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Work and Climate Change Report
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06/12/2019 - Issue #84
 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
This is the last issue of the Work and Climate Change Report until September. We wish everyone a summer of inspiration and rejuvenation.

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).
acwinfo@yorku.ca  | http://www.adaptingcanadianwork.ca/

298,000 workers in Canada’s clean energy sector in 2017 according to new Navius report
Released on May 23, Missing the Bigger Picture: Tracking the Energy Revolution 2019 summarizes research commissioned by Clean Energy Canada and conducted by Navius Research. The report emphasizes the healthy growth of Canada’s clean energy sector – which employed 298,000 people in 2017, representing 2% of Canadian employment. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of clean energy jobs grew by 2.2% a year, economic value grew by 4.8% per year (compared to 3.6% for the economy as a whole), and investment in the sector went up by 70%. The findings report includes “sector spotlights” for: electric vehicles, batteries and energy storage, wind power, and building control and HVAC systems. The accompanying, 118-page report explains the methodology and presents the details of employment, economic value, and investment. Quantifying Canada’s Clean Energy Economy: An assessment of clean energy investment, value added and jobs ranks “Clean transport” as the largest employer, with 171,000 jobs in 2017 – 111,000 of those in transit. Jobs in renewable and alternative energy supply grew from 54,000 to 60,000 between 2010 and 2017. The report also states that the clean buildings sector employed only 19,000 people in 2017, mostly in green architecture and construction services. Continue reading →

Are there lessons for Newfoundland in a Just Transition strategy for the U.K. Offshore oil industry?
Sea Change: Climate Emergency, Jobs and Managing the Phase-Out of UK Oil and Gas Extraction was released on May 15 by Oil Change International, in partnership with Platform and Friends of the Earth Scotland. The press release summary is here. The report examines the offshore oil and gas industry in the U.K., with special attention to the transition for workers and communities currently dependent on oil – making it highly relevant to Canadians, especially Newfoundlanders. Sea Change argues that with the right transition policies, clean industries could create more than three jobs for every North Sea oil job at risk, which can enable an “equivalent job guarantee” for every oil worker. Continue reading →

Climate change and health: more evidence of the dangers of extreme heat for workers
The Imperative of Climate Action to Protect Human health in Europe was released on June 3 by the European Academies Science Advisory Council, urging that adaptation and mitigation policies give health effects a greater emphasis, as well as proposing priorities for health policy research and data coordination in the EU. The report also acts as a comprehensive literature review of the research on the present and future health impacts of climate change in EU countries. It documents studies of direct and indirect health effects of extreme heat, forest fires, flooding, pollution, and impacts on food and nutrition. Although the report doesn’t highlight outdoor workers such as farmers and construction workers as a high risk group, it does weigh in on heat effects on labour productivity for indoor and outdoor workers. A related report in 2018, Extreme Heat and Unprotected Workers, stated that heat killed 783 workers in the U.S. and seriously injured nearly 70,000 between 1992 and 2017. The report was published by Public Citizen, a coalition of social justice groups and labour unions. They continue to campaign for a dedicated federal standard regarding heat exposure – most recently with a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor on April 26, 2019. Also in April, California released a draft standard: Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment which, if approved, would make California the first U.S. jurisdiction to cover both indoor and outdoor job sites. Continue reading →

Deep decarbonization is possible: Suzuki Foundation presents a litmus test for climate change policies in Canada’s 2019 election
The report, Zeroing in on Emissions: Charting Canada’s Clean Power Pathways, published by the David Suzuki Foundation on May 29 argues: “Responding to the urgency of climate change can feel overwhelming, but our research confirms we have the solutions and strategies needed to drive national actions and innovations to meet our climate commitments.” It is important to note that the commitment under consideration is reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent or more by 2050, and the study focuses only on energy policy, not all sectors of the economy. The report examines academic, government and business models and studies related to deep decarbonization for Canada, with special reference to the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, the Trottier Energy Futures Project and the Perspectives Énergétiques Canadiennes. Based on this review of expert research, recommendations are presented, in ten essential policy priorities: 1. Accelerate clean power; 2. Do more with less energy; 3. Electrify just about everything; 4. Free industry from emissions; 5. Switch to renewable fuels; 6. Mobilize money; 7. Level the playing field; 8. Reimagine our communities; 9. Focus on what really matters; and,10. Bring everyone along. The report discusses Just Transition briefly under the category of “Bring everyone along”, stating “Transition should be seen as part of a broader green economic development strategy that supports community economic development and diversification.” According to the press release, this report is meant to influence the discourse in the upcoming election. (June 2). Continue reading →

