|Final Report Released by Canada’s Task Force on Just Transition
The Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities was appointed by the Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change in April 2018. Their report, completed in December 2018, was released to the public on March 11, 2019: A just and fair transition for Canadian coal power workers and communities – in French, Une transition juste et équitable pour les collectivités et les travailleurs des centrales au charbon canadiennes. The Task Force provides ten recommendations for the workers and communities affected by the federal government’s 2016 policy decision to phase-out coal-fired electricity in Canada, as part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
The Foundational recommendations of the Task Force include a call to “embed just transition principles in planning, legislative, regulatory, and advisory processes to ensure ongoing and concrete actions throughout the coal phase-out transition.” In addition, there are recommendations that concern workers such as retraining, securing pensions, and create a comprehensive funding program to assist workers in securing a new job. Recommendations relating to communities include: identify, prioritize, and fund local infrastructure projects in affected communities, and establish a dedicated, comprehensive, inclusive, and flexible just transition funding program; meet directly with affected communities to learn about their local priorities, and to connect them with federal programs that could support their goals. Only $35 million was committed to Just Transition programs in 2018 but the Task Force estimates that “direct and indirect costs of the phase-out will stretch well into the hundreds of millions of dollars and the timeframe will go beyond 2030”. It calls for “additional and more substantial investments in Budget 2019 and budgets thereafter.” Canada’s next budget will be delivered on March 19 – providing a gauge of the government’s intentions re Just Transition for coal workers and their communities. Continue reading →
Architects, planners, and engineers working for climate change mitigation and adaptation
A joint statement, “Advancing Integrated Climate Action”, was released in Fall 2018 by the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, Canadian Institute of Planners, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and the Canadian Water & Wastewater Association, acknowledging their ethical and civic responsibilities to address climate change issues, undertaking to improve professional development, and calling on all levels of government and Indigenous leaders to show meaningful leadership in “advocating for integrated climate action and upholding commitments in the Paris Agreement.” The 3-page Joint Statement came together as a result of surveys and interviews with planning professionals in British Columbia, and provincial and national professional associations on the issue of “low carbon resilience (LCR).” This research was conducted by a team of researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, in cooperation with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) in Victoria. The final report of their research, Low Carbon Resilience: Best Practices for Professionals – Final Report, was released in December 2018, providing case studies, tools and resources. Continue reading →
A Roadmap to improve green building skills in Ontario
A report released by the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) at the end of January is called “an action plan to close the low-carbon building skills gap in the Ontario construction industry”. Trading Up: Equipping Ontario Trades with the Skills of the Future estimates that the skills gap is costing Ontario C$24.3 billion in annual economic activity, and limiting the province’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report identifies where shortages in low-carbon skills training currently exist, and defines specific actions that labour, governments, post-secondary institutions and industry organizations can take to optimize green building skills training. Although it focuses on the skilled trades, the report also calls for skills upgrading for designers, architects, engineers, buildings officials and buildings managers, highlighting that “Changes to the larger construction approach and acknowledgment of soft skills are necessary to deliver high-performing buildings. We therefore need to increase overall levels of ‘green literacy’.” Continue reading →
One more time – how best to train workers in green construction?
The U.K.’s Committee on Climate Change released a new report on February 21, U.K. Housing – Fit for the Future?, assessing how well U.K. housing is prepared for the impacts of climate change, including heat waves and flood risks. Energy use in Britain’s 29 million homes accounts for 14% of current GHG emissions and the report states that energy use in homes actually increased between 2016 and 2017, with many energy efficiency initiatives stalled and standards and policies weakened or not enforced. The report identifies 5 priorities and makes 36 recommendations to improve that performance, with a goal to reduce emissions by 24 % by 2030 from 1990 levels. One of the five priority areas needing urgent change is “the skills gap” for low-carbon construction. The report states: “Regular changes to key policies have led to uncertainty and poor focus on new housing design and construction skills in the UK. The UK Government should use the initiatives announced under the Construction Sector Deal to tackle the low-carbon skills gap." The report concludes that the U.K. cannot meet its present climate targets without major improvement in the housing sector.
Research by industry experts Linda Clarke, Colin Gleeson, and Christopher Winch from the Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment at University of Westminster, provide a different perspective in “What kind of expertise is needed for low energy construction?” which appeared in the journal Construction Management and Economics in 2017. The authors' proposed prescription for low energy construction was “a transformation of the existing structure of VET provision and construction employment and a new curriculum based on a broader concept of agency and backed by rigorous enforcement of standards. This can be achieved through a radical transition pathway rather than market-based solutions to a low carbon future for the construction sector.” Continue reading →
The Green New Deal and Labour
The Labor Network for Sustainability in the U.S. published a new Discussion Paper written by Jeremy Brecher in late February titled 18 Strategies for a Green New Deal: How to Make the Climate Mobilization Work. The paper states that initial discussion of the Green New Deal resolution was rightly focused on values and goals, but this Discussion paper explains and consolidates many of the goals and strategies which have been proposed before by LNS, including: protect low-income energy consumers and empower communities; mobilize labour and leave no worker behind; ensure worker rights and good union jobs, and yes, provide a “job guarantee.” The Labor Network for Sustainability has worked to build solidarity behind the Green New Deal, and on February 26, published a Special Issue of their newsletter, which profiles the GND endorsements and initiatives of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council in California, SEIU Locals 32BJ in New York, SIEU Local 1021 in SanFrancisco, and the Business Manager of IBEW Local 103 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, along with other examples and resources.
