Work and Climate Change Report
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01/16/2019 - Issue #79
 Work and Climate Change Report
Green transitions for Canadian work and workplaces:
Research news and updates
ACW Director: Carla Lipsig-Mummé                                  WCR Editor: Elizabeth Perry

The Work and Climate Change Report is a project of Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change: Canada in International Perspective. ACW is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).  |

Canada: the year past and the battle over carbon pricing in the year ahead
The Energy Mix Yearbook Review for 2018 is undoubtedly the most thorough and informed review of 2018 climate issues for Canadians. It compiles its newsletter coverage of 2018 stories and adds context and analysis, as well as a multitude of links to further reading. The sections of exceptional interest include “Jobs and Just Transition: Renewables and Efficiency Jobs Surge while Fossil Employment Sags“; “Fossils go for Broke” and “Canada’s Contradiction: Low-Carbon Leader or Perpetual Petro-State?”. Other useful reports, easily overlooked because of the timing of their release on December 20, include the Second Annual Synthesis Report regarding the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Action, 2018 Canada’s Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollutant Emissions Projections Report, and the Clean Fuel Standard Regulatory Design Paper.

The Battle over carbon pricing in the year ahead: The 
federal government has not backed down on its determination to impose a carbon pricing policy across all Canadian jurisdictions in 2019, despite resistance and constitutional challenges led by the premiers of Saskatchewan and Ontario. In provinces who have opposed the federal plan ManitobaSaskatchewanNew Brunswick and Ontario –  the federal backstop fuel charge will be imposed starting in April 2019, sweetened by a “Climate Action Incentive”, whereby all carbon revenue collected by the federal government will go directly back to people in the provinces from which it was generated. Saskatchewan filed its challenge to the constitutionality of the federal price on carbon pollution in April 2018; the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal announced that it will hear the case in February 13 and 14, 2019. A separate case was filed by the Government of Ontario and will be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal in April 2019. Continue reading → 

Canada at COP24: Summary and reaction
Summary: After a dramatic extension of negotiations, the Katowice Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP24) concluded with the adoption of the Katowice Climate Package on Saturday December 16. The meetings had brought together over 22,000 participants, including nearly 14,000 government officials, over 7,000 representatives from UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society organizations, and 1,500 members of the media. IISD Reporting Services provides an overview summary of accomplishments, and a 34-page compilation of official decisions. For a more readable general overview, the UNFCCC summarizes and links to the highlights in a release on December 14, including reports and developments of civil society participants. Next steps for the international negotiators: Another round at COP 25 in Chile in November 2019. In preparation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will convene a Climate Summit in New York City in September 2019.

Canada at COP 24: Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change pledged to improve Canada’s emission reduction targets on December 5 before she travelled to Katowice, and once there, signed on to the statement of the “High Ambition Coalition”, pledging to enhance our Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement by 2020. 

Reaction: Recognizing the difficulty of achieving any level of agreement in the politically fraught atmosphere of 2018, reaction in Canada and internationally was generally positive and aimed to put the best light possible on the failure to resolve other points, such as more ambitious GHG reduction targets. Canadian reactions include: “COP24 delivers progress, but nations fail to heed warnings of scientists” (Dec. 15) from the Climate Action Network Canada; “The Hard Work Starts Now as COP Delivers Incomplete Rule Book, Low Ambition” from the Energy Mix (Dec. 18); “Environmental activists frustrated COP24 deal not strong enough” at CBC; and from Greenpeace Canada “COP24 ends without firm promises to raise climate action and ambition.”  

Regarding Just Transition: Canada, along with 40 other jurisdictions, was a signatory to the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration put forth by host country Poland. In the Climate Action Network Canada  press release at the conclusion of COP24, Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress is quoted by Climate Action Network as saying: “Canada’s trade unions applaud Canada and other parties for signing on to the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration. We hope to see a commitment to a just transition that is tied to human rights and helps drive a more ambitious climate action plan designed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.” The Environment and Climate Change Minister did not release the recommendations of the federal Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities, although she joined the Canadian Labour Congress and the Just Transition Centre at the side event, Unions in Action on Just Transition. Continue reading →

Canadian press coverage of pipelines lacks workers’ voices
Jobs vs the Environment? Mainstream and alternative media coverage of pipeline controversies  examines how the press treats the relationship between jobs and the environment, and how frequent and influential are the voices of workers and labour unions. The analysis is detailed and makes many interesting observations. Briefly, the authors conclude that both mainstream and alternative media frequently reinforce the assumption that there is a trade-off between environmental protection and job creation. Though alternative media are more critical of pipeline projects and provide more of the perspectives of Indigenous people and environmentalists, the authors conclude that  “neither corporate nor alternative media gave much voice to the perspectives of workers and their unions.” The authors are Robert A. Hackett, a professor emeritus, and Philippa R. Adams, a PhD student, both from the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, and published by the Corporate Mapping Project. Continue reading →