International clean energy experts discuss investment levels, zero emissions vehicles, building emissions, gender equality in Vancouver meetings
In the week of May 27, representatives from global government, industry, and NGO’s met as Canada hosted the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver. Several announcements were made against that backdrop:
  • Investment support for clean energy: The federal government announced it will contribute up to $30 million to Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada (BESC), a public-private initiative to support “cutting-edge companies to deliver game-changing clean energy innovations to the market.” A summary appears in “Canada launches homegrown version of Bill Gates-led clean energy fund”  in the National Observer (May 27).
  • Zero emissions vehicles: As part of the discussions on electrification of transportation at the CEM10, Canada became the first national government to endorse the Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero (Drive to Zero) campaign, with British Columbia and the City of Vancouver also signing on. Read the press release.
  • Gender Equality in Clean Tech: Over 100 organizations have now signed onto the Equal by 30 initiative, an international campaign begun in 2018. It “encourages companies and government to adopt gender-equal principles, advance the participation of women in the clean energy transition and take concrete actions to support women in the sector.” A summary of the Gender Diversity participants and events is here.
  • Hydrogen as a source of clean energy: A new “Hydrogen Initiative” was announced under the leadership of Canada, the United States, Japan, the Netherlands and the European Commission, with the International Energy Agency as co-ordinating body. The initiative is intended to drive international collaboration on policies, programs and projects to accelerate the commercial deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across all sectors of the economy, especially industrial and transportation applications.
  • Building efficiency: Heating and cooling strategies in the clean energy transition: Outlooks and lessons from Canada’s provinces and territories is a report released at the Clean Energy Ministerial meetings on May 27. It is the result of collaborative research between the International Energy Agency and the National Energy Board of Canada. Using Canadian provincial data, it examines energy demand patterns and energy policies regarding heating and cooling services in buildings, urging policies to move from natural gas to existing, cleaner technologies. The National Observer summarizes the report in “Cutting fossil fuels could save Canadians $24 billion a year by 2050”.
Continue reading →

Canadian nurses’ unions issue a call for action on the climate health emergency
The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) is the umbrella organization representing approximately 200,000 nursing and front-line health professionals in unions across Canada. At their Biennial Convention in Fredericton in June, CFNU released Climate Change and Health: It’s Time for Nurses to Act. This is a discussion paper which summarizes the well-established health impacts related to climate change in the Canadian environment – for example, heat stress, increased allergies and asthma, cardiorespiratory distress from air pollution due to wildfires, Lyme disease. It includes a special focus on mental health and anxiety impacts. The report concludes with six recommendations for nurses. Also at the convention, representatives passed Resolution #3, calling on the CFNU and its Member Organizations: … to recognize within their position statements that climate change is “a global crisis and health emergency”; …to support sustainable health care practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in health care settings; …to “engage with community stakeholders, such as the Canadian Labour Congress, in initiatives and campaigns that raise the public’s awareness about the serious health implications of climate change”; and to call on the federal and provincial governments to undertake the necessary policies to meet Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Paris Agreement). The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment is also actively promoting awareness of the health impacts of climate change and the role of health care professionals.  Continue reading →

U.S. Labour views on climate strikes and the Green New Deal
Speakers, listed here, addressed the issues of Just Transition, the Green New Deal, public ownership of energy production, and an appropriate role for labour in climate activism at the New York Labor History Association Annual Spring Conference on May 11, under the banner “Taking the Lead: Labor and Global Warming: Our History, Activism and Challenge”. “New Calls for a General Strike in the Face of Coming Climate Catastrophe” appeared in the Labor Press (May 13), summarizing some of the discussion, especially the statement by Bruce Hamilton, VP of the Amalgamated Transit Union, that a general strike “should never be taken off the table”. Reader responses to that statement are here. (Note that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for “a day of global action on climate change” on June 26 as part of their Climate Proof our Work campaign, and the Fridays for Future student strike movement has called for a worldwide general strike by adults and youth for September 20).

