|New report recommends mandatory financial disclosure of climate-related risks for Canadian companies
Leveraging Sustainable Finance Leadership in Canada: Opportunities to align financial policies to support clean growth and a sustainable Canadian economy was released on January 16 by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The report examines and recommends that Canadian companies disclose climate change risks to their shareholders and to the public. Although written mainly for a financial audience, the report is relevant to the livelihoods and pensions of all Canadians. It concludes with an analysis of financial disclosure in the oil and gas industry, (found in Annex E), and warns about the dangers to us all of stranded assets: “Once the implications of the Paris Agreement are fully priced into the market, oil and gas asset valuations will shift. If this change is sufficiently large, debt covenants may be triggered in companies. This will in turn impact financial institutions, including banks, insurance companies and pension funds.”
What is to be done? In Leveraging Sustainable Finance Leadership in Canada, author Celine Bak, sets out a three-year policy roadmap for Canada, calling for Canadian laws and statutes to be updated to require mandatory disclosure of climate risk by 2021. The report also calls for the Toronto Stock Exchange to join the UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative, and that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board be required to report on the climate change risks which might affect its fully-funded status. Expect more discussion and publications about sustainable finance issues, as Canada’s Expert Panel concludes its public consultations at the end of January 2019, and releases its final report later in the year. Continue reading →
New modelling forecasts 46 million jobs by 2050 in a 100% renewable energy scenario
A newly-released book, Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals, provides detailed discussion of the implications, including job implications, of a transition to 100% renewable energy. The scenario is built on complex modelling – The One Earth Climate Model – and foresees a gradual transition so that “by 2050 there would be 46.3 million jobs in the global energy sector – 16.4 million more than under existing forecasts.” Chapters of special interest are: Chapter 9, Trajectories for a Just Transition of the Fossil Fuel Industry, which provides historical production data for coal, oil and gas production, discusses phase-out pathways for each; and Chapter 10, Just Transition: Employment Projections for the 2.0 °C and 1.5 °C Scenarios. Chapter 10 consists of quantitative analysis, (the overall number of jobs in renewable and fossil fuel industries) and occupational analysis – which looks into specific job categories required for the solar and wind sector, and the oil, gas, and coal industry. The book’s findings are summarized by Sven Teske, the book’s Editor in Chief and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, in “Here’s how a 100% renewable energy future can create jobs and even save the gas industry”. Continue reading →
Can greener strategies like a Lucas Plan work for GM Oshawa?
Reaction to the November 2018 announcement by GM that it was closing five production plants in North America has been ongoing – as the WCR reported in December. Unifor, the union representing most of the affected auto workers, has organized a vigorous Save Oshawa GM campaign and commissioned an independent economic impact study which found that the closure of GM would result in an immediate decline of $5 billion in Ontario’s GDP and a subsequent loss of $4 billion per year to 2030. Both federal and provincial revenues would shrink, and job losses are projected to reach 14,000 in Ontario and a further 10,000 elsewhere across Canada by 2025. Others have reacted with positions supporting retraining measures, and re-tooling the Oshawa plant – for example, Linda McQuaig in the Toronto Star with “Trudeau should consider buying GM and making electric cars". Most notable, Sam Gindin, former Research Director of the CAW wrote “GM Oshawa: Making Hope Possible, which appeared in The Bullet on December 13. He proposes a “Plan B”, under which “the facility and its equipment should be placed under public ownership with no further compensation – the plant and its equipment have already been paid for by the sweat of workers and the $3-billion in unpaid subsidies from taxpayers.” Gindin proposes a New Lucas Plan, following the model of the famous industrial conversion project in the 1970’s, when U.K. labour unions met management’s plans to restructure and cut jobs at Lucas Aerospace with worker-generated proposals to re-tool and produce socially-useful products, using their existing skills. Continue reading →
Skills and training for Clean jobs in the U.S.: Focus on infrastructure and auto manufacturing
A January 25th blog is a recent addition to a series of publications by the Brookings Institution about the workforce implications of the transition to a clean economy. “The Green New Deal promises jobs, but workers need to be ready to fill them” (Jan. 25) broadly discusses the range of occupations which will be affected by the transition to a clean economy, and promises forthcoming research which “will delve deeper” into the workforce issues – going beyond simply job estimates and forecasts to look at skills and training requirements and barriers, as well as working conditions. Specific to the transformation of the auto manufacturing industry, Brookings has published “What GM’s layoffs reveal about the digitalization of the auto industry” (Dec. 13 2018) and in February 2019, “Equipping today’s AV workforce with skills to succeed tomorrow”, which defines the “digital mobility workforce” to include truck drivers, automotive service technicians and mechanics, and many other jobs beyond the engineers we normally associate with autonomous vehicle production. Continue reading →