Other responses to the Green New Deal include:
Continue reading →
U.S. Labour unions’ climate change policies explained
Labour Unions and Green Transitions in the USA: Contestations and Explanations is a new report by Dimitris Stevis, released on February 27 by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change (ACW) project. Professor Stevis, from Colorado State University, identifies and provides details about 50 climate change-related initiatives by labour unions in the U.S., up to May 1, 2018. In his own words: “This report outlines the deep cleavages with respect to climate policy but also argues that the views of unions are more complex and contradictory than the opposition-support dichotomy. Additionally, it seeks to understand what explains the variability in union responses to climate change and policy. What can account for the contradictions evident amongst and within unions?” Continue reading →
U.S. energy employment report shows job growth in oil and gas, energy efficiency; decline in solar jobs
The U.S. Energy and Employment Report 2019 edition (USEER) was released by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the think tank Energy Futures Initiative on March 6, providing detailed statistics about the energy workforce and the industrial sectors in which they work. The 2019 USEER reports on the “Traditional Energy Sector” (composed of fuels; electric power generation; and electric power transmission, distribution and storage) as well as the energy efficiency sector. Those four sectors combined to employ approximately 6.7 million Americans, or 4.6 percent of the workforce, with an employment growth rate of almost 7 percent in 2018, outpacing the economy as a whole. The report also includes statistics on the motor vehicle and parts industry, (excluding automobile dealerships and retailers) – which grew at a rate of 3%, employing over 2.53 million workers. Of these, almost 254,000 employees worked with alternative fuels vehicles, including natural gas, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, all-electric, and fuel cell/hydrogen vehicles, an increase of nearly 34,000 jobs. Noteworthy trends include: the number of jobs in solar decreased by 4.2% in 2018 (the latest Solar Foundation Census reported a decrease of 3.2% for 2017- 2018); Oil and natural gas employers added the most new jobs in the fuel sector, nearly 51,000, most of which were in mining and extraction; the energy efficiency sector produced the most new jobs of any energy sector—over 76,000—with 2,324,866 jobs in total, and an anticipated growth rate of approximately 8%. Continue reading →
NEWS AND NOTES:
Generational justice and climate change: we can all strike for our future
The constitutional challenge by the government of Saskatchewan to the Canadian government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act of 2018 is underway –hearings were held in February and a decision is pending, with a similar challenge by Ontario to be heard in April. The main purpose of the court challenges is to nullify the federal government’s national carbon tax program, the signature issue of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. But the case has also given youth activists an opportunity to address the intergenerational justice of Canada’s climate change policies, as described in “Canada obliged to protect future generations from climate change, test case on carbon tax hears” (Feb. 20) in The Narwhal. This issue of intergenerational justice was also addressed by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood in “The all too ugly truth: Climate change is generational genocide”, published in Behind the Numbers in February. The main point of Mertins-Kirkwood’s article is to urge us all to act: First, by recognizing and acknowledging how we have contributed to the problem; Second, by making climate change “a central concern for everyone in your life”; and third, by supporting those fighting for a better future, through donations, but also by amplifying youth voices “online and beyond”. Youth in at least 22 communities in Canada are participating in the Global Fridays for the Future climate Strike on March 15. As George Monbiot wrote in Resilience, “Young climate strikes can win their fight. We must all help”. Continue reading →
NEB rules that Trans Mountain pipeline is in public interest, despite marine dangers and ignoring climate impacts
On February 22 Canada’s National Energy Board released the Report of its Reconsideration process (here in French), and for the second time, approved construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline despite significant impacts. The NEB states: “…Project-related marine shipping is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern resident killer whale. The NEB also found that greenhouse gas emissions from Project-related marine vessels would likely be significant.” The NEB Reconsideration process was triggered by an August 2018 decision of the Federal Court of Appeal, which ordered the NEB to re-examine especially the potential impacts of marine shipping on marine life, and the potential damages of an oil spill. The Reconsideration report has resulted in 16 new recommendations on those issues, along with the existing 156 conditions. Continue reading →
Public opinion polls: on carbon tax, pipelines, and a growing fear of climate change around the world
On February 8, Clean Energy Canada released results from an online survey of 2,500 Canadian adults, conducted by Abacus Data. Across Canada, 35% support a federal carbon tax, 37% say they are open to considering it, and 28% oppose it – with the highest opposition from Alberta (41%). When told that revenues would be rebated to households (the Carbon Incentive Plan), support climbed by 9 points – and even more in Alberta. The Angus Reid Institute also found that support for a carbon tax had increased nationally after the announcement of the federal Carbon Incentive plan.from 43% in July 2018 to 54% in October. New survey results are expected to be released in winter 2019.
