituary

A maritime strategy to propel Quebec into the 21st century

photo-4Quebec Prime Minister, Philippe Couillard, unveiled an ambitious and far-reaching maritime strategy for the province that will shape the transportation and logistics of cross-Atlantic shipping for North America in the 21st century. Montreal could become the preferred maritime gateway to link a Northeast American market of 135 million with the $18 trillion Eurozone, the world’s largest economy. This timely announcement follows the October 2014 news of a free trade agreement (CETA) between Canada and the Eurozone that will provide preferential market access as early as 2016.

Glory days

montrealsummer-026In the 1860s and for a century, Montreal was Canada’s true metropolis, largely thanks to its role as the country’s transportation hub with its major port and railway center. In 1923, Montreal was even the world’s largest cereal port. Some of the grain silos dating back to that period are still visible, but Montreal now ranks 97th globally for container tonnage, with only 1/4 of the volume that transits through New York (26th).

Positioned for the future

The St-Lawrence seaway and Great Lakes makeup the longest deep-boat navigation system in the world extending 3,700 km into the North American heartland. This favorable geographical situation means that shipping through Montreal provides the fastest, cheapest and most direct market access. This, combined with more efficient logistics – a 24 hour cargo transit time in Montreal versus up to 5 days through New York – gives the “Belle Province” a compelling advantage that could help Montreal regain its position as a leading maritime hub in North America.

Cheapest and cleanest

1l-maersk-mc-kinneyWith the largest vessels carrying up to 600,000 tons of cargo, maritime shipping is the most efficient form of transportation. It compares favorably to trains and trucks in terms of costs but also for pollution reduction. Its carbon footprint is 3 times lower then trains and 33 times lower then trucks!

Safety first

A poor safety record for road transport and the fresh memory of the 2013 unattended train with crude oil that derailed and exploded killing 42 people in Lac Mégantic makes security a major concern. While marine transport has a good safety record, the maritime strategy recognizes the importance disaster preparedness and will therefore develop a world-class marine ecosystem expertise center in îles de la Madeleine.

Science and innovation

Given the immense opportunities related to growth of oceanic activities globally, there is an urgent need for more marine research and knowledge sharing. The establishment of the Quebec Maritime Network will act as a catalyst to leverage the existing structures and improve exchanges science and technology, particularly between Quebec and France (a nation with a great expertise and interest in oceans given its control the world’s second largest marine territory).

Biodiversity protection and tourism

Recognizing the exceptional natural beauty and biodiversity of the St-Laurence seaway, the strategy also calls for the creation of marine protected zones equivalent to at least 10% of the marine territory. These, along with improved infrastructure at various points along the river aim to boost the already growing cruise tourism that attracted 350,000 people in 2014 and that is expected to reach 400,000 this year.

Propelling Quebec into the 21st Century

The $9 billion maritime strategy of Philippe Couillard and the 30,000 jobs it hopes to create across sectors is comparable in scale and ambition to the pharaonic James Bay hydroelectric plan of Robert Bourassa in the 1970’s that cost $20 billion and took decades to complete. Today, this Bourassa legacy provides Quebec with low cost and low carbon power and the lowest carbon footprint in the country (9.7 tons of CO2 equivalent per person in 2012 vs. a 20.1 ton average for Canadians).

Interestingly, 43.5% of carbon emissions in Quebec now come from the transportation sector that uses oil to fuel inefficient cars and trucks. Given its access to clean and reliable electricity, Quebec can become a global leader in the electrification of passenger vehicle transport. The maritime strategy in turn will allow a massive reduction in road shipping – with further carbon reductions – while boosting trade and the competitiveness of the Province.

A compelling message for ParisClimat2015

Reconciling the economy and the environment on the basis of sound scientific knowledge for the prosperity of Quebecers in the 21st century – a most urgent and inspirational message that Prime Minister Couillard and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre can now deliver at the Paris Climate Conference in December. This is an adventure that is already 40 years in the making “dans la Belle Province”. The maritime strategy is its latest chapter. Time will tell if the Couillard legacy becomes as transformational and as electrifying as Bourassa’s.

Is a Fireplace Ban Justified?

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Will the fireside chat become a relic of history? Gorbachev-Reagan 1985 Fireside Talks in Geneva

While pollution alerts are sounding again in various French cities (Rennes, Nantes, Strasbourg, etc.), Environment Minister, Ségolène Royal, cancelled a controversial full ban on all fireplaces (even the most modern ones) that was expected in Paris and 435 municipalities on January 1, 2015. Following discussions with forest and wood industry professionals, the minister felt that the analysis supporting the ban was flawed, that the  law would be ineffective and that other measures should be explored.