ILO report: "It is not action against climate change and environmental degradation that will destroy jobs, it is inaction that will destroy jobs"
To mark its centenary in 2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) commissioned a Global Commission on the Future of Work in 2015. On January 22, the Centenary was launched with the release of the Commission’s report: Work for a Brighter Future, an aspirational document with recommendations for government policies to address the “unprecedented transformational change in the world of work.” The ten recommendations in the report call for a universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers’ rights, an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces, a universal entitlement to lifelong learning, managing technological change to boost decent work, and greater investments in the care economy, green economy, and rural economy. The Executive Summary is here; the full 66-page Report is here. ILO Director-General Guy Ryder summed up some of these themes in his address to the Ministerial Conference of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), held on January 10 – 11, 2019 in South Africa. He stated: “It is not action against climate change and environmental degradation that will destroy jobs, it is inaction that will destroy jobs.” Continue reading →
Climate change and health: a new call to action for doctors
Two new articles appeared in the January issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, recognizing the health impacts of climate change and the gap in environmental justice. Most frequently cited, sometimes with alarmist headlines, is “The Imperative for Climate Action to Protect Health” (Jan. 17) (registration required). The authors state that the World Health Organization may have underestimated the health effects of climate change when it predicted in a 2018 report that climate change will kill 250,000 people per year between 2030 and 2050. They point to the need for investment and policies to promote adaptation to reduce health risks. The other article in January’s New England Journal of Medicine is an overview of the issue and a more direct call to action for doctors, “Climate Change: A health emergency” which includes: “working with medical students on climate action, supporting the undergraduate divestment movement, joining forces with like-minded health professionals, and speaking with our legislators.“ In Canada, the Canadian Association for Physicians and the Environment (CAPE) is leading the way on such education and advocacy – a compilation of their press releases reveals the broad range of their actions. On February 5, CAPE, along with the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Public Health Association,and the Urban Public Health Network, issued a press release asking federal political parties to recognize that climate change is the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century, and to make climate solutions a priority in the 2019 federal election.” Continue reading →
Business looks at climate change: Davos publications include auto manufacturing, electronic waste
The overall theme of the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos Switzerland in 2019 was the 4th Industrial Revolution. Climate change issues were top of mind in discussions, as the annual Global Risks Report for 2019 had ranked the top global risks to the world as extreme weather and climate-change policy failures. Discussions, speeches, blogs and reports are compiled on the themes of The Future of the Environment and Natural Resource Security and Climate Change. Highlights include: “6 things we learned about the Environment at Davos”, an overview which highlights Japan’s pledge to use its G20 Presidency to reduce plastic ocean pollution; the launch of a new organization called Voice for the Planet to showcase the youth climate activist movement, and a pledge by 10 global companies have to take back the electronic waste from their products.
Some WEF Reports of interest:
- Improving Traceability in Food Value Chains through Technology Innovations, which offers technology as a means to make the current industrial food system safer (and possibly more sustainable).
- Shaping the Sustainability of Production Systems: Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies for competitiveness and sustainable growth which discusses the coming world of manufacturing, focusing on the electronics and automotive industries of Andhra Pradesh, India and the automotive industry in Michigan U.S.A., including a discussion of Cobotics 2.0 (collaborative robots), Metal 3D printing, and “augmented workforce”.
- A New Circular Vision for Electronics Time for a Global Reboot was released by the E-waste Coalition. The report, summarized here is an overview of e-waste production and recycling, and includes a brief discussion of labour conditions, calling for upgrading and formalization of the recycling industry as a “major opportunity”.