Union differences around the Green New Deal: On June 6, the Service Employees International Union made headlines with their press release announcing that the International Executive Board had passed a resolution in support of the Green New Deal. As pointed out by Joel Sternberg in "The Green New Deal- Be-labored?” in Resilience, the Association of Flight Attendants has also endorsed the Green New Deal, and a recent survey by Data for Progress shows 52 percent of current U.S. union members approve of the Green New Deal, 22 percent were opposed, 21 percent didn’t know about it, and five percent were neutral. On May 22, “The Green New Deal is fracturing a critical base for Democrats: unions” appeared in Vox, providing a broad overview of national and state-level examples. A more detailed discussion of the situation in California appeared in Politico on June 1, “Labor anger over Green New Deal greets 2020 contenders in California”. The article focuses on opposition to the Los Angeles Green New Deal announced on April 29, chiefly by California’s building trades unions, who fear job loss, and the costs members may face from higher gas taxes, as well as congestion pricing for tolls on freeways during rush hour. There is support for the Green New Deal in California; see other articles in the Green New Deal compilation by the Labor Network for Sustainability. In “The Green New Deal- Be-labored?” in Resilience (May 11), author Joel Stronberg describes the California divide in even greater detail and quotes a professor from Loyola Law School, who assesses that “the Green New Deal…divides the Democrats on a fault line, which is more of the elites against the working class Democrats who are concerned about losing their jobs.”

Continue reading →

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice vow to persist despite defeat of their resolution and snub by Jeff Bezos
Approximately 7,700 Amazon employees publicly signed their names to an employee-shareholder resolution calling for stronger climate change action by the company, as well as worker protection in situations related to extreme weather disasters. The entire Board opposed the resolution (and all other shareholder resolutions presented at the meeting), despite the strong employee support and the endorsement by two of the largest proxy advisory firms in the U.S., which cited the financial and reputational risks from being heavily dependent on cheap fossil fuels. “Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos challenged on climate change. Here’s how shareholders voted on it and other issues” in the Seattle Times is full, business-like news account of the meeting, including that Amazon intends to release its carbon footprint later in 2019, and that it intends to meet the net zero carbon emissions goals of the Shipment Zero initiative largely through direct emission cuts, not through buying carbon offsets. The group leading the climate resolution, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, issued their own press release about the meeting, which states: “Because the Board still does not understand the severity of the climate crisis, we will file this resolution again next year. And we will announce other actions in the coming months. We – Amazon’s employees – have the talent and experience to remake entire industries with incredible speed. This is work we want to do.” Follow further developments at the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice Twitter feed. Continue reading →

USW Workshop Guide – and other climate change training resources
The United Steelworkers Union in Canada produced a workshop guide, Climate Change and Just Transition: What will workers need?. The guide was piloted at the United Steelworkers National Health, Safety, Environment and Human Rights Conference in 2017, and released to the public in May 2019 by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change (ACW), which was a partner on the project. The 47-page guide is designed to lead union members through discussion topics and activities, including general introduction to climate change concepts and vocabulary, and how climate change contributes to the world of work, particularly in the forestry, mining, and transportation industries where USW membership is concentrated. The Guide also discusses Just Transition and the Canadian experience, as well as areas of action for unions: Collective Agreements; Political Lobbying; Green Procurement; Training; and Employment Insurance.
 
Other useful training and educational resources:

NEWS AND NOTES:

Canada’s new plastics initiatives and their impacts on jobs and emissions
As widely reported, Canada announced plans on June 10 to enact a ban on single-use plastics starting in 2021. No list of specific products was released, but the Government Backgrounder suggests shopping bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks will be included, and states that the full list of “harmful products” will be identified through a “science-based approach”. Although most news reports zeroed in on the “banning plastic straws” angle, the initiative covers much more, including shifting the management of recycling and waste from municipal governments to producers.  According to the National Observer, in “Bottle makers could pay under federal plastics plan”, the federal government claims that the combination of its proposed actions will create approximately 42,000 jobs, reduce 1.8 million tonnes of carbon pollution and “generate billions of dollars in revenue.” The issue of plastics pollution of land and water is only part of the problem – as documented in The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet  (May 2019), which calculates the climate costs through the life cycle of extraction and transport of fossil fuels; refining and manufacturing; managing waste; and plastic pollution in the environment.  Continue reading →

