Work and Climate Change Report
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05/15/2019 - Issue #83
 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).  |

436,000 workers in energy efficiency jobs in Canada in 2018 – more than twice oil and gas industry
On April 29, Eco Canada released a new report, Energy Efficiency Employment in Canada, stating that “Canada’s energy efficiency goods and services sector directly employed an estimated 436,000 permanent workers in 2018 and is poised to grow by 8.3% this year, creating over 36,000 jobs.” According to the agency’s press release, this is the first report of its kind in Canada to offer a comprehensive breakdown of revenue, employment figures, and hiring challenges. It also provides demographic statistics for the workforce – for example, 18% of workers were female, and 2% were Indigenous. One of the key takeaways of the report is highlighted in an article in The Energy Mix: “Energy Efficiency employs 436,000 Canadians – more than twice the total in oil and gas”. The report is a result of a comprehensive survey conducted in the Fall 2018 with 1,853 business establishments, and also relies on Statistics Canada data. It tracks the methodology of the United States Energy Employment Report (USEER), enabling consistent comparisons with U.S. data, which shows that, at 2.3% of Canada’s economy, Canadian energy efficiency employment makes up a greater share of the economy than it does in the United States, at 1.9%. Continue reading →

Job shifting effects of carbon pricing policy, with a focus on the Canadian construction industry
Construction and Carbon: The Impact of Climate Policy on Building in Canada in 2025 is a report released on May 1 by the Smart Prosperity Institute. The report models the effect of carbon pricing on GDP and employment in six sectors, although construction is the focal point since the research was financed by the Canadian Building Trades Unions. Author Mike Moffatt uses the general equilibrium model gTech to project two scenarios for the medium term (2025): a “business as usual” case (which assumes federal and provincial carbon policies as they existed in 2018) and an “aggressive” case, which assumes carbon prices increasing over time so that Canada would achieve its Paris Agreement commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. Smart Prosperity emphasizes that “the construction sector is one of the ‘winners’ of carbon pricing, as escalating carbon prices unleash a wave of business and household investment.” Specifically, raising the stringency of carbon prices (the aggressive scenario) shows that the total number of jobs in Canada would increase by 39,500 – 19,000 of which would be in construction, and 55,000 of which would be in services. These gains are offset by job losses in the other sectors: utilities, resources, manufacturing, and transportation. Projections are broken down by province and Saskatchewan would see the greatest growth. Continue reading →

The potential of worker ownership to finance Just Transition – and other inspiring Canadian examples
Saskatchewan’s Briarpatch magazine has published a Special Issue on Just TransitionIt is a treasure trove of inspiring on-the-ground perspectives and information from Canadians working for an economic Just Transition. All the articles are worth reading, but here are some highlights:
Continue reading →