Green New Deal – an opportunity for the U.S. and for Labour
As the U.S. Congress returned for its 116th Session in January 2019, newly-elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal have become the symbols of the “freshmen” class in Washington. The term is now everywhere – as shown by the Twitter analysis in “What’s the Deal with the Green New Deal” from the Energy Institute at Haas, University of California at Berkeley. More substantially, the article critiques the economic, job creation proposals in the Green New Deal proposal, as does economist Edward B. Barbier in “How to make the next Green New Deal work” in on January 1. Jeremy Brecher and Joe Uehlein of the Labor Network for Sustainability write “The Green New Deal provides a visionary program for labor and can provide a role for unions in defining and leading a new vision for America” in “12 Reasons Labor Should Demand a Green New Deal” in Portside. They conclude with a long list of Labour goals for any Green New Deal and suggestions for how unions can support a Green New Deal. Could there be a Canadian version of the Green New Deal? The idea is discussed in the National Observer, “Canada needs its own Green New Deal. Here’s what it could look like,” and in an Opinion piece in The Tyee by Matt Price, “Unions Should Go Big on a Green New Deal for Canada”. Continue reading →

Growth and diversity in the U.S.clean energy industry
Two new reports foresee employment growth in the U.S. renewable energy industry – despite the chilling effect of the tariffs on solar equipment imposed by the Trump administration, as described in a Solar Energy Industry Association press release in December. The first study, Clean Energy sweeps across rural America (November 2018) by the Natural Resources Defence Council examines job growth in wind, solar, and energy efficiency in rural regions throughout the Midwest U.S., and finds that the number of clean energy jobs grew by 6 percent from 2015 to 2016 (a higher rate than the economic in general), to a total of nearly 160,000 in 2017. A second report models the impact of replacing Colorado’s coal plants with a mix of wind and solar backed by battery storage and natural gas. This report was prepared by consultants Vibrant Clean Energy and commissioned by energy developer Community Energy Inc., and forecasts job impacts under three scenarios (keeping coal plants to 2040, gradually retiring coal plants, and retiring all coal plants in 2025). Also, the Solar Energy Industries Association issued a press release in early December, highlighting its 2018 initiatives to improve gender equity and diversity – including the creation of the Women’s Empowerment Initiative, and a Memorandum of Understanding to boost recruitment from the 101 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S. Continue reading →

Can unions deliver good green jobs at Tesla?
The “Driving a Fair Future” website has documented the complaints against Tesla for years – including an analysis of Tesla injury rates between 2014 and 2017 at its Freemont California plant, which showed that injuries were 31% higher than industry standards. In June 2018, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board began to hear some of the workers’ complaints of safety violations and anti-union harassment, with the United Auto Workers representing them. Most recently, in December 2018, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Steelworkers began a partnership unionization campaign involving 300 production and maintenance employees at the Tesla solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York. Two themes have emerged in the saga of Tesla’s bad labour relations: 1. how can the apparently “green jobs” become decent, good jobs? and  2. would unionization at Tesla give a toehold at other precarious Silicon Valley workplaces such as Google, Amazon, and their like? Continue reading →

Economists weigh in on deceptive carbon pricing messages
Economist Brenda Frank contributes to the ongoing battle of ideas about carbon pricing in Canada with his January 9 blog: “Carbon pricing works even when emissions are rising”. Frank begins: “An old, debunked argument against carbon taxes has flared up recently: If total emissions aren’t falling, the tax must not be working. Let’s quash that myth.” He cites recent studies, such as “The Impact of British Columbia’s Carbon Tax on Residential Natural Gas Consumption” (in Energy Economics, Dec. 2018), as well as the extensive carbon pricing reports produced by the Ecofiscal Commission, most recently Clearing the Air: How carbon pricing helps Canada fight climate change (April 2018). The conclusion: carbon pricing is more “complicated than something you can fit in a tweet”, and complex analysis demonstrates that it does work. Marc Hafstead, U.S. economist and Director of the Carbon Pricing Initiative pursues a similar theme in “Buyer Beware: An Analysis of the Latest Flawed Carbon Tax Report”Continue reading →

