A fair economy and a fair transition need input from Labour, business and civil society

The Clean Growth Century Initiative  has launched a series of OpEd’s with a February 20 post, A New Economy and a Fair Transition for Workers   authored  by Hassan Yussuff, President of the  Canadian Labour Congress; Robert Walker, Vice President, ESG Services and NEI Investments; and Steven Fish, Executive Director, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility. They write: Canadian workers — and not only those in the fossil fuel sector — have seen a rise in job insecurity and a decline in good-quality employment in recent years. By implementing a clean growth shift, Canada can and must improve prosperity in a broad-based way. Anything less risks a breakdown of the political conditions that lead to climate action.”  The authors call for policy development  that will address both climate change and economic inequality, and that involves communities, labour organizations, businesses and civil society.  This statement also appears as part of the  IRPP Policy Options Special Issue for February “Public Policy towards 2067“.

Low Carbon Fuel Standards vs. Renewable Fuel Standards

A new report from Smart Prosperity (formerly Sustainable Prosperity) contrasts the advantages and features of a Renewable Fuel Standard –  in force federally and in five provinces – with a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, in force in Canada only in British Columbia . The discussion is timely, given that the federal government and the province of Ontario are both considering Low Carbon Fuel Standard policies. In “ How a Low Carbon Fuel Standard could reduce your GHG footprint without you even noticing”,  Smart Prosperity answers “what it is” and “what it does” questions;  its Policy Brief   discusses the complex questions of policy design, “ particularly around regional impacts, equity concerns, cost effectiveness, and innovation impacts”.  Read also the Ontario Discussion paper: Developing a modern renewal fuel standard for gasoline in Ontario   . The federal government posted a  clean fuel standard Backgrounder  about its goals (November 2016), which include using life cycle analysis of fuel production, and  extending coverage beyond transportation fuels.  Other jurisdictions which use a LCFS include California, Oregon,  and the state of Washington.

European Union votes on reforms to Emissions Trading System

On February 15, the European Parliament adopted draft reforms of the EU’s emission trading system (ETS), the centrepiece of European emissions reduction policy – choosing the less ambitious proposal of a reduction on the cap on emissions of only 2.2% per year until at least 2024. Climate Action Network Europe’s  Letter to Policymakers   ahead of the vote outlined the arguments and proposals for environmentally-ambitious change, including a higher price on carbon and inclusion of the cement, aviation and shipping industries. Its reaction after the vote   stated: “It is shocking that the Parliament chose to bow to the interests of polluting industries instead of protecting citizens from a catastrophic climate breakdown. The Parliament has completely failed the first test of its commitment to the Paris Agreement. The proposed reforms will keep the carbon market ineffective for a decade or more. We urge progressive EU governments to finally turn the ETS into a functioning tool and create a stimulus to ditch old models and move to green economy.”    One of the  three reforms urged by 31  environmental organizations in  an Open Letter to the MEP’s in November 2016 had been the establishment of the Just Transition Fund for  communities and regions which need support to transition away from coal.  The reforms will be debated next at the Council of Environment Ministers on 28 February; the  EU’s 28 governments must negotiate further to finalize the legislation.

Energy Efficiency and Community Energy: Incentives in Alberta, a Success Story in B.C.

Getting it Right: A More Energy Efficient Alberta   is the final report of the government’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel , and “ a road map for creating jobs, diversifying the economy and saving Albertans money” according to the government press release on January 23 . All programs will be coordinated through the newly-created agency, Energy Efficiency Alberta ; three programs are already underway, using revenue from the Alberta carbon levy to provide incentives or rebates for energy-saving appliances and equipment, solar panels, and retrofitting . The Energy Efficiency Alberta  mandate also extends to community-owned renewable energy systems and non-utility scale community energy systems; the Panel report proposes short-term and long-term financial incentives to support community wind and other renewable energy installations, along with complementary technologies such as storage and smart grid applications.

The Getting it Right report also includes a goal of increased “capacity development”, which “can take the form of post-secondary education and training, professional development and training activities, conferences and other events” to improve energy-related skills.  The report includes an appendix of the energy-related research programs in Alberta universities.  Summaries of the public discussions are here   ; a submissions library here  constitutes an impressive collection of information about energy efficiency.