Women and minorities still at a disadvantage in U.S. solar industry
The U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019 was released by The Solar Foundation, in partnership with the Solar Energy Industries Association on May 6, based on survey responses from 377 employers and 398 employees in the winter of 2018. It reports on job satisfaction, career paths and progression, and wages. Some highlights: 
  • Among the senior executives reported in the survey, 88% are white and 80% are men.
  • Three of the top five recruitment methods rely on professional and personal networks – putting minority applicants at a disadvantage to be hired (Only 28% of Hispanic, Latino, and African American respondents reported that they found their jobs through a referral or by word of mouth, compared to 44% of white respondents).
  • There is a 26% gender wage gap across all position levels. 37% of men earn in the range of $31 to $74 per hour, compared to only 28% of women. The median wage reported for men was $29.19, and for women it was only $21.62.
The full report is available here (registration required). Continue reading →
The clean economy workforce in the U.S. and proposals to make it more inclusive
Advancing inclusion through clean energy jobs is a report released by the Brookings Institution in April 2019, with a goal to determine “the degree to which the clean energy economy provides labor market opportunities for historically disadvantaged groups, with a particular focus on equity”. It examines a range of occupations, not just the traditionally-identified “green jobs”, identifying approximately 320 unique occupations in three major industrial sectors: clean energy production, energy efficiency, and environmental management. The report includes detailed discussion of its methodology and data sources, and emphasizes the size of the clean energy economy and its potential to make an impact on the equity of the U.S. labour market. The report concludes with proposals directed at state and local policy makers, education and training sector leaders, and community organizations. Broadly, the policy proposals include: “modernizing and emphasizing energy science curricula, improving the alignment of education and training offerings, and reaching underrepresented workers and students.” Continue reading →
New York City announces its Green New Deal – including innovative building efficiency requirements and job creation
In a press release on April 22, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced “New York City’s Green New Deal, a bold and audacious plan to attack global warming on all fronts….The City is going after the largest source of emissions in New York by mandating that all large existing buildings cut their emissions – a global first. In addition, the Administration will convert government operations to 100 percent clean electricity, implement a plan to ban inefficient all-glass buildings that waste energy and reduce vehicle emissions.” The enabling legislation for the latest initiative, Introduction 1253-C, is strongly supported by the New York City Central Labor Council, which commissioned a new report, Constructing a Greener New York, Building By Building, written by Climate Works for All. The report found that 1253-C would create 23,627 direct construction jobs per year in retrofitting, and 16,995 indirect jobs per year in building operation and maintenance, manufacturing and professional services. The full range of New York’s Green New Deal policies are laid out in OneNYC 2050: Building a Strong and Fair City, which commits to carbon neutrality by 2050, and 100% clean electricity. Continue reading →

U.K. Parliament declares climate emergency; Government committee calls for Net Zero Emissions by 2050
The government of the United Kingdom became the first national government to declare an environment and climate emergency on May 1 when it passed a motion by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (and Ireland followed suit with its own vote in Parliament on May 10). Many agree with the headline from Common Dreams, “Activism works: UK Parliament makes history in declaring climate emergency”, reflecting on the huge impact made by the April demonstrations of the School Strikes and Extinction Rebellion in the U.K. On the heels of the symbolic victory of the climate emergency declaration, on May 2 the U.K. government’s Committee on Climate Change delivered its long-awaited landmark report, requested by the U.K., Scottish and Welsh Governments in 2018. Net Zero: the U.K.’s contribution to stopping Global Warming calls for net zero emissions by 2050, with Scotland to target net-zero by 2045 and Wales to target a 95 per cent reduction by 2050 relative to 1990. The net-zero target would cover all greenhouse gases, including international aviation and shipping, and allow for the use of emissions credits. The Committee estimates the cost at equivalent to 1-2% of GDP each year, made possible by the rapidly falling cost of new technologies – and balanced by the benefits of a cleaner environment and improved health. The Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA), a coalition of U.K. unionists and environmentalists, summarizes what the Net Zero report will mean for workers, as published in their news release. GJA hails as a breakthrough the Committee’s recommendation for Just Transition, and states: “It should now reinforce this message by setting up a Just Transition Advisory Group, with union representation from the industrial, energy, public and voluntary sectors....” and “....the absence of a strategic advisory role for unions in the work of the committee is no longer tenable.” Continue reading →
Recommendations for Just Transition coal phase-out in Europe
Phasing out coal – a just transition approach was released as a Working Paper by the European Trade Union Institute in April – the latest of several publications on the topic by ETUI Senior Researcher and ACW associate Béla Galgóczi. Following a summary of the role of coal in the European economy and the current employment structure of the broader coal sector, the paper provides an up-to-date summary of energy policies and just transition policies in France, Germany, Poland and Spain, and also looks at lessons learned from past phase-out experiences in the Ruhr Valley of Germany, Hazelwood coal plant in Australia, and ENEL, Italy. The paper concludes that successful just transition requires, amongst other things: specific and targeted just coal transition policies with government involvement at the central and regional level; a properly-funded, specific mine closure agency, or a specialized agency for employment transitions for several years; individualized active labour market policies and personal coaching; and active EU-level financial support. Continue reading →