Studies showed that fireplaces generate 25% of the fine particle pollution in the region, at par with the transportation sector. These figures are disputed by the wood industry which claims that fireplaces cause only 5% of the fine particles while 40% come from transport. But while lobbies debate, pollution limits are breached in Paris, across France and elsewhere. 7.4 million French homes use wood as their main source of heating, up from 5.9 million in 1999. In Haute Savoie (French Alps), where the prevalence of wood burning is high, pollution is a serious problem. Similarly, in Canada, the city of Montreal estimates that its 85,000+ fireplaces generate close to 50% of the fine particle pollution in the city – far more then industry or transport. Faced with these problems, authorities in Montreal and France continue to warn about the dangers of pollution peaks, promote public transport, reduce speed limits, suggest to lower heating and ask not to use the …fireplace.

Impacts on Health

Most people underestimate the impact of smoke pollution. But coming from a fireplace, a campfire or a wood-stove, smoke contains high levels of contaminants including small particles (that enter deep into lungs), carbon monoxide (CO), and other irritants with significant health consequences in neighborhoods where wood burning is popular but also indoors. Environment Canada warns about indoor pollution from fine particles that make their way throughout the house and remain long after the fire stops. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers that fireplace smoke causes cancer, headaches, eye irritation, respiratory disease and heart conditions. Particularly at risk are children, older people and anyone suffering from asthma and allergies.

camp-fireStudies have shown that even campfires cause pollution that can quickly exceed norms and be a multiple of those found in urban areas, even in zones with intensive industrial activity.

In Montreal, fireplace pollution contributes to the premature deaths of 1,500 people. In Paris, studies suggest it reduces the average life expectancy by 6 months in the region.

A Major Global Problem

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Picture: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

The WHO estimates that 3 billion people cook and heat their homes through open fires and simple stoves burning wood, animal dung, crop waste, and coal. More than 4 million die every year due to the indoor air pollution that can be 100 times higher then acceptable levels for small particles. More then 50% of the fatalities are children under 5 because of pneumonia caused by the high levels of soot inhaled at home.

In poor countries people suffer from indoor smoke exposure because they lack better alternatives. It is odd that in the developed world, people who can afford better technology continue to use antiquated heating methods and expose themselves and others because of ignorance. Studies show that many people find the smell of burning wood pleasant and are not aware of its dangers. Surely, the authorities bear some responsibility for this.

Technology can Help

The heating performance and pollution levels are directly linked to the type of heating device, open fireplaces being the worst performing and the latest EPA certified pellet stoves are the best. According to experts, EPA certified fireplaces can reduce small particles pollution by 94% (versus old models that generate 70 grams per hour) through higher temperatures that improve combustion which dramatically reduces residual fumes and pollution. Agreeing with industry, Ségolène Royal confirms that technology can make major difference and should be deployed. She she prefers incentives to bans, like the €1,000 the Haute-Savoie region gives for the replacement of an open fireplace or wood-stove.

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People enjoy fireplaces – there is something primal and comforting about them – the sound of the wood crackling, the light dancing around the room. It is also comforting to know that if a storm or other event that takes out the lights and the central heating, we still have a way to cook, give some light, and can heat our homes. And wood, if managed properly, is a renewable resource. But the price to be paid for an open fireplace or for antiquated wood-stoves is too high. The best of both worlds is to use fireplace stoves, that use technology that helps eliminate particulates, improves heating performance while still providing the pleasure and security of the old fashioned fireplace.

Recommendations:

– New EPA certified stoves are 90%+ cleaner and much more efficient in terms of heating.

– An open fireplace offers a very poor heating performance but generates massive indoor and outdoor pollution. It is costly, wasteful and should be phased out.

– Never burn trash, plastic, paint, or wood that was painted/treated because this releases dioxins and other toxics.

– Ideally use hardwood that is properly dry. Avoid wet and soft woods. Not only are they more polluting but they also provide significantly less heat.

– Keep the installation clean and in good working condition. Regularly sweep the chimney.

– To cities and authorities: awareness raising campaigns are needed. Financial incentives can play an important role but regulation, controls and sanctions will eventually be needed. Helping households better insulate their homes will also go a long way.

– Addressing indoor air pollution from ancient cooking and heating practices (in developing countries and elsewhere) is complex problem but solutions are available. The technology exists and can be affordable if proper financing mechanisms are implemented. Here is an example from The Gold Standard Foundation.

Related links:

Campfire Pollution

Quebec Brochure on Wood Heating

WHO Household air pollution and health