Work and Climate Change Report
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12/13/2017 - Issue #72
 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
Season's Greetings! All of us at Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change wish you a happy and safe holiday. We'll be back in your inbox on January 17, 2018.

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 World Bank and International Confederation of Trade Unions announce a partnership to promote Just Transition in the phase-out of coal-fired electricity
Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister is back on the international stage at the One Planet Summit in Paris, which is focusing on climate change financing – notably phasing out  fossil fuel subsidies, and aid to developing countries.
In a press release on December 12, Canada announced a partnership with the World Bank Group to accelerate the transition from coal-fired electricity to clean sources in developing countries, stating: “This work also includes sharing best practices on how to ensure a just transition for displaced workers and their communities to minimize hardships and help workers and communities benefit from new clean growth opportunities. The transition to a low-carbon economy should be inclusive, progressive and good for business. We will work together with the International Trade Union Confederation in this regard.” The World Bank Group announcement was briefer: “Canada and the World Bank will work together to accelerate the energy transition in developing countries and, together with the International Trade Union Confederation, will provide analysis to support efforts towards a just transition away from coal.” The ITUC Just Transition Centre hadn’t posted any announcement as of December 13. Continue reading →

Progress at COP23 as Canada’s Minister pledges to include the CLC in a new Just Transition Task Force
The National Observer was the only Canadian press outlet which attended COP23 in person. Their final report was: "Trump didn't blow up the climate summit: what did happen in Bonn?" General reaction was that COP23 met the fairly low expectations for its outcome, but progress was made on gender issues, First Nations rights, and agriculture. It was also the setting for the announcement by Canada and the United Kingdom of the Powering Past Coal Global initiative. As for the union assessment of COP23, the International Trade Union Confederation expressed concern for the slow progress in Bonn, but stated: “The support for Just Transition policies is now visible and robust among all climate stakeholders: from environmental groups to businesses, from regional governments to national ones.” And the  biggest winner on Just Transition was the Canadian Labour Congress, who pressed the Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change outside of formal negotiations and received her pledge for federal support for the newly-announced Just Transition Plan for Alberta’s Coal Workers, as well as a pledge to work with the Canadian Labour Congress to launch a task force to develop a national framework on Just Transition for workers affected by the coal phase-out, early in 2018. See the CLC press release “Unions applaud Canada’s commitment to a just transition for coal workers”. Continue reading →

First year progress report on the Pan-Canadian Framework lacks any mention of Just Transition
On December 9th, the Governments of Canada and British Columbia jointly announced the first annual progress report on the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The report summarizes the year’s policy developments at the federal and provincial/territorial level – under the headings pricing carbon pollution; complementary actions to reduce emissions; adaptation and climate change resilience; clean technology, innovation and jobs; reporting and oversight; and looking ahead. The government’s self-assessment is that “While good progress has been made to date, much work remains” – others are less congratulatory, including the Pembina Institute, in its own assessment: State of the Framework: Tracking implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Disappointingly, there is no use of the term “Just Transition” anywhere in the government’s report, nor any mention of the task force to develop a national framework on Just Transition, as reported by the Canadian Labour Congress in “Unions applaud Canada’s commitment to a just transition for coal workers”. Continue reading →

What happens to workers when wildfires and natural disasters hit?
Sadly, we are becoming  used to seeing headlines about the costs of fighting climate change-related wildfires, hurricanes, and floods.
 On December 5, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation in Texas released the results of a survey about the impacts of Hurricane Harvey. While most of the survey reports on the loss of homes and cars,  it also measures employment impacts: 46% of respondents reported that they or someone else in their household lost job-related income as a result of the storm – through fewer hours at work (32%), losing a job entirely (12%) or losing income from a small business or unpaid missed days (32%). And as so often is the case, income disruptions affected a greater share of Hispanic (65%) and Black (46%) residents compared to White residents (31%). As the world watches the catastrophic California wildfires in December 2017, Canadians remember the Fort McMurray wildfires in northern Alberta in 2016, ranked as the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history. The official cost of $3.58 billion by the Insurance Bureau of Canada was greatly exceeded by an estimate of $9.9 billion, reached when two economists from MacEwan University in Edmonton took into account indirect costs such as the expense of replacing buildings and infrastructure, lost profits and royalties in the oilsands and forestry industries, lost income for workers, and mental health counselling for workers and residents. Continue reading →  

