Work and Climate Change Report
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12/12/2018 - Issue #78
 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 16, 2019.

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).  |

Talking Just Transition in the heart of coal country: COP24 delegates gather in Katowice, Poland
Representatives of almost 200 nations are meeting at the 24th annual Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland from December 3 to 17. Their goal is to negotiate a “rulebook” to turn the Paris Agreement pledges of 2015 into reality – basically, trying to find agreement on a host of implementation details so that the world can limit warming to 2, preferably 1.5 degrees C. With Poland as the host country and the location of the meetings in the centre of the country’s coal region, it was inevitable that Just Transition would have a high profile at COP24. The first day of the meetings at the Polish Pavilion was devoted entirely to discussion of the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration which has been signed by Poland’s President and heads of 44 other countries. The Declaration states that social approval of changes is essential for the transition to a low-carbon economy and the social security of workers in affected communities is the first and foremost policy goal. On the same day, December 3, IndustriALL Global Union and IndustriAll European Trade Union issued a joint declaration demanding a Just Transition for workers

Launched at COP24: Just Transition: Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low Carbon World, published by the Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC), part of the U.N. Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD). It focuses on Brazil, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, the United States, and Canada – with contributions from ACW researcher, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. The report discusses how differently Just Transition has been framed and provides case studies of how it is being implemented in the six countries.

What will Canada do at the COP24? In advance of leaving for COP24, the Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna pledged that Canada will set more ambitious GHG emissions targets when the Paris Agreement begins in 2020 –  which is a good thing since recently released data from the Global Carbon Project shows Canada is one of the world’s top ten polluters, and the current target of reducing emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 is generally considered insufficient (even if we were to meet it). Continue reading →

Week 2, which runs from December 10 to 17th, has seen the arrival of political leaders, including Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna. An interview with McKenna on her first day in Katowice appears in the National Observer, McKenna says climate targets could be law in future”. One of the issues addressed in the interview: a new report from and Environmental Defence which shows how oil and gas emissions in Canada are rising, and documents examples of how oil and gas companies have influenced Canada’s climate policies. 

From an international business view: Climate Change and the Just Transition: An Investor Guide was released on December 10 by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, in partnership with the the Initiative for Responsible Investment at the Harvard Kennedy School. The International Trade Union Confederation is also listed as a partner in this publication. The Guide endorses the need for Just Transition and illustrates a review of academic research and reveals the viewpoints of the financial community on the value of Just Transition. The release of the report coincides with the release of a Global Investor Statement  by some of the world’s largest pension funds, asset managers and insurance companies, which calls for governments to phase out thermal coal power, put a meaningful price on carbon, and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Trade union perspectives: A series of meetings were co-organized by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED), Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA)Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung-New York Office, the UK’s Public and Commercial Services UnionFriends of the Earth Europetransform! europe. The Agenda of the meetings is here; discussion focused on the TUED discussion paper written by Sean Sweeney and John Treat, When “Green” Doesn’t “Grow”: Facing Up to the Failures of Profit-Driven Climate Policy.  It concludes with the observation that at the moment, everyone is being left behind. “This is not a scenario that unions can accept. Only a coordinated, public-goods approach allows us to escape the contradictions of commodified energy systems that pit some workers against others.” In contrast, away from the official agenda, on December 6 the Polish trade union Solidarność signed a joint declaration with the U.S. Heartland Institute, aligning itself with the climate denying group and rejecting climate science. For more COP24 News from a trade union perspective, read a blog by Philip Pearson appear in “Breaking News” at the Greener Jobs Alliance website or the COP24 Blog by IndustriALL.

Voices from the youth:Thousands Protest at U.N. Climate Summit in Coal-Heavy Poland, Facing Riot Police & Intimidation” was posted by Democracy Now, on December 10, and Amy Goodman interviewed Swedish teenager and “climate hero” Greta Thunberg on December 11. December 8 was officially dedicated to Youth voices, with Greta being the most publicized, but certainly not alone. Last words to Greta and the young people she represents: “… we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future,” …. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge.” And from video of a speech posted by the UNFCCC, she states: “The first thing I have learned is that you’re never too small to make a difference.” Continue reading →
Position paper committed to centrality of unions in Just Transition and green industrial policy
Working Together for a Just Transition is a brief new position paper by the U.K.’s New Economics Foundation (NEF), in association with the London Office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The report was released on November 14, to launch a new, multi-year “programme of work” on just transition. Some highlights: Low carbon industrial policy, if done well, offers “an opportunity to deliver pioneering models for wider systemic reform – power, democracy and ownership – that would perhaps be impossible without that sense of urgency.” The report cites the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission, established in September 2018, as “an exciting model” which the U.K. should follow. Continue reading → 