Continue reading →
How transforming global food systems can reduce GHG emissions - in Canada, with a focus on food waste
On January 15 in Oslo, the prestigious medical journal Lancet launched the results and recommendations of the EAT-Lancet Commission, composed of 37 experts from 16 countries. Their report, “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems”, analyzes human diet and food production in light of the Paris Agreement, and the fact that food production contributes about 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Lancet report recommends cutting meat consumption in half, greatly reducing food waste, and replacing resource-intensive farming methods with approaches that require less fertilizer, and replenish the soil. The authors estimate that wide-spread adoption of plant-based diets could reduce agricultural emissions by up to 80 percent, and changes in food production practices (including tackling food waste) could cut an additional 10 percent in 2050. In Canada, "The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste” was released in January, stating that Canada is one of the most wasteful countries in the world with an estimated 58 per cent of all food produced in Canada lost or wasted. Dozens of recommendations are provided in the accompanying 32-page “Roadmap” for farmers, producers, retailers, restaurant owners, and government. Continue reading →
NEWS AND NOTES:
Climate litigation in Canada - first youth, now Victoria B.C. may take to the courts
On January 31, the Supreme Court of Canada released a long-awaited, precedent-setting decision which holds fossil fuel companies responsible for the clean-up costs of their abandoned operations, and gives environmental clean-up costs precedence over other creditors’ claims. The case arose from the 2015 bankruptcy of Redwater Energy, a small, Calgary-based oil and gas company; the agent managing the bankruptcy was proposing to sell the company’s profitable wells to pay off debts, and leave the clean-up costs of the other non-producing wells to the Orphan Well Association (OWA), a provincial, industry-funded agency. The Supreme Court provides its own “Case in Brief” summary of the case, Orphan Well Association v. Grant Thornton Ltd., with links to all the official documents. The full decision is here; French-language versions of the Case in Brief, and the full decision are also provided. The response by the Orphan Well Association is here. Continue reading →
Two new articles describe the first examples of climate change litigation in Canada. “Next Climate Liability Suits vs. Big Oil Could Come from Western Canada,” in Climate Liability News describes the new municipal movement for climate accountability and the January decision by the Council of Victoria to endorse a class action lawsuit against fossil fuel companies. Also in January, Vancouver city council voted to declare a climate emergency, and according to the Globe and Mail article, is considering whether to join with Victoria in the class action lawsuit. Vancouver and Victoria have been encouraged by the ongoing Climate Law in Our Hands campaign organized by West Coast Environmental Law. The city of Halifax in Nova Scotia became the third major city to declare a climate emergency. A second, briefer article, “Climate change litigation arrives in Canada”, also summarizes the January 16 decision by the council of Victoria, B.C. and also reports on the claim by Quebec youth against the government of Canada in the Quebec Superior Court on behalf of people under the age of 35 and resident in Quebec launched in November 2018. In that case, ENVironnement JEUnesse (ENJEU) is claiming that the federal government has infringed on the rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Québec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by failing to take adequate action to prevent climate change. Continue reading →
Greta Thunberg speaks truth to power at Davos, inspiring kids around the world to strike for climate
As it does every year, the world’s business elite gathered in Davos Switzerland in January for the World Economic Forum and the WEF released its Global Risks Report, reflecting what business opinion leaders lose sleep about. In 2019, the top long-term risks identified as the gravest threats to the world were extreme weather and climate-change policy failures. The real call to action came from 16-year old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish activist who has inspired world-wide climate strikes by teenagers. Her appearance was reported in The Guardian, and re-posted at the National Observer as “Teenage activist takes School Strikes 4 Climate Action to Davos” (Jan. 25). “The Climate Kids are Coming” in The Nation (Jan. 28), describes Greta’s Davos appearance and links the climate strikes movement, Fridays for Future, to the Green New Deal movement in the U.S. The transcript and video of her speech, “Our house is on fire”, is now widely available – on Youtube, in another article in The Guardian (with a transcript), and on her own Twitter feed, @GretaThunberg. In Canada, there are now 12 cities in which kids have been inspired to stage a climate strike – the latest being Extinction Rebellion Alberta in Edmonton, which organized a climate strike at the provincial legislature on February 1. Canada’s “next big strike” is planned for May 3, 2019; a new Canadian Twitter feed, Fridays for Future Canada goes live on March 1. A global Fridays for Future strike is planned for March 15. Continue reading →
Supreme Court rules in Redwater: bankruptcy is no escape from "polluter pays"
The latest analysis: What does Canada gain from the Trans Mountain Pipeline purchase?