A just clean energy transition for New York state – proposals include protection of pension benefits for displaced workers
On November 13, the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts published Clean Energy Investments for New York State: An Economic Framework for Promoting Climate Stabilization and Expanding Good Job Opportunities. The report examines the benefits of large-scale investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency for New York State, and proposes a Just Transition policy framework to support such clean energy investments.The authors examine the labour market and present detailed statistics about the compensation and benefits, unionization, educational qualifications, gender and race of the small percentage of the total state workforce who worked in fossil fuel dependent industries in 2014. They then propose a Just Transition program guaranteeing pensions and reemployment, as well as providing income, training and relocation support for workers. They also propose support for fossil-fuel dependent communities, primarily through channeling new clean energy investments to the affected communities, based on the  model of the Worker and Community Transition program that operated through the U.S. Department of Energy from 1994 – 2004. The authors provide cost estimates for their proposals and make policy recommendations, particularly concerning pension protection. Continue reading →

Do electric vehicles create good green jobs? An Amnesty International report on supply chains says "No"
A flurry of announcement concerning electric vehicles appeared in November – including the concept design for a Tesla electric truck, the Toronto Transit Commission plan to buy electric buses, and a new electric vehicle assembly plant in Ontario in 2018.
 Unnoticed in the enthusiasm for these announcements was a report released by Amnesty International on November 15: Time to Recharge: Corporate action and inaction to tackle abuses in the cobalt supply chain  which concludes: “Major electronics and electric vehicle companies are still not doing enough to stop human rights abuses entering their cobalt supply chains, almost two years after an Amnesty International investigation exposed how batteries used in their products could be linked to child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).” Tesla is ranked poorly in the Amnesty report, and has also been criticized for anti-union and discriminatory policies. Continue reading →


Site C Hydro Dam will go ahead after historic decision by B.C.’s NDP Premier
Bringing an end to years of controversy, in what NDP Premier Horgan called a “very, very divisive issue”, the British Columbia government announced on December 11 that it will proceed with construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam, on the grounds that it is too late to turn back. In a press release which blames “megaproject mismanagement by the previous government”, the government justifies its decision by saying that cancellation would result in “an immediate and unavoidable $4-billion bill – with nothing in return – resulting in rate hikes or reduced funds for schools, hospitals and important infrastructure.” For mainstream union reaction to the decision, see “Site C: What Happens Next?” in The Tyee (Dec. 11). The complex labour politics of Site C is summarized in “ Construction Unions Pressing for Completion of Site C”, which appeared earlier in The Tyee, (Nov. 24), and takes a deep dive into the ties between the NDP government and  the Allied Hydro Council of BC. First Nations are already applying for an injunction, and environmental groups call the decision a “betrayal.” Continue reading →

Climate change policy in B.C. must deal with controversies – Kinder Morgan, Site C, and more
In his November 30 article, “Where is B.C. headed on climate action?”, Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives begins with a bit of history – November 2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of the passage of  B.C.’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act, followed by B.C.’s carbon tax, the first in North America, in 2008. His overview then discusses climate change policy since the Liberal government and its Climate Leadership Team (CLT)  were replaced by the government of the New Democratic Party in Summer 2017. Specific issues raised: the new government may still be considering the development of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) on the north coast; an inadequate annual increase to the carbon tax of just $5 per tonne per year (instead of the $10 per tonne recommended by the CLT); the need for a public inquiry into fracking (as called for by the CCPA and 16 other organizations); and the need for leadership on more stringent regulation of methane emissions. The author concludes "... there is much left to be done on climate action in BC… We need an action plan commensurate with the urgency posed by climate change and the aspirations of leadership claimed by BC politicians.” Continue reading →

Despite another oil spill, Keystone XL pipeline is approved in Nebraska. Resistance is strong and resolute
On November 16, TransCanada Pipeline shut down the existing Keystone Pipeline to contain a spill in South Dakota, estimated at 210,000 gallons– the third in the area since operations began in 2010. Reports include “South Dakota Warns It Could Revoke Keystone Pipeline Permit Over Oil Spill” in Inside Climate News. On November 20, the Nebraska Public Service Commission granted approval to Keystone – but an approval which Anthony Swift at NRDC describes as a “pyrrhic victory” because the original proposed route through Nebraska was rejected, and the new alternative route approved – the Keystone Mainline Alternative route –  must now undergo new state and federal environmental approval processes. Other reaction to the news of the approval: from The National Observer; Alberta’s Calgary HeraldCouncil of CanadiansBold Nebraska (an alliance of landowners, environmental groups and First Nations), and from Common Dreams,” ‘This Fight Is Far From Over’ Groups Declare as Nebraska Clears Path for Keystone XL Construction”  – summarizing the responses of and the Sierra Club. Continue reading →

