Arcadis tapped to lead Canadian-Chilean emission reduction scheme

17 November 2017

The Government of Canada has promised to invest $7 million toward reducing emissions from landfills in eight Chilean cities as part of the Canada-Chile Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. Arcadis has been selected to lead the four-year project, which aims to divert organic waste and capture methane from landfills for use in the energy sector.

The Paris Agreement has set a clear upper bound for century-end climate warming targets at 2 degrees Celsius – with a strong preference for 1.5°C – in order to avert potential climate disaster. Meeting the targets will be no easy task, requiring extensive international cooperation and coercion. With the US moving to pull out of the agreement, the ambitious targets needed for climate change mitigation seem increasingly out of reach. The small battles against climate change, nevertheless, need to be fought.

Landfills remains a key waste management solution for many jurisdictions. These sites collect large amounts of man-made waste – including paper, plastic, metals, as well as other chemicals and materials. Unfortunately, much of the waste is simply buried, while large amounts of waste also end up in the oceans. Meanwhile, much landfill waste undergoes organic decomposition, releasing considerable amounts of climate-altering emissions like methane and carbon dioxide.

Arcadis tapped to lead Canadian-Chilean emission reduction scheme

One way to reduce landfill emissions and meet climate targets is to implement circular economic policies into wider economic activity: the implementation of the well-known environmental policy of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Aside from reducing human waste and recycling, various beneficial emission-collecting technologies have been created to help reduce landfill emissions. These technologies often involve covering landfills and building gas wells which collect and process escaping gases. The processed methane can then be used in a variety of processes.

Canadian-Chilean environmentalism

Canada’s ruling Liberal Government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has recently ramped up efforts to collaborate with international partners through cross-border pacts on a variety of issues. In addition to recent crunch negotiations with the United States and Mexico on the future of NAFTA, Canada has also strengthened its cooperative, mutual environmental goals with the South American nation of Chile.

The Canada-Chile Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, signed in 1997, is a mutual effort between the two countries to enhance environmental cooperation and enforce environmental laws – including those governing air, water, wildlife, and toxic substances. To help Chile’s reach its greenhouse gas reduction goals – 30% below 2007 levels by 2030 – Canada recently announced that it will invest $7 million into the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from landfills in 8 Chilean cities. The project’s aim is to divert organic waste away from landfills, while also building systems which capture methane from landfills for fuel to use in cooking, transportation and power generation. The project will also require reporting on outcomes.

The Canadian Government has hired international design and consultancy firm Arcadis to implement key aspects of the new program. Arcadis – whose successful design and engineering projects include the Burj Khalifa and the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix – will lead the four-year project, utilizing the expertise of the more than 500 scientists and environmental professionals working for the firm in Chile.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, commented on the project: "The Government of Canada is pleased to partner with Arcadis to provide expertise and clean technologies to help Chile meet its climate change goals. Through projects like this, we are delivering on our promise to provide $2.65 billion by 2020 to help countries and communities around the world reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, better resist the effects of climate change, and make a positive contribution to a global clean economy."

Thomas Franz, President of Arcadis Canada, commented on the firm’s role in the project: "A combination of our proven environmental waste management competencies in Canada and our geotechnical, mining and water treatment experts in Chile provide the perfect solution for achieving Canada's goals in reducing the global human carbon footprint."

Engineering consultancy Arcadis expects the project to be completed by March 31, 2021.

Socio-economic inequality driving deforestation in Latin America

22 February 2019

Scientists at the University of Bern have found a connection between rising levels of socio-economic inequality and the rates of deforestation in Latin America.  

In combination with a rising level or urbanization across Central and South America, human development is a growing threat to the lungs of the Americas. Agriculture in particular and a growing demand for meat around the globe has seen hectares of forrest replaced with farmland each year.  

A rising demand for soy, palm oil, cocoa and coffee is translating into expanding plantations for these crops worldwide and contributing to deforestation at an unprecedented scale. However, other factors too need to be considered, according to a new analysis, with researchers from Switzerland finding that there is a correlation between inequality and deforestation. ”More equal distribution of income, wealth, and land ownership is not only fairer, but also an effective means of improving environmental protection,”said one of the project’s researchers, Graziano Ceddia.

"We know that different forms of inequality can significantly impact how environmental laws are formulated,”researcher Ceddia added. “The novelty of this study is its explicit investigation of the interaction between agricultural productivity, farmland expansion at the expense of forests, and various forms of inequality.”

Socio-economic inequality driving deforestation in Latin America

Just under half (40%) of Latin America is covered by the tropical rainforest known as the Amazon spanning from Brazil and Venezuela to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. This territory represents 22% of the global forest area and it is located in the Amazon basin, which is the largest continuous mass of the world's tropical forests. 

The stark truth is that there is not one custodian of the Amazon where inequality is not a major electoral issue. "If we want to ensure that increased agricultural productivity serves to protect tropical forests, then the message to policymakers is clear,” Ceddia said. 

In an increasingly hostile political environment, advancing environmental or climate policies alone may be difficult. As Brazil’s new president demonstrates, he has already moved to relax protectionist policy for the Amazon, pushing sustainability up the agenda is easy at times of economic bloom, but significantly harder in the current economic climate. This leads Ceddia  to believe that, if played correctly, addressing inequality may be a leaver which could make a more important difference, and more importantly, is one that could be implemented in the current circumstances.

Deforestation and climate change

With the link being drawn between deforestation and inequality, it is imperative to note that there is also an inextricable link with carbon emissions. As forests are natural carbon capture and storage machines, deforestation and forest degradation also impact climate change.  

Around 15% of human-made emissions are directly linked to deforestation, second only to fossil fuel combustion,explained PwC partner Celine Herweijer in an article written for the World Economic Forum (WEF). “More than half of deforestation is the result of the production of commodities such as soy, palm oil, pulp and paper, and cattle products.”  

“Brazil, for example, has committed to reducing its emissions by 37% by 2025: almost half of that will be contributed by tackling emissions from its land use and forestry sectors… The business case is clear. The opportunity for the financial sector to play a part in driving and integrating sustainable practices into forestry management is enormous.” 

However, according to the researchers at Bern, to truly tackle the issue at its core and confront deforestation in the Amazon whilst meeting Latin countries’ pledges to the Paris Agreement, inequality cannot be ignored from environmental or climate policies.