Canada’s Green Party and NDP prepare to fight the October election with newly-released Climate Change plans
On May 16, Canada’s Green Party released a five-page plan called Mission Possible: The Green Climate Action Plan , built on the foundation of the Green Party’s overall policy Vision . On May 31, the leader of the New Democratic Party released Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs 

Green Party Proposal: The Green Party’s Mission Possible Plan (press release is here), “incorporates all the requirements for economic justice, just transition, the guarantee of meaningful work, while also respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.” It endorses the Pact for a Green New Deal, and promises to go beyond it, stating: “Canadian Greens applaud their commitment and enthusiasm and wholeheartedly endorse their demands for decisive action on the climate emergency, mainly because we have been describing and promoting this exact thing sometime past forever.” Without using the term “Just Transition”, the recommended actions reflect a recognition of the need for jobs in the new greener economy, the role of re-skilling, and the need for a gradual transition for workers in the fossil fuel sector. The National Observer summary of the plan is here, and CBC summarizes it in “Greens call for a doubling of Canada’s carbon emissions reduction target”. The controversial element: Although the Greens oppose new fossil fuel projects and fracking in Canada and propose to end all foreign oil imports, the plan supports new pipelines to transport Alberta’s oil. They call for a shift for all Canadian bitumen from fuel to feedstock for the petrochemical industry by 2050, and state that “ pipelines would be needed to transport refined product (gasoline, propane, diesel) instead of diluted bitumen.”

New Democratic Party ProposalPower to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs was released by the NDP on May 31 – a plan which aims to reduce Canada’s emissions to 38 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, achieve net carbon-free electricity by 2030, and create at least 300,000 good jobs. The NDP tries to differentiate itself from the Green Party chiefly by its emphasis on jobs and workers, promising to create at least 300,000 good jobs in energy efficiency retrofits, affordable housing, renewable energy, infrastructure, and transit. Specifically, it pledges to make the Employment Insurance system more responsive to the realities of transition by making easier to qualify for EI, and giving workers the option of taking EI-based training before being laid off , and to receive EI if they leave a job to go back to school. The plan further promises to address injustice for Indigenous communities in training opportunities and education, as well as injustice for women, racialized Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and other under-represented groups for apprenticeships. The plan also pledges to create a framework for enshrining Community Benefits Agreements in federally-funded infrastructure projects. The United Steelworkers Union issued a press release calling the NDP plan “the most comprehensive environmental platform of any of the parties”… “This climate plan is worker-oriented and jobs-centred. … this plan specifically mentions working with labour and refers to the recommendations of the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities."

Continue reading →

New Alberta government all-in for oil and gas, beginning with repeal of carbon tax
The new UCP government of Alberta, led by Premier Jason Kenney, kicked off its legislative session agenda on May 22 with a Throne Speech promising to “show the world that Alberta is open for business by restoring investor confidence and re-establishing the province as a job-creating investment magnet.” The first legislation to be introduced, on May 22, was Bill 1, An Act to Repeal the Carbon Tax. The government press release claims that “Scrapping the carbon tax will free up nearly $1.4 billion of tax burden, create 6,000 jobs, save the average small business $4,500 annually and save Alberta families up to $1,150 a year.” The National Observer summary is here . And of course, there is also the issue that, by repealing Alberta’s own carbon tax, the government has made the province subject to the federal backstop carbon levy. Without the revenue stream of the carbon tax, energy efficiency programs initiated by the NDP government such as Energy Efficiency Alberta are now in jeopardy;. Other legislative business by the new Alberta government includes:
Continue reading →

Proposals to “Electrify Quebec” will bring cleaner transportation
On May 26, at the party conference of the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), Premier Francois Legault announced intentions to “electrify Quebec”, reduce oil consumption by 40 per cent by 2030, and reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5 per cent by 2030. According to a report from iPolitics, Legault stated “The greatest contribution Quebec can make to save the planet is by helping our neighbours replace their coal-fired, gas fired generators with clean hydroelectricity,” and he is working to increase hydro-electric exports to New York State. Regarding electrification of transportation, he proposed to extend Montreal’s electrified light rail network already under construction to the off-island suburbs; to complete a proposed extension of the Montreal’s subway; new tramways for Montreal and Quebec City; a commuter train link in Gatineau; and greater use of electric buses. Continue reading →