Climate change: Other recent Angus Reid analysis of Canadians’ overall attitudes on climate change was released on November 30 in “Dueling realities? Age, political ideology divide Canadians over cause & threat of climate change”. Only 9% of Canadians do NOT perceive climate change as a threat, with 55% of 18 to 34-year-olds said they believe climate change to be a very serious threat. Yet a survey released in January 2019, “Six-in-ten Canadians say lack of new pipeline capacity represents a crisis in this country” details the polarized opinions about oil pipelines, showing that 53% of Canadians surveyed support both the Energy East and TransMountain pipeline projects, and six-in-ten say the lack of new pipeline capacity constitutes a “crisis”. Opinions are divided by region, ranging from 87% in Alberta and 74% in Saskatchewan seeing a crisis, versus 40% in Quebec. In an international perspective, a December 2018 national survey in the United States, Climate Change in the American Mind, reveals that 46% of Americans polled have personally experienced the effects of global warming, and a majority are worried about harm from extreme events in their local area. In Australia, one in three women are re-considering having children, according to a survey released in February by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the 1 Million Women organization. Continue reading →
With an election coming, updates on Alberta energy policy
With a provincial election looming large in Alberta, the Pembina Institute released a new publication, Energy Policy Leadership in Alberta, on March 8, with this introduction: “Like most Albertans, we want to see the responsible development of oil and natural gas. The province’s policy and regulatory environment must ensure that our resources are produced in a manner that is both economically and environmentally sustainable. Alberta’s future as an energy provider is directly linked to an ability to demonstrate a demand for its products in a decarbonizing world. With the right policies, Alberta can be competitive, attract investment, spur innovation and remain a supplier of choice in the global energy market.” The 17-page document, intended to reach across political partisan thinking, continues by outlining 23 policy recommendations “to unleash innovative technologies, deploy renewables, promote energy efficiency, continue greening our fossil fuel industries, and reduce climate pollution.” The Alberta government itself is active in getting out its story about its energy policies. Most recently, the Alberta Climate Leadership Progress Report was released in March 2019, documenting the fiscal year of April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 – the first year Alberta collected a carbon levy. The report states that a total of $1.19 billion of carbon revenue was invested back into the economy that year, and a press release of March 7. Continue reading →
B.C. Budget delivers $902 million to fund Clean B.C. initiatives
The government of British Columbia tabled its Budget on February 19- officially detailed in Making Life Better- A Plan for B.C. 2019/20 — 2021/22. As summarized by the National Observer article, “B.C. provincial budget funds nearly $1 billion for climate action”, it included $902 million over the next three years to support the 2018 Clean B.C. Plan. Reaction has generally been positive – for example, from Clean Energy Canada. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C. Office, in “Nine things to know about the B.C. Budget” commends the $223 million which is budgeted to increase the climate action tax credit for low- and middle-income earners, but says, “action needs to be ramped up further—and fast”. Finally, the Pembina Institute response is generally positive, though it calls for an independent panel to publicly monitor accountability and report on progress annually, echoing the Op-Ed “wish list” it had released before the budget was handed down that stated, “B.C.’s Climate Change Accountability Act needs more teeth.” Other key items which Pembina had called for include stronger regulations than those announced in January to limit methane pollution, and a strategy to use clean electricity to power the controversial LNG production which threatens to make the province’s GHG emissions targets unreachable. Continue reading →
Reports on the future of Ontario’s auto industry: one by experts, one by the Ontario government
In The Future of Canada’s Auto Industry, released on February 26 by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, co-authors Charlotte Yates and John Holmes assess the sector’s current state – focusing on trade agreements and technological innovation – and recommend a suite of policies to boost competitiveness and avoid plant closures, especially timely in the aftermath of the “shocking” closure announcement of GM Oshawa. The authors acknowledge the importance of the future trend to electric and autonomous vehicles, and propose a green industrial policy with targeted supports for companies that commit to building green vehicles sustainably. They point out current shortages of skilled workers and the aging workforce in the industry, and call for a workforce development plan that will invest in engineering, technical and data analytic skills, including trades and apprenticeships and income supports for skills retraining towards a just transition for workers. A summary article appeared in the Toronto Star on February 26, “Electric, driverless vehicles key to survival of Canada’s auto industry.”
Ontario government discussion paper recommends less red tape and “pro-jobs labour reforms”: In a second report, the same issues are discussed but with much different emphasis and level of analysis. The Ontario government’s discussion paper, Driving Prosperity: the Future of Ontario’s Automotive Sector was released in February under the “Open for Business” mandate. The government describes the paper as: “… a 10-year vision for how industry, the research and education sector, and all three levels of government, can work together to strengthen the auto sector’s competitiveness and bring new jobs to the province.” Although the government report acknowledges technological disruption and trade issues as challenges, there is no direct mention of the GM Oshawa plant closing – and in fact, most of the statistics provided are from 2017. The issue of retraining and skills upgrading is raised in the general context of changing technologies. Continue reading →