Activists are mobilizing to push for a Canadian Green New Deal in the 2019 elections
With strong public support, a number of different activist groups are gathering in different coalitions to push politicians to action. “Canadian Coalitions’ Election Platforms Call For Faster Action On Climate” (May 7) in The Energy Mix summarizes three prominent initiatives that launched in early May. More details:
  1. The Pact for a Green New Deal launched on May 6 with a very high profile campaign in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. An Executive summary called 10 Questions states: “it is a non-partisan, grassroots initiative supported by individuals, scientists, unions, Indigenous and civil society organizations and youth from across the country.” It has been endorsed by over 67 organizations, including many of Canada’s largest environmental advocacy groups, various labour unions and a number of influential celebrities. The 10 Questions document also states that the Pact for a Green New Deal (P4GND), although partly inspired by the U.S. GND campaign identified with the Sunrise Movement and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, is a Canadian initiative also inspired by Le Pacte that was started in Quebec in November 2018 by Dominic Champagne (who endorses this new initiative). The Pact for a Green New Deal is a visionary process, as set out in this 3-page statement.
  2. Environmental Asks for the October 2019 Election: Another initiative, announced on May 7, presents 20 “asks” for party platforms. “These platform recommendations represent the collective priorities of all of the organizations listed below and will form the basis of joint-venture communication concerning each political parties’ commitments in the lead-up to the 2019 Federal election.” The group will also evaluate and compare the party platforms once they are announced. The 14 groups involved are: Canadian Environmental Law Association, CPAWS, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, ecojustice, équiterre, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, West Coast Environmental Law Association, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, and WWF-Canada. In addition, the United Steelworkers have announced their support via an article in the Toronto Star, “Labour a key partner in a Green New Deal” (May 6), also issued as a USW press release.
  3. Youth activists launched Our Time, in April, with a goal “to organize and mobilize a generational alliance of young and millennial voters that’s big enough and bold enough to push politicians to support a Green New Deal in the lead up to the 2019 election.” Our Time is supported by and launches with “hub groups” already established in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax. It aims to form a national network from across different communities, causes, movements, and generations –it states clearly that older people are welcome in a supporting role. 

Canadian youth continue climate strikes and join the political push for a Canadian Green New Deal
Students in approximately 95 towns and cities across Canada went on strike from school on May 3, continuing their Fridays for Future campaign. As was the case after the huge March 15 demonstrations, mainstream press coverage was limited, but included a front-page story in the Sudbury Star. Other coverage: Corner Brook NewfoundlandRegina SaskatchewanEdmonton, and Vancouver, where an article in The Straight (May 3) summarizes the strike in Vancouver and notes others across Canada and the world. In Halifax, CBC News reported that 400 students marched, despite threats of suspension from at least one high school. In “Thousands march for action on climate change in Montreal as city braces for flooding”, the CBC reports that intergenerational demonstrations were held in Quebec on April 27, and states “Quebec’s largest unions took part in similar marches in Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, Alma, Gaspé, Mont-Laurier and Ottawa.” Students say they will continue their school strikes, and in addition, some are now joining the political fight, despite being too young to vote in many cases.  Climate Strike Canada has posted an Open Letter and online petition which lists their demands. Continue reading →