U.S. Democrats promote Green New Deal, based on a Jobs for All guarantee
“Climate Jobs for All” by Jeremy Brecher appeared in CounterPunch on December 3. Brecher traces the origins and evolution of one of the key aspects of the Green New Deal – the Jobs for All Guarantee (JG), which began in 2017 as a policy proposal to combat unemployment and inequality. He then discusses how the concept expanded to include a Climate Jobs for All Guarantee – a jobs guarantee program that is geared to the transition to a climate-safe, fossil-free economy. One of the most substantial reports on the topic is A Green New Deal: A Progressive Vision for Environmental Sustainability and Economic Stability, published by Data for Progress in September 2018. There were many other discussion papers along the way to the present high profile Democratic Party push, being led by the Sunrise Movement and attracting media attention of newly-elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Readthe brief introduction “What is this Green New Deal anyway? By the Sierra Club, follow  #Green New Deal. Continue reading →

4th U.S. Climate Assessment provides new estimates of economic costs of climate change
The U.S. Global Change Research Program, a consortium of 13 federal government departments and agencies, released volume 2 of the 4th National Climate Assessment  of Climate-change Impacts on the United States on November 23. This report is exceptional for the unequivocal, comprehensive, and detailed information contained, and a new emphasis on the economic impacts of climate change, described as “broader and more systematic”, providing an advancement in the understanding of the financial costs and benefits of climate change impacts. Volume 2 is based on the scientific findings of the 4th National Climate Assessment, Volume 1, which was released in 2017. Volume 2 is over 1500 pages, and is composed of 16 national-level topic chapters, 10 regional chapters, and 2 response chapters. Each of the 29 individual chapters is downloadable from this link. The Overview is here. A Guide briefly explains the modelling assumptions and sources of information used; more specific detail is in Appendix 3: Data tools and scenario products. Continue reading →

Lancet Report details health impacts of climate change with new estimates re heat impacts on labour
The press release of the latest landmark Report of the Lancet Countdown was entitled "Extreme heat damaging our health and livelihoods and threatening to overwhelm hospitals around the world." The report was released at the end of November 2018, updating the global research on the health impacts of climate change. Using new methodology, the report estimates work hours lost to extreme heat: “153 billion hours of work were lost in 2017 due to extreme heat as a result of climate change. China alone lost 21 billion hours, the equivalent of a year’s work for 1.4% of their working population. India lost 75 billion hours, equivalent to 7% of their total working population.” Although the 2018 report emphasizes the increasing threats related to heat, it measures 41 indicators related to disease, air pollution, extreme weather, and addresses economic and social impacts – including food security and climate migration. Regarding energy, it states “In 2017, renewable energy provided 10.3 million jobs – a 5.7% increase from 2016. But fossil fuel extraction industries increased to 11 million – an 8% increase from 2016.” The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change is a global, interdisciplinary report funded by the Wellcome Trust, and researched through the collaboration of 27 academic institutions and inter-governmental organizations. The full report is here (registration required). The Briefing for Canadian Policymakers is written in collaboration with the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association, providing a Canada-specific version with recommendations for Canadian climate policy changes. Continue reading → 