Ontario announces initiative re energy efficiency in hospitals, and updates Infrastructure Plan
press release on November 27 from Ontario’s Ministry of Health announced an  investment of $64 million through a Hospital Energy Efficiency Program, which will support 180 projects at 98 hospitals across the province, providing more efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting. The funds will be directed from the proceeds of cap and trade auctions, and are in addition to the $9 billion for new hospital projects already announced in the 2017 Budget statement, as part of Infrastructure spending. On November 28, the government released Building Better Lives, an update for 2017 about the Ontario Long Term Infrastructure Plan which was launched in 2014, and which integrates climate change priorities in infrastructure planning for public transit, transportation, schools and hospitals. Continue reading →

Saskatchewan’s new Climate Strategy maintains old positions: No to carbon tax, yes to Carbon Capture and Storage
Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy was released by the government of Saskatchewan on December 4, maintaining the province’s  position outside the Pan-Canadian Framework agreement  with this introductory statement: “A federal carbon tax is ineffective and will impair Saskatchewan’s ability to respond to climate change.” A summary of all the strategy commitments appears as  a “Backgrounder” from this link. The Climate Strategy document also states a commitment to: “determine the viability of extending carbon capture use and storage technology to remaining coal power plants while continuing to work with partners on the potential application for CCUS technology globally.” This global ambition was begun on December 1, when Saskatchewan signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming  to "share knowledge, policy and regulatory expertise in carbon dioxide capture, transportation, storage and applications such as enhanced oil recovery."  And by early 2018, SaskPower is required to make its recommendation on whether two units at the Boundary Dam will be retired, or retrofitted to capture carbon and storage (CCS) by 2020.
 The final decision will need to consider the economic implications for approximately 1,100 Saskatchewan coal workers, and isn’t expected until a replacement for Premier Brad Wall  has been chosen after his retirement in late January 2018. Continue reading →

Cities continue to fight climate change
The North American Climate Summit held in Chicago from December 4 to 6, 2017 brought together the mayors of 50 cities from Canada, Mexico, France, and Tanzania, to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The mayors signed the  Chicago Climate Charter, which is not legally binding but commits the municipalities to at least match the emissions reductions goals of their home countries, and sets out reporting mechanisms. U.S. cities in particular are keen to demonstrate their climate change-fighting resolve – many through the “We are Still In” coalition which formed after President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and which was very active at the COP23 meetings in Bonn. In November, the City of Vancouver updated its Renewable City Strategy, setting an interim 55% renewable energy target for 2030, which covers electricity, heating and cooling, and transport. Continue reading →

Corporate Climate Risk Disclosure needed to protect Pensions
To protect pensions, companies should be required to come clean on climate risk” writes Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada in an Opinion piece in the National Observer on November 27. Stewart reports that Greenpeace Canada has filed a formal request under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, for the Ontario government to review the need for mandatory disclosure of climate-related risks in corporations’ financial filings. The government’s response is expected by the end of 2017. This is the latest of recent and ongoing calls for increased corporate disclosure of the risks posed by climate change, to protect investors and financial stability. The issue has even made it to the conservative Report on Business of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, in “Business risk from climate change now top of mind for Canada’s corporate boards”. The article warns that Canada’s  stock markets are  particularly vulnerable to a potential “carbon bubble” in the valuations of fossil-fuel-dependent companies, given that the Toronto Stock Exchange is so heavily weighted with energy and mining companies and, on the TSX Venture Exchange, mining and oil and gas companies account for 68 per cent of the index. Continue reading →

Redesigning the fashion industry from linear to circular
In what is being called a revolutionary document, A New Textile Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future characterizes the current system of textile and clothing production as a “wasteful, linear system” which “leads to substantial and ever-expanding pressure on resources and causes high levels of pollution. Hazardous substances affect the health of both textile workers and the wearers of clothes, and plastic microfibres are released into the environment, often ending up in the ocean.” To improve the societal and environmental impacts of the industry, the report fleshes out the means to achieve four fundamental objectives. Benefits to consumers are emphasized, and benefits to workers seem to flow from a reduced exposure to the toxic chemicals used in manufacture. The report was released by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Circular Fibres Initiative, with Stella McCartney adding star power. 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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