Montreal announces 2030 targets to phase out oil heating in buildings:
The city of Montreal is one of hundreds of Canadian municipalities which has declared a climate emergency  – and has been under flood emergency warnings throughout May. On May 6, in a press release, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante announced that the city is developing a plan to reach carbon neutrality for all municipal buildings by 2030, for all new buildings by 2030, as well as for all existing buildings, by 2050, and has earmarked $4 million by 2021 for the effort. A CBC report states that environmentalists are disappointed at the slow pace and weak level of ambition, and one of the key city councillors resigned, calling for stronger “war measures” against climate change, including a tax on meat, no airport expansion, and planting a half-million trees. The tree-planting proposal seems particularly urgent, given the heat wave deaths in Montreal in 2018 – described in “Life and Death under the Dome” (May 23, 2019) in the Toronto Star’s new special climate change series, Undeniable. The article describes how Montreal public health officials analysed the causes and patterns – identifying vulnerable populations and areas – and their call for massive greening of the city,including trees, roofs and architecture. On May 22, the Government of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities announced an investment of $2,777,960 in four green infrastructure projects in the Greater Montreal Area, including Laval. Most of the investment will go to infrastructure and re-naturalization through tree planting, to mitigate the heat island effect and flooding in the city. Continue reading →

Youth continue their slow battle through the courts for a livable climate: Updates for Environnement Jeunesse and Juliana
On June 6, lawyers presented an application to the Superior Court of Quebec on behalf of ENvironnement JEUnesse. The application seeks authorization to bring a class action against the Canadian government on behalf of Quebeckers aged 35 and under, on the grounds that the government is infringing on their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms by inadequate action to prevent climate change. ENvironnement JEUnesse is asking the Court to order the government to implement a greenhouse gas reduction target and the measures necessary to respect the group members’ fundamental rights, and to pay an amount equivalent to $100 per member of the class action. The application suggests that the money, an estimated $340 million, could be invested measures to address the climate crisis. The Court is now considering the application, with no date given for an expected decision.

Juliana vs. United States Government: In the case Juliana vs. United States, lawyers for children and young adults in the U.S. made their latest court appearance on June 6 before three judges of the Ninth Circuit. The case relies on the public trust doctrine, accusing the federal government of violating the children’s constitutional rights by failing to take action on climate change and continuing to promote and subsidize fossil fuels. The case originated in 2015 against the Obama government, and continues under the more hostile Trump administration, which argues that court doesn’t have the authority to order the political branches of government to act. Juliana has been called “the trial of the century” and is expected to be precedent-setting – accordingly, it is moving glacially and judges are being cautious, with no date set for a decision. Full documentation is compiled at the website of Our Children’s Trust; The New York Times summarized the latest developments.

Continue reading →

Are the media getting the message? Mainstream media begin to cover the climate emergency
The traditional media have been criticized for their indifference to the climate change issue – recently, in the Columbia Journalism Review, “The media are complacent while the world burns”, and in The Tyee, “Dear Journalists of Canada: Start Reporting Climate Change as an Emergency”. Both articles refer to a  Media Matters report that only 22 of the 50 largest newspapers in the U.S. even bothered to cover the landmark IPCC Report in October 2018. The article in The Tyee is presented as an open letter to media owners and journalists. The author gives examples from his own search of Canadian news media identifying problems of lack of climate change coverage, failure to provide local context about international stories, and failure to seek accountability in story coverage. Finally, he calls upon Canadian journalists “to do these five things: properly placecovercontextualize, and localize the biggest story of our time, and hold public and private institutions to account for their actions and inactions on climate change.” Here are examples of some improvements:
  • The Guardian: announced that it has updated its internal Style Guide to better reflect the reality and depth of the climate emergency. Now, instead of using the term “climate change” in its reports, the preferred terms will be “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown”. Other changes: “global heating” rather than “global warming” and “climate science denier” rather than “climate sceptic”.
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC): The CBC is cited by The Guardian as the furthest along amongst traditional news outlets (including the New York Times and Washington Post) in adopting The Guardian’s language: “Senior CBC management told staff they were able to use the terms “climate crisis” and “climate emergency” when covering the wide-ranging impacts of temperature rises around the world.”
  • Toronto Star: Began a new newsletter series in May, Undeniable: Canada’s Changing Climate
  • Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation: Announced a new international initiative in late April, the Covering Climate Now project, which aims to improve the media’s coverage of “the most urgent story of our time”. 
Continue 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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