Our Time launches youth climate activism campaign, joining the wave in Canada and Quebec
On April 17, young people and millennials launched a new national campaign to work for a Green New Deal for Canada, in a “massive economic and social mobilization”. The stated goal of the group, Our Time, is “to organize and mobilize a generational alliance of young and millennial voters that’s big enough and bold enough to push politicians to support a Green New Deal in the lead up to the 2019 election.” Our Time is supported by and launches with “hub groups” already established in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax (a brief article by the Halifax organizer is here). It aims to form a national network from across different communities, causes, movements, and generations –it states clearly that older people are welcome in a supporting role. “What do we mean when we say we want a “Green New Deal for Canada?” traces the growth of the priorities, from the Good Work Guarantee outlined in December 2018 to the policies under consideration as of March 2019. These include four pillars for a GND for Canada: “it meets the scale and urgency of the climate crisis; it creates millions of good jobs; it enshrines dignity, justice, and equity for all, ensuring climate solutions lift up all communities and reflect the reality that frontline, marginalized and Indigenous communities are bearing the brunt of fossil fuel and climate impacts; it works in service of real reconciliation — respecting the rights, title and sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples.” Continue reading →

Climate activism in Quebec: An update on activism in Quebec’s social contract for the climate comes in “Quebec’s ‘Climate Spring’ speaks to broad support for environmental action” published in iPolitics  on April 17.  “In the span of a few months, 317 Quebec municipalities, representing almost 74 per cent of the population of Quebec, have endorsed a Declaration of Climate Emergency; close to 268,000 individuals have signed a pact to individually and collectively minimize their footprint and pushing for the adoption of a climate law; and a class action on behalf of all Quebecers 35 and under has been filed against the federal government for inaction on the climate file. Thousands marched twice in the bitter cold of late 2018 to demand climate action.” And as the WCR reported, the greatest turnout in Canada’s Fridays for Future demonstrations on March 15 was in Montreal, with 150,000 marchers. Continue reading →

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal rules for federal carbon tax program
With implications across the country, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal handed down a 3-2 decision on May 3, ruling that the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) falls within federal government’s “National Concern” constitutional power. The Saskatchewan Association for Environmental Law has compiled all the legal submission documents here; the EcoFiscal Commission provides a summary of the 155-page Decision here. Local coverage and reaction appeared in the Regina Leader Post (May 3) in “Court of Appeal: Saskatchewan government loses carbon tax challenge, and the Premier of Saskatchewan immediately declared that the province will appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which it must do within 30 days. As the Globe and Mail points out, “Saskatchewan court rules federal carbon tax constitutional in first of several legal challenges”. According to a CBC report, the Premier of New Brunswick is still considering his options, but newly-elected Premier Jason Kenny of Alberta will join the Saskatchewan Supreme Court action. The Premier of Manitoba announced that his government will not abandon its own court challenge, which it launched on April 3. In Ontario, the Ford government is aggressively promoting its own battle over the carbon tax: four days of hearings ended on April 18th, and the Ontario Court of Appeal is expected to render its own decision on the constitutionality of the carbon tax in several months – possibly not until after the federal election in October 2019. Continue reading →

FTQ shareholder resolution calls for GHG targets aligned with the Paris Agreement; corporations respond with a charge of “micromanagement”
As part of its stated Action Plan for Engaging in a Just Energy Transition, the Fonds de Solidarité des Travailleurs du Québec (FTQ) (an investment fund controlled by Quebec trade unions) put forward a shareholder’s resolution at the Cenovus Energy Annual Meeting in Calgary in April. The proposed resolution was to “set and publish science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets that are aligned with the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels”. The Cenovus Board recommended rejection of the proposal on the grounds that it is “an overly demanding request, and contrary to the best interests of shareholder value”. As expected, the FTQ proposal was defeated by an 89% vote against. The Fonds de Solidarité des Travailleurs du Québec (FTQ), along with the Canadian shareholders' non-profit SHARE, was also part of a group, led by the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the Church Commissioners for England, which put forward a similar shareholders resolution to Exxon, proposing GHG reductions in line with the Paris Agreement. The Securities Exchange Commission allowed Exxon to omit the resolution from its Proxy Circular. “Investors Worried About Climate Change Run Into New SEC Roadblocks” from Inside Climate News (May 3), in addition to providing a good overview of shareholder actions, explains the new reality: “The term “micromanage” has become the linchpin to objections by companies seeking to block these resolutions. The precedent was set last year when the SEC agreed with EOG Resources, a Texas-based oil and gas exploration company, that a resolution asking the company to adopt emissions goals had sought to “micromanage” the company.” Continue reading →

