Thursday, June 14, 2012

SIO questions proposed changes to environmental regulation

The Social Investment Organization is expressing its concern over proposed changes to federal environmental law contained in Bill C-38. The SIO believes this package of changes may serve to discourage investment in certain resource projects by calling into question the legitimacy of environmental approvals on such projects, the organization said in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The SIO says it recognizes the importance of natural resource projects to the Canadian economy and supports efforts to enhance the efficiency of the regulatory process. However, regulatory oversight must be thorough and credible, the SIO adds.

“For an environmental regulatory regime to benefit responsible long-term investors it must be rigorous and effective in terms of environmental protection as well as efficient in delivering decisions. Inadequate environmental regulation creates serious long-term financial risk and has the potential to discourage investment,” said Eugene Ellmen, Executive Director of the Social Investment Organization.

The SIO also expressed concern that the proposed changes to the federal environmental regulatory regime have been included within an omnibus budget. “Given the long-term environmental, social and financial impacts of major resource projects, the SIO does not believe that the government has provided an adequate forum for debate or input from investors and other key stakeholders.”

“Despite the fact that Bill C-38 is expected to be passed by Parliament today, we believe that such consultation is necessary to demonstrate that any enhanced efficiency in the environmental review process is not achieved at the expense of environmental protection,” the letter concludes.

In a separate release also issued today, the SIO announced its support for the Natural Capital Declaration and the Convention on Corporate Sustainability Reporting, two key proposals to be discussed next week at conferences leading up to Rio+20, and the Rio+20 summit itself.

“In the 20 years since the original Earth Summit, more and more attention is being paid to the role of finance and investment in sustainable development,” said Ellmen. “These two initiatives would help to move the globe toward a vision of sustainable investment by encouraging transparency and accountability on environmental, social and governance issues.”

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