Into Canada’s highly sensitive and highly political debate over pipelines comes the report on January 31 from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO): Canada’s purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline – Financial and Economic Considerations. The report provides an overview and timeline of the negotiations and federal government purchase of the pipeline and its assets from Kinder Morgan, in August 2018. The PBO financial analysis estimates that the $4.4 billion price paid by the government was at the high end of the value, and calculates the effects of construction delays or higher construction costs on the price that the Government could negotiate for its re-sale –for example, a one year delay would result in a loss of value $693 million. The report finds that the economic benefits relate to the pre-construction and construction periods: impact on GDP is estimated to peak at 0.11 per cent in 2020; impact on employment is estimated at 7,900 in 2020, with both declining thereafter. For coverage of both the economic and environmental aspects, follow the National Observer Special Reports on Trans Mountain. An up-to-date review of the environmental arguments by experts Marc Jaccard and Kirsten Zickfeld appears there in “IPCC authors urge NEB to consider climate impacts of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion” (Jan. 21). Continue reading →
Electric vehicle policy in Canada stalled by provincial opposition - 2018 market share at 2.2% of vehicle sales
In Canada, plug-in electric sales in 2018 more than doubled from 2017, although they still only represent 2.2 per cent of all new cars sold, and are lower than anticipated. The federal Strategy for Zero Emissions Vehicles, promised for 2018, was expected to be announced on January 21 at the meeting of the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety. The extent of a policy announcement was a quote which appeared in the Toronto Star article: “Ottawa wants to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles sold in Canada to 10 per cent of new cars sold in 2025, 30 per cent in 2030 and 100 per cent in 2040.” Both Ontario and Saskatchewan opposed a national plan, as reported in the Toronto Star in “Ottawa Queens Park spar over federal plan for more zero emission vehicles” (Jan. 22). The National Observer examines the provincial opposition in “Electric vehicle strategy sputters as provinces battle it out on green policies” (Jan. 18). The Ford government in Ontario cancelled the EV purchase incentive program in June 2018, and more recently, EV charging stations at the commuter parking lots of the GO regional transit have been removed. Continue reading →
Green New Deal Resolution introduced in U.S. House of Representatives
On February 7, 2019, freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in partnership with Ed Markey, tabled a Resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives, titled, “Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal”. The resolution includes goals to: “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers”; “create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States”; “invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century”; and, “secure for all people of the United States for generations to come - i) clean air and water; (ii) climate and community resiliency; (iii) healthy food; (iv) access to nature; and (v) a sustainable environment”; and “to promote justice and equity…”. The Green New Deal is set to dominate climate change policy discussions in the U.S.from now until the election in 2020. Media coverage began immediately: “Democrats Formally Call for a Green New Deal, Giving Substance to a Rallying Cry” in the New York Times; Jake Johnson of Common Dreams writes, “‘This Is What Hope Feels Like’: Green New Deal Resolution Hailed as ‘Watershed Moment’ for New Era of Climate Action”; but the Washington Post surveys the political odds of success in "No 'unanimity' on Green New Deal, says key House Democrat". On Feb. 11, the Sunrise Movement posted their reaction on Common Dreams, pledging to assemble an "unprecedented coalition", which already includes Justice Democrats, 32BJ SEIU, Green for All, 1199SEIU, Center for Popular Democracy, People’s Action, Working Families Party, Dream Corps, Presente.org, Demos, Sierra Club, 350.org, CREDO, Bold, Organic Consumers Association, Honor the Earth, Seeding Sovereignty, American Sustainable Business Council President, and NextGen. Continue reading →
German Coal Exit Commission recommends Just Transition measures but a 2038 deadline
On January 26, the German Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment, (better known as the Coal Exit Commission) delivered its highly-anticipated report and a “roadmap” for lignite coal plant closures in the country. The report calls for Germany to end coal-fired power generation by 2038 – subject to reviews by independent experts in 2026, 2029, and 2032, when it will be decided if the deadline can be advanced to 2035. The 28 official Commissioners, drawn from industry, unions, environmental NGOs, community leaders and government, negotiated for six months, with all but one voting in favour of the final recommendations. Greenpeace voted “yes”, but also issued a dissenting opinion, stating “… the report has a grave flaw: the speed is not right.” The 336-page report is currently available in German only; but it is well summarized in English in a Fact Sheet from Clean Energy Wire. According to CLEW, key issues addressed are the stability and pricing of energy supplies for Germany, CO2 reduction, and compensation to industry.
Just Transition for workers and communities: The report devotes almost 40 pages to the economic measures for the regional economies and workers. While the report itself doesn’t estimate those costs, an article in Der Speigel states that communities will receive 40 billion euros in structural assistance over the next 20 years. The Commission calls for the coal mining regions to remain energy-oriented, through the development of innovative technologies, such as electricity storage, renewable energy, or power-to-gas production. The Commission’s recommendations are expected to be accepted by government, but there is a long road ahead in passing legislation and negotiating financing, as outlined in “German government stands ready to move on coal exit proposal” (Jan. 29). The coal exit will be one part of the government’s Climate Action Law package, promised for the end of 2019. Continue reading →