Economists debate decarbonization: optimistic and pessimistic scenarios
debate forum, Is Green Growth Possible? was hosted by the Institute for New Economic Thinking in December, consisting of papers by economists debating whether catastrophic global warming can be stopped while maintaining current levels of economic growth. The arguments are summarized for the non-economist in “The Case for ‘conditional optimism’ on climate change” by David Roberts in Vox. Economists may be interested in the full papers, which include “The Road to ‘Hothouse Earth’ is Paved with Good Intentions” and “Why Green Growth is an Illusion”, both by Enno Schröder and Servaas Storm;The Inconvenient Truth about Climate Change and the Economy” by Gregor Semieniuk, Lance Taylor, and Armon Rezai, which summarizes and analyzes the October 2018 IPCC report, Global Warming of 1.5 °C; and "Conditional Optimism: Economic Perspectives on Deep Decarbonization", by Michael Grubb which counters the arguments by Schröder and Storm. Continue reading →



Agreement reached between RCMP and Wet’suwet’en First Nation protesters after arrests in B.C.
On January 7, the headlines began screaming as the RCMP began to enforce an injunction granted by B.C.’s Supreme Court, arresting fourteen members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The Wet’suwet’en built a fortified barrier on a remote forest service road to block construction workers from TC Energy (formerly TransCanada Corp.) and their pipeline subsidiary Coastal GasLink. The company maintains that they have signed agreements with all First Nations along the pipeline route, but those agreements have been made with elected chiefs and councils of the five Wet’suwet’en bands. The hereditary chiefs maintain that the agreements do not apply to traditional lands. Rallies in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en occurred across Canada. An “uneasy peace” was reached between the RCMP and the Wet’suwet’en protesters on January 9 
to avoid a second RCMP raid on the protest camp, allowing workers access to the Coastal GasLink pipeline construction site. Construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline is certainly not settled, not only because of the issue of Wet’suwet’en permission to build on hereditary lands, but also there is a dispute over whether or not the pipeline falls under provincial or federal jurisdiction – an issue to be addressed by the National Energy Board in April. Read Andrew Nikoforuk in “Is Coastal GasLink an Illegal Pipeline?” in The Tyee (Jan. 11) or “Coastal GasLink pipeline permitted through illegal process, lawsuit contends” in The Narwhal. Continue reading → 

Canadian youth continue their climate strikes in frigid January weather
Children in Canada and around the world continue to demand climate action from their nations’ policy leaders, following the example of the now-famous Greta Thunberg. In the first week of January 2019, according Greta’s Twitter feed, climate strikes were held in “South Africa, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Czech Rep, Uganda, Nigeria, Faroe Islands, Italy and many more”. As you would expect, social media plays a huge part in the campaigns, centred on the #Fridays for Future Facebook page and @fridaysforfuture Twitter account. In Canada, Twitter accounts to watch are from @Sophia Mathur, (the 11-year old Sudbury girl who was the first to join the international campaign – profiled here); @Student Climate Activist, and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, both from Winnipeg, Manitoba; Toronto Climate Future from Toronto and the GTHA , also with a Facebook page here. The Citizens Climate Lobby is hosting an interactive map to track climate strikes around the world, and The Climate Pledge Collective offers free resources to help others organize FridaysforFuture events. And another Canadian youth group to watch: PowerShift: Young and Rising, who are gathering in Ottawa on February 14 - 18. Continue reading →

Canada joins the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
Canada officially became a member of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)  on January 9th, on the eve of the 9th Session of the Assembly in Abu Dhabi, where 1,200 delegates from more than 160 governments, the private sector and civil society met. IRENA describes itself as: “an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy." Canada’s membership brings to 160 the number of countries participating in IRENA, and will make it easier for Canadians to place their renewable energy development in an international context, by inclusion in such flagship publications, as the Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review. Continue reading →

Review of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan and carbon levy; updates on renewables and methane regulations
Environmental Defence released a report in December 2018, Carbon Pricing in Alberta: A review of its success and impacts. According to the report, Alberta’s carbon levy, introduced in 2017 as part of the broader Climate Leadership Plan, has had no detrimental effect on the economy, and in fact, all key economic indicators (weekly consumer spending, consumer price index,and gross domestic product) improved in 2017. The report also documents how the carbon levy revenues have been invested. The conclusion: the Climate Leadership Plan and its carbon levy is off to a good start, but improvement is needed on promised methane reduction regulations, and the regulations to enforce the legislated cap on oil sands emissions need to be released. Since the publication of the Environmental Defence report, Alberta’s government made policy announcements supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as policies supporting the oil and gas industry. On December 13, the government released new, final regulations governing methane; the Alberta Environmental Law Centre published a summary hereContinue reading → 
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Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) is a project of the Work in a Warming World (W3) research programme funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
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