Quebec youth sue the Canadian government for inadequate action on climate change
ENvironment JEUnesse is the Quebec youth group behind the world’s latest intergenerational climate lawsuit. Their press release states: “On November 26 2018, ENvironnement JEUnesse, represented pro bono by the firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance, applied to bring a class action against the Canadian government before the Superior Court of Québec today on behalf of Quebeckers aged 35 and under. ENvironnement JEUnesse alleges that the Canadian government is infringing on a generation’s fundamental rights because its greenhouse gas reduction target is not ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change and because it does not even have a plan that would allow it to reach this already inadequate target.” The law firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance provides legal details, and states that “The class action seeks a declaration that the Canadian government’s behaviour in the fight against climate change infringes on the rights of young people, as well as an order to pay punitive damages.” ENvironment JEUnesse invites readers to join the class action suit, donate, and support the initiatives of other Quebec activists (Pact for the Transition, and the Déclaration d’urgence climatique). The main website is in the French language, and a French language newsletter is available. Continue reading →
Canada’s record on climate change, and the global failure to meet Paris emissions targets
Recent studies continue to support the assessment that the world, including Canada, has not done enough to meet its climate change goals, let alone the urgent need to decarbonize. Studies include: Emissions Gap Report 2018 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Time to Get on with It: The LCEI 2018: Tracking the Progress G20 Countries Have Made to Decarbonize Their Economies by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) consultants; the Brown to Green Report 2018 released by Climate Transparency; and, “Warming assessment of the bottom-up Paris Agreement emissions pledges” which appeared in the academic journal Nature Communication. The journal article states that India is the only country close to being on track to meet a 2 degree target, and singles out Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada and China as laggards. The other published studies have similar findings. An analysis of the evolution of Justin Trudeau’s climate change policies is summarized in “The Rise and Fall of Trudeau’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on Climate”, published in The Tyee (Nov. 14). Continue reading →
Good news and bad news about electric vehicles: B.C. mandates, Oshawa plant closing
The Good News: British Columbia: In the latest encouragement to electric vehicle ownership in British Columbia, the Premier announced on November 20 that he will introduce legislation in Spring 2019 to phase in targets for the sale of zero-emission vehicles in the province – 10% ZEV sales by 2025, 30% by 2030, and 100% by 2040. This will be accompanied by funding to expand charging infrastructure, and for consumer incentives in addition to the existing incentives under the Clean Energy Vehicle program. Mandates for EV sales are already in place in Quebec, California, and other U.S. states. 
The Bad news: Ontario: Mandates for EV sales in the U.S. was part of the modernization strategy by General Motors in its comments to the U.S. government under the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule on October 26, 2018. As of November 26, GM’s global modernization strategy came crashing down on Ontario auto workers – announced in the November 26 corporate press release: GM Accelerates Transformation . The brief and unexpected press release names the GM Assembly plant in Oshawa Ontario as one which will be “unallocated” in 2019, along with Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly (Detroit) and Lordstown Assembly (Warren, Ohio). The Toronto Star makes the connections in “GM plant closure in Oshawa part of company’s shift to electric, self-driving autos” (Nov. 26). Unifor represents approximately 2,500 GM Oshawa workers who will lose their jobs and was only informed of the decision one day ahead of the public announcement. See their statement here. See also: GM Oshawa closure – a sign of the disruption to auto manufacturing. Continue reading →
New Ontario Environment Plan steps backwards on emission reduction ambitions
On November 29, the Ontario government of Doug Ford released its promised climate change proposals in a new report, called Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-In-Ontario Environment Plan. The government will continue consultation, with public submissions accepted here until January 28 2019, and pledges to establish an Advisory Panel on Climate Change. The major focus of the plan is to establish a Carbon Trust of $400 million over four years, which includes a $50 million ‘reverse auction,’ through which the government will fund private sector clean technology proposals. It commits to an 8% emissions reduction over the next 12 years, a much less ambitious target than that of the previous Liberal government. Reaction has been almost universally negative, as compiled by Climate Action Network Canada and by the CBC in “Ontario Climate change plan includes fund to help big polluters reduce emissions” (Nov. 29). The Ecofiscal Commission offers a detailed critique and assessment in “Up in the Air”; the Pembina Institute states “The plan weakens Ontario’s carbon pollution reduction targets by 27 per cent…. The plan released today contains mainly aspirational statements and plans to make plans.” Continue reading →
New B.C. Plan weds a clean economy with economic growth and worker training
British Columbia’s long-promised climate plan, CleanB.C. was released on December 5. The press release summary is here, details are in a 16-page Highlights Report. Top-line summary: the CleanBC plan is at pains to emphasize that it is a plan for economic growth as well as a cleaner environment. B.C.’s existing carbon tax will increase $5.00 per year from 2018 to 2021, with rebates for low and middle income British Columbians and support for clean investments in industry. CleanB.C. also recognizes the needs of workers: "As a first step, we are investing in two key sectors where we already know demand is strong and growing – cleaner buildings and cleaner transportation: – Developing programs like Energy Step Code training and certification and Certified Retrofit Professional accreditation – Expanding job training for electric and zero-emission vehicles.” The government also states it is developing a CleanBC Labour Readiness Plan, which is part of the reason that Unifor responded with “Unifor supports introduction of Clean B.C. Plan”. Laird Cronk, president of the BC Federation of Labour calls the new strategy an “historic opportunity” to develop a sustainable economy. The general acclaim for Clean B.C. is compiled in a Backgrounder at the B.C. government website, with statements from politicians, environmentalists, business leaders, First Nations, labour unions, and academics- among them. Continue reading →
Reducing emissions from Canada’s built environment – what is the government thinking?
In 2015, Canada’s building sector accounted for approximately 12% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment, a November 16 report from the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. The report discusses “a wide range of policy tools and technology solutions that could lower building sector GHG emissions, including: national building codes; energy efficiency standards and labels; technology research, development, and demonstration; fuel-switching for space heating; federal investments in buildings; and, the role of cities and urban design.” In its concluding statements, the Committee notes that the existing federal Build Smart Strategy faces pressures of climate-change related urgency, as well as the need to harmonize and work with the various provincial jurisdictions. Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment is the last of five interim reports by the Senate Committee regarding Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. A final report is scheduled to be released later in 2018, compiling all five studies and issuing recommendations for the government. 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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