In British Columbia:  a success story of a community-owned solar farm in the city of Kimberly,  highlighted in Clean Energy Review.    Sunmine   is “ BC’s largest solar project, Canada’s largest solar tracking facility, and the first solar project in B.C. to sell power to the BC Hydro grid.”  Citizens of the city approved the project in a referendum in 2011; city administrators managed the planning and financing; and the mining company Teck provided the land and infrastructure of its reclaimed Sullivan Mine Concentrator site, plus $2 million. Since it began operation in 2015, Sunmine has won numerous awards, including Community of the Year Award by Clean Energy BC in 2015, and in 2017, the Clean 50 award for outstanding contributions to clean capitalism.  A  short video about the Sunmine project by Green Energy Futures is here .

 

National Energy Board Modernization – Hearings are underway

Public hearings by the Expert Panel on the Modernization of the National Energy Board   began in Saskatoon in January and will conclude in Montreal at the end of March (the schedule is here ).  With transparency and accountability a key concern about the NEB, it is surprising that no transcripts or submissions will be made available online, only government- prepared summaries . Fortunately, press reports are providing the public with some information:  an important example, a report by Andrew Nikoforuk from the Vancouver hearings appeared in The Tyee on  February 9, summarizing the testimony of Marc Eliesen, a former chair of Ontario and BC Hydro and a critic of the NEB since the 2014 Trans Mountain Pipeline hearings.  As quoted in  “Time to Reform Our ‘Captured’ National Energy Board, Says Expert” ,    Mr. Eliesen reiterated his earlier criticism that the NEB  a “captured regulator” that no longer operates in the public interest. “The attitudinal bias that stems from a close interaction between NEB board members, NEB staff and the energy industry, means the goals and aspirations of the Alberta energy sector have become those of the board.” Eliesen recommended that all current NEB board members should be replaced by people from a broader range of expertise, not just the oil and gas industry. He also recommended that the NEB’s head office be moved from Calgary back to Ottawa. In “How to Fix the National Energy Board, Canada’s ‘Captured Regulator’”  , DeSmog Blog (Feb 8) also summarized Eliesen’s testimony, as well as that of  Eugene Kung, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law.

Proposals for improving the discredited NEB have come from a Pembina Institute report:  Good Governance  in the era of low carbon: a Vision for a modernized National Energy Board   . From Pembina: “significant reforms to the NEB Act, and to the operating culture and practices at the Board, are required.”  The report lays out 9 essential conditions to transform energy regulation, including : “Energy regulators must be independent of bias and interferences from government and non-government stakeholders. …Energy regulators should proactively  and predictably support involvement of all interested parties and the public as a fundamental component of evidence gathering, decision-making and monitoring.”  Environmental Defence  has also weighed in with “Six key ways to modernize energy regulation in Canada”, and has also called for the restart of the Energy East Pipeline review process to wait until new rules for the NEB are in place. (the previous Energy East Review was declared void in January 2017).   The report and recommendations of the Expert Panel on Modernization of the National Energy Board is scheduled for  submission to the Minister of Natural Resources by mid-May 2017.

A whiff of the bias that so many have noted at the NEB continues, in one of the “related documents” provided at the Expert Panel website: the Interim Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, titled Pipelines for Oil: Protecting our Economy, Respecting our Environment   (Dec. 2016).  It begins: “Petroleum pipelines, like highways, railways and power line corridors, are long established in Canada. They are instrumental to the quality of life and the standard of living we enjoy in Canada today. Pipelines have no equal when it comes to the safe, reliable and cost-efficient movement of petroleum over long distances. They are critically important to the creation of wealth in Canada and their use and development are in the public interest and the greater good of all Canadians.”  It pronounces on the concepts of social license, the public good, confidence in the regulatory process, then proposes an oil transportation strategy which includes pipelines and tankers.  From the conclusion:  “The Committee believes that new pipelines will act as a lifeline to the Canadian economy, which has been hard hit in the oil and gas sector. Pipelines to the east and west coasts will ensure that Canadian oil producers get the full value of this resource on world markets, reduce refineries’ dependence on oil imports and improve public safety. The Committee has made recommendations to Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Committee believes that these recommendations will help form a strategy to improve public confidence and break the paralysis preventing the construction of pipelines in Canada.”