Amazon employees use their power as shareholders to request corporate policies on climate change
Amazon has more than 65,000 corporate and tech employees in the United States, who are awarded shares as part of their compensation program. In late November and early December, 2018, 16 current and former Amazon employees exercised their rights as shareholders by tabling a shareholder resolution – which has been seen as the trigger for Amazon’s Shipment Zero initiative, a vision to make all Amazon shipments net-zero carbon, with 50 percent of all shipments net zero by 2030. In what a New York Times article characterizes as “ the largest employee-driven movement on climate change to take place in the influential tech industry”, almost 7,000 employees of tech giant Amazon have now signed their names to an Open Letter to Jeff Bezos and the Amazon Board of Directors, released on April 10. The Letter states: “we ask that you adopt the climate plan shareholder resolution and release a company-wide climate plan that incorporates the principles outlined in this letter.” It then outlines a thorough list of desired actions, including: a complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets; prioritization of climate impact when making business decisions; prioritizing the most vulnerable communities in pollution reduction initiatives related to Amazon locations; and “fair treatment of all employees during climate disruptions and extreme weather events. Unsafe or inaccessible workplaces should not be a reason to withhold pay, terminate, or otherwise penalize employees — including hourly and contract workers.”  Amazon Employees for Climate Justice provides updates at their Twitter account. Continue reading →

Labour’s voice for the Green New Deal
Joe Uehlein of Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) was interviewed by Counterspin Radio on May 3 concerning his views on the Green New Deal; a transcript was published by FAIR on May 8 as “Climate Change is the Real Job Killer”. Uehlein and colleague Jeremy Brecher have written numerous articles on this theme – including “12 reasons why labor should support a Green New Deal”, which appeared in Working In These Times in 2018. LNS monitors the situation and posts new GND endorsements by U.S. labour unions in a dedicated “Green New Deal” section of its website, building a compilation of documents. Labor Network for Sustainability co-hosted a Labor Convergence on Climate on April 13, along with the Alameda Labor Council in California; the next Labor Convergence will take place in Chicago at the end June, with the theme Strengthening Labor’s Voice to Help Shape the Green New Deal. Details are hereContinue reading →

GM Oshawa investment will save 300 jobs
On May 8, General Motors Canada and Unifor held a joint press conference and issued a statement announcing that GM will invest $170 million to save approximately 300 of the 2,600 union jobs at the Oshawa Ontario manufacturing facility, slated for closure by the end of 2019 as part of the North American restructuring announced in November 2018. After a vigorous and high profile union campaign against the closure, an “Oshawa Transformation Agreement” has been reached. A separate Jobs Transition Backgrounder states:
  • GM Canada will offer special relocations to Oshawa employees for jobs at the St. Catharines propulsion plant or the Woodstock Distribution Centre;
  • GM will offer enhanced retirement packages to retirement-eligible Oshawa Assembly employees “including vouchers toward the purchase of new GM vehicles, a benefit that will support both retiring employees and GM dealerships in Durham Region and surrounding areas.”
  • In June 2019, GM Canada, Unifor and the Ontario government will open a Jobs Action Centre in Oshawa, offering personalized transition counselling, a skills / jobs matching database and “other supports.” Durham College, the local community college, will support the Job Action Centre with a dedicated jobs portal and several job fairs planned for 2019.
  • Durham College, Centennial College, and Trent University Durham will offer training tailored to regional and GTA-based partner employers.
  • “GM Canada will offer training support for qualified Oshawa Assembly hourly employees” (no further details stated in the public release).
In better news for Ontario’s auto industry: Starting in 2022, Toyota will begin to produce the luxury Lexus NX at its Cambridge plant, in both gasoline and hybrid versions, facilitated by  contributions from both the federal government and the Ontario government when it was led by Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. 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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